100 Years Ago: Call to Rename Alexandria County "Arlington"

Published on September 25, 2019

Nearly 100 years ago this month Alexandria Countywhich included what is now Arlingtonorganized a large parade to celebrate the homecoming of soldiers from World War I. The lavish program included speeches by state representatives and notable veterans, music performances, sack races, prizes for best vehicle decorations, and aircraft maneuvers overhead. 

However, confusion over the event's location resulted in an action that would impact the future of both Arlington and Alexandria.

Citizens who arrived at the Alexandria City Courthouse instead of the Alexandria Courthouse listed on the advertisement were frustrated to discover that they had missed the spectacle and all the fun. Upon realizing that once again Alexandria County and Alexandria City had appeared synonymous, concerned community members decided that something had to change. 

Civic Federation Calls for a New Name

On Sept. 25, 1919, the Alexandria Gazette published a letter  from the Alexandria County Civic Federation proposing a name change for the County.

The letter asserted that Alexandria County was

"constantly confused with the City of Alexandria in the minds of outsiders; that it is so overshadowed by said City that most people out of the County think that Alexandria is the County seat; that letters of importance intended for County Officials are frequently delivered to Officials of the Cityand that when anything credible transpires in the County, the City of Alexandria gets the credit and vice versa."  

The Federation suggested that what Alexandria County needed was new name. They urged Gazette readers to send a letter to Delegate Charles T. Jesse (at the Alexandria County Court House, Clarendon, VA) to support or oppose the name change and suggest a new name for the County. 

Proposed names included George Washington, Arlington, Pocahontas, and Alcova (ALexandria COunty VA). If Mr. Jesse received enough letters supporting a name change, the Federation said, he could put forward a bill in its favor at the next Virginia legislative session. 

This is the first of a series of news stories related to the Arlington County Naming Centennial Commemoration. Check back in January 2020 to find out what Mr. Jesse proposed at the January 1920 legislative session — and what happened next.