News & Politics

Samuel Alito Does Not Live in Alexandria

He lives in Fairfax County, for crying out loud.

Photograph by Ianm35 via iStock/Getty Images Plus.

“One of the homes flying an inverted flag during that time was the residence of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., in Alexandria, Va., according to photographs and interviews with neighbors.” —The New York Times, May 16, 2024

“Repeating claims he made previously about an upside-down US flag that flew at his Alexandria, Virginia, home in early 2021, Alito said the decision to place the flag was his wife’s.” —CNN, May 29, 2024

“The battle has only heated up after revelations that an upside-down flag flew over Alito’s home in Alexandria, Va., in the days surrounding Jan. 6 and President Biden’s inauguration.” —The Hill, June 10, 2024

Samuel Alito lives in Fairfax County. His Fort Hunt neighborhood is about six miles from Alexandria’s city hall, about as close to that building as the Jefferson Memorial is. His taxes go to Fairfax County. He’s about five miles south of the closest Metro station, and he’d likely have to take a Fairfax Connector bus to get there. He can’t vote for who will replace retiring Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson. And yet, in the eyes of many national outlets, Alito is an Alexandrian.

So why does a guy in Fairfax have an Alexandria address? As DW Rowlands wrote in Greater Greater Washington back in 2018, ZIP codes wreak a surprising amount of informational havoc around this area. That’s why parts of Prince George’s County have Hyattsville addresses despite being outside the city of Hyattsville. Falls Church is an independent city in Virginia, but some people who live outside its borders in Fairfax County have Falls Church addresses. (Virginia’s independent cities are not part of counties, which means that Fairfax City isn’t in Fairfax County. Arlington is an urban county without a city. Virginia’s weird, man.)

This admittedly baffling arrangement means that events that take place nowhere near independent cities in the National Capital region are often geographically misattributed in news reports, Dave Statter wrote in 2017:

Using the ZIP code method, a suspect could be chased from the City of Alexandria’s western border to the City of Falls Church and never set foot in Fairfax County, even though Falls Church and Alexandria are almost four miles apart and don’t share a border. It’s magic.

The City of Alexandria has plenty of challenges of its own. (Though, as ALXnow’s Vernon Miles once pointed out, a Target in Fairfax mistakenly paid taxes to the city for years, so apparently the confusion occasionally redounds to the city’s benefit.) But the decorations on a flagpole outside a Supreme Court associate justice’s house are not among them. As a resident of the city of Alexandria, I once again beg national news outlets to learn the difference. Consider it my appeal to heaven.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.