History of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House
The Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, Virginia, dates from the early eighteenth century. Scottish Presbyterians were among the early European settlers of Northern Virginia and were involved in establishing Alexandria as a port in 1749. The Society of Presbyterians worshiped publicly in the city from the 1760s, and the congregation’s first installed minister arrived in 1772. The history of the congregation is summarized in the Chronology and History sections of this Web site, and the Meeting House itself and other facilities belonging to the congregation are discussed in the Facilities section. Among other services that George Washington attended here was one conducted by the Rev. Dr. James Muir for the National Day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer in 1798. Alexandria’s memorial services for George Washington in 1799 were held in this sanctuary, and the church bell tolled in mourning during the four days between his death and burial. The Tomb of an Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution is located in the burying ground adjoining the Meeting House.
Chronology of Events
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution
History and Archive Committee
A Presbyterian Walking Tour of Colonial Alexandria
By downloading this map and guide you can travel the streets of Old Town Alexandria, walking in the footsteps of George Washington, Rev. James Muir, other clergy, and dozens of Meeting House congregants. This one and one-half mile tour takes you to Alexandria’s most interesting historic features and includes sixty sites associated with members of the congregation. Please allow two hours for the tour.
• War of 1812 Commemoration Features Burials in Presbyterian Cemetery
Records indicate that some 48 members of the Meeting House congregation were veterans of the War of 1812. Nearly two-thirds are buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery. Scores more congregants who are interred here served in support of the American war effort as civilians—as members of Alexandria’s Common Council, Committee of Vigilance, and other capacities. To learn more, read our brochure, War of 1812--Burials at the Presbyterian Cemetery.
• Rev. James Muir Portrait Returns and Muir Exhibit Opens
In celebration of the conservation and return of the Rev. James Muir portrait to the Sennewald Library in Elliot House, an exhibit opened there that includes objects associated with Rev. Muir’s ministry at the Meeting House from 1789 through 1820: the 1640 Geneva Bible he brought from Scotland; communion service pieces used during his ministry; the indenture agreement between Catherine Taterson and the Muir family, prepared by Alexandria’s Overseers of the Poor in 1800; a book of Muir sermons he published in 1814; a page copied from his 1805 personal diary (recently published with a fully annotated transcription of the diary; an 1816 transcription of Muir’s personal register of marriages, baptisms, and funeral services; and more.
Plan to see the Muir portrait at its new location and the accompanying exhibit soon. Elliot House is open from 9 am to 4 pm weekdays..
• The Meeting House on YouTube (added 3/15/11)