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Arlington County, Virginia

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Arlington County is a county located in the U.S. state of Virginia (which calls itself a commonwealth), directly across the Potomac River from Washington, DC.

As of 2000, the population is 189,453. Its county seat is the census-designated place of Arlington6. Strictly speaking, it is inaccurate to refer to a city or town of Arlington. All cities within the Commonwealth are independent of counties, though normally towns may be incorporated within counties. However, Virginia law prevents the creation of any municipality within a county that has a population density greater than 1,000 persons per square mile, which Arlington County (and its neighbor, Fairfax County) exceeds.

There are numerous unincorporated neighborhoods within Arlington County that are commonly referred to by name as if they were distinct towns, and characterized by the county as "urban villages." These include:

There are also numerous neighborhoods which are largely residential, including:

  • Aurora Hills
  • Cherrydale
  • East Falls Church
  • Fairlington
  • Nauck (also known as Green Valley)

Arlington is bisected by the east-west street Arlington Boulevard, which divides streets into "north" and "south" designations; east-west streets are numbered, radiating outwards from Arlington Boulevard; and north-south streets are alphabetical, turning over with syllables, starting from "charles" (C-one-syllable) to "arizona" (A-four-syllables). However, since Arlington is very hilly, it is common for streets to terminate and continue later on in another location; making it one of the most confusing places to navigate.

A number of arterials radiate from the Arlington Cemetery area, including Lee Highway, Jefferson Davis Highway (a.k.a. U.S. Highway 1), Arlington Boulevard (a.k.a. U.S. Highway 50), Wilson Boulevard, and Columbia Pike. Some have a more concentric design, like Glebe Road, and George Mason Drive.

Arlington County is a part of the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area.



Arlington is one of the smallest counties in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 67 km² (26 mi²), of which about 12 km² (4.6 mi²) is federal property.

Arlington is located at 38°52'49" North, 77°6'30" West (38.880344, -77.108260)1. It is bounded on the north by Fairfax County, on the west by the City of Falls Church, on the south by the City of Alexandria, and on the east by the Potomac River; across the river is the City of Washington, DC.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 189,453 people, 86,352 households, and 39,290 families residing in the county. The population density is 2,828/km² (7,323/mi²). There are 90,426 housing units at an average density of 1,350/km² (3,495/mi²).

The racial makeup of the county is:

28% of Arlington residents are foreign-born.

There are 86,352 households out of which 19.30% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.30% are married couples living together, 7.00% have a female householder with no husband present, and 54.50% are non-families. 40.80% of all households are made up of individuals and 7.30% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.15 and the average family size is 2.96.

In the county, the population is spread out with 16.50% under the age of 18, 10.40% from 18 to 24, 42.40% from 25 to 44, 21.30% from 45 to 64, and 9.40% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 101.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 100.70 males.

The median income for a household in the county is $63,001, and the median income for a family is $78,877. Males have a median income of $51,011 versus $41,552 for females. The per capita income for the county is $37,706. 7.80% of the population and 5.00% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 9.10% of those under the age of 18 and 7.00% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line. In 2004 the average single-family home sales price passed $600,000, approximately triple the price less than a decade before, and the median topped $550,000.

Although one of the less wealthy jurisdictions in Northern Virginia, Arlington spends about half of its revenue on education, making it one of the top ten per-pupil spenders in the nation (as of 2004, over $13,000), and maintains one of the best educational programs in the region.


Arlington County is the home of Washington National Airport, as well as the Pentagon, although the latter uses a Washington, D.C. address. The Arlington National Cemetery is also located here, which contains the Tomb of the Unknowns and the grave of President John F. Kennedy.

Arlington County is served by the Orange, Blue, and Yellow Lines of the Washington Metro, the Virginia Railway Express, Metrobus, and a local public bus system Arlington Transit (ART).


Arlington County shares with a portion of the independent City of Alexandria, Virginia the distinction of being once in Virginia, then ceded to the US government to form the District of Columbia, and later retroceded back to Virginia.

Arlington County was part of the original 10-mile square created as the District of Columbia in 1791 pursuant to Article I, Section 17, of the United States Constitution. The portion of the District created from territory ceded by Virginia was termed Alexandria County of the District of Columbia. It included the present Arlington County plus part of what is now the independent city of Alexandria, Virginia. The area was returned to Virginia by an act of the United States Congress on July 9, 1846 following a referendum of its citizens.

In 1870, Alexandria seceded from Alexandria County, and because of the confusion between the city and the county having the same name, a movement started to rename Alexandria County. In 1920, the name Arlington County was adopted, after Arlington House, the home of the American Civil War general Robert E. Lee, which stands on the grounds of what is now Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington Cemetery
Arlington Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia is an American military cemetery established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Robert E. Lee's home, Arlington House. It is situated directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., next to the present day location of The Pentagon. With more than 260,000 people buried there, Arlington National Cemetery has the second-largest number of people buried of any national cemetery in the United States.

Arlington House was named after the Custis family's homestead on Virginia's Eastern Shore. It is uniquely 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 farsighted 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 had 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 afterwards to the Lees' eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee.

The Lee-Custis estate house and 200 acres (800,000 m&sup2) of ground immediately surrounding it) was confiscated from Robert E. Lee during the Civil War, and was designated officially as a military cemetery 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. Other frequently visited sites in the cemetery are the USMC War Memorial, commonly known as the "Iwo Jima Memorial"; the Netherlands Carillon; and the grave of President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy is buried with his wife and some of their children. His grave is marked with an "Eternal Flame." His brother Senator Robert F. Kennedy is also buried nearby. Another President, William Howard Taft, who was also a Chief Justice of the United States is also buried at Arlington.

The Pentagon

The Pentagon, looking northeast with the Potomac River and Washington Monument in the distance.
The Pentagon, looking northeast with the Potomac River and Washington Monument in the distance.

The Pentagon in Arlington County 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.

The building is pentagon-shaped in plan and houses approximately 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.

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. Despite 17.5 miles (28 km) of corridors it takes a maximum of seven minutes to walk between any two points in the building.

It was built from 680,000 tons 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 central plaza in the Pentagon is the largest "no-salute, no-cover" area (where hats need not be worn and salutes are not required) in the world. The open space in the center is informally known as ground zero, a nickname originating during the Cold War when it was thought of as the most likely target of a nuclear missile.

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.

9/11 Attack hits Arlington County

Sixty years to the day after groundbreaking on the Pentagon, the September 11, 2001 attacks occurred. The Pentagon (in Arlington County just outside Washington DC) was one of the three major US buildings struck by airliners hijacked by Muslim extremist terrorists.

According to the official version American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the western side of building at 9:37 AM EDT, killing all of its 58 passengers (including the hijackers) and 6 crew. The section of the Pentagon hit consisted mainly of new, unoccupied offices and was damaged by the crash and the ensuing violent fire. The crash and subsequent fire penetrated three outer ring sections of the western side. The outermost ring section was largely destroyed, and a large section collapsed. 125 people in the Pentagon died from the attack. For pictures and graphics showing the damage in the impact see this briefing .

It has been speculated that the hijackers of a fourth hijacked aircraft, United Airlines Flight 93, intended to crash into either the U.S. Capitol or the White House in Washington, DC. Black box recordings revealed that the passengers attempted to seize control of the plane from the hijackers and when rocking the plane failed to subdue the passengers, the hijackers crashed the aircraft in a field near Shanksville and Stonycreek Township in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

During the September 11, 2001 attacks, the heroic efforts of Arlington County Fire Department and EMS personnel (and others from neighboring jurisdictions), as well of those aboard United Airlines Flight 93 helped limit the loss of life and damages to the Washington DC area.

External links

  • Arlington County official website
  • Arlington Historical Society
  • Northern Virginia Assn. of Realtors (market statistics)
  • Max X. Miller Online September 11, 2001 Audio and Video Archive and Memorial including Washington DC & Arlington, VA Fire Depts.
  • The Final 9/11 Commission Report
  • AA Flight 77: Minute by Minute
Maps and aerial photos
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Last updated: 02-07-2005 18:41:25
Last updated: 05-03-2005 02:30:17