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Neighborhood Narratives: Rosslyn

Rosslyn, located in the northeastern corner of Arlington County, VA, is just north of Arlington National Cemetery and directly across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. Encompassing the Arlington neighborhoods of N. Rosslyn and Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights, Rosslyn is considered one of several “urban villages.” Many skyscrapers and a dense business section make it very urban.

In colonial times, the Potomac shoreline of Rosslyn was a landing for Awbrey’s ferry — the main transportation to and from Georgetown for that area — and from there grew a community called “Ross Lynn,” after a local farm. Further bolstering the community, the Aqueduct Bridge was constructed between the two communities. During the Civil War, Rosslyn was the site of Fort Corcoran, part of the circle of earthen forts built to protect the nation’s capitol. Having become a lawless community after the Civil War, Rosslyn was largely ignored for development until the 1890s, when electric trolleys greatly improved the real estate potential. With that potential came interest in “cleaning up” the Rosslyn community. Developers and reformers organized as the “Good Citizen’s League” under Captain Crandall Mackey and conducted a raid, destroying saloons and gambling houses, in May of 1904.

Despite the efforts, Rosslyn remained somewhat seedy for many years until 1964, when the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge opened between D.C. and the area. A development boom was kicked off with the construction of several high-rise office buildings, hotels, and residential buildings.

Today, Rosslyn has over 8 million square feet of office space, more than 6,000 housing units, and some of the tallest condominium buildings in the Washington metropolitan area. In addition to being the closest Virginia neighborhood to the heart of D.C., Rosslyn also holds access to some of Arlington’s landmarks such as the National Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Pentagon, and the Theodore Roosevelt Island Park.

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