Lee Highway spans the entirety of Arlington County, from Rosslyn to East Falls Church. The Highway is a “major commuter road” within the County and allows access to commercial goods and dining options for Arlington residents.
The Lee Highway Corridor was previously made up of Little Falls Road and Georgetown and Falls Church Road. Prior to the Civil War, these roads served as the primary transportation routes from Falls Church and other towns west of the Chain Bridge.
Once the Civil War ended, there was a national need for easier and improved transportation to Washington, DC. In 1867, The Virginia General Assembly approved the establishment and creation of the Georgetown and Fairfax Road, the precursor to Lee Highway. The Road was completed by 1900.
With the rise of the automobile in the 20th century came an increased need for paved roads.
David Carlisle Humphreys, a Lexington, VA native, suggested extending the Valley Turnpike (Shenandoah Valley’s main highway) to connect Gettysburg, PA and Chattanooga, TN, and naming it “Lee Highway.”
Lee Highway, Humphreys believed, was “a fitting and permanent memorial to and tribute of love, admiration, and respect for General Robert E. Lee from the people of Virginia.”
Lee Highway was formally outlined by the Virginia General Assembly in 1922 and was set to run from Washington, DC to Bristol, TN.
Throughout this time in American history, and as Black people started getting educated and building their own businesses and wealth, naming streets after and erecting statues of Confederate Generals was often seen as a means of intimidation.
In 1926, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) approved a plan set forth by the Board on Interstate Highways to utilize a number system for highways across the US in place of named roads and trails. When this plan was set in motion, Lee Highway was split east to west, among US 211, 11, 72, 70, 366, 80, and 29.
US 29, initially running from Gastonia, NC to Tuskegee, AL, was included in this plan and began operation in April 1927. In 1931, AASHA approved requests to extend portions of US 29 to northern NC and VA. Washington, DC and the state of Maryland requested the Highway be extended to their states in 1933, and the AASHO approved of the request soon after.
Today, US 29 runs from Ellicott City, MD to Pensacola, FL.
Since Lee Highway was originally named in the 1920s, a handful of states have chosen to rename their portion of the Highway.