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American Treasures

Where history & fun intersect

Where history and fun intersect, Arlington boasts museums, memorials, historic houses and cemeteries that help tell the story of the county.

From some of its earliest days as part of the founding of the nation’s capital in 1790 and throughout the years, Arlington has played a significant role in Virginia’s and the nation’s history. As evidence of its early beginnings, you can still see some of the 200-year-old “boundary stone” markers that show Arlington was once part of the original Federal City designed by Frenchman Pierre L'Enfant. This connection to the nation's capital remains today in our history, attractions and everyday life.

Get a glimpse of how the middle class used to live during Virginia’s Colonial era at the Ball-Sellers House. Erected in the 1740s, the house is the oldest structure in Arlington and portrays the lives of its historic residents like farmer John Ball, who built it. You will also hear about William Carlin, a tailor for President George Washington, who lived in the house back then.

Remnants of the Civil War are scattered throughout the county. Learn how Union soldiers protected Washington, DC, during the Civil War at Fort C.F. Smith, which was built by Union troops in early 1863. You can see the ruins of the fort in the 19-acre park, which also includes the restored 20th-century Hendry House (available for weddings and meetings), a forest, a meadow and gardens.

Arlington's most famous historical site is arguably Arlington National Cemetery, which dates to the Civil War. The cemetery grounds honor U.S. members of the Armed Forces who have served our nation during every military conflict in American history. Visitors can see the time-honored ceremonies, take in the scenic landscapes and wander through the monuments and headstones.

Check out the Arlington Historical Museum, built in 1891 as a school, where you will find a model of a local Native American village, local Civil War artifacts, Arlington's first television (a Dumont!), artifacts from the Pentagon, historical letters, photos and more.

At the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, learn about the African American journey from slavery to freedom via exhibits, a monthly lecture series and an oral history program. Its fascinating model of Freedman’s Village depicts an African American community created on the grounds of Arlington Cemetery during the Civil War to provide housing and social services for emancipated formerly enslaved people.