Alexandria is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 128,283. Located along the Western bank of the Potomac River, Alexandria is approximately 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) 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, 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, D.C. 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 7,100 employees from 18 separate buildings in nearby Crystal City into a new headquarters complex in the city.
Alexandria is home to numerous associations, charities, and non-profit organizations including the national headquarters of groups such as the Salvation Army. 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.
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 D.C.
It is the seventh largest and highest income independent city in Virginia. A 2005 assessed-value study of homes and condominiums found that over 40 percent were in the highest bracket, worth $556,000 or more.
THE HISTORY OF ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA
The first settlement was established in 1695 in what was then the British Colony of Virginia. 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 km²), was bounded by Hunting Creek, Hooff’s Run, the Potomac River, and approximately the line of which would become Cameron Street. Since it was felt that the Potomac River was a good place for a prosperous town, there was a petition submitted to the Virginia legislature 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.
Since this was amidst his estate, Philip opposed the idea and strongly favored a site at the head of Great Hunting Creek. It has been said that in order to avoid a predicament the petitioners changed the name of the new town from Belle Haven to 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). Lots were being sold for the town of Alexandria by July 1749, though it 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 of 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. A portion of the City of Alexandria---namely known as "Old Town"--- 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. The City of Alexandria was re-chartered in 1852.
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.
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.
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, which ended years of confusion.
Return to Virginia
Over time, a movement grew to separate Alexandria from the District of Columbia. 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. In addition, many in Alexandria hoped to benefit from land sales and increased business from the federal government, which had no need for the land south of the river at the time. Also, its residents had lost representation and the right to vote at any level of government.
Alexandria was also an important port and market in the slave trade, and there were increasing talk of the abolition of slavery in the national capital. Alexandria's economy would suffer greatly if slavery were outlawed. At the same time, there was an active abolition movement in Virginia, and the state's General Assembly was closely divided on the question of slavery (resulting in the formation of West Virginia some years later by the most anti-slavery counties). Alexandria and Alexandria County would provide two new pro-slavery representatives.
After a referendum, voters petitioned Congress and Virginia to return the area to Virginia. The area was retroceded to Virginia on July 9, 1846.
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. Fort Ward, built for the defense of Washington, DC, was located within the boundaries of modern Alexandria.
Great excitement throughout the North was caused by the killing of Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth on May 24, 1861, by Captain James W. Jackson, a hotel proprietor, from whose building Ellsworth had removed a Confederate flag. After the establishment of the state of West Virginia in 1863 and until the close of the war, Alexandria was the seat of the Restored Government of Virginia also known as the "Alexandria Government." Also, buildings at Virginia Theological Seminary and at Episcopal High School served as hospitals for union troops. Bullets, belt clips, and other artifacts from the civil war have been found in the area well into the 20th century.
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. Pope John Paul II visited Alexandria when he was known as Karol Cardinal Wojtyla. He was guided by a Polish Catholic priest from St. Mary's Catholic Church in Alexandria. This was in 1969 and 1976. In 1999 the city celebrated its 250th anniversary.
RECREATION IN ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA
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 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 cages — facilities usually operated by private companies. 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.
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, City Hall, Market Square, the Jones Point Lighthouse, the south cornerstone of the original District of Columbia, Robert E. Lee's boyhood home, the Torpedo Factory art studio complex, 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, Pope-Leighey House (a Frank Lloyd Wright design), Woodlawn Plantation, Washington's Grist Mill and Mount Vernon Estate.
In 1830, John Hollensbury's home in Alexandria was one of two homes directly boarding 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 wide, 25 feet deep, 325 square foot, 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 and the house still is standing and occupied.
EDUCATION IN ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA
The city is served by the Alexandria City Public Schools system and by the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College. The largest seminary in the Episcopal Church, Virginia Theological Seminary, is located on Seminary Road. Virginia Tech's Alexandria Architecture Center, also known as WAAC, is located on Prince Street in Old Town, offering graduate programs in Urban Affairs and Planning, Public and International Affairs, and Architecture. Virginia Commonwealth University operates a Northern Virginia branch of its School of Social Work in Alexandria. George Washington University (Washington DC) also has an Alexandria campus near the King Street metro. This campus mainly offers professional and vocational programs, such as an executive MBA program, urban planning and security studies.
Alexandria is home to several of the Washington D.C. area's top private schools, such as St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School, Episcopal High School, and Bishop Ireton High School. Also in the city are Alexandria Country Day School, Commonwealth Academy, St. Mary's Catholic School, St. Rita's Catholic School and Blessed Sacrament Learning Center. Students and faculty from the Thornton Friends School of Maryland, which closed its Virginia Campus in June 2006, have formed the new Alexandria Friends School to maintain Alexandria's tradition of Quaker education.
Alexandria's public school system consists of thirteen elementary schools for grades 5-year-old Kindergarten thru Grade 5. Middle Schools, George Washington and Francis C. Hammond, serve 6th thru 8th graders. Minnie Howard Ninth Grade Center and T.C. Williams High School serve grades 9th and 10 thru 12, respectively, for the entire city.
T.C. Williams, and its legendary former head football coach, Herman Boone, former assistant coach Bill Yoast and the Virginia State Champion 1971 Titan football squad were featured in the 2000 Disney motion picture Remember the Titans starring Denzel Washington and Will Patton.
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