Alexandria Neighborhood Overview
Alexandria is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 139,966 in 2013, the population was estimated to be 151,218. Located along the Western bank of the Potomac River, Alexandria is approximately six miles south of downtown Washington, D.C.
Like the rest of Northern Virginia, as well as central Maryland, modern Alexandria has been shaped by its proximity to the nation’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. Others include the Institute for Defense Analyses and the Center for Naval 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 tourists. Like Old Town, many Alexandria neighborhoods are compact, walkable, high-income suburbs of Washington, D.C. It is the seventh largest and highest income independent city in Virginia.
A portion of adjacent Fairfax County, Virginia is named Alexandria, but is under the jurisdiction of Fairfax County and separate from the city; the city is sometimes referred to as the City of Alexandria or Alexandria City to avoid confusion. In 1920, Virginia’s General Assembly voted to incorporate what had been Alexandria County as Arlington County, Virginia to minimize confusion.
Old Town is situated in the eastern and southeastern area of the city along the Potomac River. It was originally laid out in 1749, making it the oldest section of the City and is a historic district. Old Town is chiefly known for its historic town houses, art galleries, antique shops, and restaurants.
Some of the historic landmarks in Old Town include General Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home, the Lee-Fendall House, a replica of George Washington’s townhouse, Gadsby’s Tavern, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop, and the Torpedo Factory art studio complex (see the “Recreation” paragraph below). River cruise boats and street entertainers frequent the large plaza at the foot of King Street; the Mount Vernon Trail also passes through. Old Town is laid out on a grid plan of substantially square blocks. The opening of the Washington Metro King Street station in 1983 led to a spurt of new hotel and office building development in western Old Town, and gentrification of townhouse areas west of Washington Street which were previously an African-American community.
Market Square in Old Town is believed to be one of the oldest continuously operating marketplaces in the United States, (from 1753 until present day), and was once the site of the second-largest slave market in the U.S. Today it contains a large fountain and extensive landscaping, as well as a farmers’ market each Saturday morning.
In the center of the intersection of Washington and Prince streets stands a statue of a lone Confederate soldier which marks the spot where CSA units from Alexandria left to join the Confederate Army at the beginning of the American Civil War.The piece is entitled Appomattox and was cast by M. Casper Buberl in 1889.
Just to the west of Old Town is the city’s oldest planned residential expansion. Called by its creators Rosemont in honor of a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania neighborhood of the same name, Rosemont was developed between 1900 and 1920. Rosemont extends from the foot of Shuter’s Hill, crowned by the George Washington National Masonic Memorial away to the north for a dozen blocks to the edge of Del Ray. Originally intended as a “streetcar suburb” connected to Washington, D.C. and George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon by electric railroad, Rosemont, instead, became closely integrated into the life of the core of Alexandria. Much of Rosemont is included in ahistoric district listed on the National Register of Historic Places that was intended to focus attention on the neighborhood’s role as a showcase of early 20th Century home building styles. Television weatherman Willard Scott grew up here.
At the northern limits of Old Town are the remnants of a historic, predominantly African American community known by its inhabitants as “The Berg.” The area was settled in 1861 by refugees fleeing from enslavement in the Petersburg, VA area and was originally known as Petersburg or Grantsville. In 1915 the neighborhood encompassed several blocks from 1st St. to Bashford Lane and Royal St. to the waterfront railroad line.
Built in 1945, a 260-unit public housing complex covers several blocks in what is now Old Town Alexandria. Two of the Berg’s most prominent landmarks are blocks of units within this complex. The James Bland Homes, built in 1954, are named after an African American musician and songwriter. The second are the Samuel Madden Homes, named after the second African-American pastor of the Alfred Street Baptist Church.
Over the years, the historic roots of the Berg’s name were lost, and many assumed it referred to the monolithic, iceberg-like buildings of this apartment complex. It was mentioned in the movie Remember the Titans, which dramatizes the integration of city public schools in the 1970s.
Arlandria is a neighborhood located in the north-eastern portion of Alexandria. Its name is a portmanteau of the words “Arlington” and “Alexandria,” reflecting its location on the border of Arlington County and Alexandria. The neighborhood’s borders form a rough triangle bounded by Four Mile Run in the north, West Glebe Road to the south and south-west, and Route 1 to the east. Centered around Mount Vernon Avenue between Four Mile Run and West Glebe Road, it is home to many Hispanic, Thai, and Vietnamese-owned bakeries, restaurants, salons, and bookstores. An influx of Salvadorean immigrants into the neighborhood in the 1980s has earned it the nickname “Chirilagua,” after the city on the Pacific coast of El Salvador. Arlandria is also home to the Birchmere concert hall, the Alexandria Aces of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Collegiate Baseball League, and St. Rita Roman Catholic Church, dedicated in 1949 and constructed in Gothic style from Virginia fieldstone and Indiana limestone. 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 area is also referenced in the song “Headwires” from the band’s 1999 release, There Is Nothing Left to Lose.
The area to the northwest of Old Town, formerly in the separate town of Potomac, is popularly known as Del Ray, although that name properly belongs to one of many communities (including Hume, Mount Ida, and Saint Elmo’s) in that area. The communities of Del Ray and St. Elmo’s originated in early 1894, when developer Charles Wood organized them on a grid pattern of streets running north-south and east-west. Del Ray originally contained six east-west streets and five north-south. All were identical in width, except Mt. Vernon Avenue, which was approximately twenty feet wider. St. Elmo’s, a smaller tract, was laid out in a similar pattern, but with only four east-west streets and one running north-south.
By 1900, Del Ray contained approximately 130 persons, and St. Elmo 55. In 1908, the tracts of Del Ray, St. Elmo’s, Mt. Ida, and Hume were incorporated into the town of Potomac, which by 1910 had a population of 599; by 1920 it contained 1,000; by 1928 it had 2,355 residents; now more than 20,000 people live in Del Ray.
The 254 acres comprising Del Ray were sold to Charles Wood in 1894 for the sum of $38,900, while St. Elmo, made up of 39 acres, was purchased for $15,314.
The community, while still diverse, has experienced substantial gentrification since the development of the Potomac Yard Shopping Center in the mid-1990s. It draws tens of thousands of people from around the Washington, D.C. region during its annual Art on the Avenue main street festival the first Saturday in October. New development under way in formerly unused land near Potomac Yard, across US Route 1 from Del Ray, will include condominiums, offices, parks, and a fire station with affordable housing on upper floors.
Alexandria’s West End includes areas annexed from Fairfax County in the 1950s. It is the most typically suburban part of Alexandria, with a street hierarchy of winding roads and cul-de-sacs. The section of Duke Street in the West End is known for a high-density residential area known to locals as “Landmark” due to its close proximity to nearby Landmark Mall, and for its concentration of strip and enclosed shopping malls. In more recent years, parts of Alexandria’s West End have seen an influx of immigrants from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Pakistan, who have settled in the areas surrounding Seminary Road west of I-395.
The West End is composed of four main areas. All are west of Quaker Lane, a major north-south artery through the western side of Alexandria:
- Seminary Hill, a mostly residential, single-family dwelling area near the Virginia Theological Seminary and the Episcopal and St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes Schools off of Seminary Road, ending in the area just west of the Inova Alexandria Hospital.
- Lower Alexandria (LA), south of the Duke Street corridor, are communities of small homes, rowhouses, townhomes along with commercial and retail real estate, including the Foxchase Shopping Center. The section between Wheeler Ave. and Jordan St. is also known as the “Block.” In the 1960s and 1970s, this section of Alexandria was also known because of Shirley Duke, a complex of 2,214 low-priced rental apartments, which became the Foxchase development in the early 1980s after five years of stagnancy. There are also areas of industrial businesses south of Duke Street, primarily off Wheeler Ave., South Pickett St., and South Van Dorn St. In the very southern part of this area is the Eisenhower Ave. corridor running parallel to the Capital Beltway (I-95/I-495) and west of Telegraph Rd, which is primarily industrial and commercial in nature. There has been some development in apartments and townhomes in the area west of Telegraph Rd and east of Clermont Ave along with Class 1 Offices and national brand hotels. The Van Dorn Metro Station here provides access to Washington, D.C.
- The Landmark area, which includes Seminary Valley, a large single family area developed in the 1950s, is largely garden style apartments and condo-converted apartment hi-rises as well as a number of townhome developments from the 1970s is west of North Pickett St bordered by I-395/Van Dorn Street on the west and Seminary Road on the north. This area also includes Cameron Station and the main branch of the Alexandria Library, the Charles E. Beatley Central Library, named for Alexandria’s two-time mayor in the 1970s and early eighties, Chuck Beatley. The Landmark Mall, developed in the mid-1960s and redeveloped in the 1980s, was Alexandria’s primary retail area for decades. It is now anchored by Sears and Macy’s department stores.
- The Seminary West neighborhoods are the communities west of I-395 but within the city limits of Alexandria. Beauregard Street is the primary artery running north & south to a mix of development from town home communities, single family neighborhoods, three large senior citizen living centers, garden and hi-rise apartments and condominiums. The Mark Center office development is a large commercial area in this community, which also includes the Alexandria Campus of the Northern Virginia Community College and its Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center. It is a 1,000,000-square-foot (93,000 m2) office tower complex developed for the US Dept of Defense and its BRAC initiative. The complex is an annex of US Army post Fort Belvoir. 6,300 federal office workers were expected to occupy the buildings.
North Ridge, in northern Alexandria city, includes the busy east-west Braddock Road/King Street corridors and north-south arteries Russell Rd (to the East) and Cameron Mill Rd. North Ridge takes its name from the high ground west of Russell Road and south of West Glebe Road. Within the area that comprises North Ridge are the neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, Jefferson Park, Braddock Heights, Timber Branch, Parkfairfax, Monticello Park, Beverly Estates, and Oak Crest. It is a residential area with homes of numerous styles with mostly single family two-story & basement houses that were largely developed in the period of the 1930s through the early 1960s. The Lower School of private St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School is located in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of North Ridge. This neighborhood includes many houses of worship as well as one of Virginia’s eight Scottish Rite temples, a Masonic order. Alexandria City Fire Station #203 is located at Cameron Mills Rd & Monticello Blvd and an Alexandria Police Satellite Facility borders North Ridge located at King St & W. Braddock Rd. On the edge of the community is a small shopping center called Fairlington anchored by a national-chain drug store and a Cadillac car dealership. North Ridge students attend George Mason and Charles Barrett Elementary Schools and feed into George Washington Middle School and T. C. Williams High School. Parks include Monticello Park, Beverly Park and Robert Leider Park. The North Ridge community lies within the original 10-mile (16 km) square of the District of Columbia, ceded back to Virginia in 1846.
Many neighborhoods and cities outside of the city limits, 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 use an Alexandria address. Despite the Alexandria address, these areas are actually part of Fairfax County, not Alexandria. Many locals refer to the non-Alexandria area that has an Alexandria zip code as “Lower Alexandria” or “South Alexandria” or “Alexandria, Fairfax County.”
(courtesy of Wikipedia)