July 30, 2018 By Neil Cosgrove
Alexandria’s Hibernians have noticed that something is missing from Alexandria’s newly renovated Fitzgerald Square: the name of Col. John Fitzgerald. Ironically on St. Patrick’s day of this year, the City Council of Alexandria announced without explanation that the new upscale park would now be designated “King Street Park at the Waterfront,” stripping the name of this prominent Irish American from the public space.
Irish immigrant Col. John Fitzgerald is a significant figure in both the history of Alexandria and the United States. Fitzgerald was prominent in developing the fledgling city of Alexandria into a city of commerce; his former warehouse is one of the City’s oldest building and ignominiously served as the backdrop to the City Council’s announcement stripping its former owner’s name from the public space. At the start of the American Revolution, he joined the patriot cause and became a trusted aide-de-camp to Washington and was wounded in his adopted country’s service. Of Col. John Fitzgerald Washington noted:
“I shall now proceed to mention a person in whose skill and integrity… I have the fullest confidence; a Gentleman who is
a native of Ireland – Colo. John Fitzgerald. The active Services of this gentleman during the War, his long residence in the Country and intermarriage in it (with one of the most respectable families, Digges of Maryland) all entitle him to be considered as an American. The laws of this Country know no difference between him and a native of America.”
Fitzgerald would go on to be the eighth Mayor of Alexandria and establish the first Catholic Church in Virginia (before the Revolution Catholicism was banned in the American Colonies)
It is unfortunate that at this moment in our country’s current debates on immigration that the city of Alexandria has chosen to expunge such a prominent example of the contributions of immigrants to this country as well as specifically depreciating the contributions of Irish Americans to our communities and nation.
The members of the Herbert-Cady Division of the AOH have started a Change.Org Petition calling for the restoration of the Fitzgerald Square name to the park which presently has over 1,000 signatures. That petition may be found here for those wishing to add their signature. At the recent AOH National Convention, the Hibernians adopted a resolution ” condemn(ing) in the strongest terms this outrage against our Irish history and heritage and insult of all Irish-Americans” and called “upon the Planning Commission, City Council, and Mayor of Alexandria, Virginia to rescind its renaming of the waterfront and return the good name of Colonel John Fitzgerald—immigrant, patriot, and war hero—to the public square named in