Carlyle House

How people kicked it (i.e., the bucket) old-school

October 25, 2012

Every year, the Carlyle House gets all gussied up for Halloween.

How does a nouveau riche Scottish immigrant in Colonial Alexandria tell the world he’s arrived? By building a giant stone house when everyone else is still using wood or brick. That’s what John Carlyle did, though locals didn’t know how to build with stone, so it took three years. Today, the home is restored to something like its former glory, with period furniture and decor.

See the room where, some historians argue, the American Revolution was born, or at least given a shove. In 1755, British Gen. Edward Braddock met with five Colonial governors at the Carlyle House, where he pushed the idea of taxing the colonies to pay for the ongoing French and Indian War (i.e., taxation without representation).

On Halloween, the Carlyle House hosts its annual re-enactment of John Carlyle’s 1780 funeral. Learn about Colonial mourning practices, hear some bagpiping and join a procession to his grave!

Carlyle House, 121 N. Fairfax St., Alexandria; 703-549-2997.

Did You Know?

›› Gen. Edward Braddock didn’t just want to tax the colonies — he was also a philandering jerk, according to John Carlyle. He “abused [my] home and furnishings” and was “too fond of his passions, women and wine,” Carlyle wrote in a letter.

›› In 1906, the Carlyle House’s caretaker claimed he found a plaster-encased body buried in the cellar. Scholars fought over whether the find was authentic until someone finally punched a hole in the thing and found only rags.

›› In the 1970s, restoration workers found a dead cat at the base of one of the chimneys, interred there when the home was built. Burying a cat below your house allegedly protected you from evil spirits and witchcraft.

Learn More! Explore D.C., a free iPhone app from The Washington Post, is a guide to the city’s attractions, big and small. Download it today from the App Store.

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Stephen M. Deusner · October 25, 2012