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Photo of two visitors at exhibit on the Torpedo Factory's history
Visitors view exhibit on the Torpedo Factory's history

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Torpedo Factory Art Center
A Local Legacy

What can you do with an old torpedo factory? In Alexandria, Virginia, on the banks of the Potomac River, a torpedo factory was turned into an arts center -- the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

The factory was built after the end of the First World War, in 1918. For the next five years submarine and aircraft torpedoes (missiles) were produced there around the clock. After that, the building was a storage area for arms and ammunition until World War II. After the war it was used by the Smithsonian Institution to store art objects and valuable dinosaur bones. Congress also stored documents there, and the military used it to store German war films and records.

The city of Alexandria bought the factory from the federal government in 1969, but it wasn't until 1974 that artists converted the huge space into a complex of bright, clean studios. Today, you can visit the Torpedo Factory and see artists at work -- a potter making a bowl, an artist making a stained glass window, or a painter working on a canvas.

You can also learn about torpedoes. The torpedo in the picture is on display in the main hall. It was made at the factory in 1945 and was painted bright green so that the Navy could see it in the water when it was tested.

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