Alexandria, VA – In the historic neighborhood of Jefferson Manor, Matt Ratajczak knows little about the beginnings in 1943, the Civil War fort that once guarded the City of Alexandria, or the period of disrepair in the late 1970s. What he does know is the community is next door to a Metro station, a short scooter ride when he commutes to his job in upper Washington, D.C. “Nice to see people out walking dogs, lots of children,” he said as he petted his Labrador Retriever mix in the yard.
Matt’s house is a duplex, like all the others in Jefferson Manor, but it has a large, glassed-in porch added by a previous owner and a nice yard for the dog. As is common in older neighborhoods, many owners of the Jefferson Manor duplexes have built additions to increase space or add a home office.
Proximity to the Metro was a big draw for Matt, but there was also a big park and playground for his young children. “Everybody is super friendly,” he added, noting a recent impromptu chili cook-off and beer tasting a few houses down. “People brew it at their houses. It was different,” he said.
On October 1, residents will hold a 75th Birthday Celebration and Block Party. This, plus a current newsletter, is evidence of an energetic homeowners association. The community newsletter is a bi-monthly publication in English and Spanish, which reflects the diverse nature of Jefferson Manor.
Mary Zimmerman, an agent with The Mary Ashley Real Estate Group, says the big yards, community appeal, and the Huntington Metro Station right next door are the attraction. “It’s an entry-level community for people who want to live close to the City of Alexandria,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a fairly tightly knit neighborhood.”
A few years ago, Bob & Edith’s Diner opened just outside the neighborhood across from the Metro and has become a gathering place.
The community is on a hillside with a few steep roads. One of these roads is Fort Drive, named after Fort Lyon, a Civil War fort that once protected Washington, DC. The fort was named for Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, a commander during the war. Built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Union controlled the fort from 1861-1865.
According to Mr. Lincoln’s Forts: A Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington, by Benjamin Franklin Cooling III and Walton H. Owen II, the fort was on high ground with a commanding view of Hunting Creek and Telegraph Road. Its primary function was to prevent Confederate occupation of the heights from which Alexandria could be shelled.
In 1863, a munitions explosion killed many Union soldiers and President Abraham Lincoln visited the fort shortly afterward to inspect the damage. At one time, a marker near the upper Kiss-and-Ride lot of the Huntington Metro station noted the history of that area, including the location of the Ballenger house, a notable residence in local Civil War history.
Area historian Don Hakenson wrote about Jefferson Manor in his book, This Forgotten Land. “I spoke to two or three relic hunters who found artifacts all over Jefferson Manor,” Hakenson said. “There’s even a few earthen berms still around the neighborhood. You can see them if you search Jefferson Manor very closely,”
Fast forward some 85 years to just after World War II, when the Jefferson Manor houses were built as affordable housing for workers commuting to Alexandria and Washington, D.C. Currently, a two-bedroom, one-bath duplex is listed for over $600,000. Although Mary Zimmerman doesn’t have any listings in Jefferson Manor at this time, she indicated that was an accurate price.
Main Streets – To the east, Jefferson Manor is bordered by North Kings Highway. To the west, Telegraph Road edges Jefferson Manor Park.
Public Transportation Across North Kings Highway is the Huntington Metro Station, the final southern station on the Yellow Line. The station has an upper lot and lower pick-up area for buses and carpools.
Population – 1,655 residents of Jefferson Manor in 642 households, according to City-Data.com
Median Income – $110,714
Schools – West Potomac High School, Edison High School, Mt. Eagle Elementary School, and Mark Twain Middle School
Parks and Recreation – Jefferson Manor Park is on the western side of the neighborhood. It has a softball field, basketball courts, picnic area, and open space with a creek close to Telegraph Road.