Alexandria, Virginia has a rich and vibrant history that dates back to the early 18th century. The land on which it sits was first inhabited by Native American tribes before European colonization.
In the late 17th century, an English ship captain, Robert Howson, was granted 6,000 acres of land along the Potomac River by Sir William Berkeley, then the Governor of Virginia. This land included what is today Alexandria.
The town was officially established in 1749 by Scottish merchants who were looking to establish a commercial center for tobacco trading. It was named after Philip Alexander II, a prominent local landowner who donated the land upon which the city was founded. Although there’s some dispute about this, as some claim it was named after the Scottish hometown of its founder, John Alexander.
In the years following its founding, Alexandria grew into a bustling seaport and market town, serving the rich agricultural regions nearby. During the American Revolutionary War, it was an important supply center for the Continental Army. However, it was later occupied by the British.
During the early years of the new nation, Alexandria was included in a 100 square-mile area selected by President George Washington to become the District of Columbia in 1791. For several decades, it was under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
However, economic stagnation and resentment over lack of representation led to a successful movement for the city to be retroceded to Virginia. The retrocession took place in 1847. During the Civil War, Alexandria was a significant logistical supply center for the Union Army and was occupied by Union troops.
Following the Civil War, Alexandria became a hub for the railroad industry and continued to grow in prominence. Today, it is known for its historic old town, bustling arts scene, and beautiful waterfront. It also hosts several federal agencies and is part of the Washington metropolitan area.