Alfred Street Sugar House

Historical Significance

 The Sugar House on Alfred Street in Alexandria was used in the 19th century to process sugar cane juice into sugar. An 1804 advertisement, posted by the owner William Moore, promoted the new establishment: "Sugar House - the subscribers have on hand at their Sugar House in Alexandria Loaf and Lump sugars and molasses, their own manufacturing, which they sell at the Philadelphia and Baltimore prices." The manufacturing was done by enslaved blacks, whose labor made Alexandria the third-largest sugar producer in the country in the early 19th century. The Alfred Street Sugar House property included a five-story brick refinery, a large dwelling and spacious garden for the owners, warehouse space, and probably living quarters for the six or more enslaved blacks who worked at the site. In 1815, Jacob Hoffman opened another sugar refinery nearby on North Washington Street. Enslaved workers at the two refineries produced a total of 800,000 pounds of sugar a year for domestic sale and export. Enslaved African Americans at Alexandria's refineries processed the sugar cane juice, or muscovado, imported from the Caribbean, where enslaved Africans grew the cane, extracted the muscovado, and packed it in hogsheads for export. The refining process included the dangerous work of heating the muscovado to high temperatures in large vats. George Berry, a slave who worked at the Alfred Street refinery, was described in the Free Negro Registry of 1821 as having "a scar on his right wrist caused by a burn." After the British outlawed slavery in the West Indies in 1833, Alexandria refineries had trouble obtaining both the raw materials and the labor necessary to run their refineries. By 1830, the city's refineries had closed. The buildings on the site of the former Alfred Street Sugar House have been converted to commercial and residential use.

Physical Description

 Excavations led by Alexandria Archaeology from 1987 to 1989 and in 1992 were able to establish where the main structures and vats of the refinery stood. The Sugar House foundations were partially uncovered as well as the foundations of houses, including that of one of the owners, Daniel McLean. The townhouse (111 N. Alfred) owned by Hugh Smith in the early 1840s may include part of the Alfred Street Sugar House. The Red Cross Building, a parking structure, a spa, and town houses cover the Sugar House property today.

Geographical and Contact Information

111-123 N. Alfred St.
Alexandria, Virginia
22314

Cite this Page:

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Alfred Street Sugar House,” African American Historic Sites Database, accessed September 25, 2017, http://aahistoricsitesva.org/items/show/3.

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