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Suburban Alexandria County
In 1870 the town of Alexandria became an independent city, separate from Alexandria County. The County courthouse remained in the city, however, until 1898, when a new courthouse was completed near the present site of Arlington County’s administrative building on Clarendon Boulevard and the County’s courthouse and detention center on North Courthouse Road. The very location of this new courthouse indicated a new orientation, toward Washington rather than Alexandria.
Even before the Civil War, people from all parts of the country, brought to Washington by official business, were attracted by the rural beauty and tranquility of Alexandria County. Some established homes in the County; others had summer cottages or hunting lodges there. After the war, a number of Union Army veterans returned to make their homes in the County.
During the post-war years, disorder and lawlessness crept into the County. By the turn of the 20th century, the County was controlled by groups who established gambling houses, saloons, and race tracks, catering to the worst elements. These centers of unsavory activities were found in Jackson City (between the present Pentagon Lagoon and Roach’s Run) and in Rosslyn (at “Dead Men’s Hollow”). In response, the law-abiding citizens of the County formed a Good Citizen’s League that called for honest government.
The election of Colonel Crandal Mackey as Commonwealth Attorney brought to office a man determined to get rid of the gamblers by force if necessary. By 1910 order had returned to the County. Alexandria County remained essentially agricultural until about 1900. The extension of trolley lines and the Washington and Old Dominion Railway into the County from Alexandria and Washington made possible the development of such commuter villages as Lyon Park, Clarendon, Ballston, Cherrydale, Bon Air, Glencarlyn, and Barcroft. These little settlements were full of civic enterprise and community spirit. Expecting nothing much from the County, they developed their own schools, libraries, and community centers.
The trend is indicated in the census returns. The population grew from 3,200 in 1870 to 4,300 in 1890; 6,400 in 1900; 10,200 in 1910; and 16,000 in 1920.