Long before the high-rise apartment and office buildings rose, Rosslyn, Va., was Washington’s gateway into Arlington and points south. But while some today may think of the neighborhood as quiet, Rosslyn was once considered hedonistic.

Toward the close of the Civil War, Rosslyn was bursting with brothels, saloons and gambling dens, according to Kathryn Holt Springston, a retired local historian. The neighborhood was not only debauched but dangerous; Fairfax County farmers bringing goods to market in Georgetown often armed themselves and banded together to journey through Rosslyn, Springston said.

The end of that era came in 1904, when Crandall Mackey, an attorney and newspaper owner, commenced a crusade against Rosslyn’s vices. Mackey, pursuing both a safer Rosslyn and a way to make his real estate holdings more attractive to prospective buyers, directed a raid on numerous gambling dens in the area, according to Springston.

“[The raiders] threw the mattresses of the bordellos out, lit them on fire in the streets; they smashed up gambling dens, poured the whiskey out on the street, and had a wonderful time doing it,” Springston said.

While the raid didn’t repair Rosslyn’s reputation overnight, it ushered in more modest development, such as Murphy & Ames Lumber and Hardware, whose first location opened in Rosslyn in 1908.

In the 1960s and ’70s, high-rise buildings began filling up the skyline. Corporations and media companies eventually began calling Rosslyn home, including Gannett and, more recently, Nestle, Politico and WJLA-TV. Raytheon and Boeing put their Washington offices there. According to Arlington County’s Planning and Projects website, Rosslyn contains more than 8.4 million square feet of office space, 580,000 square feet of retail, and 2,140 hotel rooms. It had about 12,000 residents in 2019, according to the Rosslyn Business Improvement District.

As Rosslyn’s red-light district reputation faded, it was replaced by what many considered a staid, boring corporate community. For decades, it felt like “they rolled up the sidewalk at five o’clock because there wasn’t anything to do,” Springston said.

Rosslyn Business Improvement District officials have set about changing that perception by hosting many free or ticketed public events. Before the pandemic, the Rosslyn BID hosted large events at Gateway Park, including a cider festival. But even after public health restrictions were put in place, it sponsored virtual and adapted versions of other frequent events, including houseplant giveaways, cornhole tournaments and trivia nights. In the past year, such events have included a spring flower market, a pop-up outdoor co-working space and movies in the park.

A small farmers market is held on Wednesdays in late spring through early fall. In addition to a produce farm and a butcher, the Rosslyn market hosts an Austrian bakery and a mushroom purveyor.

Rosslyn resident Yasmine Bandali-Alvarado loves the “incremental” amenities upgrades and many event series added to the neighborhood since she arrived more than a decade ago. Even such seemingly small things as more attractive Metro station elevators and more coffee shops have been perks in her daily life.

She selected Rosslyn because it was the “most accessible while still being affordable at the time” she was searching, adding that she has an easy commute to her downtown D.C. office.

Bandali-Alvarado particularly loves the access to nature, something she feels is an underrated neighborhood amenity. She enjoys taking occasional classes held by local nature groups at Theodore Roosevelt Island, which is within walking distance from Rosslyn, to learn about invasive species removal and other topics.

Besides Theodore Roosevelt Island, Rosslyn has numerous parks and greenways, including the Mount Vernon Trail, Freedom Park and Gateway Park.

While some might characterize Rosslyn as sleepy, Bandali-Alvarado says it has a “gentler pace” with plenty of fun after-work options.

“There’s this sort of chillax mode, where you can saunter into a restaurant, have a quiet dinner as you’re thinking about the workweek,” she said. “And it’s a convenient spot to meet people because it’s right by the Metro.”

Living there: Rosslyn’s boundaries generally follow the Potomac River to the east, Interstate 66/Custis Memorial Parkway to the north, N. Rhodes Street to the west, and 12th Street N. to the south.

Rosslyn has several new, pricey high-rise condo buildings as well as ritzy rowhouses. But there are a handful of detached homes, interspersed between developments. There are also more affordable garden-apartment-style buildings. River Place is a four-building cooperative on 13 acres adjacent to the Potomac River.

From August 2020 to this past August, 148 single-family homes and condos sold in Rosslyn, according to Keri Shull, a real estate agent with the Keri Shull Team. The least-expensive was a one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 788-square-foot condo for $370,000. A two-bedroom, one-bathroom, 840-square-foot duplex sold for $570,000. The most expensive home was a three-bedroom, five-bathroom, 4,500-square-foot condo that sold for $3.2 million.

Average rent in the neighborhood is $1,807 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Schools: Innovation Elementary, Key Immersion School, Hamm Middle and Yorktown High.

Transit: The Orange, Blue and Silver lines stop at the Rosslyn Metro station. Several bus routes serve the neighborhood, including Metro, Arlington Transit, D.C. Circulator and Georgetown University Transportation Service buses. A controversial gondola project has been pitched as a way to connect Rosslyn and Georgetown. Main thoroughfares include Arlington Boulevard, the George Washington Parkway and Interstate 66.

If you’d like your neighborhood featured in Where We Live, email kathy.orton@washpost.com.