Alexandria, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
The Town of Potomac
Town of Potomac
1908 - 1929
When the Washington, Alexandria & Mount Vernon Railway announced plans in 1892 that included tracks between Washington, D.C. and Alexandria, the flat, open land north of Alexandria became a logical site for a new community. The development firm of Wood-Harmon bought two large plots of land in 1894 --- a larger one called "Del Ray," from the estate of John Lloyd, and a smaller one called "St. Elmo" --- separated from each other by a racetrack. The Town of Potomac, Virginia was chartered in March 1908, bounded on the east and by the Washington & Alexandria Turnpike (now U.S. Route 1), on the north by Old Georgetown (now Glebe) Road and Braddock Avenue (now Ashby Street), on the west by the electric rail line (now Commonwealth Avenue), and on the south by Bellefonte Avenue.
Del Rey and St. Elmo are early examples of commuter suburbs, since one of the first inter urban electric railways in the country provided a rapid means of travel for workers going between Washington and Alexandria. The Town of Potomac was also one of the first recipients of federal highway funds in 1915 when modernization of Mount Vernon Avenue met the needs
Emma P. Hume
Del Ray II
The Town of Potomac was formed around two subdivisions, Del Ray and St. Elmo. Other subdivisions followed through the 1920's, but only one (Del Ray Section 2 by David N. Rust, Jr.) was sold with houses. All the rest were said simply as lots and the owners built their own homes, often considerably later than the land purchase. The result is a wide range of architecture that reflects the dynamic evolution of styles between 1894 and 1930, including Folk Victorian, Colonial Revival and Crafts, Foursquare and even row houses of various types. The presence of so many well-reserved styles within such a small area helped it receive designation as a state and national historic district.
City of Alexandria and Leland Ness
The Bank of Del Ray opened in July 1923, in temporary quarters in the Mt. Vernon Drugstore. The bank later constructed a new building, which still stands, at 2018 Mount Vernon Avenue, as does the house of its first president, John R. Harding, at 2100 Mount Vernon Ave. The bank withstood a dramatic robbery by a gang of six armed men in May 1929, but later fell victim to an attack from within, when it was found that cashier Clay Brittle had embezzled more than half the bank's assets. The bank closed its doors on January 21 1930, and therefore paid out about 43 center on the dollar to depositors pending sale of the land.
Special Collections, Alexandria Library
On the eve of annexation in 1929, many of the streets had been paved and lighted, and additional house constructed had created a true town feel to Potomac. Street lighting had been installed in 1910 in the form of forty-five 40-candlepower incandescent lamps. The hard paving of streets began with Mount Vernon Avenue in 1911 and gradually expanded to other streets, although this process was still not complete in 1930. This view shows Hume Avenue from the top of a small ridge, looking east towards Potomac Yard.
Special Collections, Alexandria Library
Alexandria County (which became renamed Arlington County the next year) established a Health Department in 1919 and constructed one of its clinics in Potomac in 1923 and 2704 Mount Vernon Avenue. The clinic was open one or two days a week, concentrating on pregnancy and infant care, functions later taken over by City agencies after town annexation. Seen here are most of the professional employees of the Arlington Health Department in December 1929: Director Peyton Chichester, MD, second from the left; Sanitary Inspector Norbert Melnick, second from the right; an Norma Davies, RN, a nurse shared with the school system, far right. Missing is infant nurse Minnie Rudasill, RN. On the far left is Henry Latane, MD, who gave tuberculosis tests as needed, and in the center is Sue Brown, RN, who organized the "Health Crusaders" in Mount Vernon School on a volunteer basis to teach the virtues of cleanliness and a healthy lifestyle to local children. the building was also used sometimes by the one-person County Welfare Department, which concentrated mostly on child abandonment and truancy cases, and by the county school system's full-time dentist.
Virginia Room, Arlington County Library
A massive railroad classification yard (for switching and sorting trains) was built in 1904 to the east of Del Ray and St. Elmo, named Potomac Yard. This brought employment to the area, and spurred housing and retail growth. It also brought life to what had been the poorly maintained Washington & Alexandria Turnpike, along the eastern boundary of the Town of Potomac. here that road is seen about 1930, improved as the Jefferson Davis Highway, with Potomac Yard on the right and the eastern edge of the town on the left.
The National Archives
Produced for the Town of Potomac Centennial in 2008 by the City of Alexandria. Research and text by Lee Ness
Erected 2008 by City of Alexandria.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Government & Politics • Railroads & Streetcars • Roads & Vehicles. In addition, it is included in the Virginia, The City of Alexandria series list. A significant historical date for this entry is January 21, 1930.
Location. 38° 49.608′ N, 77° 3.519′ W. Marker is in Alexandria, Virginia. Marker is at the intersection of Mount Vernon Avenue and East Oxford Avenue, on the right when traveling north on Mount Vernon Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Alexandria VA 22301, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Mount Vernon Avenue (here, next to this marker); Universal Lodge No. 1 (a few steps from this marker); Potomac Yard History (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); St. Asaph Racetrack (about 400 feet away); Schools in the Town of Potomac (about 600 feet away); Corporal Charles William Hill (about 700 feet away); The Electric Railway (about 700 feet away); Potomac Town Hall and Firehouse (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Alexandria.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 28, 2021. It was originally submitted on March 18, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 171 times since then and 19 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on March 31, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 2. submitted on March 18, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.