Alexandria History

Alexandria, founded in 1749, has a fascinating history, and many of its historic buildings are still preserved today.

Page updated on Oct 2, 2019 at 10:56 AM

A Brief History

Bird's Eye ViewDuring its long history, Alexandria was a tobacco trading post, one of the ten busiest ports in America, a part of the District of Columbia, home to both the largest slave-trading firm in the country and a large free-black community, a Civil War supply center for Union troops, and a street-car suburb for Federal workers. Alexandria was also the hometown of George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Jim Morrison and Mama Cass. Learn more about Alexandria history from A Brief History of Alexandria or from the more in-depth topics listed in the Index.

Index of Historic Resources

The Index links to historical information on the Historic Alexandria website and elsewhere on the internet.

  • Time Periods: Time periods include prehistory, early Alexandria and the 20th century, as well as the War of 1812 and the Civil War. 
  • Topics in Alexandria History: Topics include maps, street names, African American history, the Waterfront, cemeteries, and earthquakes.
  • Bibliography: A listing of archaeology publications and site reports, with links to many online documents.
  • Commemorations: Alexandria commemorates important anniversaries in the history of our country and our city. Learn about the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I and World War II in Alexandria.
  • Guidebooks, Reports and City Directories: Links to documents from 1877 to 1970.
  • First Person Accounts: Read first-hand accounts written by Alexandrians and by visitors to the town, and read transcriptions of oral histories.
  • Historic Sites: Many of Alexandria's most significant sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Also learn about Alexandria's Historic Districts, Civil War sites, and a few additional significant sites. See our selection of self-guided tour of Alexandria's historic sites.
  • Journals and Newsletters: Read articles from the Alexandria Chronicle and the Historic Alexandria Quarterly, and from The Alexandria Times' Out of the Attic column.
  • Video: Search for "Alexandria" in C-Span's archives. The series American History TV of seven videos on Alexandria history originally aired March 16-18, 2013

Conducting Research in Historic Alexandria

Historic Alexandria provides a list of Resources for Conducting Research on your property, genealogy, or local history. The  Alexandria Library, Local History division is the best place to start your research. For certain records, the knowledgeable research librarians may refer you to the Archives and Records Center, the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, or to one of the Historic Alexandria Museums.

This Day in History

Click here to see what happened on this day in history. These daily events in Alexandria's history were first printed in This Week in Historic Alexandria.

Out of the Attic

“Out of the Attic” is published each week in the Alexandria Times newspaper. Read the latest article, or search the Out of Attic Archives for locations, people, or topics of special interest.