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What happened to Alexandria’s St. Elmo neighborhood?

St. Elmo neighborhood (photo via Stonebridge Associates Inc.)

As plans to redevelop the Oakville Triangle move forward, part of that revitalization could involve the resurrection of an older neighborhood name: St. Elmo.

There are remnants of the St. Elmo name, like the coffee shops in Del Ray and North Old Town, but by and large, it’s one that’s fallen by the wayside. According to an application, developer Stonebridge Associates is hoping to turn a road through the Oakville Triangle into St. Elmo Way as a tie to the old neighborhood.

“The Oakville Triangle Property is bounded on the north by the Historic Subdivision of St. Elmo that is one of the subdivisions that is part of the larger Del Ray Community,” the application said. “Prior to the establishment and dedication of Calvert Street and Swan Avenue in the 1920’s there existed [a] private access road connecting the interior parcels of what is now Oakville Triangle to Raymond Avenue that formed an important connection between Oakville Triangle and St. Elmo Subdivision… Stonebridge Associates, Inc. choose the name St. Elmo Way for the street referred to in the approval of a CDD Concept Plan as “New Road A” to reference the historic connection between Oakville Triangle and St. Elmo subdivision and the Del Ray Community.”

The St. Elmo neighborhood was separated from Del Ray by a racetrack. City documents note that Del Ray and St. Elmo were some of the earliest commuter suburbs, owing to the advent of accessible transit between Alexandria and D.C. at the end of the 19th century.

“Del Ray and St. Elmo are early examples of commuter suburbs, since one of the first inter urban electric railways in the country provided a rapid means of travel for workers going between Washington and Alexandria,” a city sign noted.

In 1908, Del Ray and St. Elmo merged into the Town of Potomac. The town was formed to bring street lighting and street repair into the area, the Alexandria Gazette reported, and despite touting itself as a progressive community, Black Alexandrians were forbidden from owning property in Potomac. The town was annexed by Alexandria in 1930 and the neighborhood, St. Elmo included, was turned into Del Ray.

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