The history of “Rosemont” begins in 1908, although the land itself has a longer history. The neighborhood’s primary geographical feature is the Hooff’s Run watershed. The neighborhood is bordered to the southwest by King Street, which dates to colonial times as the Leesburg Turnpike. At the intersection of Braddock Road and Russell Road is mounted a cannon left behind by General Edward Braddock when he departed Alexandria in 1755 on an ill-fated mission during the French and Indian War. In 1791, southwest boundary stone no. 2 for the District of Columbia was set in a field that was to become part of Rosemont (the original stone disappeared in the 19th century; a replica lies near the corner of Russell Road and King Street, laid by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1920).
After the Civil War, an 80-acre parcel located approximately where much of south Rosemont lies today became known as “Spring Park” and was farmed by Philip Rotchford; after his death in 1887, it was acquired by the Alexandria Real Estate Investment, Trust and Title Company, along with neighboring property. In 1891, all the property was transferred to the newly-formed Spring Park Improvement Company, which in 1893 publicized a proposal to develop the area as a new suburb of Alexandria; earlier that year, the Rotchford house was reported to have burned to the ground. The Washington, Alexandria and Mount Vernon Electric Railway began service through the area in 1896, described by a contemporary account as being part of “a beautifully undulating and fertile stretch of country, which suburban improvement is invading and gradually dotting with handsome residences.” But no development actually occurred, and it appears during this time the property may have been leased to and farmed by Jonathan Pierpoint of Alexandria, who died in 1900. On March 1, 1905, a collision between two streetcars in the Spring Park area resulted in 1 death and approximately 50 injuries.
In 1908, the Spring Park and neighboring property was acquired by the Alexandria Realty Company and then in short order the Rosemont Development Company, which renamed the property after a Philadelphia suburb (to which at least some of the financial backers had ties). Rosemont developed rapidly in the early decades of the 20th century, with later subdivisions built upon additional property to the north initially being given names such as “Rucker Johnston,” “Rosemont Park,” “Temple Park,” and “Mount Vernon Park,” but ultimately retaining their identity as part of Rosemont.
Rosemont was planned as a “streetcar suburb.” Although the streetcar service ended in 1932, its legacy is the wide median on Commonwealth Avenue, and the southwest corner of Rosemont since 1992 has been a nationally-registered historic district in recognition of its well-preserved identity as an early 20th century neighborhood. The historic district application – available via the link – provides a brief history of Rosemont’s early construction. A DVD with more information about the historic houses of Rosemont also is available, researched by Anne Taylor and narrated by Jonathan Taylor; for more information, please email RosemontDVD@gmail.com. Copies also are available from the Alexandria Library (call no. 975.5296 ROS).
The Alexandria Library also makes available on its website some of the the results of a study of historic Alexandria houses that was performed in the 1960s, which included many properties in Rosemont, and Historic Alexandria makes available on its website oral history transcripts, which include interviews with six individuals who grew up in Rosemont. Further Rosemont-related resources are available in-person from the library’s Special Collections.
An overview of 1908+ neighborhood history, based on newspaper clippings, is in progress. More will be posted (although not necessarily, as a 1910 advertisement for Rosemont suggests, in only a week). If you’re interested in helping to research Rosemont history, please contact Marguerite Lang.