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Alexandria, Virginia (U.S.)

Last modified: 2005-03-26 by rick wyatt
Keywords: alexandria | virginia |
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[Flag of Alexandria, Virginia] by Joe McMillan, 15 January 2004

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Alexandria, Virginia, is located in the northern part of the state, on the west bank of the Potomac River 6 miles downstream from the center of Washington, DC, and 9 miles upstream from George Washington's Mount Vernon estate. The city has a population of 128,283 (2000 census) and an area of 15.75 square miles. Alexandria's 2004 municipal operating budget is $479 million. It is governed by an elected mayor and a 6-member elected city council, with a professional city manager employed by the mayor and council to oversee day to day municipal operations.

Alexandria was founded in 1749 under authority of the General Assembly of Virginia in response to a petition from local farmers and tobacco merchants for the development of a seaport from which to ship their goods. It was named after John Alexander, a Scot who in 1669 had purchased a 6,000 acre tract of land on part of which the original settlement was laid out. It rapidly became an important export center for tobacco, flour, and hemp and was incorporated as a town in 1779. In 1789, Alexandria was part of the area Virginia ceded to the federal government for the District of Columbia; it continued to be Alexandria, DC, until 1847, when the area was returned to Virginia. Five years later, Alexandria was elevated to city status, which under the Virginia system of local government makes it independent of any county. It borders Fairfax County to the south and west and Arlington County to the north and northwest.

The 18th and early 19th century areas of Alexandria, known as Old Town, have in large measure survived intact and are now protected by strictly enforced historic preservation ordinances. As a result, Old Town is an important tourist destination, for its architectural interest, its historical connections (especially with George Washington and the prominent Lee family, of which the Confederate General Robert E. Lee was the most famous member), and for its dense concentration of restaurants, bars, and shops.

The flag is simply the city seal on a white field. The seal shows a full rigged sailing ship beneath a pair of scales, both emblematic of Alexandria's origins as a trading center.

Joe McMillan 26 May 2000