Arlington County's Vision Statement: "Arlington will be a diverse and inclusive world-class urban community with secure, attractive residential and commercial neighborhoods where people unite to form a caring, learning, participating, sustainable community in which each person is important."
Single-family housing styles in Arlington include two-story Colonials, story-and-a-half Cape Cods and single-story Ramblers [called Ranchers in some parts of the United States]. Most single-family homes in Arlington have basements and 6,000- to 15,000-square-foot lots. Generally, prices range from the $600,000s to over $2.3 million. Arlington also has many townhomes, with prices generally ranging from $500,000 to $1.8 million, depending on size, closeness to Metro, and age. Arlington has numerous condominiums as well- low-rise [garden], mid-rise and high-rise. Many of the County's condominium units are close to Metro stations. The price range is from the high $100,000s to $2 million. Additionally, there is an active market in 'tear-downs' and new construction. These new homes tend to be large and in the higher price ranges.
Arlington County occupies a special prominence among the several municipalities that surround the Nation's Capital. It is the only suburban jurisdiction located directly across from the monumental core of Washington and the city's celebrated National Mall. All five of the bridges that span the Potomac River between the District of Columbia and the Virginia suburbs connect Arlington to the District, and the two municipalities share history, economy, and culture.
Yet while Arlington derives much of its identity from its proximity to the Nation's Capital, the County is a distinct urban center. A hot real estate market, lively arts community, numerous parks, great transportation, superior schools, and a reputation for safety mark its outstanding quality of life. Arlington's 26-square-mile size makes it geographically the smallest self-governing county in the U.S.- one whose citizens take pride in "the Arlington way" that their government seeks input from residents.
While perhaps best known to visitors as the location of the Pentagon or Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington has many pleasant residential neighborhoods as well as commercial centers. Guided by award-winning managed growth policies, the County has channeled high-density residential and commercial development around train stations in the two Metro corridors [Rosslyn-Ballston and Jefferson Davis], while maintaining low-density development in the balance of the County.
For more than 10,000 years, humans have occupied the land that is now Arlington. Captain John Smith observed an Algonquin Indian village on the Potomac in 1608. When the Algonquins later abandoned the village, Europeans quickly began to settle the area. When the Nation's Capital was created in 1791, Arlington (then known as Alexandria County) and the cities of Alexandria, VA and Georgetown, MD were included in the land donated for the District of Columbia.
Fifty-five years later, in 1846, the U.S. Congress felt that the government and District of Columbia would never grow so large as to need the Virginia land. They returned Arlington and Alexandria to the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 1920, the County was renamed Arlington to differentiate it from the City of Alexandria. ["Arlington" was the name of Robert E. Lee's plantation that subsequently became Arlington National Cemetery.]
By the time of the Civil War, Arlington was a small farming community of 1,500. During the war, some 10,000 troops were housed there as well as more than 1,100 former slaves who had been freed as part of President Lincoln's 1862 emancipation of all the slaves in the District of Columbia. The slaves' settlement was known as Freedman's Village and was located on a site now within Arlington National Cemetery.
Arlington's essentially rural character continued until the late 19th century when real estate development began to occur principally along a system of new electric railroads. At the same time, a less savory aspect of Arlington's history began to appear: saloons, brothels, and gambling halls sprang up near the Potomac River bridges. The situation was so bad that farmers passing through Rosslyn would form armed convoys. (One area of Rosslyn was known as "Dead Men's Hollow" because practically on a weekly basis a body would be found there.) Eventually, the lawless elements and violence disappeared.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Arlington had more than 6,000 residents on its farms and several small villages some of which are neighborhoods today still known by their original names- Cherrydale, Ballston, Barcroft, Glencarlyn, and Rosslyn. Arlington continued to grow thanks to the advent of the electric trolley and the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad as well as an increasing number of Federal workers who came first in response to the Great Depression and later in response to World War II. By 1950, its population was 135,000.
Today Arlington is home to about 213,000 inhabitants. Sixty-four percent are white; thirty-four percent are Latino, African-American, Asian, or multi-racial. The median age is 34, and about 52% of the population is between the ages of 18 and 44. The median household income is approximately $99,600.
Arlington's residents are among the most educated in the United States; more than 60% have a bachelor's degree and more than 35% have a graduate or professional degree. The County's school system has a 93% graduation rate with 90% of graduates going on to college, and for the past two decades, Arlington SAT scores have surpassed state and national averages.
The overwhelming growth Arlington experienced created a significant demand for housing, schools, and services. The County enacted a land-use plan in 1961 that remains in effect today and supports the County's stated vision of a "balanced community of residential, recreational, educational, shopping, and employment opportunities with good transportation." That balance calls for creating mixed-use neighborhoods, and developers who wish to build an office building must also include residential and street-front retail uses in the project. Thus the County now has significant areas of office and retail use as well as residential. However, it has long prided itself as being predominantly a residential community, and, indeed, most of its land area is occupied by low- and medium-density housing, with many attractive residential neighborhoods. Arlington is also dotted with parks and open space - 1,100 acres including 89 miles of walking and bicycle trails. All in all, Arlington's carefully managed development has become a model for smart growth.
Arlington has about 50 million square feet of office space and about 229,000 jobs. [Arlington has more private office space than the downtowns of Los Angeles, Dallas, Denver, Seattle or Atlanta].The unemployment rate of 3.5% is the lowest in the metropolitan area. The County's tax base is evenly divided between residential and commercial properties, allowing the County consistently to maintain one of the lowest tax rates in the Washington region.
Arlington enjoys a booming, yet stable economy. The Federal government contributes to that stability, accounting for a substantial portion of the County's office space. In particular, the Department of Defense has stimulated growth in aerospace, telecommunications, and information technology. Arlington's educated workforce, access to transportation, housing options, education, culture, and a low crime rate all add up to a quality of life that attracts businesses to the community. Some of the names you will find today include Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI, E*TRADE, IBM, Marriott, SAIC, BNA, and Corporate Executive Board and Verizon.
Among the many nationally known retailers in Arlington are Nordstrom, Crate & Barrel, Starbucks, Macy's, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Chico's, Coach, Eddie Bauer, and Whole Foods Market. The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City is a major shopping center and also home to a Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Clarendon is a major retail and restaurant/nightlife center. On Saturdays in season, residents flock to the Arlington Farmers' Market held next to the County Courthouse; there are also farmers' markets on other days throughout the County. An open-air antiques market takes place throughout the year.
Restaurants featuring just about any imaginable cuisine can be found throughout the County and include well-known chains such as Morton's of Chicago and Ruth's Chris Steak House, and many chef-owned small establishments. More than 50 arts organizations contribute to a very lively arts scene, with theater, dance, symphony, opera, and jazz. Arlington National Cemetery and the nearby Iwo Jima Memorial are national tourist destinations. Arlington House in the center of the cemetery was built by George Washington's adopted grandson and later lived in by Robert E. Lee, who was married to the grandson's daughter. President John F. Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline, and his brother Robert are all buried at the cemetery. Their graves are visited by thousands each year who also have the opportunity to see the Changing of the Guards ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
In many ways, Arlington is a model community- vibrant and diverse, with a wide variety of housing types, a low property tax rate, plentiful high-quality jobs, top-notch schools, numerous parks, nationally recognized retail outlets, good public transportation, and a major airport. Its location across the Potomac River from Washington's National Mall, with many homes and offices within five miles of the White House, offers advantages enjoyed by few other municipalities. And Arlington's residents recognize their advantages: in a 2004 survey, residents rated Arlington as among the very best places to live in the U.S. In 2011 Business Week ranked Arlington as the second best city* in the country, after Raleigh, N.C. No wonder Arlington is a great place to call home!
*While ranked as a city, Arlington is not a city, but a county.
Sources: Sources: Arlington County Website; Images of America/Arlington, ©Arlington Historical Society, 2000; Insight Arlington/a travelers' guide, United Airlines Hemisphere Magazine, ©Pace Communications, 2005.