"Bailey's Crossroads" is one of many unincorporated neighborhoods in Virginia, inside the Washington D.C. Beltway. Today, Bailey's Crossroads (the crossing of Route 7 and Columbia Pike) is made up of strip malls, high-rise office buildings and a few apartment complexes. Behind an Old Navy store and a grocery is a pleasant hill where once stood "Maury," the home of Lewis Bailey (1795-1870). The broad, stark plaza of stores closer to the road was once the winter quarters of Bailey's small circus.


 

Bailey's father, Hachaliah Bailey of Somers, New York, had bought an elephant known as "Old Bet" in 1808. He sold shares in the animal and turned an immediate profit, and bought other elephants after Old Bet was killed in Maine in 1816. (Some righteous supporters of the Blue Laws, which outlawed such sinful entertainments on a Sunday, ambushed and shot her.)

 

click on above image

 

Bailey took his profits and bought a tract in Northern Virginia in 1837. He built a large house that came to be known as "Bailey's Mansion," or "Maury," reputed to contain one hundred rooms, wintering his exhibits on the spacious grounds. Several of Hachaliah's nephews and cousins were traveling showmen, but it was his son, Lewis, who joined him in the business in Virginia. In 1881, Lewis Bailey merged his outfit, "The Great London Circus," with P.T. Barnum's show. The Barnum and Bailey circus would later merge with the Ringling Brothers circus, and the combined headquarters of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey is still about ten miles away in an office park in MacLean, Virginia.


 

History continued to bring drama to the Bailey land. President Lincoln staged an enormous review of Union troops in 1861 to lift the spirits of the soldiers who had recently lost the Battle of First Manassas. 60,000 men marched from a mile east of Bailey's mansion directly past it to Lincoln's review stand a mile west. Young poet Julia Ward Howe watched the thrilling display, and returned to her hotel two blocks from the White House to write "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."


 

The Bailey mansion burned to the ground in 1942. The only reminders of the original site are the  neighborhood's name, a historical marker (pictured) and "Moray Lane." Once the avenue leading to the mansion, it is now just a short, narrow access road from Columbia Pike past a rundown apartment building to end in the parking lot where once Bailey's menagerie quartered. I had no thought of it history at the time, but chose the parking lot on Moray Lane as the location for videotaping the introductory narration for my DVD "The Carnival's Been and Gone," (mostly because we had the camera and that's where we happened to be when we wanted to beat some approaching rain).

 


There is no "way to peace." Peace is the way.

 

Wayne Keyser

 


Images

1 - Bailey's Corners Marker

2 - Old Bets Monument and the Elephant Hotel circa 1885

3 - Old Bets Monument

 


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