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11

WEDNESDAY

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You there, the one whining about the heat even with your margaritas and central air: If you think summer along the Potomac is bad now, consider how miasmal it must have been 200 years ago. Consider it more specifically at Woodlawn, home of George Washington descendants Eleanor “Nelly” Custis and Major Lawrence Lewis. Docent-led summer tours explain how the Federalists kept their cool: Chairs and beds were strategically placed near windows for ventilation (hmm, gotta try that one), and the doors of the west and east porticos were opened to create a breezeway. (Unfortunately, along with the breeze, birds and the occasional stray pig wandered in, as well.) More worrisome than the heat, however, were the insects. To combat them, the savvy Lewises set a bell jar partially filled with sugar water on the dining room table. Bugs checked in and checked out in sweet ecstasy—and also provided some evening entertainment. Suffer summer the old-fashioned way on tours running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (see City List for other dates) at Woodlawn, 9000 Richmond Highway, Alexandria. $7.50. (703) 780-4000. (Hetty Lipscomb)