HISTORY

OLD TOWN WATERFRONT / TORPEDO FACTORY

Aerial of Torpedo FactoryThe day after Armistice Day, November 12, 1918, the U.S. Navy began construction on the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station on the site at King and Union Streets. Once opened, the factory was where torpedo manufacturing and maintenance happened for U.S. defense needs. Work stopped and the facility served as a munitions storage area until World War II, when production on the Mark XIV submarine-borne torpedo and the Mark III aircraft torpedo resumed at an intense rate. When peace was declared in June of 1945 following WWII, the U.S. government used the buildings for storage. Congressional documents, valuable dinosaur bones, art objects from the Smithsonian and German war films and records were stored in sealed vaults.

In 1969, the City of Alexandria bought the buildings from the Federal Government and several years later Art League President Marian Van Landingham proposed a project to renovate the building into working studio spaces for artists. Work began on the building in May of 1974, with artist volunteers and City personnel working together to remove the debris of 55 years. By July, artists had converted the huge space into a complex of bright and clean studios. On September 15, 1974, the Torpedo Factory Art Center opened to the public.

Torpedo FactoryFrom 1982 to 1983, the building underwent a major renovation as part of the City’s waterfront development plan, and it reopened on May 20, 1983. Today, the Torpedo Factory Art Center is home to over 165 professional artists who work, exhibit, and sell their art, and draws over half a million visitors a year from around the world. It stands as a stellar example of how the arts can revitalize a community and serves as a prototype for visual arts facilities throughout the world. Before or after you dine, take a stroll through the galleries and the studio floors to see lots of great art. For more information on the history of the Torpedo Factory and Old Town Alexandria, visit AlexandriaVa.gov.