Want a glimpse of how Arlington has changed over the past 65 years?
The video above, produced by VDOT, shows a drive across the Key Bridge and up Lee Highway in 1949, juxtaposed with the same drive in 2014.
You’ll notice the things that aren’t there any more: large billboards in Rosslyn, streetcar tracks, and a Gulf Oil gas station. You’ll also notice things that are still there — like the Lyon Village Apartments — and things that were yet to be built — like Rosslyn’s tall office buildings.
‘Damn Yankees’ Was Written in Arlington Home — The book that was the basis for the musical “Damn Yankees” was written in Alcova, a historic home in Arlington. A family of four now lives in the house, after buying it for $950,000 in 2012. [Falls Church News-Press]
Shirlington Library Temporarily Closed — Shirlington Branch Library was closed Thursday and is expected to reopen this morning following “a maintenance issue with the building HVAC system.” [Library Blog]
NBC’s Chuck Todd Gives Back in Arlington — “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd lives in Arlington and says he prefers giving back to local causes rather than national charities. Among other causes, Todd volunteers at Arlington Free Clinic. “You have a community where you have a lot of wealth in one part of the county and a lot of poverty in the other, and it’s right in D.C.’s backyard,” he said of the motivation for his volunteer work. [USA Today]
The church was built in 1964 and designed by architect Charles Goodman, who also designed the original terminal at Reagan National Airport, according to Preservation Arlington. Several other Goodman-designed buildings, including the DCA terminal, have been named to the National Register.
“The building references traditional meeting halls and temple buildings in its form and has character-defining features of the Brutalist style in the Modern Movement,” the building’s registration form for the National Register reads. “Brutalist design sought to dramatize major building elements such as the frame, sheathing and mechanical systems. Known for an emphasis on bulky, heavy massing, Brutalist buildings often feature exterior walls made of unfinished concrete.”
Church additions were built in 1994 and 2013, but the main sanctuary and the plot of land’s site plan, designed by Goodman, have remained largely unchanged, the form states. The congregation wanted the building to “reflect their liberal, progressive beliefs and that would signify the UUCA’s leadership position within the denomination.”
Getting the church named a state landmark was a two-year process, Minister Linda Olson Peebles said. The church and its members were proud to see the architecture be recognized.
“[Congregants] told us they were impressed not only by the quality of the design of the building, but Charles Goodman spent a lot of time with the congregation and incorporating the values and theology of the congregation into the design of the building,” Olson Peebles said. “We’re hoping by it being put on the national registry, people will realize that the physical presence of a group in a community matters. It says something to the world.”
Hat tip to Preservation Arlington
Fmr. Arlington Man Pleads Guilty to Murder — Lamont Deshawn Terry, a 39-year-old former Arlington resident, has pleaded guilty to the 1992 fatal shooting of a D.C. man at Hains Point. Terry had driven from Arlington to D.C. with plans to commit a robbery when he encountered victim Chet Hunter Matthews and his girlfriend in a parked car. [Washington Post]
Heritage Center in Courthouse? – An Arlington Heritage Center, hosting exhibits about Arlington’s history and cultural heritage, could eventually be built in Courthouse. Officials are looking at the redeveloped Courthouse Square area as a potential site for the long-sought center. A heritage center on Columbia Pike, which had been discussed previously, is apparently no longer being considered. [InsideNova]
Crystal City McDonald’s Lease Sells for Millions — A ground lease for the Crystal City McDonald’s, at 2620 Jefferson Davis Highway, has been sold for $7.35 million, a possible record. The McDonald’s, which pays around $300,000 per year to lease the land, is expected to remain there through 2026. [Washington Business Journal]
ACFD’s 9/11 Response — Last Thursday, Arlington County fire chief James Schwartz recounted the department’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Arlington was uniquely prepared for the unfathomable attack, thanks to its location and response to other major disasters like the 1982 Air Florida crash, Schwartz said. He also lauded Arlington’s role in the evidence gathering effort, which included finding the terrorists’ drivers’ licenses. [Falls Church News-Press]
WJLA Takes Right Turn Under New Ownership — Rosslyn-based WJLA (ABC 7) has taken a rightward turn following its purchase by Sinclair Broadcast Group. The station now airs conservative commentary, critical of President Obama and “government waste,” during its newscasts. It has also fired much of its longtime management team. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Highmuckmuck
Arlington’s Maywood neighborhood lost its foremost historian last month.
Robert McAtee, the community’s oldest resident, died Aug. 10 at the age of 100. A colorful local figure, “Mac” was a captain in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was known for his love of collectables, Scottish history and of telling tales of “old Arlington.”
Members of Maywood’s neighborhood listserv were informed of McAtee’s passing last week. The email included an obituary, written by Maywood resident Peter Harnik.
The obit is reprinted, with permission, below.
Robert McAtee, the oldest resident of Arlington’s Maywood neighborhood, died on Sunday, August 10. He was just two months shy of 101 and had lived in the same house for 98 years.
Universally known as “Mac,” Mr. McAtee was an institution in the county, attending community meetings and high school reunions in the kilt of his Scottish kinsmen and regaling all listeners with scrupulously accurate stories of old Arlington. An inveterate collector, Mac is reported to have had more than 20,000 license plates and 1,000 books of Scottish history along with cameras, buttons, stamps, coins, fossils, and much more.
He attended Cherrydale Elementary School (since demolished) and enjoyed telling stories of clambering along (and under) the trestle of the old Washington and Old Dominion Railroad. He also attended Washington-Lee High School, where he was a proud member of the Cadet Corps. After graduation in 1932, he began his working life at the Government Printing Office, where he worked until being drafted into the Army of the US in the fall of 1941. Mac was selected to attend Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA where he graduated with Class 13. He served for three years and was honorably discharged as a Captain. To further contribute to the war effort, Mac subsequently volunteered for the US Maritime Service.
At the conclusion of World War II, Mac returned to Maywood. He attended Columbia Tech where he studied electrical engineering. He worked for General Electric for a short time until he began managing a trailer rental lot on Lee Highway. In 1955 he purchased a trailer rental business at Seven Corners which he operated for over 45 years.
Mac had one sister but was never married and leaves no survivors. In recent years he was cared for by his long-time friend Robert Beck, Katherine Skerl, and care-givers Denora, Amy, and Marina.
In addition to good health, he also had a prodigious memory. Almost until the end he could rattle off the names of every family member in virtually every house in Maywood in the 1930s. He delighted showing visitors his collection of 24 letters and postcards – each with a different address – that had arrived at his house. The house didn’t change, but over the years its street name, city name, post office, zip code and other identifiers did.
Mac also reported that his family was the first in the neighborhood to install indoor plumbing. He told of the regular deliveries of milk, eggs, coal and blocks of ice, and he pointed out the location of small shops and the kindergarten within what is now the residential neighborhood.
He was perhaps best known in the neighborhood for annually renewing his automobile’s license plate with his updated age, usually entwining Roman numerals with his initials. Even though he wasn’t able to drive at the end, he kept his car, and at his death his plate spelled simply “RBM 100″.
Mr. McAtee took part in many recorded remembrances and also bequeathed much of his historically significant collection to the Virginia Room of the Arlington Library.
A memorial service will be held in the Fall.
After the jump: McAtee’s memories of Arlington in the first half of the 20th century, reprinted with permission. (more…)
Tomorrow (August 9) marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s resignation from office in light of the Watergate scandal, and Central Library is marking the historic anniversary with a display of memorabilia and an author visit.
The library has a temporary display of Nixon-related items that visitors can check out through the end of the month. A private, local collector allowed the library to borrow the pieces of memorabilia covering the decades from Nixon’s 1950s vice-presidential campaign through his death in 1994. The display includes a couple dozen items including newspapers, masks and even a section of carpet from the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate — the target of the 1972 break-in that sparked a larger investigation.
The collector is particularly proud of a t-shirt from the late 1970s prompting readers to “Don’t Buy Books By Crooks.” It was part of a national campaign, started in Arlington, to encourage people not to buy Nixon’s memoirs. The headquarters for that campaign was located close to where the Ballston Metro station currently exists.
“We live in this incredibly fascinating capital area, and our national history often is also our local Arlington history in a lot of ways,” said library spokesman Peter Golkin.
On Tuesday (August 12), author Elizabeth Drew will visit the library to talk about covering the events surrounding the Watergate scandal, and about the reissue of her book “Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall.” She will reflect on Nixon’s ability to make a comeback and discuss what the scandal means in the 21st century. Copies of Drew’s book will be available for sale and signing during the event, which runs from 7:00-9:00 p.m.
“It’s a rare opportunity to hear one of the major journalists to cover Watergate speak,” said Golkin. He notes that although many Americans were focused on newspaper coverage of the scandal, Drew’s reporting was a major contribution because “her coverage in The New Yorker gave it a context you can only get from that kind of long-form journalism.”
Construction to Begin on Ballston Garage – Local developer The Shooshan Company says it is beginning construction on a 550-space parking garage at 4040 Wilson Blvd, site of a planned 20-story office building in Ballston. The building is the final component of Shooshan’s Liberty Center development. [Washington Business Journal]
Clarendon Day Date Set — The annual Clarendon Day street fair will be held on Saturday, Sept. 27, the Clarendon Alliance has announced. This year the event will add a bluegrass music stage next to the Clarendon Chili Cookoff. The layout is also being changed “to make it easier for people to find the cold beverages of their choice.” [Clarendon Alliance]
VDOT Warns of E-Z Pass Scam — VDOT says some Virginia E-Z Pass users have reported receiving emails demanding payment for a past due debt. The emails are a scam, the department says. It’s unclear how the scammer obtained the email addresses of E-Z Pass holders. [Reston Now]
New Arlington Book Released — “We Are Arlington,” a book featuring 180 pages of photos and history about Arlington and Arlington residents, is now on sale. The author is Bill Hamrock, co-owner of Pasha Cafe and Billy’s Cheesesteaks in Cherrydale. [Preservation Arlington]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) The remaining section of the coal trestle from the old Washington & Old Dominion Railroad in East Falls Church could be given a historic district designation by Arlington County.
The trestle was partly on the property controlled by the NOVA Parks (formerly the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority), and partly on 6873 Lee Highway, a plot of land owned by Robert Shreve Fuel Company, which demolished its section of the trestle last week to make room for a storage facility.
The County Board is scheduled to vote on whether to advertise public hearings on the trestle’s historic designation this coming Tuesday.
The staff report for the agenda item reveals that county staff “learned of the demolition as it was taking place the morning of June 5,” but discovered that Shreve Fuel did not require permits to conduction the work.
The county’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) determined that the trestle was suitable for historic designation because it met four criteria:
- The property has character, interest, or value as part of the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of the county, state, or nation;
- The property has a distinctive location, or singular physical characteristics that make it an established or familiar visual feature;
- The property is a particularly fine or unique example of a utilitarian structure representing a period or style in the commercial, industrial, or agricultural development of the county, with a high level of historic integrity or architectural significance; and
- The property is suitable for preservation or restoration.
The demolition took place following a May 21, 2014 meeting in which the HALRB voted in favor of a historic designation for the trestle.
Shreve Fuel agreed to give NOVA Parks the segment of track from the old railroad that was on top of the trestle for future “interpretation.” According to NOVA Parks Executive Director Paul Gilbert, about 75 percent of the trestle still stands and is on NOVA Parks land.
“Benjamin Elliott’s Coal Trestle retains sufficient historic, cultural, and physical integrity to be designated as a local historic district by Arlington County,” the staff report states. “Benjamin Elliott’s Coal Trestle was built in 1926 in the East Falls Church neighborhood. The utilitarian structure reflects the former industrial and commercial landscape that existed in the neighborhood. Such small-scale commercial coal trestles were instrumental in the processing of coal for local delivery to residences and businesses. This coal trestle is a visual reminder of a critical early-20th century energy infrastructure that fueled the electrification and development of Arlington County and the region. There are no other coal trestles extant within the County.”
Police Locate Autistic Man With Lojack — The Arlington County Police Department’s Lojack-powered Project Lifesaver has helped locate another missing man. A 29-year-old autistic man who wandered away from his group home was located by police Wednesday morning, less than an hour after he was reported missing. [Arlington County]
APS Receives Award — Arlington Public Schools has received “the prestigious Medallion of Excellence Award presented by the U.S. Senate Productivity and Quality Awards for Virginia and the District of Columbia (SPQA).” APS is the ninth Virginia school division to be recognized since the award was established in 1983. [Arlington Public Schools]
W-L Advances to State Tourney — Washington-Lee High School’s boys soccer team defeated West Potomac 4-2 Tuesday night to advance to the 6A North Region title game and to the Virginia High School League state tournament. [InsideNova]
Library Digitizing Local Newspapers — Arlington Public Library is digitizing its microfilm archive of the Northern Virginia Sun newspaper, originally named the Arlington Sun. The new digital archives will be text searchable, “a boon for researchers, history buffs and anyone searching for specific moments in Arlington’s 20th century story.” The archives cover 1935 to 1978. [Arlington Public Library]
County Bureau Runs ‘Like a Startup’ – Arlington County Commuter Services, which is charged with getting more Arlington residents and workers to bike, walk or take transit rather than drive, “looks and operates more like a start-up tech company than a government agency.” [Mobility Lab]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
Arlington Tied for Lowest Unemployment in Va. — Though it once held the title by itself, Arlington is now tied for the lowest jobless rate in Virginia. Arlington and the city of Falls Church both had a jobless rate of 3.2 percent in April. [InsideNova]
Police Release Photos of Burglary Suspect — The Arlington County Police Department has released surveillance photos of a suspect accused of stealing a laptop computer from an office in Ballston. [Arlington County]
CNBC Broadcasts from Crystal City — CNBC broadcast a live shot from Crystal City yesterday morning. The network’s real estate reporter, Diana Olick, profiled the new $50 million Crystal Tech Fund, its collaborative workspace and founder Paul Singh. [CNBC]
Arlington Was Home to the Original Twitter — Arlington residents had access to Twitter as early as the 1950s. Well, perhaps not all residents — mostly Henry Clay Elementary School students. Twitter was the name of the Clarendon-based school’s newspaper, copies of which are now available for review at Arlington Central Library. [Preservation Arlington]
Rockville Gets Its Own Remy — Local comedian-rapper Remy now has some regional competition for his Arlington Rap. An artist going by the name “Rockville Slim” has created a “Rockville Rap.” [Washington City Paper]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
The list is intended “to heighten awareness of historic sites and resources in the county and to inspire advocacy on behalf of preservation within the Arlington community.”
“This year’s endangered list includes both individual historic buildings as well as building types, along with other important places such as graveyards and public parks,” Preservation Arlington said on its website.
The 2014 list, including excerpts from Preservation Arlington’s description of each:
- Key Boulevard Apartments — “A nearly perfect example of Arlington’s garden apartment housing style… It is now threatened by a site plan amendment to demolish the building and redevelop the site.”
- Arlington Presbyterian Church — “Designed by a prominent local architect… Redevelopment plans are moving forward and, if this building is demolished, a visual reminder of the past and the continuity of community that this landmark provides will disappear.
- Parkland Open Space — “Both the Lubber Run Community Center and surrounding parkland, as well as the Potomac Overlook Regional Park, have been included in recent land grabs to develop and monetize the county’s rapidly decreasing open space and tree canopy… As we continue to further urbanize, parkland becomes an ever-more-valuable asset. It needs to be off-limits to redevelopment.”
- Remnants of an Industrial-Commercial Hub in East Falls Church — “These buildings include the remaining W&OD siding, the Shreve Oil Co. building, and Cars USA, among others… The last few buildings of this area’s important role as a commercial hub in the 20th century are threatened by the redevelopment that is expected to occur with the arrival of the Silver Line transfer station at East Falls Church.”
- Wilson School — “Designed by prominent Richmond architect Charles Morrison Robinson, the Wilson school survives as one of the oldest extant school buildings in Arlington County. While severely altered, it is the last remaining example of early 20th-century institutional architecture in the Rosslyn and Fort Myer Heights neighborhood.”
- Mid-Century Arlington Architecture — “Although less understood and celebrated than other well-known design eras, mid-century modern architecture reflects a very pivotal time in our nation and in Arlington County. Arlington has numerous classic buildings of mid-century architecture that need to be preserved before it is too late.”
- Family Graveyards — “As time passes and family members and descendants grow more distant from their buried ancestors, many of these graveyards are falling into a state of disrepair and neglect, and are threatened by encroaching development. Preservation Arlington encourages Arlington County to assist stewards of these family graveyards to investigate, document, and preserve these properties, before any more of these family histories are lost.”
The group’s 2013 list included National Register neighborhoods, the Arlington House woods, the 1879 Seneca quarry red sandstone cemetery boundary wall, the remnants of the Washington & Old Dominion Railway, low-rise commercial architecture of the 1930s-1950s, the Wilson School, the Blue Goose building and garden apartments.
Photos via Preservation Arlington
Today’s National Security Agency is housed in a sprawling complex in Fort Meade, Md., but, according to a recent lecturer at Arlington Public Library, domestic surveillance by the NSA was perhaps born in Arlington.
Arlington Hall — located off Route 50 between S. Glebe Road and George Mason Drive — was the site of the U.S. Army Signal Intelligence Service (SIS), which became part of the newly-formed National Security Agency in the early 1950s, Robarge said. The Army bought Arlington Hall, which was formerly the site of the Arlington Hall Junior College for Women, in 1943.
Arlington Hall was where the SIS launched a top-secret project called VENONA (which was declassified in the mid-1990s), helmed by Col. Carter Clark.
Clark realized “after World War II was over and we were done fighting the Germans, the Japanese, the Italians and others, we’d eventually be fighting the Russians,” Robarge said. “So he said ‘let’s start watching them very closely, looking at their intelligence communications to see what they’re up to inside the United States.’”
Robarge said Clark assembled a team of linguists and mathematicians in Arlington Hall to break Russian codes. In total, VENONA uncovered more than 300 operatives of the Soviet Union in the federal government, working in the White House, Justice Department and the Manhattan Project.
“If it was involved in national security and the war effort,” Robarge said, “the Soviets had some kind of penetration inside there.”
VENONA uncovered the spying of alleged traitors Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and several others, none of whom could be convicted of treason because VENONA evidence was classified and “couldn’t be used to arrest anyone,” Robarge said.
VENONA was infiltrated by Soviet spies in the late 1940s and officially went dark in 1949, Robarge said. By then, however, the Army’s intelligence service was firmly established at Arlington Hall, which would one day also launch the Defense Intelligence Agency, which departed the facility in 1984 and for Bolling Air Force Base.
The Department of Defense transferred a portion of the facility to the Department of State, and in 1993 the National Foreign Affairs Training Center opened at Arlington Hall.
Photo (bottom) courtesy Arlington Public Library
Shuttleworth Drops Out of Congressional Race — Arlington resident Bruce Shuttleworth has dropped out of the still-crowded race for Congress. There are now 7 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to replace Rep. Jim Moran. Of those, 6 are from Alexandria and only Del. Patrick Hope is from Arlington. [Blue Virginia]
Garvey Phones It In, Literally — Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey, who was injured on Friday in a bicycle accident, voted and participated in Tuesday’s County Board meeting via phone. It’s the first time that has been done in Arlington — Virginia law only recently changed to allow board members to participate in meetings via phone in certain circumstances. [InsideNova]
Clarendon Church Turns 105 — The Church at Clarendon (1210 N. Highland Street) will celebrate its 105th anniversary on Sunday. The church will hold a special anniversary worship service at 11:00 a.m. Originally formed as Clarendon Baptist Church in 1909, the church has seen many changes in its 105 years. One recent change was the new sanctuary that was completed in 2012, as part of a controversial deal that added an 8-story affordable apartment complex above the church.
High Streetcar Ridership Projected — While critics bash the combined $585 million estimated cost of the Crystal City and Columbia Pike streetcar lines, streetcar proponents are calling attention to ridership projections. With 37,100 daily riders by 2035, the combined streetcar system is projected to serve more riders than MARC, VRE and the light rail systems in Baltimore, San Jose, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Charlotte, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Houston, Seattle and Norfolk. [Greater Greater Washington]
Truck Day at the Library on Saturday – Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) is again inviting children “to get up-close and personal with a menagerie of trucks and buses” in the library parking lot. Truck Day will take place from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. There will also be transportation-related crafts inside the library auditorium. The library is warning nearby residents to expect to hear some noise from the trucks and the kids during the event. [Arlington Public Library]
La Tagliatella Expansion Plans on Hold — La Tagliatella, the Europe-based Italian restaurant chain that opened in Clarendon only to receive a scathing review from Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema, is putting its U.S. expansion plans on hold. That includes the chain’s planned Shirlington location, in the former Extra Virgin space. The Clarendon location will remain open for the time being. [Washington Business Journal]
Remembering Arlington’s ‘Little Saigon’ — The timing of two separate events helped to transform the Clarendon neighborhood into a cluster of Vietnamese stores and restaurants known as “Little Saigon” in the 1970s and 80s. One event was the Vietnam War and the Communist takeover of Vietnam, which drove tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees to the United States. The other was the construction of Metro, which drove away mom and pop businesses from Clarendon and forced landlords to lower their rents and seek new tenants. [Falls Church News-Press]
Raises for Top County Officials — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday quietly approved raises between 3.2 and 3.5 percent for top officials like County Manager Barbara Donnellan and County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac. The raises are retroactive to Jan. 1. Rank-and-file county employees are receiving a 3.5 percent raise this year. [Washington Post]
Morroy, O’Leary Join Call for Streetcar Referendum — The two elected officials directly responsible for managing the county’s money, Commissioner of the Revenue Ingrid Morroy and Treasurer Frank O’Leary, have joined Del. Patrick Hope and County Board candidate Alan Howze in support of a referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar project. (Hope’s fellow congressional candidate, Mark Levine, has also called for a referendum.) “This issue has become too divisive to fester any longer,” Morroy said in a press release. [Blue Virginia]
‘Film Processing Kiosk’ to Be Removed from Zoning – In a sign of the times, “film processing kiosk” is being removed from Arlington County’s zoning classifications. The designation was determined to be “archaic,” a victim of the rapid rise of digital photography. [InsideNova]
Ball-Sellers House Tours — The Arlington Historical Society is giving tours of the historic Ball-Sellers house every Saturday through October. The log cabin was built in 1750 and is Arlington County’s oldest house. [Washington Post]
Murphy Named ‘Superintendent of the Year’ — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy has been named Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. The group lauded Murphy’s “efforts to address school-crowding issues, improve graduation rates and address disparity in student achievement.” [InsideNova]
Follow-up: RaceDots Now Shipping – It’s been a long five months for Jason Berry and his company, RaceDots, since the company was profiled in our “Startup Monday” feature in December. Berry has spent long hours since then arranging for his product’s manufacture and shipment from China to the U.S. As of this week, the RaceDots — strong magnets used to hold race bibs in place instead of safety pins — finally arrived in his Harrisonburg warehouse. “The story behind getting the product here was an absolute struggle but we overcame the hurdles and are officially in business selling product from stock,” Berry told ARLnow.com. Berry tells the story on the company’s blog. [RaceDots]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick