The Glory of Arlington County

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Rosslyn, Arlington, Virginia, USA downtown skyline on the Potamac River.

To help illustrate the great opportunity we have at our disposal, we wanted to take a moment to highlight the rich history of Arlington County.

The History of Arlington, Virginia

Arlington, Virginia, is a county located in Northern Virginia across the Potomac River. In the U.S., Arlington is the smallest self-governing county with a geographical land mass of 26 square miles. With a population of 230,050 by the end of 2016, the county does not have any incorporated towns within it. It also forms the sixth-largest county in Virginia. It is currently the fifth-highest income county by median family income in the USA. Arlington is home to the Pentagon, the Arlington National Cemetery, and Reagan National Airport.

Colonial Virginia

Arlington County initially belonged to the Colony of Virginia as a part of Fairfax County. Fairfax County borrows its name from the sixth Lord Fairfax of Cameron, Thomas Fairfax. The county borrows its current name from the family residence of Henry Bennet, Earl of Arlington, and its plantation located along the Potomac River. The property was renamed the Arlington National Cemetery before it lent its name to the county.

Alexandria County

Back in the day, present-day Arlington was known as Alexandria, and together with part of the City of Alexandria, formed the larger Alexandria County in the District of Columbia. Virginia ceded the area of present-day Arlington to the new U.S. federal government. In 1790, the Residence Act was passed, and the president took this opportunity to shift the borders of the federal territory to the southeast to include the District’s southern tip, and the existing city of Alexandria.

In 1791, Congress amended the Residence Act approving the new site. However, the act prohibited the erection of public buildings in the region apart from on the Maryland side along the Potomac River. In 1801, Congress approved the Organic Act of 1801 placing the entire federal territory in the District of Columbia. The unincorporated region consisted of present-day Arlington and part of the present-day independent City of Alexandria. This meant that the residents of Arlington were no longer residents of either Virginia or Maryland, with no representation in Congress.


Historical occurrences including the economic neglect of Alexandria by Congress, the lack of voting rights for the residents in the District, and divisions over slavery prompted led to a movement by residents requesting the return of Alexandria back to Virginia. They petitioned Congress between 1840 and 1846 to approve the retrocession, which was allowed pursuant to a referendum which was held in September 1846. The residents voted for the retrocession, and the Virginia General Assembly formally accepted the legislation in March 1847. The Virginia legislature incorporated a part of Alexandria into the City of Alexandria in 1852.

Civil War

Voters in Alexandria County approved secession from the Confederate Union during the American Civil war in a referendum held in May 1861. In 1864, the federal government confiscated Abingdon estate during the war because the owner did not pay the estate tax in person during his time in the Confederate Army. The property was then sold and leased to a third party. At the end of the war in 1865, the heir of the estate started legal action and recovered the property. Later, the property was appraised, but the current owner failed to pay estate property tax in person once again leading to confiscation of the property by the Federal government. The property was converted to a military cemetery. Once again, another heir to the property initiated legal action for recovery of the property and won against the federal government. The U.S. Congress legally bought the property from the owner for its market value in 1883, eventually forming the Arlington National Cemetery. The Arlington House found within the cemetery is today administered by the National Park Service.

Separation from Alexandria

In 1870, Alexandria County legally separated from the City of Alexandria following an amendment to Virginia’s Constitution stating all incorporated cities should be independent of the counties they were initially a part of. Following the arising confusion caused by the shared name between the county and the city, a movement was formed to rename Alexandria County.


Arlington County adopted its new name in 1920.In the 1930s, the present location of the Pentagon, Hoover Field, was established. Apartment communities such as Buckingham and Colonial Village were opened in the same decade. In 1949, the Northern Virginia University Center was formed. Other universities soon followed suit. In 1959, racial desegregation in Arlington County Schools was stopped following the admission of black students to now H-B Woodlawn, formerly Stratford Junior High School.


On September 11, 2011, al-Qaeda terrorists crashed a plane into the Pentagon killing 115 people.
Nestle USA and made the county home to their headquarters in 2017 and 2018 respectively.