Mrs. Phyllis Buschman, a long time resident of the area, watched the building of the first high rise apartments. Having lived in New Alexandria, she has been able to see the progress and change that has taken place over the years.
I first came here, my husband and I...my family, in about 1941. It was the beginning of the war and my husband was transferred from New York down here. We located in New Alexandria. Now, we thought that was a lovely little place. There were all these little small Cape Cod houses. Now they were all very small and they were very reasonable when it came to rent. In comparison to these days, it's quite a difference.
We lived down on 13th Street. Now that's the lowest part of New Alexandria and we weren't here very long when we found out that all that water from Belle Haven Hill was coming right down into our backyard. Now that's a fact. Everytime a big rain would come up, all that water would come down. So it made it a little bit difficult.
The first one (flood) we had was in about 1943. It covered the whole ground and almost went into our house. People came around and told us to evacuate, but we didn't. We stayed there because we thought we'd chance it.
One day my son had to get into town and I wanted to get him over onto the road. You see the rain settled right in our front yard, but then up to Potomac Avenue it was dry. I had to try to get him over there. So, I proceeded to take all the wood on the side of the porch to try to make a raft. I worked for about two hours. I didn't know anything about making a raft, but I saw them in different places.
I put the two boards underneath and four on the top. I pulled it out on the side porch and I put it up on the water. I thought "I better try this before I let my son step on it." I stepped on it and BANG I went ...down to the ground. So then I finally got a man across the street to carry my son piggy-back through the water. That was the first (flood).
We had another flood later that covered all of Belle Haven Road, all the way up to Mt. Vernon Highway. People couldn't get home from work. My husband waded up to his waist. A lot of people didn't want to chance it though.
Gradually they started building up this section around here. The first thing they built were the Belle View Apartments. The population started to grow. Then naturally, when the population grew, they built the Belle View Shopping Center. After the Belle View Shopping Center. they started building different places like Westgrove.
In those days the Arnold family owned all that property over there (where the Belle View town houses are now). What they had to do with those town houses, because of the flooding, was to raise the ground. I don't know how high.
River Towers they started building about twenty years ago and I watched them doing that. They did that very cleverly. When they built these apartments here, everybody was surprised. This (property) was all forests and swamps. In fact, we used to walk here (River Towers) and get our Christmas trees every Christmas.
There wasn't a person who lived in New Alexandria that had to buy a Christmas tree. This place was just filled with them. If you didn't like one, you'd go back and try another one. My children used to love to go over and pick Christmas trees around Christmas here. As I say, this was mostly forest here.
It was swamp, too. This was all swamp ground, all around here. It still is. If you look out in the back of River Towers, you'll find there's swamps. When they started building this, we watched it from day one. We watched everything that was going on because we couldn't figure out how they were ever going to put a nine story apartment house in a swamp! What they did was to fill the ground all in, get rid of the swamp, and hammer spikes into the ground.
It not only had an effect on New Alexandria, but it also affected this whole section around here. It built up all these stores in here (Belle View Shopping Center). They always have done a fabulous business. I've often wondered why they didn't make it bigger than they did. There was a terrible fire there about eight years ago. I don't know what happened, but there was a fire up in the attics of all those places along there. It took them about three hours to put it out.
I took some pictures out here (window of apartment in River Towers). There is a whole section you can see from here. I think it's a pleasant sight. In fact, at night, when I look out this window and the lights are on, it's almost like looking at Monte Carlo. People say, ''How can you stand looking out at a shopping center or these houses?" But from up here, especially, at night, it's beautiful. It really is. It's a beautiful sight to see.
I love it here and I have since I've come here. There's a lot of people who come here and don't like it, but I don't know why. They have their own reasons for it. I've always liked it, even with the floods! They were fun. Believe me, they were fun.