ashington was practically the capital of the free world after World War II, and the attractiveness
of the region, combined with returning war veterans and the"baby boom," fueled a period
of dynamic growth. Moreover, Alexandria nearly doubled its size in 1952 with the annexation
of a tract west of Quaker Lane. The newly built Shirley Highway (I-395) joined the George
Washington Parkway and U. S. Route 1, and in 1961 the Woodrow Wilson Bridge put the
nation's busiest interstate highway on the edge of Old Town. Nearby National Airport
continued to expand, although the decline of railroads after the war resulted in the closing
of Potomac Yards.
In 1971, the newly formed T. C. Williams High School "Titans" football team, comprised of players
from all of Alexandria's old high schools, won the Virginia state high school championship, and their
play at a time of tension over school busing helped bring the city together.
Old Town suffered as urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s destroyed many structures
on King Street, but a preservation ordinance passed in 1948 saved other buildings. Several
new museums appeared along with an innovative urban archaeology program. The closed Torpedo
Factory was made into an arts center for the Bicentennial in 1976, and the charms of Old
Town made tourism the city's leading industry.
After the Supreme Court's Brown decision in 1954, Alexandria's schools slowly began
to integrate, and the whole system of segregated public facilities gradually crumbled. The school
board was integrated by 1964, the high schools in 1965, and the elementary schools in 1966.
The fully integrated T. C. Williams High School opened in 1971, and the success of its state
championship football team -- the Titans -- symbolized a new sense of community. At the same
time, Alexandria ceased to be merely black and white as Asians and Hispanics came to
constitute substantial parts of the city's population.
Old industries disappeared, but "dot com" industries and trade associations that wished a
presence in the Washington area moved in and joined tourism and government employment as mainstays
of the economy. The federal government's continuing importance was exemplified by groundbreaking
for a new Patent Office in 2000.
The only constant is change, and Alexandria has worked to use the past to create a shared
identity for its present and future generations. New challenges balancing economic and population
growth with environmental protection and quality of life remain for the future.
<< Previous | Introduction >>