Department of Parks and Recreation

Long Bridge Park

 

The Heritage behind Long Bridge Park

To many today, Long Bridge Park, formerly known as North Tract is an exciting possibility of running trails, ball fields and facilities to move Arlingtonians to better health. As we move forward to fulfill its great potential, let us consider its storied past.

Starting in the 16th century, and up until the turn of the 20th, the land was mainly bottom land, used primarily for farming, hunting and fish camps along the Potomac River. The Native Americans who lived on this land were the Nameroughquena, (this name was later shorted by the English to “Necostins”) part of the Algonquian Nation. It was recorded that John Smith had seen the Nameroughquena on a voyage up the Potomac River in 1608. Smith’s records state he saw the tribe somewhere just below the “little falls,” which leads some to believe they were just north of Georgetown today. The English drove out the Necostins in 1650. A few years later in 1675 the Susquehannocks settled in the area after being forced from their homes in eastern Ohio. The Susquehannocks were not friendly with the English, which indirectly lead to the Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676.

About that same time, early English settlements used this land for farming, hunting and fishing. This area changed hands many times in the next 200 years; one of its owners was Lord Fairfax. In 1789 the land became part of the Federal County of Alexandria and was part of the 100 square miles that made up the District of Columbia. The original boundary marks for the Federal area can still be found today along the Arlington County, the city of Alexandria and Fairfax County.

In 1808 the Long Bridge (known today as the 14th Street Bridge where I-395 enters the city) was built to bring people from Alexandria to the District of Columbia. When Washington was occupied by the British in August 1814, they burned the DC end of Long Bridge while the Americans burned the Virginia end.  The Long Bridge in 1861, at the site of the Long Bridge Park

The stream that meandered across the flat, marshy land south of the bridge was named Roach’s Run after James Roach, a prosperous businessman who established a brickyard there in the 1830s. Roach also built Prospect Hill, a mansion at the end of Arlington Ridge Road overlooking Long Bridge. The mansion was replaced by an apartment building in the 1960s.

A few years later, in 1835, Jackson City was created on the Virginia side of the Long Bridge. Named after former president Andrew Jackson, the area was intended for recreation and entertainment Washington, D.C. residents boasting a race track and gambling halls. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Federal troops seized Jackson City and built two forts for the protection of Washington. The first, Fort Jackson, was a small fort (mainly earthworks) on the south side of the Long Bridge. The other, Fort Runyon, was just south of the current North Tract area. Fort Runyon was the largest fort in the defense circle of Washington. At the end of the war, the forts were abandoned.

There is evidence that there was a major brick factory on the Long Bridge Park/North Tract site by the end of the 1800s. A large amount of the brick used to build Ft. Myer (home of the President’s Old Guard) and to rebuild Alexandria and other areas of Virginia were made at this factory. During this time Jackson City had a rebirth of sorts. Numerous saloons, betting parlors, a race track and “houses of ill-repute” could be found in Jackson City. However, the “Good Citizens League” was formed in 1904 and cleared out the undesirable elements by burning down most of Jackson City.

By 1920, the land and name "Arlington County" were in place, as we know them today. The new county was bordered by the City of Alexandria to the east, the Potomac River and Washington, D.C. to the north, and Fairfax County to the south and west. Over the next 50 years Arlington changed from a farming community to a large suburb of Washington with many County residents working for the Federal government. In 1939 the construction of the Pentagon began. The Long Bridge Park area became a major staging area for the construction, mainly because of the brick factory and the Washington Southern Railroad. Another smaller staging station was set up along the rail line to handle the Indiana limestone that was brought in to build the Pentagon, which opened in 1942. About this same time the Twin Bridge Marriott was built, along with a Hot Shoppes restaurant. During this time and until 1980’s, the Long Bridge Park/North Tract site was mainly an industrial area.

In 1993, as part of an environmental clean-up plan, Arlington County reached an agreement with the RF&P Railroad, then owner of the North Tract. Pursuant to this agreement, the development potential on the North Tract was transferred to the South Tract between Crystal City and Four Mile Run, and the North Tract was acquired by the County for recreational and open space use, intended to become Long Bridge Park. Through a separate agreement with Monument Realty, the County will be adding the former Twin Bridges motel site to the park.


Last Modified: April 14, 2014
2100 Clarendon Blvd. Arlington, VA 22201 Tel: 703-228-3000 TTY: 703-228-4611