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The Franklin and Armfield Office, which houses the Freedom House Museum, is a historic commercial building at 1315 Duke Street in Alexandria, Virginia (until 1846, the District of Columbia). Built c. 1810-20, it was first used as a private residence before being converted to the offices of the largest slave trading firm in the United States, started in 1828 by Isaac Franklin and John Armfield. "As many as [a] million people are thought to have passed through between 1828 and 1861, on their way to bondage in Mississippi and Louisiana".[4] Another source, using ship manifests (lists of slaves) in the National Archives, gives the number as "at least 5,000".[5] One million is generally historians' estimate of the total of all slaves who were moved to the Deep South in the domestic slave trade.

Franklin and Armfield Office
Freedom House
Franklin and Armfield Office is located in Alexandria Historical District
Franklin and Armfield Office
Franklin and Armfield Office is located in Northern Virginia
Franklin and Armfield Office
Franklin and Armfield Office is located in Virginia
Franklin and Armfield Office
Franklin and Armfield Office is located in the United States
Franklin and Armfield Office
LocationAlexandria, Virginia
Coordinates38°48′14″N 77°3′17″W / 38.80389°N 77.05472°W / 38.80389; -77.05472Coordinates: 38°48′14″N 77°3′17″W / 38.80389°N 77.05472°W / 38.80389; -77.05472
Area27 acres (11 ha)
Built1810 (1810)
ArchitectRobert Young
Architectural styleFederal, Other
NRHP reference #78003146
VLR #100-0105
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJune 2, 1978[2]
Designated NHLJune 2, 1978[3]
Designated VLROctober 16, 1979[1]

The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1978, and has also been designated a Virginia Historic Landmark. The building is owned by the Northern Virginia Urban League; it is operated as a museum, with exhibits about the slave trading firm and the life of a slave.[6][7]


Description and historyEdit

The former Franklin and Armfield Office building is located just west of Alexandria's Old Town, on the north side of Duke Street between South West and South Payne streets. It is a three-story brick building, topped by a mansard roof and resting on a brick foundation. Its front facade is laid in Flemish bond, while the sides and rear are laid in common bond. It has Federal-period styling, with windows and the entrance door set in segmented, arch openings, with gabled dormers at the roof level.[8]

The building was constructed as a residence in the 1810s by Robert Young, a brigadier general in the District of Columbia National Guard. Due to financial reverses, Young was soon afterward forced to sell the house. It was purchased in 1828 by Isaac Franklin and his nephew John Armfield, who established it as their Washington-area office, and the residence of Armfield.[9]

The property then extended further east, and they added structures for holding and trading in slaves. They also provided, for 25¢ a day, housing in their jail for slaveowners visiting Washington.[10]:292 The two-story extension to the rear of this house was part of the slave-holding facilities, which included high walls, and interior chambers that featured prison-like grated doors and windows. Franklin left the business, starting in 1835, and Armfield sold the property to another slave trader in 1836. It continued to be used for slave trading until Alexandria fell to Union Army forces early in the American Civil War.[8] The owners in 1861 were Price, Birch & Co., "dealers in slaves".[10]:29[11] The Union used the property to imprison Confederate soldiers. Late in the war, it was used as L'Ouverture Hospital for black soldiers, and as housing for contrabands.[10]:293

The Franklin and Armfield house with its neighboring slave pens in 1836.

After the war, the outlying slave pens, of which there are photographs,[11] were torn down. The bricks may have been reused in the construction of the adjacent townhouses.[8] After serving a variety of other uses, the main building is now used for Freedom House Museum, with exhibits devoted to the slave trade. The second floor houses the offices of the Northern Virginia Urban League.

Historical markerEdit

In 2005, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources erected the following marker in front of the building:

Franklin and Armfield
Slave Office (1315 Duke Street)

Isaac Franklin and John Armfield leased this brick building with access to the wharves and docks in 1828 as a holding pen for enslaved people being shipped from northern Virginia to Louisiana. They purchased the building and three lots in 1832. From this location Armfield bought bondspeople at low prices and shipped them south to his partner Franklin, in Natchez, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana, to be sold at higher prices. By the 1830s they often sold 1,000 people annually, operating as one of the largest slave-trading companies in the United States until 1836. Slave traders continually owned the property until 1861.

2018 support from the Alexandria City CouncilEdit

The Northern Virginia Urban League was in serious financial trouble by 2018 and unable to pay its mortgage. The Alexandria City Council unanimously agreed on February 13, 2018 "to make a $63,000 interest-free loan and donate the time and talents of city historians". This support enabled operating the Museum for the public three days a week. The League's offices are on the upper floors of the building.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 2013-05-12.
  2. ^ National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  3. ^ "Franklin & Armfield Office". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  4. ^ a b Sullivan, Patricia (February 14, 2018). "Alexandria council loans $63,000 to stabilize slave-trading museum". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  5. ^ Sweig, Donald (October 2014). "Alexandria to New Orleans: The Human Tragedy of the Interstate Slave Trade" (PDF). Alexandria Gazette-Packet. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  6. ^ "Freedom House Museum". The Smithsonian Associates. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  7. ^ "Alexandria museum of slave trade damaged by winter storms". The Washington Post. March 4, 2015. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  8. ^ a b c "NHL nomination for Franklin and Armfield Office". National Park Service. Retrieved 2016-01-26.
  9. ^ Gudmestad, Robert H. (Fall 2003). "The Troubled Legacy of Isaac Franklin: The Enterprise of Slave Trading". Tennessee Historical Quarterly. 62 (3): 193–217. JSTOR 42627764.
  10. ^ a b c Loewen, James W. Lies Across America. What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong. The New Press. ISBN 1565843444.
  11. ^ a b My Genealogy Hound. "Alexandria, Virginia, Price and Birch, Armsfield and Franklin, Slave Pen, Historic Photos". Retrieved February 12, 2018.

Further readingEdit

  • Artemel, Janice G.; Crowell, Elizabeth A.; Parker, Jeff (1987). The Alexandria slave pen : the archaeology of urban captivity. Washington, D.C.: Engineering Science. OCLC 19028845.</ref>

External linksEdit