The City of Alexandria Fire Department
Ivy Hill Cemetery Company of Alexandria

A brief history of a long and proud association

Inside the entrance to Ivy Hill is a circle with a tall stone obelisk in its center and a fountain with a fire hose nozzle.  The obelisk is a memorial to seven firemen who were tragically killed in a fire in  Alexandria in 1855.  The fountain, originally dedicated in 1970 in memory of the Alexandria Fire Department,  was rededicated on October 12, 2001, in a very somber service remembering the events of 9-11 and the men and women of FDNY.

In 2001 the fountain was to be renovated, granite to replace the brick with provisions made to use the sides of the granite fountain as memorials for Fire and EMS personal to be intered around the fountain.  No one knew that this renovation would set the stage to rededicate the fountain and memorialize so many fire service personnel that gave “the last full measure,” on that tragic day.
The full inscription on the fountain reads:
                                                                             9 11
The numbers used to summon fire and emergency services, have been given a terrible, new significance by the terrorist attack on America. Today, Oct.12, 2001, we rededicate this Friendship Fountain and remember, with awed respect and humble gratitude, all from F.D.N.Y. who gave “the last full measure” on 9 11 2001.

This, as it would happen, was also the anniversary of the placement the obelisk memorial to seven fireman that was erected, by the grateful citizens of Alexandria, at the entrance to the new (1856) cemetery.    As reported in at least one account, this fire took place on November 17, 1855 in the Dowell China Shop, a three story building on King Street, and it was further reported, to have been started by an arsonist.  According  to this account, dynamite stored in the basement exploded and the walls of the structure collapsed on the seven firemen of Company 4.

On this 145 anniversary of the placement of that obelisk,  the rededication of the fountain was in remembrance of 343 persons lost in another collapse. This collapse was of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, and this time it was caused by the actions of terrorists. The memorialization for those 343 people on this occasion was from the very souls of the men and women of Alexandria’s Fire and EMS services. 

The opportunity allowing the actions of October 12, 2001 has its roots in the past.   The Fire Department has for many years held a memorial service that was rotated among the local churches and meeting places.  The purpose of this is to honor the memory of the sacrifices of our fallen firefighters. Fittingly, the service is held during the week that is set aside to promote fire prevention.  It is a somber reminder that fires cost lives,  even to those who are trained to deal with this danger.  It also serves as  a reminder  that the  men and  women in the fire and rescue services willingly risk their lives, to protect our lives, day in and day out. As a part of this same remembrance, now during Fire Prevention Week, a wreath would be placed at the firefighter's  monument in Ivy Hill Cemetery.

Forty years ago, the cemetery dedicated this circle and a new fountain as the "Circle of Honor" and "Friendship Fountain," this being October 7, 1970. As was stated, the Department has placed a wreath at the base of this monument for many years.  Some years following this dedication, with the renewed interest that was created, the wreath laying became a more formal ceremony.  A beautiful bronze relief depicting the men and women of the fire and rescue services, now installed in the area at the base of the monument, was added.  This feature was presented by Ivy Hill Cemetery and was dedicated on October the 8th, 1993. The features have been added to more formalize the area and to remind present and future generations of the noble tradition of public service that the monument was erected to commemorate.

For the 30th anniversary of the dedication,  celebrated October 12, 2000,  the circle was completely re-landscaped and three new flag poles were added. The lighted, graduated flag poles will now let the three ceremonial flags, the Virginia flag, and the United States flag, fly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, over the monument and Friendship Fountain. To create this display, the City of Alexandria and Alexandria Fire Department flags were custom made in the new size required. In honor of this occasion, and again in 2006 for its 150th Anniversary Ivy Hill Cemetery commissioned a new corporate flag.  Now the Alexandria Fire Department flag, the City of Alexandria flag, and the new Sesquicentennial Ivy Hill Cemetery flag join the State of Virginia and the US flags flying 24 hours a day over the Circle of  Honor.

Working in cooperation, the Fire Department and Ivy Hill have developed a beautiful ceremony, and one with ever increasing attendance.. The entrance to the cemetery is framed by two ladder trucks, nose to nose, with ladders raised, forming an arch; and the road  which defines the outer boundary of the Circle is filled, in its entirety, with an array of the Fire department's vehicles and special equipment, which completes the effect for this very powerful, moving and solemn ceremony.  It was so powerful in it's presentation that in 1997 the memorial service was moved out doors and held in the Circle of Honor, with the wreath laying, because the ambiance created by this setting added so much to the service.

The Circle of Honor, with its striking obelisk, together with the flags, the bronze relief, the dedication stone and the fountain form the signature feature at Ivy Hill.  This is a fine tribute, but the history and very real meaning of this symbol need to be told and understood.  This is the reason that Ivy Hill Cemetery, its staff, management, and the Board of Directors support the Fire Department, and this service in particular, in any and all ways that we can. We are proud to be able to act as host for this event and consider it a privilege to have this opportunity to serve our community and to honor our firefighters. We thank all who attended these services for their interest and support. Like the firefighters, we have a long tradition of public service and look forward to continuing our century and a half of service into the 21st century, and beyond.

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