How Much Have We Lost?

Monday, April 9, 2012

The New 1940 Census: Mount Vernon & Lee 70 Years Ago

The 1940 Census has just come out and being a local history geek, I had to go look.  My grandparents didn't move to Mount Vernon until Halloween Day, 1941, so it predated their arrival, but it gives a fascinating glimpse of our community poised for the massive growth that arrived 1945-1960.

The Census has a map that helps you get oriented.  the Fairfax County Map is split into quarters and two parts are relevant for our area.  One if the overall map for our quadrant. Second, there is a closeup of Route 1.  You can click on the copies below to enlarge or I've put both below or you can download your own copy here:





So here are some of my observations from the 1940.  First, Fort Humphreys had been renamed Fort Belvoir, but had not crept across Route 1 yet.  The railroad still ran across Route 1 into the base, but did not extend across Dogue Creek into Mount Vernon. 

The George Washington Memorial Parkway was open.  Route 1 had been realigned and Fordson Road stood out as an independent road.  Both of our areas airports - Beacon Field and Alexandria Airport in Hybla Valley - were open. 

There are few roads except the main roads still used today.  Fort Hunt Road, Quander Road, Alexandria Avenue, Wellington Road, Riverside Road, Elkins Lane, Sherwood Hall Lane (Accotink Pike), Collingwood Road (Snowden Road), Mount Vernon Highway, Old Mill, Cooper St., Old Mount Vernon Road, Buckman Road, Pole Road, Harrison Lane, Lockheed Boulevard, Telegraph Road, South and North Kings Highway, Huntington Avenue, Beulah Road, and Woodlawn Road, all stand out.   Most are shown as dirt roads.  There is no sign of I-495, I-95, or the Fairfax County Parkway. 

The 1940 population of the northern part of the Mount Vernon Magisterial District was 69 farms and 1749 people (Block 30-19).  Fort Belvoir had another 2,114 people living there (Block 30-21) and Fort Hunt had 21 people (Block 30-22).  There was also a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp in Mount Vernon with 6 people (Block 30-20) - I haven't been able to figure out where that was.  The area that currently comprises the part of Fort Belvoir North of U.S. 1 (Census Block 30-18) contained another 4,089 people.   

Lee District had 5,419 people (Census Blocks 30-14 and 30-15).  The Lorton Prison and associated enterprises held another 3,200 people (Census Blocks 30-16 and 30-17). 

Perusing the schedules is a fascinating view of the Mt. Vernon area economy at the time.  Here are some of the jobs listed: Guard at Mt. Vernon, Farm Helper, Carpenter, Farmer, Press Cleaner (Bureau of Engraving), Maid, Track Hand (RF&P RR), Crossing Watchman (RF&P), Section Hand (RF&P), Furniture Crafter, Welder, Diver (Pa. Bridge, Wash. D.C.), Truck Driver, Bus Driver, Night Watchman, Claim Examiner, Signal Man, Hangs Overhead Garage Doors, Painter, RR Conductor (at Ft. Belvoir), House & Yard Boy, Animal Helper (Zoo).... and that's just the first 5 pages of 109 pages!

Someone who is an census expert might be able to read more into all of this than I can.  Post up your corrections or observations below.  It's facsinating stuff. 


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