George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Fitzgerald, 12 June 1797

From John Fitzgerald

Alexandria Monday 5 oClock P.M.
[12 June 1797]

Dear Sir

I am this moment honor’d by the receipt of your letter of this date. I have had some doubts respecting the most advantageous mode of laying off your lott & have this day advised with Mr Keith about it—We agree in Opinion & I will do myself the pleasure of forwarding to you a Sketch of it as soon as I return from Loudoun which I expect will be on Saturday or Sunday next.

I am fully of opinion that if Mr Voss will give 18d. a square Yard for the Clay he should be indulged in the purchase, binding him to use it in a certain time say 18 Months or at most 2 years & also that he should not dig deeper than the surfaces of the different Streets, & it might be well to insert in the agreement that he should first & in a limited time use the earth from Prince Street to the alley as that part will be most in demand & would immediately rent.1

As I have no doubt but Mr Anderson understands the Distillation of Spirit from Grain I cannot hesitate in my Opinion that it might be carried on to great advantage on your Estate—considering that the Grain will be chiefly if not entirely raised on your land & the amazing benefit your Stock of Cattle & Hoggs will receive⟨.⟩ as to a Sale of the Whiskey there can be no doubt if the Quantity was ten times as much as he can make provided it is of a good Quality. With unalterable attachment & respect I am Dear Sir Your mo. Obedt Servt

John Fitzgerald


1Fitzgerald wrote GW from Alexandria on “Sunday Morning,” perhaps 18 June: “Enclosed I have the pleasure of sending you a rough Sketch of what appears to me to be the best mode of laying off your Lott on Prince & Pitt Streets, which tho’ not accurately done will I expect be sufficient to convey my sentiments respecting it. When I have the pleasure of seeing you perhaps some alterations may appear necessary though none occur to me at present. I send this by one of my People who goes down for my Mares” (DLC:GW).

Perhaps GW was acting on the “rough sketch” (DLC:GW) when he drafted this advertisement for the newspaper, dated at Mount Vernon on 10 July: “The Subscriber having resolved to lay off the half acre lot which he holds in the town of Alexandria (bound by Prince & Pitt Streets) into convenient building squares, gives this public notice thereof, and of his intention to lease them forever, on ground Rent.

“Five & an half feet extending from Prince Street, will be added to the alley already left by Mr [John Thomas] Rickets, across to Mr [Samuel] Halleys lot; and another alley of ten feet will be laid out about midway the lot, from Pitt Street until it intersects the former alley.

“All the lots on Prince street will extend back to this alley, & be about 83 or 4 feet in depth—and the lots north thereof will extend from Pitt Street to the first mentioned Alley, & be four in number of equal front (about 21 feet each). The other lot will have a breadth of 26 feet on Prince Street and about 83 or 4 on Pitt Street, or may be divided into two. The remaining front on the former street will be divided into four more lots, equal in size, & abt 24 or 5 ft front each.

“If any persons should be inclined to make offers for the lots here described, or any of them, Mr James Anderson (my Manager) will receive the same. If not done shortly, the lots will be exposed at public sale, of which notice will be given. Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, NN: Washington Papers). The advertisement was printed in the Columbian Mirror and Alexandria Gazette, 12 Aug. 1797, but it also may have appeared in missing earlier editions.

The only known response to the advertisement was a letter of 25 Aug. 1797 from James Harrison in New York: “On reading in an Alexandria paper your proposals for leasing a lot of land in that City, I wrote Mr Anderson, requesting to know the terms, but not being favoured with an answer, induces me to trouble you with this. It is my intention to build in Alexandria next Spring, and as I am aquainted with the lot you propose leasing, I shall be happy if we can agree for price; Will therefore esteem it a particular favour if you will have the goodness to inform me as early as convenient with the lowest terms, and the return of post shall bring you my answer” (DLC:GW). GW replied from Mount Vernon on 2 Sept.: “Your letter of the 25th Ulto came to hand by the last Post. The ground Rent of the lot I have offered to Lease, in Alexandria, is three dollars a foot, for what it measures on each Street. This I must obtain as an annual Rent or the lot will not be disposed of in that way. I am Sir Your very Hble Servt Go: Washington”(letterpress copy, NN: Washington Papers). GW did lease at least two of the lots before his death. In Fairfax County Deed Book B–2 (1798–1800), pp. 276–78, 281–83, are leases to Robert Gordon and Hugh Barr, both of Alexandria, dated 18 Aug. 1798. For GW’s purchase of this lot on Prince Street, see GW to John Fitzgerald, William Herbert, and George Gilpin, 22 Nov. 1797, n.1.

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