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Correction to This Article
Earlier versions of this article misstated the name of the longtime Washington Redskins owner who temporarily renamed the site of the stadium now known as FedEx Field. It was Jack Kent Cooke, not John Kent Cooke. This version has been updated.

As Woodbridge becomes Marumsco, more than the name changes

With help from granddaughter Alyssa Armstrong, government contractor John Armstrong moves out of his foreclosed Woodbridge house, which is now in Marumsco.
With help from granddaughter Alyssa Armstrong, government contractor John Armstrong moves out of his foreclosed Woodbridge house, which is now in Marumsco. (Bill O'leary)

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 2011

People who live behind the fast-food joints, car repair shops and strip malls lining a nondescript stretch of Route 1 in southeastern Prince William County can be forgiven for not knowing where they are.

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They think they live in Woodbridge. And until last week, they did.

But now they live in a place called Marumsco.

Marumsco is one of Prince William's seven new "census-designated places." It effectively consumed most of Woodbridge, gobbling up about 80 percent of the land mass and almost 90 percent of the residents.

But nobody bothered to tell the Marumscans. And many of them say they want no association with the name, even if they live in subdivisions called Marumsco Acres and Marumsco Woods, send their children to Marumsco Hills Elementary School or visit the barber at the Marumsco Shopping Plaza.

The demographics of Marumsco and the new, smaller Woodbridge are strikingly different, a gap that some residents said gives Woodbridge more panache.

"I'm glad I'm moving if I can't say I live in Woodbridge anymore," said John Armstrong, 62, a government contractor whose house has been foreclosed on. "To me, Woodbridge suggests upscale and successful. Marumsco is just a shopping center."

After every 10-year U.S. Census, many places are given new names in the sprawling, unincorporated suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. The census bases its maps on the advice it gets from local officials.

In Prince William, places such as Marumsco, Bull Run Mountain Estates and Neabsco - all new designated places - exist solely on census maps, and the designation has no effect on how the areas are governed or policed, or how the mail is delivered.

But because place names can reflect and amplify the identity of those who live there, new names can be contentious.

Jack Kent Cooke aroused indignation when he named the Landover property around Redskins Stadium "Raljon" in tribute to his sons Ralph and John. But he stuck to it, until new team owner Dan Snyder reclaimed the old name.

Marketers for National Harbor initially considered a separate Zip code for their massive, upscale development so they wouldn't have to share one with the less- flashy Oxon Hill.

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