Alexandria is an independent city in the United States Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 139,966, and in 2015, the population was estimated to be 153,511. Located along the western bank of the Potomac River, Alexandria is approximately 7 miles (11 km) south of downtown Washington, D.C.
Like the rest of Northern Virginia, as well as Central Maryland, modern Alexandria has been shaped by its proximity to the U.S. capital. It is largely populated by professionals working in the federal civil service, in the U.S. military, or for one of the many private companies which contract to provide services to the federal government. One of Alexandria’s largest employers is the U.S. Department of Defense. Another is the Institute for Defense Analyses. In 2005, the United States Patent and Trademark Office moved to Alexandria.
The historic center of Alexandria is known as “Old Town”. With its concentration of boutiques, restaurants, antique shops and theaters, it is a major draw for tourists. Like Old Town, many Alexandria neighborhoods are compact, walkable, high-income suburbs of Washington, D.C. It is the 7th largest and highest-income independent city in Virginia.
A portion of adjacent Fairfax County is named “Alexandria,” but it is under the jurisdiction of Fairfax County and separate from the city; the city is sometimes referred to as the City of Alexandria or Alexandria City to avoid confusion. In 1920, Virginia’s General Assembly voted to incorporate what had been Alexandria County as Arlington County to minimize confusion.
The history of Alexandria, Virginia, begins with the first European settlement in 1695. Over the next century, the town became a significant port. In 1801, much of Alexandria was swept into the new District of Columbia; it was damaged along with much of the rest of the capital during the War of 1812. In 1846, Alexandria was returned to Virginia, along with the rest of the District’s territory on the western side of the Potomac River. After Virginia seceded in 1861, Alexandria was swiftly captured by Union forces and held for the remainder of the American Civil War. In the late 20th century, Alexandria became a key part of the rapidly growing Northern Virginia region.
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