The history of Alexandria reads like a Who's Who of American History, George Washington, George Mason, and Robert E. Lee are just a few famous Americans who had a hand in the heritage of a city that owes its founding to hard-working Scottish merchants.
In 1669, Scotsman John Alexander purchased the land of present-day Alexandria from an English ship captain for "six thousand pounds of tobacco and cask." In November 1748, three Scottish settlers, William Ramsay, John Carlyle and John Pagan, sailed up the Potomac River from Dumfries, Virginia, to look for a better trading port, and they petitioned the House of Burgesses to establish a town at the location.
They sought the creation of a port to facilitate the shipping and trade of tobacco and other crops between the colony, Europe and Great Britain. The petition was accepted and in May of 1749 Governor Gooch signed the bill establishing the new town. It was to be called Alexandria, in honour of the Scottish Alexander family on whose land it would rise. A few months later, lots were surveyed and auctioned off on a sultry two days, July 13-14, 1749, and thus began Alexandria's 250-year history.
Alexandria now is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia with a population of approx 130,000. Located along the Western bank of the Potomac River, Alexandria is approximately 6 miles south of downtown Washington, D.C.
Like the rest of northern Virginia, modern Alexandria has been shaped by its proximity to the nation's capital. It is largely populated by professionals working in the federal civil service, the U.S. military, or for one of the many private companies which contract to provide services to the federal government.
The historic centre of Alexandria is known as Old Town. With its concentration of high-end boutiques, fine restaurants, antique shops, historic buildings and theatres, it is a major draw for tourists and those seeking nightlife. Public transportation, parks and an art centre contribute to the ambience. Like Old Town, several other Alexandria neighbourhoods are compact, high-income suburbs of Washington D.C. But Alexandria has its unique identity from Washington, and is both modern and replete with history.