Washington, DC Line?

Just about every map I’ve ever seen of the Washington, DC area shows a
dotted line through Arlington and Alexandria Virginia that used to be the
southern border of Washington, DC. After some checking, I found out that the
area within the original city limits of Washington DC south of the Potomac
River was given back to Virginia some time prior to the civil war because
the federal government thought it would never need the space. Since that
area hasn’t been part of DC for over 150 years, why do all the current maps
still show that border? Are the guys at Rand McNally smoking crack or

The Virginia land that was included in the District of Columbia had previously been part of Fairfax County, Virginia. During the time it was part of the District of Columbia, this south-of-the-Potomac section was divided into Alexandria County, DC plus the City of Alexandria. (Note that at first the City of Washington only covered a small section of the District of Columbia–there were a number of other towns and counties within the District. It was only in later years that the city of Washington expanded enough to fill the entire District of Columbia).

When the land was returned to Virginia, it was not restored to Fairfax County. Alexandria County now became the smallest county in Virginia. It later changed its name to Arlington County, but it still has the same boundaries it had when it was a DC county, except for some land that was annexed by the City of Alexandria. (Alexandria eventually became an independant Virginia city.)

Advanced trivia question: What is the current county seat of Arlington County, Virginia?

Wow, I live in Arlington and I got no idea. This ought to be an interesting answer.

It wouldn’t be the Court House, would it?

The answer is that Arlington County doesn’t actually have a county seat, although some maps, needing a place to put the “county seat” star, will place it about where the county courthouse is located.

When I was growing up, we were taught that in the 1920’s Clarendon tried to incorporate, but the judge ruled that the county was small enough that it should be considered one contiguous entity, so to this day there are no incorporated sections within the county.

There has been occasional pressure for Arlington itself to incorporate, I suppose partly out of sentimentality. However, it would appear as if nobody can figure out what the difference between a city and a county is in Virginia, so they haven’t bothered.

Has anyone else heard the Clarendon Corridor called the Playground of the Damned?

The ADC street maps of Northern Virginia, which are pretty popular around here, show incorporated towns within counties (such as Vienna and Herndon) and independent cities (such as Falls Church) with yellow shading, and all other areas (such as unincorporated areas of Fairfax County like Reston and Burke and Tysons Corner) with no shading (plain white). Up until a few years ago they showed all of Arlington County in yellow, but recently they switched it to white. I suspect they were correcting an error and acknowledging that Arlington is not an incorporated city but rather a county.

FWIW, Arlington County, at 25.9704 square miles, is the 3rd smallest county in the USA. (#2 is Bristol Co. RI, 25.8591 sq mi, and #1 is New York Co, NY (the borough of Manhattan), 21.5092 sq mi. I live in #3 and was born in #1. San Bernardino Co., California is 934 times larger than Manhattan.