King Street, looking west, ca. 1920.
lexandria grew in the early twentieth century,
doubling its size through annexations in 1915 and 1930, including new suburbs, the town of Potomac -- now Del Ray -- and
the newly built rail center Potomac Yards. Government changed to the city manager system in 1922.
World War I brought short-lived prosperity to the waterfront with the new U. S. Navy Torpedo Factory, shipyards,
and an aircraft factory, but these soon closed. Beginning with the New Deal, however, an expanding federal
government brought many new residents to the city.
Alexandria Gas Works softball team shirt. Alexandria Gas Company, begun in 1851, had been privatized
in 1930, and in 1939 it became part of Washington Gas Light Company, an example of the economic
integration of the Washington area. Like many businesses, it sponsored teams in local athletic leagues.
Simultaneously, interest in the past revived. When the Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired interior woodwork
from historic Gadsby's Tavern in the 1920s, preservationists organized to save that and other threatened
structures. New roads, including the George Washington Parkway, ushered tourists to Alexandria from
Washington. In 1932, the George Washington Memorial Masonic Temple was completed at the head
of King Street, on Shuter's Hill, adding a dramatic element to the city's skyline.
To resist the tyranny of "Jim Crow" segregation, the local African American community formed a
chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1933.
Six years later, when the city refused use of the new Queen Street Library to African Americans,
a group of young men led by lawyer Samuel Tucker staged a sit-in at the library, perhaps the first
such demonstration in the nation's history. Challenging the new George Washington High School for
whites, African Americans finally got a secondary education facility of their own in 1936.
During World War II the Torpedo Factory re-opened -- employing 6,000 persons at one time -- government
contracts kept businesses humming, and unemployment virtually ceased to exist. When the Torpedo Factory
closed after the war, however, it seemed that Alexandria's sad post-World War I experience would be
repeated. Instead, the city was about to be transformed.
<< Previous | Introduction |