Wayfinding: Torpedo Factory Art Center

The United States Naval Torpedo Station was built during World War I, but it was barely completed when that war ended in 1919. It was ready for service when World War II began, and greatly expanded during the war. The Torpedo Factory Art Center was created in 1974 as a Bicentennial project. It stands as one of the nation’s earliest examples of the adaptive reuse of a historic building.

Page updated on Mar 28, 2018 at 3:54 PM

Torpedo Factory Art Center

105 N. Union Street

Torpedo Factory sign (click for larger image)Originally called the United States Naval Torpedo Station, the Torpedo Factory was built during World War I, and was specifically designed for the fabrication of dangerous naval ordnance. The building was barely completed when that war ended in November 1919, but it was ready for service when World War II began. It was during this time that Alexandria’s development, and role in our national defense, expanded rapidly due to a huge increase in defense workers to the Washington region.

During the 1960s, the Torpedo Factory served as a storage facility for the National Archives and it was here that the documents from the famous Nuremburg Trials, which prosecuted major economic, military and political leaders of Nazi Germany after the war, were kept.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center, founded in 1974, was the result of the “sweat equity” of local residents who largely converted the vacant and deteriorated building into art studios with their own hands. It stands as one of the nation’s earliest examples of the adaptive reuse of a historic building. The Torpedo Factory showcases the community’s dedication to investing in arts and culture, and to providing an educational service to inspire the public. This commitment has positioned the City of Alexandria as one of top art destinations in America.

The long tenure of what began as a three-year experiment also illustrates that the individuals who conceived of this artist “village,” and the organization that was created to operate it, had a workable concept. This major cultural attraction, created from a surplus government building, has long been an anchor for the lower King Street area. It continues to serve as an invaluable arts education resource and contributes to the image of the City of Alexandria as a sophisticated community with vibrant cultural options.

Where to find this sign

In Old Town, mini kiosks are located at designated intersections along King Street, Cameron Street, and the Waterfront to provide an orientation for pedestrians. 

This wayfinding sign is located across from the Torpedo Factory Art Center, on N. Union Street between King and Cameron Streets. (For those taking the King Street Trolley, please check the schedule as times may have changed.)

Top