History of
Crystal City

History of Crystal City

Crystal City – once a highly industrial area full of warehouses, junkyards, run-down motels, and factories – has begun to redevelop into a thriving community. With apartments, condominiums and office building being renovated and inviting new tenants in the area will only continue to expand.

Junkyards, motels and industrial sites used to occupy this section of U.S. Route 1 in what is now known as Crystal City in Arlington. (Arlington County government). (Arlington County Government)

History of the Name

The area first became known as Crystal City after a local company, Charles E Smith Realty Companies, saw something in the area and began to redevelop it. In the 1960s, Robert H. Smith began building apartment and office buildings in the area; the first apartment building was named “Crystal House” and had a giant crystal chandelier hanging in the lobby. Smith continued to build, naming the buildings Crystal Gateway, Crystal Towers, Crystal Square, Crystal Plaza, almost all being located on Crystal Drive. With all these new “Crystal” buildings, locals began to dub this area Crystal City as it is known today.

Crystal City’s Decline

Crystal City had a thrived for a short time under all of this revitalization. The government began to occupy buildings which brought defense contractors and others to the area. Over the years though, the government offices, such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. Department of Defense, pulled out of the Arlington area moving back into Washington. As these offices moved away so did the government contractors, leaving behind empty office space and no companies to lease them.

Over the years, a number of developers have tried to revitalize the Crystal City area. Only a huge company like Amazon will be able to give Crystal City the attention it needs to turn itself around. Since Amazon’s announcement, grocery chains, restaurants, and investors have been quick to snatch up Crystal City property. The run down buildings that have epitomized Crystal City for years will be revitalized with Amazon bringing the area some much needed new life.