On July 17, 1946 the City of Alexandria designated the Old and Historic Alexandria District.
At the time, it was nicknamed the “Charleston Ordinance” after the City of Charleston, South Carolina which had earlier extended the police powers of its zoning code to regulate changes to the exterior appearance of buildings within a designated area.
Zoning laws in the United States were first upheld by the U. S. Supreme Court in 1916 in the famous Euclid vs. Ambler case, but that issue dealt specifically with land uses and not aesthetic appearance.
Alexandria’s new historic district was the third in the United States, behind Charleston and the “Vieux Carre” area of New Orleans. Historic District zoning codes went unchallenged for over two decades until the Supreme Court case Penn Central vs. City of New York upheld that city’s action to deny an application to build a skyscraper atop the historic Grand Central Station.
(Source: Office of Historic Alexandria)