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    • Abstract: organization City of Alexandria, Office of Historic Alexandria date August 1994 ... American neighborhood in Alexandria. The house is a three-bay, two ...

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USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
NPS Form 10-900 OMB No. 1204-0018
(Rev. 10-90)
United States Department of the Interior
National Park Service
NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES
REGISTRATION FORM
1. Name of Property
historic name George Lewis Seaton House
other names: NA; site number: DHR #100-5015-0007
2. Location
street & number 404 South Royal Street not for publication N/A city or town Alexandria
vicinity N/A state Virginia code VA county Alexandria (Independent City) code 510
zip code 22314
3. State/Federal Agency Certification
As the designated authority under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1986, as amended, I
hereby certify that this _X_ nomination ____ request for determination of eligibility meets the
documentation standards for registering properties in the National Register of Historic Places and
meets the procedural and professional requirements set forth in 36 CFR Part 60. In my opinion, the
property X_ meets ___ does not meet the National Register Criteria. I recommend that this property
be considered significant
nationally statewide _X_ locally. ( ___ See continuation sheet for additional comments.)
Signature of certifying official Date
Virginia Department of Historic Resources
In my opinion, the property ____ meets ____ does not meet the National Register criteria.
( ___ See continuation sheet for additional comments.)
Signature of commenting or other official Date
State or Federal agency and bureau
4. National Park Service Certification
I, hereby certify that this property is:
____ entered in the National Register
See continuation sheet.
____ determined eligible for the National Register -
___________________________________
See continuation sheet. Signature of Keeper
____ determined not eligible for the National Register
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
____ removed from the National Register Date of Action _______________________
____ other (explain): _________________
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
5. Classification
Ownership of Property (Check as many boxes as apply)
X private
___ public-local
___ public-State
___ public-Federal
Category of Property (Check only one box)
X building(s)
___ district
___ site
___ structure
___ object
Number of Resources within Property
Contributing Noncontributing
1 0 buildings
0 0 sites
0 0 structures
0 0 objects
1 0 Total
Number of contributing resources previously listed in the National Register 0
Name of related multiple property listing (Enter "N/A" if property is not part of a multiple property
listing.) African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
6. Function or Use
Historic Functions (Enter categories from instructions)
Cat: DOMESTIC Sub: single dwelling
Current Functions (Enter categories from instructions)
Cat: DOMESTIC Sub: single dwelling
7. Description
Architectural Classification (Enter categories from instructions)
LATE VICTORIAN
Materials (Enter categories from instructions)
foundation BRICK
roof METAL
walls BRICK
other ___________________________________
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
8. Statement of Significance
Applicable National Register Criteria (Mark "x" in one or more boxes for the criteria qualifying the
property for National Register listing)
X A Property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad
patterns of our history.
X B Property is associated with the lives of persons significant in our past.
___ C Property embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction
or represents the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values, or represents a significant and
distinguishable entity whose components lack individual distinction.
X D Property has yielded, or is likely to yield information important in prehistory or history.
Criteria Considerations (Mark "X" in all the boxes that apply.)
A owned by a religious institution or used for religious purposes.
____ B removed from its original location.
____ C a birthplace or a grave.
____ D a cemetery.
____ E a reconstructed building, object, or structure.
____ F a commemorative property.
____ G less than 50 years of age or achieved significance within the past 50 years.
Areas of Significance (Enter categories from instructions)
ETHNIC HERITAGE/Black
ARCHAEOLOGY: HISTORIC NON-ABORIGINAL
Period of Significance ca. 1795-1881
Significant Dates N/A
Significant Person (Complete if Criterion B is marked above)
George Lewis Seaton
Cultural Affiliation N/A
Architect/Builder Unknown
9. Major Bibliographical References
Bibliography (See footnotes in Architectural Description and Statement of Significance sections of
this form.)
Previous documentation on file (NPS)
___ preliminary determination of individual listing (36 CFR 67) has been requested.
___ previously listed in the National Register
___ previously determined eligible by the National Register
___ designated a National Historic Landmark
___ recorded by Historic American Buildings Survey # __________
___ recorded by Historic American Engineering Record # __________
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
Primary Location of Additional Data
___ State Historic Preservation Office
___ Other State agency
___ Federal agency
Local government
___ University
___ Other
Name of repository: ___________________________________
10. Geographical Data
Acreage of Property 1,300 square feet
UTM References (Place additional UTM references on a continuation sheet)
Zone Easting Northing Zone Easting Northing
1 18 322490 4296660 2 __ ______ _______
3 __ ______ _______ 4 __ ______ _______
__ See continuation sheet.
Verbal Boundary Description
Alexandria, VA: Map 74.04, Block 07, Lot 04.
Boundary Justification
The boundary includes the entire city lot historically associated with the Seatons’ ownership of the
property.
11. Form Prepared By
name/title Elizabeth Calvit for the Office of Historic Alexandria
organization City of Alexandria, Office of Historic Alexandria date August 1994
Revised by Pamela Cressey, Francine Bromberg and Steven Shephard, November 2001
street & number Box 178 City Hall telephone 703-838-4554
city or town Alexandria state VA zip code 22313
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
CONTINUATION SHEET
Section 7 Page 1
ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION
Summary Description
The Seaton House is located at 404 S. Royal Street in the heart of “Hayti,” the second oldest African
American neighborhood in Alexandria. The house is a three-bay, two-story, side-hall-plan brick
rowhouse. It is possible that the structure was originally constructed between 1861 and 1866, just
before its purchase by George Seaton on April 14, 1866. An examination of the Alexandria tax
records between 1820 and 1907 has revealed that the greatest increase in the value of the property
occurred between 1861 and 1866. During this five-year period, the values of the other houses on the
400 block of South Royal Street remained constant or increased a few hundred dollars, while the
property at 404 South Royal more than tripled in value from $400 to $1500.1 This increase suggests
that there was a substantial improvement to the property, and it is clear from the G.M. Hopkins
Insurance map for Alexandria that a brick house with rear frame additions was present on the property
in 1877. However, it is likely that there was a substantial modification to or rebuilding of the structure
around the turn of the century. Tax records for the property indicate that the house and lot were
valued at $800 in 1880, decreased in value to $600 by 1885, and rebounded to an $800 value by 1902.
Since the value of several other properties on the block remained constant from 1880 to 1907, it is
probable that the condition of the house was deteriorating at the end of nineteenth century and that
substantial modification or rebuilding, at least of the front section, occurred around 1900. Evidence of
these alterations is also apparent from an examination of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century
insurance maps, for the 1896 Sanborn shows a three-story section of the front portion of the house,
while the 1907 map depicts a two-story dwelling.
Detailed Description
The west facade of the Seaton House, the only one visible from the street, is of red-painted pressed
brick in a running bond pattern. The low-pitched shed roof is covered in standing-seam metal and
slopes to the rear. The house has one-over-one sash wood windows with decorative brick segmental
arches. Arches above the windows and door display carving. Also above the front door is a transom.
The building facade’s most distinctive feature is the decorative pressed brick detailing on the facade,
which is topped by a seven-course corbelled brick cornice. The south side of the facade contains a
ground-level opening, commonly known in Alexandria as a “horse alley”, with a gate for pedestrian
access to the rear yard. The exposed wall within the alley is of common brick. The wrought-metal
gate is composed of eight thin, vertical, metal rods, and three horizontal rods. The entrance to the
house features a brick stoop of three steps and a plain, black, metal railing. The wooden front door has
a single, large, oval pane of glass.
1
Alexandria Tax Records, 1820, 1825, 1830, 1835, 1840, 1845, 1850, 1855, 1861, 1866, 1870,
1872, 1875, 1880, 1891, 1895, 1902 and 1907.
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
CONTINUATION SHEET
Section 7 Page 2
The house was recently renovated, with new windows added that are appropriate for the period. Other
alterations have been made to the interior and rear sections of the house.
Interior Description
This two-story, brick, rowhouse was originally a two-room-deep side-hall-plan building with a narrow
ell on the rear for a kitchen. The house retains its three-foot-square entry vestibule with shutters and
ransom over the exterior door. A contemporary sandblasted glass door on the interior of the vestibule
retains the original transom but has new Victorian-period symmetrically moulded trim with corner
blocks. The flooring in the entry hall is 1x2 tongue-and-groove heart pine. The flooring in the parlor
and dining area, consisting of 1x4 pine boards, appears to be a replacement. The walls between the
entry hall, parlor, and dining area have been removed to create a common open space.
Ghost marks on the floor indicate the wall location of the original side-hall and double-parlor plan.
Two masonry fire boxes, which were previously corner fireplaces with a shared flue, now stand back-
to-back at 45 degree angles in the center of the south wall. The design and construction of both
mantels are typical of the Victorian period. The present owner notes that the mantel in the dining room
was relocated from the parlor and the parlor mantel is a newly installed antique, not original to the
house.
The straight-run staircase is in its original location, but the side wall has been removed to display an
open Colonial Revival-style balustrade and spiral volute at the newel. Treads and risers have also
been replaced. The doors throughout are 6-panel late-twentieth-century replacements.
The plaster has been removed from the party wall on the north side to expose the brick. The other
walls are still plaster or drywall, as is the ceiling. The dining area ceiling is dropped approximately
one foot with a 45-degree bevel around the perimeter. The new Victorian-style trim with corner
blocks framing the windows was milled to match the original. The chandelier is a gaslight
reproduction with a plaster ceiling medallion. The ceiling in the kitchen is roughly two feet lower than
the first-floor rooms in the front of the house. The second-floor plan matches the original first-floor
plan and has the original 2 1/4"-wide tongue-and-groove heart-pine flooring.
Archaeological Description
This property is registered as an archaeological site with the Virginia Department of Historic
Resources as 44AX157. Alexandria Archaeology conducted an investigation in July 1991 as a result
of the City of Alexandria’s Archaeological Protection Code.2 The owners of the house at that time
planned to construct a small enclosure between the front section of the house and the rear addition.
Two small archaeological test units were excavated in this area, one measuring 4 by 3 feet and the
other a two-foot square (Figure 1).
2
Alexandria Archaeology, Notes and Collections, Alexandria, Virginia, 1991.
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
CONTINUATION SHEET
Section 7 Page 3
The excavations yielded eleven soil levels extending to a depth of about 3 feet below the existing
ground surface. Archaeologists have recovered over 2000 artifacts (ceramics, glass, building
materials, etc.) and food remains from the site dating back to the late eighteenth century. The
uppermost level, a late twentieth-century deposit about .2 feet in thickness, rested upon two
nineteenth-century layers (with a total thickness of about half a foot) containing primarily clinkers, the
refuse from burning coal. These in turn lay on top of three levels, deposited as early as the mid-
nineteenth century. The lowest of the three levels was a layer of oyster shell, which did not seem to be
a midden deposit but appeared to have been purposefully put in place for use as a walkway. The shells
rested upon a .2-foot thick gravel layer, deposited sometime after 1830, which may have helped
provide drainage for the overlying walkway. Underlying the gravel was a clay level about a foot in
thickness which contained artifacts dated to the 1820s. The archaeological assemblages from the
lowest three levels of the site indicated that they had been deposited between 1795 and 1820. One of
these deeply buried layers was a rich trash midden yielding over 100 sherds of creamware and
pearlware along with over 150 bone fragments. Other features discovered during the excavation
include two intrusive modern utility trenches, a 19th-century construction or utility trench, and a square
post hole dating to the mid- 19th century.
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
CONTINUATION SHEET
Section 8 Page 4
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
The significance of the property at 404 South Royal Street stems from its association with George
Lewis Seaton, a successful African American entrepreneur and property owner as well as a civic and
political leader in Alexandria throughout the mid-nineteenth century and from the fact that it has
yielded a sequence of archaeological deposits which reflects the development of the community once
known as “Hayti.” The Hayti (pronounced hay-tie) neighborhood was established in the early 1800s
around the 400 block of South Royal Street and was the home of many black leaders. Haiti, site of the
only successful slave uprising in the western hemisphere, inspired the name for this free African
American neighborhood. Quakers supported the growth of Hayti by renting and selling property to
free black families. In fact, the block on which the Seatons lived was associated with free black
families prior to 1810. Archaeological work by Alexandria Archaeology at 404 South Royal Street has
led to the discovery of artifacts which relate to the occupants of the site from this early period. These
may represent the earliest record of material culture for free blacks in Alexandria.
George Seaton purchased the property at 404 South Royal Street in the heart of Hayti in 1866. Well
regarded by blacks and whites alike, Seaton was described as a “respectable and well to do resident of
this city”3 in a local newspaper article in 1867. Born free in Alexandria in 1822, Seaton is perhaps
best known for his work as a master carpenter and as the builder of a number of homes and civic
buildings in Alexandria during the 1850s and 1860s. His business dealings also included the
management of a thriving grocery store near the center of town. A list of his considerable civic
accomplishments, achieved under restrictive conditions, includes many positions that illustrate his
leadership in the community. An outspoken Radical Republican after the Civil War, Seaton associated
himself with many movements for racial improvement, and in 1869was elected the first African
American member of the Virginia General Assembly from north of the Rappahannock River. He
served as head trustee of the First Free School Society of Alexandria and constructed two schools for
African American children in the city. In addition, he was a founding member of the Colored Building
Association and the Colored YMCA. He was not only active in the establishment of the Odd Fellows
Society, but also constructed the Odd Fellows Hall for use by the organization.
The property at 404 South Royal Street served as Seaton’s home from the early 1870s until his death in
1881. While the house was modified around 1900, his widow continued to live there until 1927. The
alterations to the house after Seaton’s death attest to both the resilience of his family and the
continuing strength of their ties to the Hayti community. Given Seaton’s involvement in and
commitment to the betterment of Alexandria’s African American citizens, it is not surprising that he
and his family decided to settle in this neighborhood, and it is fitting for this house in the heart of
Hayti to serve now as a tribute to Seaton and as a reminder of his contributions to the city during the
mid-nineteenth century.
3 Alexandria Gazette May 2, 1867.
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
CONTINUATION SHEET
Section 8 Page 5
Historical Background
The Early Land History: A Lot in Hayti
The property at 404 S. Royal Street was part of a larger parcel of land (the northern half of the block bounded
by Fairfax, Wilkes, Royal and Wolfe Streets) auctioned by the City trustees to John Orr in 1763 and owned by
William Hartshorne, a Quaker, by 1785. 4 Like other members of Alexandria’s Quaker community, Hartshorne
aided in the development of free black communities by renting property to African Americans, and he
constructed a house on the property for this purpose. Although the exact construction date and location of the
house are not known, it probably faced Royal Street in the vicinity of the lot at 404 S. Royal. The house was
occupied by Ben Dawson, a laborer, and Elizabeth Dice, a seamstress, sometime before 1810.5
Although archaeological work on the site was very limited and confined to a small area of proposed construction
disturbance, the investigation yielded material remains related to this early free black occupation of the site.
The earliest deposits recovered date from about 1795 to 1820, the period of Hartshorne’s ownership. The
deeply buried midden discovered during the excavation may thus relate to occupation of the site by Dawson and
Dice, Hartshorne’s earliest known lessees, in the early nineteenth century. The artifacts may represent the
earliest record of material culture for free blacks in Alexandria and provide tangible evidence of the early
development of the free African American community known as Hayti along a corridor of Royal Street extending from
Duke to Wilkes streets.
By 1815, ownership of much of Hartshorne’s property on the block had been transferred to Mordecai Miller, another
Quaker, who continued to aid in fostering the development of Hayti through the practice of renting and selling to African
Americans.6 By 1820, the property at 404 S. Royal Street definitely had a house situated on it, and Miller leased the
structure to free African Americans. Michael Morris lived on the lot in 1820,7 Betsy Marple was there in 1825, and
William Dogan leased it in 1835.8 By 1850, Miller had sold the property to Betsy Duvall, a housekeeper.9 Several
members of the Dogan family (Governor, a laborer, and George, who worked as a laborer and then became an apprentice
butcher) continued to live on the site with Duvall until at least 1855.10 In 1861, Duvall rented space to George Douglass, a
ship caulker, and Andrew Bell,11 and in 1866 she sold the property to George Seaton.12
______________
4 T.B.McCord, Jr., Across the Fence, but a World Apart: The Coleman Site, 1796-1907, Alexandria Arachaeology
Publications, Number 126, Alexandria, Virginia, 1985, p. 12.
5 Ibid., p. 14.
6 Ibid., p. 78.
7 Alexandria Tax Records, 1820.
8 McCord, 1985, p. 80, 81.
9 Ibid., p. 82.
10 Ibid., p. 81, 82.
11 Alexandria Tax Records, 1861; 1860 census.
12 Alexandria Deed Book Y3, 530.
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
CONTINUATION SHEET
Section 8 Page 6
The archaeological resources recovered from the upper levels of the excavation give us additional
insight into the lives of Hayti’s nineteenth-century residents. The thick clay level contains glass,
ceramics and clay pipe fragments that may have been used by Michael Morris, and the walkway could
have been constructed by Morris or Marple. The mid-nineteenth century levels contain artifacts that
may relate to the households of Betsy Duvall and the Dogans as well as Duvall’s other lessees. The 3-
foot-thick deposit of eleven soil layers, perhaps going back into the late eighteenth century, provide a
record of the continuing development of the Hayti neighborhood throughout the nineteenth century,
and the artifacts and features recovered provide a physical connection with the free African Americans
who lived and worked in the community.
The Seaton Connection
George Lewis Seaton was the oldest son of George Seaton and Lucinda Seaton. Lucinda was a dower
slave of George and Martha Washington, who freed her while she was still an infant.13 Seaton's father
was a free black master carpenter and builder who had once been a tenant at Burgundy Farm in Fairfax
County.14 When George Seaton, Sr., died in 1844, he left his five properties (four of which had been
rented to whites) on Franklin and South Washington streets to his family. George L. Seaton acquired
one of these parcels near the northeast corner of South Washington and Franklin streets upon his
father’s death.15Seaton married Maria Bryant of Loudoun County by 1847, and they had six children
by the end of the1850s.16 After Maria’s death, Seaton married Catherine Turley in 1874, and they had
two sons.17
George L. Seaton became a master carpenter like his father and is best known in Alexandria for his
buildings and entrepreneurial real estate dealings. He began his house building career in his 20s
working with his brother, Adolphus.18 In 1851 at age 29, Seaton purchased a corner lot at Wolfe and
St. Asaph streets from a former mayor, John Roberts. He built a structure with a Greek Revival facade
fronting two earlier buildings, which is now 323 South St. Asaph Street. The newspaper announced the
completion of the building in April 1852: “A large frame building corner St. Asaph and Wolfe for
George Seaton - built by him.”19A permit was granted for a pipe to bring water from the new water
13 Peter Bernstein, The Life and Times of George Lewis Seaton, p. 3, 2000, ms. On file, Alexandria Archaeology
Museum. Elsa S. Rosenthal, 1790 Names-1970 Faces, A Short History of Alexandria’s Slave and Free Black Community.
In, Alexandria A Composite History, p. 83, edited by E. Hambleton and M. Van Landingham, Alexandria Bicentennial
Commission, 1975.
14 1820 Ledger of James Hewitt Hooe, Fairfax Archives, Fairfax City, Va.
15 Peter Bernstein, p.3.
16 Provine, Dorothy, Alexandria County, Virginia, Free Negro Registers, 1797-1861, p. 211, Heritage Books, 1990.
U.S. Census, 1850. Peter Berstein, pp. 5, 7. Alexandria City and County Census, 1860.
17 Peter Bernstein, p. 15.
18 Peter Bernstein, p. 5.
19 Alexandria Gazette, April 3, 1852; Penny Morrill, Who Built Alexandria? Architects in Alexandria, 1750-1900, p. 32,
Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, 1979.
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
CONTINUATION SHEET
Section 8 Page 7
system in June, and by August, the house had been rented to R. S. Huck.20 This structure, described by
architectural historians as being typical for its time, is admired for its “fine woodwork, combined with a side hall
plan and the generous use of windows which bring light to this spacious home,”21 and displays Seaton's
understanding of architectural styles, and his excellent craftsmanship. It is interesting to note that Quakers, who
had such strong ties to Alexandria’s free African American community, occupied much of the 300 block of
South St. Asaph Street for the first half of the nineteenth-century, and their meeting house was just across Wolfe
Street from this new Seaton-built house. Seaton was still listed as owner of the St. Asaph Street house in 1854,
when the property was valued at $2000. However, at this time, the Seatons lived in a smaller house valued at
$900 on South Washington Street near his mother’s home, interestingly valued at $2300, which was more than
the new house Seaton had constructed.22
Seaton’s real estate and construction enterprises continued to flourish throughout the 1860s. The Alexandria
Deed Records and the local newspaper contain numerous references to his activities, which reflect his role in the
development of Alexandria’s communities. In 1864, he purchased a lot at the corner of Washington and Wolfe
streets at a sale that resulted from the tax debts incurred by Confederates who had left the area.23 In 1866, he
built a frame house at Duke and Washington streets24 and another at 419 Alfred Street.25 He also rented out a
large frame house at 59 South St. Asaph Street.26 On April 14, 1868, Seaton purchased a lot at 3400 Russell
Road, constructed a house on it, and rented it to tenants.27
Seaton purchased the property nominated to the National Register at 404 South Royal Street for $1,675 in
1866.28 Tax records indicate that a brick house was probably constructed on this lot just prior to Seaton’s
purchase, sometime between 1861 and 1866.29 During the first few years of his ownership Seaton
rented
20 Virginia-America Water Company Records, Permit #50, June 26, 1852 and August 1, 1852.
21 Ruth Lincoln Kaye, cited in Peter Bernstein, pp. 5-6.
22 Peter Bernstein, p. 6. Alexandria Land and Personal Property Tax Records, 1854.
23 Peter Bernstein, p. 7. Alexandria Deed Book V3, 552.
24 Peter Bernstein, p. 7. Alexandria Gazette, February 28, 1866.
25 Peter Bernstein, p. 13.
26 Peter Bernstein, p. 13. Alexandria Gazette, November 13, 1868.
27 Ibid.
28 Alexandria Deed Book Y3, 530
29 Alexandria Tax Records, 1820, 1825, 1830, 1835, 1840, 1845, 1850, 1855, 1861, 1866, 1870, 1872, 1875, 1880, 1885,
1891, 1895, 1902, and 1907.
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
CONTINUATION SHEET
Section 8 Page 8
this house out to tenants,30and in 1869, when it was occupied by the Tancils, another African American
family, a small fire broke out and destroyed some of the furniture in the home.31 George Seaton and
his family moved into the house sometime around 1871, and it served as Seaton’s home until his death
in 1881.32 His widow, Catherine, continued to live on the property until her death in 1927.33 While
substantial modification or rebuilding of the house took place around the turn of the 20th century, it is
clear that the property was associated with the Seaton family for over 60 years, from 1866 until 1927.
Seaton’s training as a master carpenter gave him important skills that provided him an opportunity to
exercise a leadership role in literally building up Alexandria’s African American neighborhoods. In
addition to the construction of residences, Seaton is credited with constructing a number of civic
structures important to the city’s black communities. He is perhaps best remembered for his
contribution to the education of the city’s African Americans as the builder of two schools for black
children after the Civil War. Under Seaton’s leadership, a group of African Americans established the
Free School Society of Alexandria. Working with the Freedmen’s Bureau, the society obtained land
for the schools and the materials to build them, and Seaton received a commission to construct them.
The Seaton School for boys (later known as the Snowden School) was completed in April 1867, and
the Hallowell School for girls opened in the following November.34 With the completion of the first
school, Seaton spoke at the opening ceremony for the city’s Public Free School system, held at the
First Colored Baptist Church in 1867. Addressing a public audience for the first time, Seaton claimed
to have felt compelled to make a statement; he commented on the difficulty he had in obtaining an
education and expressed his excitement about the increasing opportunities for African Americans.35
The two wood-frame structures built by Seaton became part of the city’s public school system in 1870.
Although both were eventually demolished, the Snowden School continued in use until a fire forced its
closing in 1915 and the Hallowell School served the community until 1922.36
Although not related to education, the Odd Fellows Hall is another important civic landmark built by
Seaton and associated with the city’s African American community. Seaton helped to establish the
Colored Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization, and served as the chairman of the Odd Fellows
trustees.37 Seaton was also responsible for enlarging an existing building at 411 South Columbus Street
30 Alexandria Tax Records, 1870.
31 Alexandria Gazette, December 8, 1869.
32 Alexandria Tax Records, 1872, 1875, 1880. Alexandria Gazette , July 1, 1881.
33 Peter Bernstein, p. 17. Corporation & Circuit Courts, Alexandria, Virginia, Catherine Seaton, Inventory of Estate,
May 26, 1927, Will Book 4, p. 40.
34 Peter Bernstein, p. 11.
35 Peter Bernstein, pp. 3, 11. Alexandria Gazette, January 1, 1871.
36 Peter Bernstein, p. 11.
37 Peter Bernstein, p. 15. Alexandria Gazette, August 4, 1875. T. Michael Miller, The Odd Fellows Hall, ms on file at
Alexandria Library, 1984.
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
CONTINUATION SHEET
Section 8 Page 9
and completing the Odd Fellows Hall with funds from the Freedmen’s Bureau in 1870. Situated in the
African American Bottoms neighborhood of Alexandria, the hall was used from the date of its
completion until recent times as the site for numerous gatherings and secret fraternal affairs.38
In addition to his real estate and construction businesses, George Seaton served as a grocer.39 He
advertised the opening of his grocery at 179 King Street in 1868:
Having bought the stock of Messrs. Loomis & Facer No. 179 King Street, I am now
prepared to furnish to my friends and the public in general, as fine a selection of
GROCERIES as can be found in any house in the city.40
By 1873, Seaton had moved the grocery to 94 South Royal Street,41and by 1876, two of his sons were
serving as clerks in the store.42 He is reported to have controlled a significant portion of the grocery
trade in the city.43
Through his business dealings, George Seaton became a wealthy man. His real estate holdings grew
from an aggregate value of $500 in 1850 to $4000 ten years later;--only 100 other Virginia blacks had
comparable holdings.44 By 1870, his real estate holdings were valued at $15,000, and his personal
savings totaled $12,000.45 An 1867 article in the Alexandria Gazette cited him as a “respectable and
well to do citizen of this city.”46
George Seaton’s leadership did not revolve merely around his business activities. With the end of the
Civil War, there were many opportunities for his skills to be used in the civic and political arenas.
During Reconstruction, blacks were given the vote and the right to hold office. The Republican Party
sought out members from this new voting population. Since the majority of Virginia whites identified
with the Conservative or Democratic party, most blacks became associated with the Radical or
Republican Party. George Seaton and his brother John Andrew became active members of the
Republican Club called the Fourth Ward Radicals, which had both black and white members. Both
38 Peter Bernstein, p. 16. T. Michael Miller, 1984.
39 Peter Bernstein, p. 15.
40 Alexandria Gazette, June 18, 1868. Peter Bernstein, p. 15.
41 Alexandria City Directory, 1870. Peter Bernstein, p. 15
42 Alexandria City Directory, 1876-1877. Peter Bernstein, p. 15.
43 Peter Bernstein, p. 15.
44 Alexandria City and County Census, 1860; Loren Schweninger, Black Property Owners in the South:1790-1915,
University of Illinois Press, Urbana, Chicago, 1990, p. 125.
45 Alexandria Census, 1870. Peter Bernstein, p. 13.
46 Alexandria Gazette, May 16, 1867. Peter Bernstein, p. 9.
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
CONTINUATION SHEET
Section 8 Page 10
men were elected to the executive committee in September 1867,47and John Seaton was eventually
elected Fourth Ward alderman, becoming the first African American elected to the Alexandria
council.48 George’s political aspirations carried him even farther—to the state level. He attended a
Radical Republican state convention in August 1867,49and in 1869 was elected to the Virginia General
Assembly for two years. The highest ranking black officeholder in the state at that time, he was aptly
appointed to two standing committees;50 the Committee of Schools and Colleges, where he could
emphasize his commitment to African American education, and the Committee on Banks, Currency
and Commerce, where he could utilize his business expertise. While participating in the local Radical
Republican meetings, George became identified with those wanting racial harmony. The Alexandria
Gazette reported on one meeting and the resolution of those attending:
In view of repeated representations made, by parties interested, to prevent the
establishment of relations of amity and good feeling between the white and colored
people of the city, the following preamble and resolutions were offered and
unanimously accepted. Whereas, the report has been very extensively circulated that
we, the colored people of Alexandria, are being taught to hate the white citizens, whom
we have always lived among, therefore, Resolved, That we, the colored citizens, regard
the report as base and false, and that in the future, as in the past, we shall do all in our
power to cultivate the best of feelings towards the white citizens, trusting that the same
may be done on their part toward us.51
In other meetings, Seaton stressed getting African Americans to vote and insuring education for the
city’s black children.52
Besides his political activities, Seaton took on many active leadership roles in local African American
organizations. In addition to serving as the founder of the Free School Society and head trustee of the
Odd Fellows, he was responsible for the formation of many civic groups in Alexandria including the
Colored Building Association, where he served as a trustee, and the Colored YMCA, where he served
as president in 1873. Seaton was a member of Alfred Street Baptist Church, the oldest African
American congregation in the city. In 1871, he donated a flagpole that was placed on the engine house
of the Columbia Fire Company. He also demonstrated his leadership abilities in 1872 when he chaired
a meeting to request that a Freedmen's Savings Bank branch be opened in Alexandria. Seaton and his
to
47 Alexandria Gazette, September 10, 1867.
48 Officialdom:1749-1992, Heritage Books, Inc. 1992.
49 Alexandria Gazette, August 6, 1867.
50 Journal of the House of Delegates of the State of Virginia for the Session of 1869-70, February 9, 1870, 53-54,
Virginia Historical Society. Peter Bernstein, p. 13.
51 Alexandria Gazette, July 23, 1867.
52 Alexandria Gazette, October 20, 1872.
USDI/NPS NRHP Registration Form
George L. Seaton House
Alexandria, Virginia
Multiple Property Listing: African American Historic Resources of Alexandria, Virginia
CONTINUATION SHEET
Section 8 Page 11
brother John, an important African American leader and businessman in his own right, chaired a
meeting honor the memory of Senator Charles Sumner, who was murdered in 1875.
George Seaton’s health began to decline in the mid-1870s. He was listed as an invalid in Alexandria's
1880 census. An article in the local paper a year later stated that "George L. Seaton, well-known and
respected colored man, was stricken for the third time with paralysis while at his home on Royal
Street, yesterday afternoon. He is extremely ill, and no hopes are entertained of his recovery."53
Seaton died three days later, on July 5, 1881.54
George L. Seaton was an important African American in his community, and in Alexandria. A free
black businessman and builder prior to the Civil War, he rose to prominence with the end of the
hostilities. His considerable leadership skills enabled him to build up the city’s African American
neighborhoods by continuing to build residences and community structures and by participating fully
in numerous civic and political activities. He took an active role in the formation of many African
American civic organizations. He also participated at the local and state level in politics, serving the
African American community after the Civil War. He supported black education and actually
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