Section I. Geography Resources

  • 1.01 Outline Map, Metropolitan Washington
  • 1.02 Development of Northern Neck Counties
  • 1.03 Map of Major Highways in Arlington

Source 1.01: Teaching Materials Center. “Outline Map, Metropolitan Washington.” The Arlington Story. Arlington, VA: Arlington County Public Schools, 1968. 3. Print.

Geography is a great place to start teaching about Arlington. As an opener, give students a blank sheet of paper and having them draw me a map Arlington from their head. Most are, understandably, only able to draw a street map of their neighbor with relationships between their home, school, friends, and favorite shops. Few students are able to visualize Arlington’s shape and relationship with neighboring jurisdictions (making this an authentic opportunity to introduce or review the concept of a “jurisdiction,” which is a part of the civics standards).

After students draw what they can, break this outline map (S1.01) down into a few steps (e.g. a diamond, a large Y for the rivers), and they each draw it on the back of their paper. You add landmarks that most of them are familiar with (e.g. schools, Ballston, Clarendon, Rosslyn, the Pentagon, Arlington House/Cemetery, and a couple major roads). Then give them a new piece of paper and have them draw Arlington again from memory. They might enjoy the challenge. Their mental map of Arlington will improve as they use more public transportation or start driving in the years to come.

It may also be helpful to review where the locations and relationships between the Chesapeake Bay, the Potomac River, Virginia, Maryland, and D.C.

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Source 1.02: Allison, W.B. and Sims, B. L., III. “Development of Northern Neck Counties.” Arlington County, Virginia: A History. By C. B. Rose. Arlington, VA: Arlington Historical Society, 1976. 6. Print. 

When looking at documents from before 1920, when Arlington County got its current name, it is helpful to know what other names Arlington has gone by and what other jurisdictions Arlington has been a part of. Not just for the obvious reason of understanding historical place names, but also if you were interested in doing further research, knowing which county Arlington was a part of and when that county’s courthouse was established would give you a lead on where and how to search for more documents. Source 1.02 summaries these changes visually. Here is a chronology:

  • 1606-1612 – The early charters of the Virginia Company included the land that became Arlington
  • 1632 – King Charles I of England made a grant of land to Lord Baltimore that becomes Maryland setting the western edge of the Potomac River as the dividing line between Maryland and VIrginia
  • 1645-1648 – The county of Northumberland was established, which included the land that became Arlington
  • 1653 – The county of Westmorland established, which included the land that became Arlington, with mention of “the Necostins Towne” in the area where the Pentagon is now located
  • 1664 – The first meeting of the Court for Stafford County, which included the land that became Arlington
  • 1730 – Prince William County was formed, which included the land that became Arlington
  • 1742 – Fairfax County (formerly Truro Parish of PWC) was formed, which included the land that became Arlington
  • 1749 – Alexandria was founded
  • 1754 – The Fairfax County courthouse was built
  • 1779 – Town of Alexandria was incorporated
  • 1789 – Generally Assembly of Virginia voted to cede territory for a new Federal District
  • 1791 – A survey was made for the District of Columbia
  • 1801 – Congress formally organized the District of Columbia, which included the land that became Arlington
  • 1846-1847 – The County of Alexandria, which included the land that became Arlington, was retroceded to Virginia following a referendum
  • 1852 – The City of Alexandria was incorporated
  • 1870 – The City of Alexandria was separated from Alexandria County; Alexandria County was essentially Arlington plus and minus little parts annexed by the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church
  • 1920 – Alexandria County was renamed Arlington County

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Source 1.03: Teaching Materials Center. “Map of Major Highways in Arlington.” The Arlington Story. Arlington, VA: Arlington County Public Schools, 1968. 21. Print.

Depending which part of Arlington students travel through on a regular basis, students are typically familiar two or more of Arlington’s major roads. The roads they do know can helpful them build a broader sense of Arlington geography if they can visual the relationship between those roads and other roads and landmarks. This map (S1.03) shows Arlington’s biggest roads.

Here are additional maps of Arlington from the Library of Congress. They can be used to illustrate the county’s growth over time or to investigate particular neighborhoods. Arlington County’s GIS Mapping Center also a great place to find digital maps of Arlington. The  Arlington Public Library Center for Local History has many more old maps that you are allowed to photograph.

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