During our pre-holiday visit to DC, we paid a visit to the Torpedo Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Whether you are into history, enjoy art or simply love to be close to the water, this gem has something for everyone.
1) The facility contains the largest number of working artist studios in the U.S.
- More than 85 artists create, sell and exhibit their vast array of work, covering a wide variety of art mediums including graphics, photography, paint, sculpture, wood stone and fiber arts as you tour the 3 floors.
- The Art League also resides here offering art classes, workshops for adults and children, as well as summer and specialty camps.
- Their target gallery features eight annual exhibitions focused on the latest trends in contemporary art, highlighting a variety of themes, artists and media.
2) The building itself is situated waterfront on the Potamac River
- The art center is situated at the base of the old downtown Alexandria. A step beyond the factory puts you on the waterfront which includes a walkable park featuring it’s own public art installation which changes annually. A variety of wonderful waterfront dining destinations are at your disposal. Short water taxis will whisk you over to DC for a visit to The Wharf or National Harbor, or if you prefer to stay on the water, sightseeing cruises will take you on a Monuments Tour.
- You can also head up King Street through Alexandria’s historic district which is a jewel all its own. The brick lined sidewalks take you to lovely cafes, old time ice cream shoppes, independent boutiques. The skinniest house in America at seven feet wide off Queen’s Street is a must stop as well.
3) Rich in history, the building has a unique story
- From 1919-1923 the building quite literally produced Mark III torpedoes and leading up to World War II the Mark XIV green torpedo was manufactured there. After the war, the plant was used to produce rocket engine parts. From 1950 through 1969, the building stored congressional documents, war crime records, German war films and dinosaur bones until it was purchased from the federal government by the City of Alexandria.
- Today, part of the third floor is home to the Alexandria Archeology Museum. In this area you can explore the 18th century ships discovered along the city’s waterfront with a 3D model of one of them, as well as other questions local archeological digs have answered about the area dating back to the Civil War. The archeologists and volunteers are available to happy to answer questions.
If you haven’t visited Alexandria yet, you are missing out. The other great benefit is that you can save a bit on your pocketbook by staying in Virginia and commuting in and out of DC.