(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) Next Tuesday, the Arlington County Board will vote on a budget that may or may not close Artisphere, the ambitious but money-losing cultural center in Rosslyn.
With the future of Artisphere and the nature of the county’s support for the arts on the line, it’s worth taking a look back at the optimism that surrounded Artisphere’s opening.
County leaders showed off the $6.7 million, 62,000 square foot facility on Oct. 6, 2010, touting it as — in our words — “a centerpiece of the effort to revitalize the workaday Rosslyn business district.”
Indeed, even though it was a county-owned facility, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District provided much of the support for Artisphere’s opening. In a press release about the opening — printed on Rosslyn letterhead — the BID committed $1 million in start-up funds for the facility, and pledged $300,000 annually for the life of the center. That commitment was signified in the form of a giant $7.3 million check presented to then-County Board Chair Jay Fisette at a press event.
Artisphere was designed to be a “new breed of urban arts center,” with four performance venues, three visual art galleries, a 4,000 square foot ballroom, a “WiFi Town Hall,” and its own cafe and bar. Initial programming cut a broad cultural swath, including music and dancing, often with an international flair; conceptual and interactive art exhibits; poetry open mic nights; documentary and art film screenings; the Washington Shakespeare Company; educational events; and even puppetry.
Rosslyn, county and cultural leaders believed that the Artisphere would be a game-changer for the neighborhood, attracting 250,000 visitors a year and generating nearly $800,000 in admission and ticket revenue, in addition to expanding the county’s artistic horizons.
“Artisphere is a new model for American cultural centers… a unique techno-savvy arts space that offers interactive opportunities to participate in the creative experience,” Arlington Cultural Affairs division chief Norma Kaplan said in the 2010 press release. “It will be a venue between work and home where people living and working in the Washington area can engage in the arts, challenge their intellect, or just hang out.”
(Kaplan would leave her post for a job in New Jersey less than a year later, after Artisphere’s visitor revenue projections came in 75 percent below expectations. By the April 2011, fewer than 50,000 people had visited Artisphere.)
Artisphere might have opened on an intriguing date, but in the rush to open on 10/10/10 the county was unable to hire an executive director or find a cafe operator in time for the opening. It would be January 2011 before Jose Ortiz, who previously worked at the Harvard Art Museum, was hired to lead the center as executive director. In April came the opening of Here Cafe + Bar, run by the owners of Guajillo in Rosslyn.
Fifteen minutes later, “churches, temples, schools, city halls, public buildings, historic sites, and others are invited to ring bells” for four minutes, one minute for each year of the Civil War, the National Park Service said in a press release.
In Arlington, at least one building will be joining in the nationwide campaign. The Arlington Historical Society will ring the bell at The Hume School, which now serves as the Arlington Historical Museum.
The National Park Service also owns the Netherlands Carillon near Rosslyn, which has 50 bells on its distinctive structure. The Carillon is less than a mile away from Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee.
Photo via the Arlington Historical Society.
In the northeast corner of Marymount University’s North Arlington campus, there has stood an old cemetery with gravestones covered in weeds, without so much as a clue as to who was buried there, and when.
Many of the gravestones read “Gone but not forgotten.”
“That was pretty ironic because the people there had been pretty much forgotten,” MU nursing student Jen Carter, one of the students who was worked to uncover the mysteries of the old cemetery, said in a school press release.
This year, history professor Patrick Mullins, at the urging of MU President Matthew Shank, has led a group of students in unearthing the history behind the cemetery, and they’ve gotten results. According to the school, the Birch-Campbell Cemetery is the burial place for dozens of Arlington residents, dating back to 1841. The most recent burial was in 1959, nine years after the school was founded.
Mullins said they’re still not sure who owns the land — the discovery project is ongoing — but they do know more about some of the cemetery’s permanent residents. Most, the school said, were middle-class farmers and landowners.
The fathers, sister, uncle and brother-in-law of Mary Ann Hall, who owned an “upscale brothel” near the U.S. Capitol, are all buried in the cemetery, the students found. Hall owned a farmhouse on the land where Marymount’s Main Hall now stands. She is buried in Congressional Cemetery after her death in 1886.
“Some of the big questions we discussed — and we need to ask as a society — is who do we remember and what do we preserve?” Mullins said in the release. “We learned a great deal about the site and how it ties into local and regional history. We didn’t answer all the questions we were trying to answer, but it’s an ongoing project. We’re not even positive who actually owns that plot of land. That’s part of the research that we’d like to complete.”
Photos courtesy Marymount University
School Board Candidates Sound Off — The two candidates for the Democratic endorsement for Arlington School Board, Reid Goldstein and Sharon Dorsey, formally announced their candidacies last week, making the case to fellow Democrats for why they should be on the board. The Democratic School Board caucuses will be held in May. [InsideNova]
Arlington Explains Salt Shortage — Updated at 1:15 p.m. — Arlington County officials are explaining last week’s road salt shortage. County officials say a 4,000 ton order for salt placed by the county on Jan. 19 was never filled, due to high demand for salt among eastern seaboard states that have been buried by heavy snowfall this winter. The county was expecting a 2,000 ton salt delivery from Pittsburgh Friday evening. An Arlington official explained the shortage but did not apologize for it, as earlier reported, according to a county spokeswoman. [WTOP]
100 Montaditos Files for Bankruptcy — The company that owns 100 Montaditos, the Spanish mini-sandwich restaurant in Rosslyn, has filed for bankruptcy. No word yet on whether the restaurant or its other chain locations, in Florida, will remain open. [Miami Herald]
Barbershop Owner Profiled — Jim Moore, the owner of Moore’s Barber Shop on Lee Highway in the High View Park neighborhood, is profiled in an article that also chronicles the shop’s 55 year history. [Arlington Connection]
Snow Chance Today — Arlington may get some snow, sleet and freezing rain this afternoon. The area is under a Winter Weather Advisory, although forecasters think areas north and west of Arlington are at more of a risk of wintry weather and slippery roads. [Weather.com]
Two Dems Running for School Board – The deadline for candidates seeking the Democratic endorsement for school board was last night and two candidates filed before the deadline: Reid Goldstein and Sharon Dorsey. The Arlington County Democratic Committee will hold its school board caucus on May 14 and 16.
Opower Losing Money, Hiring — Courthouse-based Opower, a publicly-traded energy software company, reported its latest financial results yesterday. For 2014, the company reported $128.4 million in revenue, a 45 percent increase over 2013. Its operating loss was $40.8 million. The company is continuing its hiring spree, adding employees locally and at its offices in London, San Francisco, Tokyo and Singapore. [DC Inno, Yahoo Finance]
Armed Bank Robbery in Falls Church — A Wells Fargo bank in Falls Church was robbed yesterday by two armed men known as the “Black Hat Bandits.” The men are suspected of robbing seven other banks around the D.C. area. Arlington County police assisted Falls Church police in looking for the suspects immediately after the robbery. [Falls Church News-Press]
Old Map of Arlington — An 18th century map of what is now Arlington County shows mills along Four Mile Run and the “Road To The Falls,” known now as Glebe Road. [Ghosts of DC]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Murphy Falls Short of Superintendent Award — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy may be one of the top superintendents in the country, according to the American Association of Schools Administrators, but at a conference in San Diego yesterday Murphy fell short of being named “Superintendent of the Year.” [InsideNova]
Aurora Highlands Profiled — The group Preservation Arlington has profiled the Aurora Highlands neighborhood and an owner of a circa-1942 house in the neighborhood, as part of its “I Love My Historic Neighborhood” feature. [Preservation Arlington]
Historic Photo of Courthouse — Courthouse looks very different than it does today in a black and white photo taken sometime in either the 1980s or 90s. [Ghosts of DC]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
School Board Says No to Wilson School Historic Status — Any hope preservationists had of salvaging pieces of Rosslyn’s Wilson School are likely dashed. The Arlington School Board voted last night, during an abbreviated meeting, to reject the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board’s proposal to give the Wilson School, built in 1910 at 1601 Wilson Blvd, historic protections. It has been renovated in the interim, and school officials contend the renovation diminishes its historic value. [InsideNova]
Cops Looking for Crime-Fighting Cabbie — Arlington police are trying to find a cab driver who helped them make an arrest in Pentagon City Tuesday night. An officer was trying to chase down a man suspected of stealing from a store in Pentagon City mall when the cab pulled up and the driver told the officer to hop in. The cab drove up to the suspect and the officer got out and made the arrest — but the driver left the scene before police could thank him and pay the fare. [WJLA]
Happy Hour Advertising Bill Passes — Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have passed a bill that would allow Virginia bars to list the names of drinks they’re offering when advertising happy hour specials. Current ABC laws prohibit ads that use language like “beer and wine specials” or “discounted margaritas.” Even under the new legislation, however, bars would still be prohibited from listing the actual prices of happy hour specials in their advertising. [WTOP]
Rollover Wreck on Washington Blvd — An SUV reportedly ran into two parked cars and then rolled over on Washington Blvd last night. [Twitter]
History of Glebe Road — Why is Glebe Road so named? The road, which dates back to the mid-18th century, is not, as one might think, named after a person. [Ghosts of DC]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
APS Elementary Schools Get Top Marks — Ten of the top 11 public elementary schools in Virginia, as ranked by Niche.com, are in Arlington. “A high ranking indicates that the school is an exceptional academic institution with a diverse set of high-achieving students and faculty, and the students are very happy with their experiences,” the website said of its 2015 list. [Niche]
‘Blue Moon’ County Board Race — The upcoming Arlington County Board election will be the first in four decades in which two seats are open at the same time. That has led one political watcher to dub the race a “blue-moon” election. [InsideNova]
Fraber House Garage Moved — The detached garage near the historic Fraber House was moved closer to the home yesterday. The Fraber House was sold to a private homeowner after being designated historic by the county in 2013. The garage was not on the land that the county sold, but it allowed the homeowner to move it to the property. [Preservation Arlington]
Lopez Small Biz Legislation Passes — Del. Alfonso Lopez’s small business bill, HB 1901, has unanimously passed the House of Delegates. The legislation updates the definition of a small business in Virginia, which would in turn affect certain state purchasing contracts intended for small businesses. Currently, 95 percent of all businesses in Virginia meet the state’s definition of a small business: having 250 or fewer employees or annual revenue up to $10 million.
(Updated at 5:25 p.m.) The last remaining homes built for African-Americans displaced by the construction of the Pentagon could soon be history.
The George Washington Carver Homes on S. Rolfe Street are in the process of being sold to a developer that plans on replacing them with 50 townhouses, including 23 duplexes. The Arlington County Board is expected to decide the proposal’s fate at its meeting later this month.
The Carver Homes are a collection of 44 garden apartments along S. Rolfe Street and 13th Road S. in Arlington View. The development is a co-operative, and the co-op board has an agreement to sell the property to Craftmark Homes pending approval of the redevelopment plans, according to county planning staff.
The apartments were built by the federal government in 1945 and designed by noted architect Albert I. Cassell, who had been the head of architecture at Howard University and designed much of the school’s northwest D.C. campus. County Historic Preservation Planner Rebeccah Ballo said as far as preservation staff are aware, they are the only buildings he designed in Arlington.
If they are redeveloped, the Carver Homes will join the former Dunbar Homes in Nauck as pieces of Arlington’s 20th century African-American history torn down for redevelopment.
“Fully understanding it is their right to sell and dispose of their property as they see fit, this is a loss,” Ballo told ARLnow.com. “This is a loss of cultural and architectural history.”
When the Pentagon, the Navy Annex and the surrounding network of roads were built during World War II, they replaced the neighborhoods East Arlington and Queen City. The areas had been occupied by African Americans, many of whom descended from Arlington’s Freedman’s Village, built for former slaves in 1863. The residents of East Arlington and Queen City were moved elsewhere, including the Dunbar and Carver Homes.
The residents of the Carver Homes bought the property from the government in 1949. Many of the apartments are still owned by the original residents or their families, Ballo wrote in her staff report for the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board.
Multiple attempts to reach the attorney representing the Carver Homes co-op board, Patricia Fettman, have gone unreturned. Fettman also represented the Dunbar Homes co-op board when they sold their property for $37 million 10 years ago, according to a Washington Post article at the time.
The Post’s article featured interviews of residents of the homes who didn’t want to sell. The author, Annie Gowen spoke to Dorothy Rich, at the time the co-op board’s president.
“Basically, we think the time has come to take the next step forward,” Rich told Gowen. Gowen wrote that Rich “declined to detail the discussions to sell, saying only ‘we won’t do anything without a vote and a majority of our homeowners.’”
The exterior of the houses are largely well-maintained, with pink-painted stucco and a pristinely mowed courtyard. The eight buildings sit on a 3.35-acre plot, an easy walk to the Air Force Memorial and less than a half-mile drive from I-395.
County staff attempted to have the homes listed on the National Register of Historic Places when they conducted a review of all potentially historic properties in the county, starting in 1997. They even filled out the application, but Ballo said after meetings with the co-op board and the surrounding community, “the nomination stopped.” (more…)
Unitarian Church Named Historic Place – The Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington has been named to the National Register of Historic Places. The church’s modernist building was designed by noted architect Charles M. Goodman. [Arlington County]
Va. Lawmakers Fight Over State Song — Virginia is one of two states currently lacking a state song. The old song was “retired” 18 years ago due to questionable lyrics that drew complaints from African Americans. State lawmakers are against trying to settle on a new state song, but so far there are no clear frontrunners. [Washington Post]
College Game Almost Cost Arlington Man $16K — Arlington resident Patrick Leonard was told by the ticketing website Stub Hub that he was buying four tickets to Monday’s college football championship game in Dallas for $1,600. The next day, however, the bill came back for $16,000. Leonard, a die-hard Oregon Ducks fan, shared his tale of woe on social media and the school arranged four end zone seats for him at face value. [CBS DFW]
Hike to Arlington’s Highest Point — Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation is organizing a family hike to the highest point in Arlington on Saturday, Jan. 24. The highest point in Arlington is Minor’s Hill, which rises 459 feet at the western tip of the county. The hill has a history that includes roles in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. [Arlington County]
Murphy Apologizes for Snowy School Opening — Arlington Public Schools superintendent Patrick Murphy has personally apologized for the unpopular decision to open schools on time yesterday, in the midst of a snow storm. Murphy said APS, like other local school systems that also opened on time, had to make a decision early in the morning, when the forecast still called for less snow. “Once that decision is made, we are kind of locked in,” said Murphy. [InsideNova]
Salt Truck Slides Down Hill — The refreeze may have claimed a salt truck last night. A reader spotted a salt truck being pulled out of a ditch on N. Roosevelt Street. [Twitter]
Crystal City Profiled — As part of its ongoing “Where We Live” series, the Washington Post has profiled Crystal City, which the paper says is “not just underground anymore.” The neighborhood is noted for being convenient to various forms of transportation and having a very low crime rate. [Washington Post]
Remembering Kathryn Stone — Kathryn Stone, a “legendary figure in the history of Arlington County and the Commonwealth,” is remembered for her role in advancing the role of women in government. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Tejada Rips Streetcar Decision — Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada made a forceful seven-and-a-half minute speech at Saturday’s Board meeting, ripping into the decision to cancel the county’s streetcar project. Tejada said the county government “has failed” and wasted the time of those involved in the streetcar’s 15-year planning process. Tejada was joined by two members of the public who spoke out against the decision. [Blue Virginia, Washington Post]
Wilson School Supporters Speak Out — Supporters of the Wilson School in Rosslyn are making what might be a last push to save the 104-year-old building — which they claim is historic — from potential demolition. Stan Karson, president of the nearby Radnor/Fort Myer Heights Civic Association, told the School Board week that “if you tear down Wilson School, you are saying to Arlington students history is important only in the classroom, not in the board room.” Meanwhile, Karson wrote in a newspaper letter to the editor that “the concerned community has been silenced.” [InsideNova, Washington Post]
Abby Raphael Won’t Seek Reelection — School Board member Abby Raphael says she will not seek reelection in 2015 and has no plans to run for County Board. Raphael is on her second term on the School Board. Some believe she may have her sights set on a state-level office. [InsideNova]
Moran Laments ‘Demagoguing’ Left — Retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) says the left wing of the Democratic party is starting to pick up some traits of the Republican party’s Tea Party wing. Moran said liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was “demagoguing” the issue of financial reform by opposing a compromise spending bill — a bill that avoided a government shutdown but contained some changes to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. [Blue Virginia]
Board Approves Bond Refinancing — Arlington County will save $147,000 a year over the next 16 years thanks to a refinancing of three wastewater and water system bonds. The County Board unanimously approved the refinancing on Saturday. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Dave Prentice
Route 50 Trail Proposed — The Washington Area Bicyclist Association has proposed connecting existing trail infrastructure along Route 50 to create a contiguous trail between the National Mall and Fairfax City. The potential project faces a number of challenges, including its estimated $40 million price tag. [Greater Greater Washington]
‘Arlington Archive’ to Be Studied — Arlington County will assemble a task force that will spend all of 2015 trying to figure out a plan for the county to preserve its history with a digital “Arlington Archive.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Chris
TV Bachelor Arrested in Arlington — John Bonavia, a wealthy bachelor who tried to find love last year on the Bravo show Millionaire Matchmaker, was arrested in Ballston on Saturday, Nov. 1. Banavia was charged with being drunk in public on the 4200 block of N. Fairfax Drive, near the Ballston Metro station. [Radar Online]
Historical Marker for Pharmacy — Arlington County has erected a historical marker for the Green Valley Pharmacy in the Nauck neighborhood. The interactive marker includes audio clips from an interview with 86-year-old owner Leonard “Doc” Muse, who still operates the pharmacy to this day. [InsideNova, Arlington County]
No Blue Line Tomorrow — Metro’s Blue Line will be suspended on Tuesday (Veterans Day) to help with the agency’s effort to accommodate the massive crowds expected to attend the Concert for Valor on the National Mall. Yellow Line trains will replace Blue Line trains on Tuesday. As many as 800,000 people are expected to attend the concert. [WMATA]
County Offices Closed Tuesday — Arlington County offices, schools, courts and libraries will be closed for the Veterans Day holiday on Tuesday. ART buses will operate on a modified holiday schedule. Normal trash, recycling and leaf collection will still take place. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Foo Fighters Release Arlington-Produced Track — The Foo Fighters have released a new track, “The Feast and the Famine,” which was recorded at Inner Ear Studio in Arlington. The recording session will be featured on tonight’s episode of HBO’s Foo Fighters documentary series. [Pitchfork]
Arlington Recognized as ‘Smart Community’ — Arlington County has been recognized as one of the world’s Smart 21 Communities of 2015. It’s one of four U.S. localities to receive the honor this year. [WTOP]
Nixon: Arlington’s Favorite Top-of-the-Ticket Candidate — Arlington may be deep blue now, but it hasn’t always been a Democratic stronghold. Richard Nixon holds the honor of winning the Arlington vote more times than any other candidate on a presidential ticket. Arlington voted for Nixon five times, as a vice presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956, and as a presidential candidate in 1960, 1968 and 1972. [InsideNova]
HillNow.com Launches — ARLnow.com has a new sister site, Hill Now, which covers local news in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and around D.C.’s Ward 6. Hill Now launched this week and held a launch party Wednesday at Capitol Lounge. [Hill Now]