Riding the Rails-From Union Station to Old Town Alexandria

Train RideIf you're just joining the "Magical History Tour" you might want to take a few minutes and check out where we have already been in the DC and Northern Virginia area.

Magical History Tour of Northern Virgina
Magical History Tour Takes to the Water-Washington DC

Today our tour is just a short train ride from Union Station to Old Town Alexandria.  We wanted to leave you plenty of time to take in the sights of our stops and enjoy a leisurely afternoon explore Old Town Alexandria.  So All Aboard and away we go.



If we are going to start in Union Station then you first have to take a look around this magnificent piece of architecture which opened in 1907.  When it was built it was the largest train station in the world.  The arrival of Union Station in DC was the start of a transformation of the city and its gold leaf coffered ceilings, white granite block construction and neo-classic lines are amazing.  The same theme used for Union Station can be seen at the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Supreme Court Building a few blocks away. 

As with so many train stations as air travel became the preferred mode of transportation the station fell into disrepair in the late 1960's and 1970's.  Congress determined that this piece of Washington history should not be ignored and after 160 million dollars of renovation the station was returned to its original stature.  Today Union Station is a regular stop for tourists visiting the city.  The station plays host to 130 shops and restaurants, major cultural events and Presidential Inaugural Balls.  So now lets ride the rails and go check out our nemesis Reagan National Airport.


As we pull out of the station we are headed south to Gravelly Point and Regan National Airport.  If you are an avid airplane watcher then then Gravely Park is the place to go.  Planes taking off and landing are right overhead and for kids they feel as if they can reach up and touch them.  In 1938 when the south end of Gravelly Point was picked for the airport the area was underwater.  Engineers had to build a dike around the perimeter of the site, pump out the water and the silt and then fill it with gravel and sand for a stable level base.  Once the site was prepared the four original runways for the airport were built.  Over the years there have been political battles as to whether the airport was officially in Washington DC or in Virginia.  In 1946 congress decreed that the airport physically was in Virginia but turned over the jurisdiction of the airport to Federal Authorities.


In 1997 after years of millions of travelers traipsing through the original building new terminals were opened featuring 54 Jeffersonian domes in keeping with the tradition of the neo-classic style seen throughout the area.  The "nation's hall" as the main area of the terminal is called provides a great view of the DC skyline and was designed featuring works from 30 different artists works seen throughout the terminal.  Often busy travelers forget to take a look down at the amazing art under their feet!  The original terminal is undergoing restoration to return it to its original splendor.

So we haven't gotten very far but there is one last place we should take a look at as we head south.  As we pull into the station in Old Town Alexandria you can't help but notice the tall building sitting on a hill opposite of the station.  This imposing building is the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.  Dedicated in 1932 the  entrance to the museum was inspired by the Parthenon of Athens with its 6 Doric columns.  Designed in three sections the tower rises to an Egyptian Pyramid at the top.  The inspiration for the monument came from the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt one of the Seven Wonders of the World

Inside the memorial you will find a number of historic artifacts belong to George Washington and also history and artifacts relating to the Freemasons, including the Shriners.  The view from the observation deck on the ninth floor has an incredible view of Old Town Alexandria, the Potomac River and the remains of Fort Ellsworth, an original Fort built to protect Alexandria during the civil war.  The hill on which the memorial is built was originally known as Shutters Hill.

 We could keep riding the rails but I suspect everyone would like to spend a little time exploring Old Town Alexandria.  Don't miss the amazing fused glass at Arts Afire wander down King Street to the Torpedo Arts Center and by all means put up your feet at the Chart House and enjoy the view and a great meal.

See you next time when the magical history tour takes another look at interesting things to do around our area. 

Magical History Tour





©2008 Cindy Jones. All rights reserved.
Photos from IStock Photos and Flickr

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If you are interested in learning more about the Northern Virginia Real Estate market including Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William Counties give Cindy Jones and Integrity Real Estate Group a call at 703-346-2213.

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Comment balloon 6 commentsCindy Jones • February 19 2008 05:17PM


Cindy - I loev your tours of the DC area!  Thank you for sharing these wonderful places with us!
Posted by James Downing - Metro DC Houses Team REALTORS®, CRS, GRI, ABR,MRP, MilRes, When Looking to Buy or Sell - Make the Right Move (Real Living | At Home) over 11 years ago

Cindy, I think I've been on this part of the tour quite a few times, especially when I have out of town guests visiting.  The George Washington Masonic National Memorial is quite impressive and quite meaningful to me as a Freemason.  We have a view of it in the distance from our condo in Alexandria.  Interestingly, I just learned that the father of one of my current clients was the ironsmith who built the railings on the observation deck there.

Union Station really brings the visitor and traveler back to the glory days of the railroads.

Posted by Brian Block, Northern Virginia & D.C. Real Estate (RE/MAX Allegiance, Managing Broker/Branch Vice President) over 11 years ago
Brian-thanks for the message and I've made the addtions to post  My dad was a member of one of the lodges that meet at the monument.
Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) over 11 years ago
James-thanks.  I know you know them all well too!
Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) over 11 years ago
Cindy - Union Station is indeed unbelievably beautiful! I love visiting DC! There is so much history!
Posted by Billnulls Blog Florida Realty Professional, AHWD (Charles Rutenberg Realty) over 11 years ago

I love DC and Alexandria !  I was born in DC and live one block behind the "temple" as we called it.  The GW Memorial was my playground.  Went back again 2 years ago.  Old Alexandria is so beautiful.  I am always "home" when I go there.

Posted by Marie about 11 years ago

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