A fascinating glimpse into Arlington County’s history lies tucked away in a century-old railway advertisement from the Washington-Virginia Railway Company. The obscure ad, likely printed on March 31st, 1922, illuminates how integral electric railways were to transforming Arlington from scattered farming villages into a bustling D.C. suburb.
The ad promotes the railway’s role in both tourism and commuting. It mentions quick journeys from Washington D.C. to Arlington sights like George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon and Arlington National Cemetery. For commuters, it pitches convenient access to Washington jobs from Arlington’s small town freedom.
As E.L. Tennyson details in his history, the railway formed in 1891, just before electric trolleys arrived in 1892. Its frequent electric trains served new Arlington subdivisions sprouting up along the line. Population swelled over 100% from 1900 to 1920 with the railway enabling suburban growth.
While this particular railway faded by the 1930s as cars took over, the ad provides a powerful window into an era. It shows how pioneering electric railways served as Arlington’s transportation backbone and fueled its path from rural outskirts to booming D.C. suburb. Though long gone, their legacy remains visible in the county’s development patterns today.
So next time you’re stuck in north Arlington traffic, picture instead zipping down the same route over a century ago on a swift electric trolley. For a time, these futuristic vehicles were the key to unlocking Arlington’s potential, spurring the transformation depicted in this old advertisement.