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Urban Arlington County

Arlington’s population growth increased steadily, from 1940 to 1970. It went from 57,040 in 1940; 135,449 in 1950; 163,401 in 1960 to 174,299 in 1970. From 1970 to 1990 the population declined, with 152,599 in 1980; 170,936 in 1990; but it rose again by the century’s end, to 189,453 in 2000.

The post-World War II period brought rapid urbanization of Arlington County that has continued into the 2000s. To deal with the pressures that began during the war, the County government in 1950 initiated a planning process to develop a six-year improvement plan that would represent a program for capital improvements in essential public facilities and services needed by the County; this plan would be periodically updated. In 1959 the County developed two additional programs providing for fiscal and capital improvement projections. All of this led to the development in the 1960s of a master plan for the County.

Starting in the 1960s, some of the County’s older commercial and industrial areas were redeveloped. In Rosslyn and Crystal City, bars, pawnshops, automobile dealerships, construction yards, ironworks, tank farms, and brickyards were replaced with high-rise apartments, office buildings, and hotels. Much of the more recent major, high-density development has taken place since the opening of the Metro rapid rail system in Arlington between 1977 and 1986. Arlington County government policy has been to keep most of the high-density development along the Metro corridors and to preserve residential, moderate-income (or affordable) housing and low-density commercial areas as much as possible.

Much of Arlington’s urbanization has been a success story, given its effective government leadership and high-quality staffing. A significant.htmlect of this success has been attributed to the “Arlington Way” of involving thousands of citizens in providing thousands of hours of expertise to the government process through participation on County commissions and committees; neighborhood conservation; economic development; and the growth of public-private partnerships, such as the Ballston Partnership, the Clarendon Alliance, the Rosslyn Renaissance, and the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization.

Arlington’s urban development changed not only the County’s physical landscape but also the composition of its population. What was once a racially segregated community became an integrated one. After the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision on segregated schools in 1954, Arlington became involved in the movement for school integration, starting in 1956 when the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People (NAACP) filed suit to integrate Virginia’s public schools. At that time, Virginia State law even prohibited whites and blacks from sitting next to one another at public meetings. With the State government threatening under its “Massive Resistance” effort to close public schools that integrated under federal court orders, Arlington’s League of Women Voters along with other organizations, including the NAACP, led the effort to preserve Arlington’s public schools.

Arlington’s effort initially succeeded in part when, on February 2, 1959, four black students were admitted to the formerly all-white Stratford Junior High School (the building now houses the Hoffman-Boston Woodlawn Alternative Program). “Massive Resistance” collapsed in 1959 after the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that public education took precedence over segregation policy. Although the first Arlington elementary school, Patrick Henry, and high school, Washington-Lee, accepted black students in the fall of 1959, it would be more than a decade before all County schools were integrated.

The County's Courts and Police Building opened in 1995.

Arlington has become a major employment and tourism center. Increasing numbers of businesses and federal agencies have chosen Arlington as a site for expansion. Millions of tourists flock to Arlington each year to stay in its many hotels and to visit Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington House, the Newseum, the Pentagon, the Marine Corps (Iwo Jima) Memorial, the Netherlands Carillon, and Arlington’s many historic districts.

The County's administrative offices at Courthouse Plaza opened in 1988.

Beginning in the 1970s, Arlington has become an ethnically diverse urban center. Increasing numbers of Arlington citizens are persons who immigrated to the United States from many parts of the world. Numerous stores and restaurants catering to these ethnic communities opened in the County. Languages, particularly Spanish, Korean, and Vietnamese, began to be heard in Arlington’s workplaces, schools, and places of worship.

Arlington County’s excellent living, commercial, educational, and recreational facilities attest to its carefully monitored and planned development. Yet vestiges of its rich and significant historic past are preserved and available for public viewing—from the 18th- century Ball-Sellers House, the Arlington House, the line of federal forts and defense works of the Civil War era, and the Victorian Age commuter villages of Glencarlyn, Maywood, Cherrydale, and East Falls Church, to the exhibits depicting the County’s history at the Arlington Historical Society’s museum in the former Hume School at 1805 South Arlington Ridge Road.

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Arlington Historical Society
P.O. Box 100402, Arlington, Virginia 22210-3402

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