Within three years after gaining his freedom in 1800, Dominick Barecroft (formerly known as "Dominy") was running a grocery store and tavern on the west side of North Fairfax Street. By 1804, Barecroft had saved the $59 necessary to purchase freedom for his wife, Esther. The tavern thrived, and in 1817 Barecroft bought a house and lot at 315 Cameron Street.
Barecroft operated his tavern on North Fairfax until 1824. When he died in 1862, the Alexandria Gazette recalled his ability to prepare crabs so delicious that "epicures, titled and distinguished, from Washington would come for crab suppers." Barecroft was described as "very dignified" and his tavern as "visited only by respectable persons."
These descriptions, and the location of Barecroft's house outside the black neighborhoods of Hayti and the Bottoms, suggest that Barecroft lived primarily among white Alexandrians. Yet he would have come into daily contact with enslaved and Free Blacks as well. His tavern was located just a block away from the home of John Carlyle, one of the largest slaveholders in Northern Virginia. Nearby Gadsby's Tavern, a favorite haunt of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington (who kept a townhouse two blocks west of Barecroft's residence), was maintained by enslaved blacks.
Barecroft's manumission was filed on May 5, 1800 by David Henderson, who had purchased him for $200 in February of that same year. It is not clear from the manumission how or why Barecroft was freed by Henderson. It is possible that Henderson purchased Barecroft with the deliberate purpose of freeing him.
Barecroft's grocery store and public house on the west side of 300 North Fairfax are no longer standing, but his three-story brick home on Cameron Street has been converted to retail use.
The three story brick building purchased by Barecroft in 1817 still stands at 315 Cameron. Gadsby's Tavern Museum across the street at 134 North Royal offers tours of the tavern and hotel which were contemporary with Barecroft's public house.
Geographical and Contact Information
315 Cameron Street