Backyard History

ALEXANDRIA HISTORY: How Jones Point Was Almost an Amusement Park

After the Army allowed the public to enter Jones Point again in 1953 the damage to the lighthouse only accelerated. Vandals repeatedly defaced the building, looted it for artifacts and materials, and even set fire to it. The DAR chose to transfer the property back to the federal government to ensure that the historic structure was not completely destroyed. (photo 1963) Library of Congress

ALEXANDRIA, VA – On September 19, 1953, the federal government approved the transfer of lands at Jones Point to Alexandria and the National Park Service for public use.

But decades earlier, the filled area adjacent to the Jones Point Lighthouse witnessed significant use during World War I when the Virginia Shipbuilding Company began constructing major warships at the site.

The ‘Children’s Toyland of America’ That Never Was

When the shipyard closed soon after the war ended, an ambitious plan was unveiled in 1933 by a local author to transform the former shipyard administration building and surrounding area into an unusual industrial attraction: the Children’s Toyland of America. Valerie McMahan purchased the site and announced the project to manufacture dolls, toys and books at the riverfront site in Alexandria, based on her popular book series, “Bumpsies: The Golf Ball Kids.”

Concerned that many children had no place to pursue their sense of wonder — and that toys of the period were largely manufactured in Japan or Germany while Depression-era Americans went jobless — McMahan proposed to employ toymakers by the thousands at the Alexandria location.

Within a year, new water mains, gas pipes and electricity were being laid at the site to service the necessary manufacturing processes. McMahan also let it be known that the new factory was to become the “children’s capitol of the nation,” and to that end she planned to erect a huge dome on top of the building, similar to that of the U.S. Capitol, where children and their parents would always be welcomed. Her extensive plans for the site included additional buildings for childhood displays, park areas and landscaping, and even a boat service connection with Washington, D.C.

The wistful plan for Alexandria’s Toyland was short-lived, however, running afoul of the federal government’s plans for the area. In 1936 the U.S. Signal Corps established a communications center nearby, and in 1940, an executive order condemned the entire site for a secret government use.

(Source: Office of Historic Alexandria)

Mary Wadland

Mary Wadland is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Zebra Press, founded by her in 2010. Originally from Delray Beach, Florida, Mary is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Hollins College in Roanoke, VA and has lived and worked in the Alexandria publishing community since 1987.

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