Alexandria, Virginia (population 136,000), was established in 1749 and became a principal colonial trading center and port by the time of the American Revolution. Almost 50 years older than the nearby Nation’s capital of Washington, DC, Alexandria retains many 18th-century buildings, as well as an array of later historic resources.
Alexandria played an important role in the Civil War, and retains a number of important sites connected with the Union’s defense of Washington, such as the Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site on the edge of the city.
The city’s “Old and Historic District” was created in 1946 and is the third-oldest locally designated historic district in the country. The downtown area has numerous restaurants, antique and specialty shops, and other businesses in restored and rehabilitated buildings. Alexandria also has designated the Parker-Gray District, which is among the resources highlighted in the city’s guide to African-American historic sites, one of several visitor guides to the city’s historic places.
Alexandria has a well-known and justly admired city archeology program, one of the first in the country, and is also working to foster appreciation of history among its school children. Alexandria recently received a Federal Teaching American History Grant, which it will use to encourage local teachers to employ museum collections and historic sites in teaching social studies.
The Office of Historic Alexandria, a city agency, oversees seven museums, historic sites, and program centers. The Torpedo Factory Art Center on the Potomac River waterfront transformed a 1918 torpedo factory into a series of art workshops, galleries, and museum spaces.
One of the city’s most recent preservation success stories is the rehabilitation of the Lloyd House (1797). Alexandria is leasing the building and helped to fund a $700,000 structural rehabilitation. The building is used as departmental headquarters for the city’s Office of Historic Alexandria, as well as for public meetings and private rentals.
Designated a Preserve America Community in August 2004.