Alexandria Quick Facts
WELCOME TO Alexandria
Alexandria’s history reaches back more than 13,000 years. From the first Native Americans to settle here, to the bustling city it is today, the timeline of Alexandria’s history is filled with events that helped shape the United States of America into the country it is today.
Alexandria was founded in 1749 by Scottish merchants and was named after Scotsman John Alexander. Alexandria is known as being the adopted hometown of America’s first president, George Washington. As a teenager, George Washington surveyed the city. Later, he owned a townhouse in Old Town—where a replica can be seen today on Cameron Street. He also worshiped at Christ Church, and frequented Gadsby’s Tavern.
The prosperity of Alexandria and the United States was linked to the work of enslaved and free African Americans. A horrific part of Alexandria’s history is that, prior to America’s Civil War, Alexandria served as one of the largest domestic slave trading ports in America. Most of Alexandria’s leading businesses and properties could not have operated without the unpaid labor of the enslaved men, women, and children who lived and worked here. A walk through the streets of Alexandria reveals a timeline of African American history from colonial times to the Civil War, and from Civil Rights to today.
Living in Alexandria and Old Town
With more than 250 years of history and hospitality to its credit, Alexandria offers an array of historic and cultural attractions. The many historic homes, churches, businesses, and museums allow residents and visitors to experience the hand of the past that makes the city a charming and historic town.
The historic center of Alexandria is known as Old Town. Browse boutiques as you stroll along the King Street mile, lined with over two hundred independent shops, restaurants, antique stores, and theaters. It is a major draw for all who live in Alexandria as well for visitors. Like Old Town, many Alexandria neighborhoods are compact and walkable. It is the seventh largest and highest-income independent city in Virginia.
Old Town has a wealth of historic architecture and attractions, plus fine restaurants and waterfront views. The best way to unlock Alexandria’s rich culture and history is with a “Key to the City” attractions pass. From Alexandria’s co-founders to the nation’s first president and from the Civil War to civil rights, learn about our remarkable history and walk amongst original 18th-and 19th-century architecture preserved by a city dedicated to honoring its past.
Make sure to include a visit to the nationally renowned Torpedo Factory Art Center which is the former U.S. Naval Torpedo Station, a naval munitions factory. It was converted to an art center in 1974 and is home to the largest number of publicly accessible working artist studios in the U.S. Each year more than half-million visitors interact with its community of artists.
The city is served by the Alexandria City Public School system and serves more than 15,000 students who hail form more than 145 countries and speak 132 languages. There are twenty public schools, to include two middle schools, two Kindergarten-eighth grade, and one Pre-Kindergarten school. The internationally recognized Alexandria City High School serve grades nine through twelve and is committed to ensuring that each student succeeds. Alexandria schools place racial equity, empowerment, and inspiring students at the center of everything—setting clear division-wide priorities and programs to address opportunity and achievement gaps—making sure all students graduate and are ready for college, careers, and life.
For the 2022 school year, there are twenty-one private schools serving over 5,000 students in Alexandria. The top ranked schools include several of the Washington, D.C. area’s top private schools, such as St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School, Bishop Ireton High School, and Episcopal High School. Also in the city are Alexandria Country Day School, Commonwealth Academy, the Basilica School of Saint Mary, St. Rita’s Catholic School, Blessed Sacrament School, and Global Health College.