Alexandria, Virginia facts for kids
|City of Alexandria|
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial in 2015, with Washington, D.C. and Arlington in the distance
|Incorporated (Independent city)||1870|
|• Total||15.5 sq mi (40.1 km2)|
|• Land||15.0 sq mi (38.9 km2)|
|• Water||0.4 sq mi (1.1 km2)|
|Elevation||39 ft (12 m)|
|• Estimate (2015)||153,511|
|• Density||10,221/sq mi (3,946.3/km2)|
|Time zone||EST (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|ZIP codes||22301 to 22315, 22320 to 22336|
|Area code(s)||571, 703|
|GNIS feature ID||1492456|
Alexandria is an independent city in the United States Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 139,966, and in 2015, the population was estimated to be 153,511. Located along the western bank of the Potomac River, Alexandria is approximately 7 miles (11 km) south of downtown Washington, D.C.
Like the rest of Northern Virginia, as well as Central Maryland, modern Alexandria has been influenced by its proximity to the U.S. capital. It is largely populated by professionals working in the federal civil service, in the U.S. military, or for one of the many private companies which contract to provide services to the federal government. One of Alexandria's largest employers is the U.S. Department of Defense. Another is the Institute for Defense Analyses. In 2005, the United States Patent and Trademark Office moved to Alexandria.
The historic center of Alexandria is known as "Old Town". With its concentration of boutiques, restaurants, antique shops and theaters, it is a major draw for all who live in Alexandria as well for visitors. Like Old Town, many Alexandria neighborhoods are compact and walkable. It is the 7th largest and highest-income independent city in Virginia.
A large portion of adjacent Fairfax County mostly south, but also west of the city is named "Alexandria," but it is under the jurisdiction of Fairfax County and separate from the city; the city is sometimes referred to as the City of Alexandria to avoid confusion (see the "Neighborhoods" paragraph below). In 1920, Virginia's General Assembly voted to incorporate what had been Alexandria County as Arlington County to minimize confusion.
The first European settlement was established in 1695 in what was then the English Colony of Virginia. Virginia's comprehensive Tobacco Inspection Law of 1730 mandated that all tobacco grown in the colony must be brought to locally designated public warehouses for inspection before sale: one of the sites designated for a warehouse on the upper Potomac River was at the mouth of Hunting Creek. However, the ground being unsuitable at that location, the warehouse was established a half mile up-river, where the water ran deep near the shore.
Following the 1745 settlement of the colony's 10-year-long dispute with Lord Fairfax over the western boundary of the Northern Neck Proprietary—the Privy Council in London finding in favor of Lord Fairfax's expanded claim—some of the gentry class of Fairfax County banded together to form the Ohio Company of Virginia. Their intent was to establish trade into the interior of America and for this they required an entrepot close to the head of navigation on the Potomac. The Hunting Creek tobacco warehouse offered the best location for a trading port which could accommodate sailing ships. However, many of the local tobacco planters wanted a new town to be sited up Hunting Creek, away from nonproductive fields along the river.
Around 1746, Captain Philip Alexander II (1704–1753) moved to what is south of present Duke Street in Alexandria. His estate, which consisted of 500 acres (2.0 km2), was bounded by Hunting Creek, Hooff's Run, the Potomac River, and approximately the line which would become Cameron Street. At the opening of Virginia's 1748–49 legislative session, there was a petition submitted in the House of Burgesses on November 1, 1748, that the "inhabitants of Fairfax (Co.) praying that a town may be established at Hunting Creek Warehouse on Potowmack River," as Hugh West was the owner of the warehouse. The petition was introduced by Lawrence Washington (1718–1752), the representative for Fairfax County and, more importantly, the son-in-law of William Fairfax and a founding member of the Ohio Company. To support the company's push for a town on the river, Lawrence's younger brother George Washington, an aspiring surveyor, made a sketch of the shoreline touting the advantages of the tobacco warehouse site.
Since the river site was amidst his estate, Philip opposed the idea and strongly favored a site at the head of Hunting Creek (also known as Great Hunting Creek). It has been said that in order to avoid a predicament the petitioners offered to name the new town Alexandria, in honor of Philip's family. As a result, Philip and his cousin Captain John Alexander (1711–1763) gave land to assist in the development of Alexandria, and are thus listed as the founders. This John was the son of Robert Alexander II (1688–1735). On May 2, 1749, the House of Burgesses approved the river location and ordered "Mr. Washington do go up with a Message to the Council and acquaint them that this House have agreed to the Amendments titled An Act for erecting a Town at Hunting Creek Warehouse, in the County of Fairfax." A "Public Vendue" (auction) was advertised for July, and the county surveyor laid out street lanes and town lots. The auction was conducted on July 13–14, 1749.
Almost immediately upon establishment, the town founders called the new town "Belhaven", believed to be in honor of a Scottish patriot, John Hamilton, 2nd Lord Belhaven and Stenton, the Northern Neck tobacco trade being then dominated by Scots. The name Belhaven was used in official lotteries to raise money for a Church and Market House, but it was never approved by the legislature and fell out of favor in the mid-1750s. The town of Alexandria did not become incorporated until 1779.
In 1755, General Edward Braddock organized his fatal expedition against Fort Duquesne at Carlyle House in Alexandria. In April 1755, the governors of Virginia, and the provinces of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York met to determine upon concerted action against the French in America.
In March 1785, commissioners from Virginia and Maryland met in Alexandria to discuss the commercial relations of the two states, finishing their business at Mount Vernon. The Mount Vernon Conference concluded on March 28 with an agreement for freedom of trade and freedom of navigation of the Potomac River. The Maryland legislature, in ratifying this agreement on November 22, proposed a conference among representatives from all the states to consider the adoption of definite commercial regulations. This led to the calling of the Annapolis Convention of 1786, which in turn led to the calling of the Federal Convention of 1787.
In 1791, Alexandria was included in the area chosen by George Washington to become the District of Columbia.
Early 19th century
In 1814, during the War of 1812, a British fleet launched a successful Raid on Alexandria, which surrendered without a fight. As agreed in the terms of surrender the British looted stores and warehouses of mainly flour, tobacco, cotton, wine, and sugar. In 1823 William Holland Wilmer, Francis Scott Key, and others founded the Virginia Theological Seminary. From 1828 to 1836, Alexandria was home to the Franklin & Armfield Slave Market, one of the largest slave trading companies in the country. By the 1830s, they were sending more than 1,000 slaves annually from Alexandria to their Natchez, Mississippi, and New Orleans markets to help meet the demand for slaves in Mississippi and surrounding states. Later owned by Price, Birch & Co., the slave pen became a jail under Union occupation.
A portion of the City of Alexandria—most of the area now known as "Old Town" as well as the areas of the city northeast of what is now King Street—and all of today's Arlington County share the distinction of having been originally in Virginia, ceded to the U.S. Government to form the District of Columbia, and later retroceded to Virginia by the federal government in 1846, when the District was reduced in size to exclude the portion south of the Potomac River. Over time, a movement grew to separate Alexandria from the District of Columbia (the District of Columbia retrocession). As competition grew with the port of Georgetown and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal fostered development on the north side of the Potomac River, the city's economy stagnated, together with the loss of representation and rights to vote and failed expectations for economic benefit from the new district. Alexandria was also an important port and market in the slave trade, and there were increasing talk of abolition of slavery in the national capital. Alexandria's economy would suffer greatly if slavery were outlawed. After a referendum, voters petitioned Congress and Virginia to return the area to Virginia. Congress retroceded the area to Virginia on July 9, 1846. The City of Alexandria was re-chartered in 1852 and became independent of Alexandria County in 1870. The remaining portion of Alexandria County changed its name to Arlington County in 1920.
Late 19th century
The first fatalities of the North and South in the American Civil War occurred in Alexandria. Within a month of the Battle of Fort Sumter, where two died, Union troops occupied Alexandria, landing troops at the base of King Street on the Potomac River on May 24, 1861. A few blocks up King Street from their landing site, the commander of the New York Fire Zouaves, Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth, sortied with a small detachment to retrieve a large Confederate flag displayed on the roof of the Marshall House Inn that had been visible from the White House. While descending from the roof, Ellsworth was shot dead by Captain James W. Jackson, the hotel's proprietor. One of the Ellsworth's soldier immediately killed Jackson. Ellsworth was publicized as a Union martyr, and the incident generated great excitement in the North, with many children being named for him. Jackson's death defending his home caused a similar, though less lasting sensation, in the South.
Alexandria remained under military occupation until the end of the war. Fort Ward, one of a ring of forts built by the Union army for the defense of Washington, D.C., is located inside the boundaries of present-day Alexandria. After the creation by Washington of the state of West Virginia in 1863 and until the close of the war, Alexandria was the seat of the so-called Restored Government of Virginia, also known as the "Alexandria Government". During the Union occupation, a recurring contention between the Alexandria citizenry and the military occupiers was the Union army's periodic insistence that church services include prayers for the President of the United States. Failure to do so resulted in incidents including the arrest of ministers in their church.
Escaped African American slaves poured into Alexandria. Safely behind Union lines, the cities of Alexandria and Washington offered comparative freedom and employment. Alexandria became a major supply depot and transport and hospital center for the Union army. Until the Emancipation Proclamation, escaped slaves legally remained the property of their owners. Therefore, they were labeled contrabands to avoid returning them to their masters. Contrabands worked the Union army in various support roles. By the fall of 1863, the population of Alexandria had exploded to 18,000—an increase of 10,000 people in 16 months.
As of ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, Alexandria County's black population was more than 8,700, or about half the total number of residents in the county. This newly enfranchised constituency provided the support necessary to elect the first black Alexandrians to the City Council and the Virginia Legislature.
At the turn of the 20th century the most common production in the city was glass, fertilizer, beer and leather. The glass often went into beer bottles. Much of the Virginia Glass Company effort went to supply the demands of the Robert Portner Brewing Company, until the fire destroyed the St. Asaph Street plant on February 18, 1905. The Old Dominion Glass Company also had a glass works fall to fire, then built a new one. The Belle Pre Bottle Company held a monopoly on a milk bottle that they patented, yet that organization only lasted 10 years. Most businesses were smaller where the business occupied the first floor of a building and the owner and family lived above. Prohibition closed the Portner Brewing in 1916.
President Woodrow Wilson visited the Virginia Shipbuilding Corporation on May 30, 1918 to drive the first rivet into the keel of the USS Gunston Hall. In 1930, Alexandria annexed the town of Potomac. That town, adjacent to Potomac Yard, had been laid out beginning in the late 19th century and incorporated in 1908. In 1938 the Mt. Vernon Drive-In cinema opened. In 1939 the segregated public library experienced a sit-in organized by Samuel Wilbert Tucker. In 1940 both the Robert Robinson Library, which is now the Alexandria Black History Museum, and the Vernon Theatre opened Jim Morrison of The Doors, as well as Cass Elliot and John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas attended the George Washington High School in the 1950s.
In 1955 the Fords moved to Alexandria from Georgetown. In March 1959 Lieutenant Colonel William Henry Whalen, the "highest-ranking American ever recruited as a mole by the Russian Intelligence Service," provided Colonel Sergei A. Edemski three classified Army manuals in exchange for $3,500 at a shopping center parking lot within the city. Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation later arrested Whalen on July 12, 1966 at his home in the city. In 1961 the Woodrow Wilson Bridge opened.
In 1965 the city integrated schools. In 1971 the city consolidated all high school students into T. C. Williams High School. The same year that head coach Herman Boone joined the school and lead the football team to at 13-0 season, state championship, and national championship runner-up; the basis for the 2000 film Remember the Titans were Boone was portrayed by Denzel Washington. In 1972 Clifford T. Cline purchased the 1890 Victorian house at 219 King Street and converted it into the Creole serving Two-Nineteen Restaurant. In 1973 Nora Lamborne and Beverly Beidler became the first women elected to the city council. In 1974 the Torpedo Factory Art Center opened. In 1983 the King Street–Old Town Station and Eisenhower Avenue Station both opened. In 1984 the Islamic Saudi Academy opened. and Parker-Gray historic district In 1991 Patricia Ticer became the first women elected mayor.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.5 square miles (40.1 km2), of which 15.0 square miles (38.9 km2) is land and 0.42 square miles (1.1 km2), or 2.85%, is water. Alexandria is bounded on the east by the Potomac River, on the north and northwest by Arlington County, and on the south by Fairfax County. The western portions of the city were annexed from those two entities beginning in the 1930s.
The addressing system in Alexandria is not uniform and reflects the consolidation of several originally separate communities into a single city. In Old Town Alexandria, building numbers are assigned north and south from King Street and west (only) from the Potomac River. In the areas formerly in the town of Potomac, such as Del Ray and St. Elmo, building numbers are assigned east and west from Commonwealth Avenue and north (only) from King Street. In the western parts of the city, building numbers are assigned north and south from Duke Street.
The ZIP code prefix 223 uniquely identifies the Alexandria postal area. However, the Alexandria postal area extends into Fairfax County and includes addresses outside of the city. Delivery areas have ZIP codes 22301, 22302, 22203, 22304, 22305, 22306, 22307, 22308, 22309, 22310, 22311, 22312, 22314, and 22315, with other ZIP codes in use for post office boxes and large mailers (22313, 22331, 22332, 22333).
There is one national protected area in Alexandria:
- George Washington Memorial Parkway (part)
- Arlington County, Virginia – north
- Fairfax County, Virginia – west and south
- District of Columbia – northeast
- Prince George's County, Maryland – east
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Alexandria has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.
In 2008 the city council approved a charter where "citizens, businesses, and city government participate in a vibrant community that is always mindful of the needs and lifestyles of the generations to come." That chater defined sustainability as "meeting our community’s present needs while preserving our historic character and ensuring the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." In Ecocity Berkeley Register defined an ecocity as "an ecologically healthy city."
Neighborhoods in Alexandria include Old Town, Eisenhower Valley, Rosemont, The Berg, Parker-Gray, Del Ray, Arlandria, West End, North Ridge, and Potomac Yard.
Many areas outside the city have an Alexandria mailing address yet are a part of Fairfax County including: Hollin Hills, Franconia, Groveton, Hybla Valley, Huntington, Belle Haven, Mount Vernon, Fort Hunt, Engleside, Burgundy Village, Waynewood, Wilton Woods, Rose Hill, Virginia Hills, Hayfield, and Kingstowne. Some refer to these areas as Lower Alexandria, South Alexandria, or Alexandria, Fairfax County.
|U.S. Decennial Census
At the 2010 census, there were 139,966 people, 68,082 households and 30,978 families residing in the city. The population density was 8,452.0 per square mile (3,262.9/km²). There were 68,082 housing units at an average density of 4,233.2 per square mile (1,634.2/km²). The folks of the city were:
- 60.9% White
- 21.8% African American
- 6.0% Asian (1.3% Indian, 1.0% Filipino, 0.9% Chinese, 0.8% Korean, 0.5% Thai, 0.3% Vietnamese, 0.2% Japanese, 1.0% Other)
- 0.4% Native American
- 0.1% Pacific Islander
- 3.7% from two or more races
- 16.1% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any national origin (4.6% Salvadoran, 1.7% Mexican, 1.6% Honduran, 1.1% Guatemalan, 1.1% Puerto Rican, 0.9% Bolivian, 0.8% Peruvian, 0.4% Colombian)
In 2000, there were 61,889 households of which 18.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.2% were married couples living together, 9.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 55.2% were non-families. 43.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.04 and the average family size was 2.87.
The age distribution was 16.8% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 43.5% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 9.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 93.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.7 males.
According to a 2007 estimate, the median household income was $80,806 and the median family income was $102,435. Males had a median income of $47,514 versus $41,254 for females. The per capita income for the city was $37,645. 8.9% of the population and 6.8% of families were below the poverty line. 13.9% of those under the age of 18 and 9.0% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
Points of interest
Landmarks within the city include the George Washington Masonic National Memorial (also known as the Masonic Temple) and Observation Deck, Christ Church, Gadsby's Tavern, John Carlyle House, Little Theatre of Alexandria, Lee-Fendall House, Alexandria City Hall, Market Square, the Jones Point Light, the south cornerstone of the original District of Columbia, Robert E. Lee's boyhood home, the Torpedo Factory Art Center, and the Virginia Theological Seminary. Other sites of historical interest in the city include Alexandria Black History Resource Center, Fort Ward Park and Museum, and the Alexandria Canal lock re-creation at Canal Office Center. Interesting sites with Alexandria addresses but outside of the city limits include River Farm, Collingwood Library & Museum, Green Spring Gardens Park, Huntley Meadows Park, Historic Huntley, Pope-Leighey House (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), Woodlawn Plantation, Washington's Grist Mill and Mount Vernon Estate.
In 1830, John Hollensbury's home in Alexandria was one of two homes directly bordering an alleyway that received a large amount of horse-drawn wagon traffic and loiterers. In order to prevent people from using the alleyway, Hollensbury constructed a 7 feet (2.1 m) wide, 25 feet (7.6 m) deep, 325-square-foot (30.2 m2), two story home using the existing brick walls of the adjacent homes for the sides of the new home. The brick walls of the Hollensbury Spite House living room have gouges from wagon-wheel hubs; the house is still standing, and is occupied.
A popular Christmastime attraction in Alexandria is the Scottish Christmas Walk, which was established in 1969. The event, which involves a parade through the center of Old Town Alexandria, celebrates the city's Scottish heritage, and is the centerpiece of a yearly holiday festival. It serves as a fundraiser for social services in Alexandria. Other parades in Old Town celebrate Saint Patrick's Day and the birthday of George Washington. Other annual events include the Red Cross Waterfront Festival in June, various ethnic heritage days at Tavern Square, and "First Night Alexandria" which presents many family-friendly entertainments on New Year's Eve.
These parades and other official events are typically led by Alexandria's town crier, who, often dressed in elaborately, by a tradition dating to the 18th century, in a red coat, breeches, black boots and a tricorne hat, welcomes participants.
Parks and recreation
Alexandria has a distributed park system with approximately 950 acres (3.8 km2) spread across 70 major parks and 30 recreation centers, of which Chinquapin is one of the largest. Chinquapin offers facilities for swimming, tennis, racquetball, and other sports. The city also organizes several sports leagues throughout the year including volleyball, softball and basketball.
The city is home to Cameron Run Regional Park which includes a water park with a wave pool and water slides, as well as a miniature golf course and batting cages. A portion of the Mount Vernon Trail, a popular bike and jogging path, runs through Old Town near the Potomac River on its way from the Mount Vernon Estate to Roosevelt Island in Washington, DC. There is also a largely unbroken line of parks stretching along the Alexandria waterfront from end to end.
Alexandria is bisected east and west by State Route 7, known as King Street. The most western section of King St here once was the terminus of the Leesburg Turnpike. Interstate 95/495 (the Capital Beltway), including the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the Potomac River, approximately parallels the city's southern boundary with Fairfax County. Interstate 395 crosses north and south through the western part of the city. Other major routes include north–south U.S. 1 (Patrick and Henry Streets after Patrick Henry, Jefferson Davis Highway and Richmond Highway), Washington St/George Washington Memorial Parkway, Russell Rd, Quaker Lane, Van Dorn St and Beauregard St, and east–west Duke Street (State Route 236), Braddock Rd and Janneys Lane/Seminary Rd.
Alexandria Union Station, the city's historic train station, has Amtrak intercity services and the Virginia Railway Express regional rail service. The station is directly adjacent to the King Street – Old Town Washington Metro station, at the convergence of the Blue and Yellow Lines. Three other Metro stations in Alexandria are Braddock Road, Van Dorn Street, and Eisenhower Avenue.
The traditional boundary between Old Town and the latterly annexed sections of the city followed the railway now owned by CSX Transportation.
The city government operates its own mass transit system, the DASH bus, connecting points of interest with local transit hubs. Metrobus, Washington Metro, and the Virginia Railway Express, better known as the VRE, also serve Alexandria. The city also offers a free "trolley" diesel bus service on King Street from the King Street Metro Station to the Waterfront and a water taxi to and from the National Harbor development in Prince George's County, Maryland.
Alexandria has four sister cities:
Alexandria was twinned with Gyumri as a means of showing good will in the wake of the 1988 Armenian earthquake.
In popular culture
- The Walking Dead comic book series and subsequent TV adaptation features a protected area of Alexandria known as the Safe Zone.
- Jim Morrison (from the band The Doors) graduated from George Washington High School in 1961.
- The 2000 film Remember the Titans takes place in Alexandria and the cemetery scene was filmed at Ivy Hill Cemetery in Alexandria.
- The first scene of the 2006 film National Treasure: Book of Secrets was filmed at the George Washington Masonic Memorial.
- Alternative rock band the Foo Fighters has a track titled "Arlandria" on their 2011 release Wasting Light; front man (and ex-Nirvana drummer) Dave Grohl lived in Alexandria during his childhood. The Arlandria neighborhood is also referenced in the song "Headwires" from the band's 1999 release, There Is Nothing Left to Lose.
- The 100 character Lexa was named after Alexandria.
- In The X-Files, the address of Special Agent Fox Mulder is given as Apartment 42, 2630 Hegal Place, Alexandria, VA 23242.
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