Whether you are interested in seeking historic designation for a property or you are just curious about your building’s history, there are many resources available to aid in your research. Find out about previous owners – who they were, what they did and even what they owned – and learn how your building and neighborhood changed over time. Download Preservation Arlington’s Guide to Researching Historic Properties in Arlington.*
Tips for Getting Started
1. Look for existing research. You might find that a nomination form for historic designation was already developed, that your building was surveyed as part of an architectural survey or that your building is included in a historic district. Start your research by checking these sources and listings:
- Local and National Historic Site Profiles
- Virginia Department of Historic Resources Historic Properties Database
- National Register of Historic Places Program Online Research Database
- Arlington Historic Resources Inventory
- Library of Congress Historic American Buildings Survey
2. Research your property’s tax records. The Dept. of Real Estate Assessments keeps track of all property in Arlington and assigns land and building values annually for tax assessment purposes. This online database is searchable by street address, property account number (also known as the Real Property Code or RPC number) or by owner or business name. You’ll find the official street address, current owner’s name, zoning classification, lot size, legal property description, property classification, map book page number, recent information on assessment history and recent sales history.
3. Research old building permits for construction dates and building alterations, as well as original addresses and names of previous owners, occupants and/or the architect. Look up old permits through our Historical House Cards collection.
4. Research the land records associated with your property and develop a chain of title using the deed and mortgage records available at the Arlington County Courthouse in the Land Records Office. Use the legal property description and begin working backwards from your deed. Many records are computerized or on microfilm, while others can be found in the deed books.
5. Research historic maps and aerial photographs to confirm when your building was built and see how your community changed over time. Many such maps and photographs are available online through the County’s Mapping Center, or at the Center for Local History. Maps range from color-coded fire insurance maps and atlases to topographic and other types of maps that indicate building locations. Use land record plat maps to learn when your community was subdivided and the original land owner (visit the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services at Courthouse Plaza).
6. Research neighborhood and city directories, wills, obituaries, Census records, phone books, tax records and newspapers to gather more information about the people associated with your property, as well as news associated with your property. Tax records, especially those from before 1927, list livestock, watches, clocks, pianos, carriages and more. You may also find information in Fairfax or Alexandria archives.
Arlington County Resources
|Arlington County Dept. of Real Estate Assessments
|Property assessment data, Property Identification Maps.|
|Arlington County Department of Environmental Services
GIS Mapping Center
|Interactive mapping tools, Franklin Survey Company Real Estate Atlases, Land Record Plat Maps, the 1900 property owner map, historic aerial photos.|
|Arlington County Courthouse
1425 North Courthouse Road, Suite 6200
|Deeds, mortgages, wills.|
|The Center for Local History, Arlington Central Library
1015 North Quincy Street
|Largest collection of primary and secondary documents on the history of Arlington County, including Arlington Historical Magazine, maps, directories, local newspapers, census records, historic photos and books on local history.|
|Washingtoniana Collection – Martin Luther King Library
901 G St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
|Directories, periodicals, newspapers, maps, images and photos, vertical files, permits and other historical information for the District of Columbia. Note: All present-day Arlington County was located in the original 10 square miles of the District of Columbia.|
|Library of Congress||Historic newspapers, historic photos, historic maps, Civil War documentation, Arlington County Folk Arts Program Oral History Project.|
|National Archives||Genealogy research tools (Census, immigration records, land records, etc.), Historic American Buildings Survey.|
|Arlington Historical Society – Library & Museum
1805 South Arlington Ridge Road
|Operates two historic museums (Hume School and Ball-Sellers House), conducts research on history of Arlington County, maintains historical exhibits and publishes Arlington Historical Magazine.|
|National Park Service||Maintains the National Register of Historic Places and offers guidance on researching and documenting historic properties.|
|The City of Fairfax Regional Library
10360 North Street Fairfax, VA 22030-2514
|Local newspapers, directories, historic photos, Civil War records, maps, manuscripts and other resources related to the history of Fairfax County, the City of Fairfax and the Northern Virginia region (including Arlington).|
|Alexandria Public Library Kate Waller Barrett Branch
717 Queen Street, Alexandria VA, 22314
|Local newspapers, directories, historic photos and other historical and genealogical research collections. Note: The part of Fairfax County ceded by Virginia to the District of Columbia was originally known as Alexandria County, which included the Town of Alexandria.|
|Arlington County Historic Preservation Program
|Franklin Survey Company Real Estate Atlases, digital Sanborn Fire Insurance Company maps, and records of changes to Local Historic District properties.|
*Minor updates and changes were made to the original text of this guide.