Alexandria, Virginia

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Old Town Alexandria, viewed from the west, as seen from the observation deck of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.  King Street Station is in the foreground, the Potomac River is in the background
Old Town Alexandria, viewed from the west, as seen from the observation deck of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. King Street Station is in the foreground, the Potomac River is in the background
Map of Alexandria, Arlington is to the north and Fairfax county is to the south and west, with the Potomac River to the east
Map of Alexandria, Arlington is to the north and Fairfax county is to the south and west, with the Potomac River to the east

Alexandria is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 128,284. It is located on the west bank of the Potomac River, six miles south of downtown Washington, DC.

Like the rest of Northern Virginia, as well as southern Maryland, Alexandria has been shaped by its proximity to the nation's capital. It is largely populated by professionals working in the federal civil service, the U.S. military, or for one of the many private companies which contract to provide services to the federal government. The latter are known locally as beltway bandits, after the Capital Beltway, an interstate highway that circles Washington, DC. 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.

Alexandria is home to numerous associations, charities, and non-profit organizations including the national headquarters of groups such as the Salvation Army.

The historic center of Alexandria is known as Old Town. It is a major draw for tourists and those seeking nightlife. Like Old Town, many Alexandria neighborhoods are high-income suburbs of Washington DC. A 2005 assessed-value study of homes and condominiums found that over 40 percent were in the highest bracket, worth $556,000 or more.

Alexandria landmarks include the George Washington Masonic National Memorial (also known as the Masonic Temple), Gadsby's Tavern, Christ Church, the Little theater, the Torpedo Factory, Market Square, Robert E. Lee's boyhood home, the John Carlyle house and the Virginia Theological Seminary. In 2005 Alexandria became one of the first cities of its size to offer free wireless internet access to some of its residents and visitors.

Market Square in Old Town was once the site of the second-largest slave market in the United States. Today it contains a large fountain and extensive landscaping, as well as a weekly farmers' market in the Summer.

Alexandria's public high school, T.C. Williams, and its legendary former football coach, Herman "Mad Dog" Boone, were featured in the 2000 motion picture, "Remember the Titans."



Location of Alexandria, Virginia

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.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 39.9 km² (15.4 mi²). 39.3 km² (15.2 mi²) of it is land and 0.6 km² (0.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 1.49% water.


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 well into Fairfax County and includes more addresses outside of the city than inside of it. Delivery areas have ZIP codes 22301 through 22312, 22314, and 22315, with other ZIP codes in use for post office boxes and large mailers. ZIP codes are not assigned in any particular geographic order.


The Census Bureau designates Alexandria as part of the Washington-Baltimore, DC-MD-VA-WV Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (CMSA).

As of the census2 of 2000, there are 128,283 people, 61,889 households, and 27,726 families residing in the city. The population density is 3,262.9/km² (8,452.0/mi²). There are 64,251 housing units at an average density of 1,634.2/km² (4,233.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 59.79% White, 22.54% African American, 0.28% Native American, 5.65% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 7.38% from other races, and 4.27% from two or more races. 14.72% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 61,889 households out of which 18.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.2% are married couples living together, 9.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 55.2% are non-families. 43.4% of all households are made up of individuals and 6.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.04 and the average family size is 2.87.

In the city the population is spread out with 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 are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 93.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 91.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $56,054, and the median income for a family is $67,023. Males have a median income of $47,514 versus $41,254 for females. The per capita income for the city is $37,645. 8.9% of the population and 6.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 13.9% of those under the age of 18 and 9.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.



Alexandria is bisected north and south by Virginia State Highway 7, known in most of the city as the major thoroughfare of King Street, and in its western portions as Leesburg Pike. Interstate Highway 95/495 (the Capital Beltway), including the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the Potomac, approximately parallels the city's southern boundary with Fairfax County. Interstate 395 crosses through the western part of the city. Other major routes include U.S. Highway 1, named Jefferson Davis Highway and Patrick and Henry Streets (after Patrick Henry), the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and Duke Street (Virginia State Highway 236).


Alexandria is located just south of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington County. As with other Washington suburbs, Alexandria is also served by Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, and by Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport near Baltimore, Maryland.


Alexandria Union Station, the city's historic train station, is served by both Amtrak intercity and Virginia Railway Express regional rail service. The station is directly adjacent to the King Street Metrorail station, at the convergence of the Blue and Yellow Lines. Three other Metrorail stations lie within the city limits: 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 also serves Alexandria.


The City of Alexandria, first known as Belhaven, was named in honor of John Alexander, who in the last quarter of the 17th century had bought the land on which the city now stands from Robert Howison; the first settlement here was made in 1695. Alexandria was laid out in 1749 and was incorporated in 1779.

A portion of the City of Alexandria shares with all of today's Arlington County the distinction of having been originally in Virginia, ceded to the US government to form the District of Columbia, and later reattached to Virginia by the federal government in 1846 when the District was reduced in size to exclude the portion south of the Potomac River.

From 1790 until 1846 Alexandria County was a part of the District of Columbia; the City of Alexandria was re-chartered in 1852.

The City of Alexandria became independent of Alexandria County in 1870. The remaining portion of Alexandria County changed its name to Arlington County in 1920, ending years of confusion.

See article on Arlington, Virginia for more information.

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.

Revolutionary War

In 1755 General Edward Braddock organized his fatal expedition against Fort Duquesne at Alexandria, and here, in April of the same year, the governors of Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland met to determine upon concerted action against the French in America.

In March 1785 commissioners from Virginia and Maryland met here to discuss the commercial relations of the two states, finishing their business at Mount Vernon on the 28th with an agreement for freedom of trade and freedom of navigation of the Potomac. The Maryland legislature in ratifying this agreement on November 22 proposed a conference between 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.

During the War of 1812, Alexandria surrendered to a British fleet in 1814 without a fight. As agreed in the terms of surrender the British looted stores and warehouses of mainly flour, tobacco, cotton, wine and sugar [1].

American Civil War

At the opening of the American Civil War the city was occupied by Federal troops until the end of the war making it the longest held city during the war. Great excitement throughout the North was caused by the killing (May 24, 1861) of Colonel E. E. Ellsworth (1837-1861) by Captain James W. Jackson, a hotel proprietor, from whose building Ellsworth had removed a Confederate flag. After the erection of the state of West Virginia in 1863, and until the close of the war, Alexandria was the seat of what was known as the "Alexandria Government."

This article incorporates text from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, which is in the public domain.


The city has a distributed park system with approximately 950 acres spread across 70 major parks and 30 recreation center of which Chinquapin is one the largest, offering facilities for swimming, tennis, racquetball and other sports. The city also organizes several sports leagues throughout the year including volleyball, softball and basketball. Alexandria is also unusual in that Cameron Run Regional Park includes a water park with a wave pool and water slides, as well as a miniature golf course and batting cage -- facilities usually operated by private companies. A portion of the Mount Vernon Trail, a popular bike path, runs through Old Town near the Potomac River.


The city is served by the Alexandria City Public Schools system.

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