Arlington County is a county in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The land that became Arlington was originally donated by Virginia to the United States government to form part of the new federal capital district. On February 27, 1801, the United States Congress organized the area as a subdivision of the District of Columbia named Alexandria County. In 1846, Congress returned the land donated by Virginia due to issues involving Congressional representation and the abolition of slavery. The General Assembly of Virginia changed the county's name to Arlington in 1920 to avoid confusion with the adjacent City of Alexandria.
The county is situated in Northern Virginia on the south bank of the Potomac River directly across from Washington, D.C. Arlington is also bordered by Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church to the southwest, and the City of Alexandria to the southeast. With a land area of 26 square miles (67 km2), Arlington is the geographically smallest self-governing county in the United States and has no other incorporated towns within its borders. Given these unique characteristics, for statistical purposes the county is included as a municipality within the Washington Metropolitan Area by the United States Census Bureau. As of 2010, Arlington County had a population of 207,627 residents.
Given the county's proximity to Washington, D.C., Arlington is headquarters to many departments and agencies of the federal government of the United States, including the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The many federal agencies, government contractors, and service industries contribute to Arlington's stable economy, which has made it one of the highest-income counties in the United States. Arlington is also the location of national memorials and museums, including Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon Memorial, the Marine Corps War Memorial, and the United States Air Force Memorial.
Arlington has consistently had the lowest unemployment rate of any jurisdiction in Virginia. The unemployment rate in Arlington was 4.2% in August 2009. 60% of office space in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor is leased to government agencies and government contractors. There were an estimated 205,300 jobs in the county in 2008. About 28.7% of these were with the federal, state or local government; 19.1% technical and professional; 28.9% accommodation, food and other services. In October 2008, BusinessWeek ranked Arlington as the safest city in which to weather a recession, with a 49.4% share of jobs in "strong industries". In October 2009, during the economic downturn, the unemployment in the county reached 4.2%. This was the lowest in the state, which averaged 6.6% for the same time period, and among the lowest in the nation, which averaged 9.5% for the same time.
In 2010, there were an estimated 90,842 residences in the county. In 2000, the median single family home price was $262,400. About 123 homes were worth $1 million or more. In 2008, the median home was worth $586,200. 4,721 houses, about 10% of all stand-alone homes, were worth $1 million or more. In 2010, there were 0.9 percent of the homes in foreclosure. This was the lowest rate in the DC area. A number of federal agencies are headquartered in Arlington, including the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, DARPA, Drug Enforcement Administration, Foreign Service Institute, National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, Transportation Security Administration, United States Department of Defense, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Marshals Service, and the United States Trade and Development Agency.
Companies headquartered in Arlington include AES, Allbritton Communications Company, Alcalde and Fay, Arlington Asset Investment, CACI, Corporate Executive Board, ENVIRON International Corporation, ESI International, FBR Capital Markets, Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Rosetta Stone and Strayer Education. Organizations located here include Associated General Contractors, The Conservation Fund, Conservation International, the Consumer Electronics Association, The Fellowship, the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, The Nature Conservancy, the Public Broadcasting Service, United Service Organizations and the US-Taiwan Business Council.
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington National Cemetery is an American military cemetery established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's home, Arlington House (also known as the Custis-Lee Mansion). It is directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., north of the Pentagon. With nearly 300,000 people buried there, Arlington National Cemetery is the second-largest national cemetery in the United States. Arlington House was named after the Custis family's homestead on Virginia's Eastern Shore. It is associated with the families of Washington, Custis, and Lee. Begun in 1802 and completed in 1817, it was built by George Washington Parke Custis. After his father died, young Custis was raised by his grandmother and her second husband, the first US President George Washington, at Mount Vernon. Custis, a far-sighted agricultural pioneer, painter, playwright, and orator, was interested in perpetuating the memory and principles of George Washington. His house became a "treasury" of Washington heirlooms.
In 1804, Custis married Mary Lee Fitzhugh. Their only child to survive infancy was Mary Anna Randolph Custis, born in 1808. Young Robert E. Lee, whose mother was a cousin of Mrs. Custis, frequently visited Arlington. Two years after graduating from West Point, Lieutenant Lee married Mary Custis at Arlington on June 30, 1831. For 30 years, Arlington House was home to the Lees. They spent much of their married life traveling between U.S. Army duty stations and Arlington, where six of their seven children were born. They shared this home with Mary's parents, the Custis family. When George Washington Parke Custis died in 1857, he left the Arlington estate to Mrs. Lee for her lifetime and afterward to the Lees' eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee.
The U.S. government confiscated Arlington House and 200 acres (81 ha) of ground immediately from the wife of General Robert E. Lee during the Civil War. The government designated the grounds as a military cemetery on June 15, 1864, by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. In 1882, after many years in the lower courts, the matter of the ownership of Arlington National Cemetery was brought before the United States Supreme Court. The Court decided that the property rightfully belonged to the Lee family. The United States Congress then appropriated the sum of $150,000 for the purchase of the property from the Lee family. Veterans from all the nation's wars are buried in the cemetery, from the American Revolution through the military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pre-Civil War dead were re-interred after 1900.
The Tomb of the Unknowns, also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, DC. President John F. Kennedy is buried in Arlington National Cemetery with his wife and some of their children. His grave is marked with an "Eternal Flame." His brothers, Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy, are also buried nearby. Another President, William Howard Taft, who was also a Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, is the only other President buried at Arlington. Other frequently visited sites near the cemetery are the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, commonly known as the "Iwo Jima Memorial", the U.S. Air Force Memorial, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, the Netherlands Carillon and the U.S. Army's Fort Myer.
The Pentagon - The Pentagon in Arlington is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense. It was dedicated on January 15, 1943 and it is the world's largest office building. Although it is located in Arlington, the United States Postal Service requires that "Washington, D.C." be used as the place name in mail addressed to the six ZIP codes assigned to The Pentagon. The building is pentagon-shaped in plan and houses about 23,000 military and civilian employees and about 3,000 non-defense support personnel. It has five floors and each floor has five ring corridors. The Pentagon's principal law enforcement arm is the United States Pentagon Police, the agency that protects the Pentagon and various other DoD jurisdictions throughout the National Capital Region.
Built during the early years of World War II, it is still thought of as one of the most efficient office buildings in the world. It has 17.5 miles (28 km) of corridors, yet it takes only seven minutes or so to walk between any two points in the building. It was built from 680,000 short tons (620,000 t) of sand and gravel dredged from the nearby Potomac River that were processed into 435,000 cubic yards (330,000 m³) of concrete and molded into the pentagon shape. Very little steel was used in its design due to the needs of the war effort.
The open-air central plaza in the Pentagon is the world's largest "no-salute, no-cover" area (where U.S. servicemembers need not wear hats nor salute). The snack bar in the center is informally known as the Ground Zero Cafe, a nickname originating during the Cold War when the Pentagon was targeted by Soviet nuclear missiles. During World War II, the earliest portion of the Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway was built in Arlington in conjunction with the parking and traffic plan for the Pentagon. This early freeway, opened in 1943, and completed to Woodbridge, Virginia in 1952, is now part of Interstate 395.
Arlington forms part of the region's core transportation network. The county is traversed by two interstate highways, Interstate 66 in the northern part of the county and Interstate 395 in the eastern part, both with high-occupancy vehicle lanes or restrictions. In addition, the county is served by the George Washington Memorial Parkway. In total, Arlington County maintains 376 miles (605 km) of roads. The street names in Arlington generally follow a unified countywide convention. The north-south streets are generally alphabetical, starting with one-syllable names, then two-, three- and four-syllable names. The "lowest" alphabetical street is Ball Street. The "highest" is Arizona. Many east-west streets are numbered. Route 50 divides Arlington County. Streets are generally labeled North above Route 50, and South below.
Arlington is served by the Orange, Blue and Yellow lines of the Washington Metro. Additionally, it is served by Virginia Railway Express commuter rail, Metrobus (regional public bus), Fairfax Connector (regional public bus), Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) (regional public bus), and a county public bus system, Arlington Transit (ART). Arlington County is home to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which provides domestic air services to the Washington, D.C. area. In 2009, Condé Nast Traveler readers voted it the country's best airport. Nearby international airports are Washington Dulles International Airport, located in Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia, and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, located in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
In 2007, the county authorized EnviroCAB, a new taxi company, to operate exclusively with a hybrid-electric fleet of 50 vehicles and also issued permits for existing companies to add 35 hybrid cabs to their fleets. As operations began in 2008, EnvironCab became the first all-hybrid taxicab fleet in the U.S. and the company not only offsets the emissions generated by its fleet of hybrids, but also the equivalent emissions of 100 non-hybrid taxis in service in the metropolitan area. The green taxi expansion is part of a county campaign known as Fresh AIRE, or Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions, that aims to cut production of greenhouse gases from county buildings and vehicles by 10 percent by 2012. Arlington has 86 miles (138 km) of on-street and paved off-road bicycle trails. Off-road trails travel along the Potomac River or its tributaries, abandoned railroad beds, or major highways, including: Four Mile Run Trail that travels the length of the county; the Custis Trail, which runs the width of the county from Rosslyn; the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail (W&OD Trail) that travels 45 miles (72 km) from the Shirlington neighborhood out to western Loudoun County; the Mount Vernon Trail that runs for 17 miles (27 km) along the Potomac, continuing through Alexandria to Mount Vernon. Capital Bikeshare, a bicycle sharing system, began operations in September 2010 with 14 rental locations primarily around Washington Metro stations in throughout the county.
Arlington Public Schools operates the county's public K-12 education system of 22 elementary schools, 5 middle schools, and 4 public high schools in Arlington County including Wakefield High School, Washington-Lee High School, Yorktown High School and the H-B Woodlawn alternative school. Arlington County spends about half of its local revenues on education, making it one of the top ten per-pupil spenders in the nation. As of 2004, over $13,000, the second highest amount spent on education in the United States, behind New York City. Through an agreement with Fairfax County Public Schools approved by the school board in 1999, up to 26 students residing in Arlington per grade level may be enrolled at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax at a cost to Arlington of approximately $8000 per student. For the first time in 2006, more students (36) were offered admission in the selective high school than allowed by the previously established enrollment cap.
Marymount University is the only university with its main campus located in Arlington. Founded in 1950 by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary as Marymount College of Virginia, both its main campus and its Ballston Center are located on North Glebe Road, with a shuttle service connecting the two. George Mason University operates an Arlington campus in the Virginia Square area between Clarendon and Ballston. The campus houses the George Mason University School of Law, School of Public Policy and other programs. In June 2011, Virginia Tech opened the Virginia Tech Research Center - Arlington in Ballston, providing a teaching and research base for graduate students in computer research and engineering to interact with organizations and research agencies in the National Capital area.
Other private and technical schools maintain a campus in Arlington, including the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, the John Leland Center for Theological Studies, the University of Management and Technology, The Art Institute of Washington, DeVry University. Strayer University has a campus in Arlington as well as its corporate headquarters. In addition, Argosy University, Banner College, Everest College, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Northern Virginia Community College, Troy University, the University of New Haven, the University of Oklahoma, and Westwood College all have campuses in Arlington.
Foundation - The area that now forms Arlington County was originally part of Fairfax County in the Colony of Virginia. Land grants from the British monarch were awarded to prominent Englishmen in exchange for political favors and efforts at development. One of the grantees was Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron whose lends his name to both Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax. The name Arlington comes from Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington whose name had been applied to a plantation along the Potomac River. George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of First Lady Martha Washington, acquired this land in 1802. The estate was eventually passed down to Mary Anna Custis Lee, wife of General Robert E. Lee. The property later became Arlington National Cemetery during the American Civil War, and now lends its name to present-day Arlington County.
The area that now contains Arlington County was ceded to the new United States federal government by the Commonwealth of Virginia. With the passage of the Residence Act in 1790, Congress approved a new permanent capital to be located on the Potomac River, the exact area to be selected by President George Washington. The Residence Act originally only allowed the President to select a location within Maryland as far east as what is now the Anacostia River. However, President Washington shifted the federal territory's borders to the southeast in order to include the pre-existing city of Alexandria at the District's southern tip. In 1791, Congress amended the Residence Act to approve the new site, including the territory ceded by Virginia. However, this amendment to the Residence Act specifically prohibited the "erection of the public buildings otherwise than on the Maryland side of the River Potomac." As permitted by the U.S. Constitution, the initial shape of the federal district was a square, measuring 10 miles (16 km) on each side, totaling 100 square miles (260 km2). During 1791–92, Andrew Ellicott and several assistants placed boundary stones at every mile point. Fourteen of these markers were in Virginia and many of the stones are still standing.
When Congress arrived in the new capital, they passed the Organic Act of 1801 to officially organize the District of Columbia and placed the entire federal territory, including the cities of Washington, Georgetown, and Alexandria, under the exclusive control of Congress. Further, the unincorporated territory within the District was organized into two counties: the County of Washington to the east of the Potomac and the County of Alexandria to the west. This Act formally established the borders of the area that would eventually become Arlington but the citizens located in the District were no longer considered residents of Maryland or Virginia, thus ending their representation in Congress.
Retrocession - Residents of Alexandria County had expected the federal capital's location to result in land sales and the growth of commerce. Instead the county found itself struggling to compete with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal at the port of Georgetown, which was farther inland and on the northern side of the Potomac River next to the City of Washington. Members of Congress from other areas of Virginia also used their power to prohibit funding for projects, such as the Alexandria Canal, which would have increased competition with their home districts. In addition, Congress had prohibited the federal government from establishing any offices in Alexandria, which made the county less important to the functioning of the national government.
Alexandria had also been a major market in the American slave trade, and rumors circulated that abolitionists in Congress were attempting to end slavery in the District; such an action would have further depressed Alexandria's slavery-based economy. At the same time, an active abolitionist movement arose in Virginia that created a division on the question of slavery in the Virginia General Assembly. Pro-slavery Virginians recognized that if Alexandria were returned to the Commonwealth, it could provide two new representatives who favored slavery in the state legislature. During the American Civil War, this division led to the formation of the state of West Virginia, which comprised the 55 counties in the northwest that favored abolitionism.
Largely as a result of the economic neglect by Congress, divisions over slavery, and the lack of voting rights for the residents of the District, a movement grew to return Alexandria to Virginia from the District of Columbia. From 1840 to 1846, Alexandrians petitioned Congress and the Virginia legislature to approve this transfer known as retrocession. On February 3, 1846, the Virginia General Assembly agreed to accept the retrocession of Alexandria if Congress approved. Following additional lobbying by Alexandrians, Congress passed legislation on July 9, 1846, to return all the District's territory south of the Potomac River back to the Commonwealth of Virginia, pursuant to a referendum; President James K. Polk signed the legislation the next day. A referendum on retrocession was held on September 1–2, 1846. The residents of the City of Alexandria voted in favor of the retrocession, 734 to 116; however, the residents of Alexandria County voted against retrocession 106 to 29. Despite the objections of those living in Alexandria County, President Polk certified the referendum and issued a proclamation of transfer on September 7, 1846. However, the Virginia legislature did not immediately accept the retrocession offer. Virginia legislators were concerned that the people of Alexandria County had not been properly included in the retrocession proceedings. After months of debate, the Virginia General Assembly voted to formally accept the retrocession legislation on March 13, 1847. In 1852, the Virginia legislature voted to incorporate a portion of Alexandria County to make the City of Alexandria, which until then had been only been considered politically as a town.
Civil War - During the American Civil War, Virginia seceded from the Union as a result of a statewide referendum held on May 23, 1861; the voters from Alexandria County approved secession by a vote of 958–48. This vote indicates the degree to which its only town, Alexandria, was pro-secession and pro-Confederate. The Union loyalists who lived in rural areas outside the town of Alexandria, rejected secession. Although Virginia was part of the Confederacy, its control did not extend all the way through Northern Virginia. In 1862, the United States Congress passed a law that provided that those districts in which the "insurrection" persisted were to pay their real estate taxes in person. In 1864, during the war, the federal government confiscated the Abingdon estate, which was located on and near the present Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, when its owner failed to pay the estate's property tax in person because he was serving in the Confederate Army. The government then sold the property at auction, whereupon the purchaser leased the property to a third party.
After the war ended in 1865, the Abingdon estate's heir, Alexander Hunter, initiated a legal action to recover the property. James A. Garfield, a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives who had been a Brigadier General in the Union Army during the Civil War and who later became the 20th President of the United States, was an attorney on Hunter's legal team. In 1870, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a precedential ruling, found that the government had illegally confiscated the property and ordered that it be returned to Hunter. The property containing the home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's family at and around Arlington House was subjected to an appraisal of $26,810, on which a tax of $92.07 was assessed. However, Lee's wife, Mary Anna Custis Lee, the owner of the property, did not pay this tax in person. As a result of the 1862 law, the Federal government confiscated the property and made it into a military cemetery.
After the war ended and after the death of his parents, George Washington Custis Lee, the Lee's eldest son, initiated a legal action in an attempt to recover the property. In December 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the federal government had illegally confiscated the property without due process and returned the property to Custis Lee while citing the Court's earlier ruling in the Hunter case. In 1883, the U.S. Congress purchased the property from Lee for $150,000, whereupon the property became a military reservation and eventually Arlington National Cemetery. Although Arlington House is within the National Cemetery, the National Park Service presently administers the House and its grounds as a memorial to Robert E. Lee.
Confederate incursions from Falls Church, Minor's Hill and Upton's Hill—-then securely in Confederate hands—-occurred as far east as the present-day area of Ballston. On August 17, 1861 an armed force of 600 Confederate soldiers engaged the 23rd New York Infantry near that crossroads, killing one. Another large incursion on August 27 involved between 600 and 800 Confederate soldiers, which clashed with Union soldiers at Ball’s Crossroads, Hall’s Hill and along the modern-day border between the City of Falls Church and Arlington. A number of soldiers on both sides were killed. However, the territory in present-day Arlington was never successfully captured by Confederate forces.
20th century - In 1896, an electric trolley line was built from Washington through Ballston, which lead to growth in the county. In 1920, the Virginia legislature renamed the area Arlington County to avoid confusion with the City of Alexandria which had become an independent city in 1870 under the new Virginia Constitution adopted after the Civil War. In the 1930s, Hoover Field was established on the present site of the Pentagon; in that decade, Buckingham, Colonial Heights, and other apartment communities also opened. World War II brought a boom to the county, but one that could not be met by new construction due to rationing imposed by the war effort. In October 1942, not a single rental unit was available in the county. The Henry G. Shirley Highway (now Interstate 395) was constructed during World War II, along with adjacent developments such as Shirlington, Fairlington, and Parkfairfax.
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