As I posted last week, I was in Washington, D.C. over spring break. This week back at school has been pretty busy so I haven’t had time to post more about my trip until now. The first day I arrived in D.C., Saturday, March 10, my friend Spencer and I explored the city of Alexandria. A few miles south of Reagan National Airport, it’s a historic and dense community surrounded by sprawling suburbia and “McMansions” of northern Virginia. A little bit of history – Alexandria was first settled around 1695, and was ceded to the federal government in 1790, for the new District of Columbia. In 1846, it returned to Virginia when D.C. was reduced to the east side of the Potomac River.
The Metro station, where we first arrived at in Alexandria, is located at the western edge of downtown or “Old Town” as it is called. Newer development has been built up around the station, using similar materials like brick and some quasi-historical architecture. Directly west of the Metro station, atop a high hill is the George Washington Masonic Monument. At 333 feet high from its base, it is certainly monumental. In addition, the hilltop also offers terrific views of Alexandria and Washington, D.C. in the distance.
We walked further into Old Town along King Street, a bustling street consisting of mostly commercial uses with various shops and eateries. It was quite busy, being a Saturday afternoon. The majority of buildings here are two or three story row houses or small brick commercial buildings. Sidewalks throughout most of Old Town are paved in brick and the streets are not overly wide. On-street parking protects pedestrians on the sidewalk from moving traffic. Along the side streets, most buildings are residential. Some row houses are extremely narrow, allowing many houses on one block. Each house is different from the one next to it. The variety and amount of row houses along narrow streets creates a network of interesting and walkable pathways throughout Old Town Alexandria.
Overall I enjoyed Alexandria. It demonstrates a harmony between historical preservation and vibrancy. Unfortunately, income diversity is lack in Old Town, as most of the housing stock is notably upscale. However, even though low to moderate income groups could not afford to live here, they are certainly not unwelcome. Unlike other upscale neighborhoods I visited around D.C., Old Town Alexandria did not feel overly pretentious to me and I did not feel terribly out of place. For the most part, Alexandria is a good model for vibrant, urban neighborhoods.
See all my photos of Alexandria here.