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A Video Tour of Arlington’s “Essential” Historic Properties

by ARLnow.com February 14, 2011 at 11:42 am 3,353 28 Comments

For just over four years, county staff have been taking an inventory of Arlington’s historic buildings. The fruits of that labor are now paying off.

Of the nearly 400 properties that were surveyed, Arlington has now designated 23 as “essential historic properties.” Among them are the Colonial Village apartments and the buildings that house some of Clarendon’s most popular nightspots, including Clarendon Ballroom and Lyon Hall.

In the county-produced video above, Arlington County spokewoman Mary Curtius talks with Arlington Historic Preservation Program Coordinator Michael Leventhal about what makes those properties “essential” and why it’s important to preserve them. The actual properties are listed near the end of the video, as well as online.

The video notes that since the survey began, about 100 of the 400 historic properties have been demolished.

  • CrystalMikey

    Thanks for the link to the official county site…it’s cool reading about the “older” buildings in the county.

  • Overgrown Bush

    I wish they’d have protected the old Putt Putt in Ballston and even, more recently, the Bob Peck dealership. We’ve lost a lot already.

  • Get Real

    Dang, The Garden City shopping center made the list. I hope that doesn’t discourage development of that strip of land.

  • Southeast Ben

    Sweet! I’m glad to know that honey hole of Clarendon Ballroom will be protected. I can’t wait to tell my kids of the damage that was done in that place 🙂

    • GeorgeOrwell

      sorry, but this list just says that it is iMPORTANT.
      Doesn’t say that the county is going to butt-kiss to save it.
      which is why Bob Peck is gone; Barto is about to be gone; ALL THOSE apartments along Clarendon Blvd are gone, etc etc etc.
      It’s just a list. nothing more.

      • Overgrown Bush

        Actually, what is important to the County is higher density to roll in those real estate taxes.

        • Get Real

          Higher density is beeing mandated from the state of VA, not Arl county.

          • Overgrown Bush

            GR, please cite the source.

          • Get Real

            Contact Melinda Artman ([email protected])in zoning. I met with her a few weeks ago on a related topic an basically higher density is being pushed from Richmond.

          • charlie

            the UDA requirement being approved in Richmond are only recommended and NOT required. They also don’t apply to Arlington.
            but yes the state, and some advocacy groups (like PEC), are pushing for density requirements in counties with rapid population growth.

  • JohnW

    Curiously wondering why the Saegmuller stone water tower built in 1896 and the 1904-built Saegmueller Mansion both on Little Falls Road aren’t on the ‘essential’ or the ‘important’ list.

    • Lou

      The “Essential” list seems to omit all the single-family type residential structures that are already on the National Register list. For whatever reason.

      • charlie

        and yet it is the Knights of Columbus, not a single family building. and the site is a wonderful redevelopment opportunity.
        the list isn’t worth the webpage it is posted on.

        • Lou

          Apparently they are using its residential history to determine inclusion/exclusion on the list. They seemed to consciously omit buildings with single-family history.

          What kind of redevelopment would you think is appropriate for it?

          • charlie

            it is zoned for single-family and at 10 acres it could be up to 40 single family homes. now THAT would tax sweet little nottingham school.

          • Lou

            But it’s classified as General Commercial, not Single-Family Detached. Same thing with properties like WGCC (R-10, but General Commercial). To keep someone from infilling with McMansions.

    • cj

      For whatever reason, the “essential” list is limited to garden apartments, shopping centers and individual commercial buildings. The KofC Hall, Glebe House and others aren’t in those categories so aren’t included here.

  • The Native

    Bob Peck… Really, that place was ugly as sin and falling apart in the later years. Good riddance. You’d probably like to save that shack on S Glebe Rd too. What is it about perceived nestslgia that makes people stupid?

    • local

      The only interesting part of that structure, the funny-shaped facade, will be reflected in the new building.

    • True native

      That’s an incredibly insensitive and shortsighted comment. Bob peck was a TRUE local landmark. The showroom was originally incorporated in the approved architectural plans for the new building. That is, until the builder demolished it in the dead of night to avoid public outcry. Classy move.

  • Art Deco

    You may have noticed, that the smart developers and tenants use these properties to their advantage. Spider Kelly’s, the Clarendon Ballroom, Clarendon Grill, Tallula’s, Eventide and others I’m sure I’ve forgotten, have all used their buildings character and distinctive architecture to add a sense that these are special places, not just another chain. This is very much what we want in our community. Adaptive reuse makes for more interesting streetscapes and neighborhoods. Just visit any suburban “Town Center” to how cookie cutter and faux looks. It neither looks special nor is it a place you want to visit again.

  • MC

    The flaw with this project is that it doesn’t distinguish what’s “historic” from what has architectural merit. Frankly, many of the garden apartment’s aren’t distinguished looking at all — retreads of standard Virginia colonial style done on a factory scale. A few of garden apartments in the last are outright ugly, as are some commercial buildings such as Glebe center and similar strip shopping buildings designed for cars.

    I love some of Arlington’s old buildings, including many not shown in the video. But trying to protect them needs to be based on sound rationale, and this County employee didn’t offer such a rationale in this video, he mostly offered a perservationist-history buff’s argument for keeping buildings are intriguing to only a few. So what that many buildings needed to be constructed in a hurry during the depression, second world war, and early cold war to house government workers flooding into the DC area. Do we need to preserve all of these simply because they were once critical to the expansion of the Federal government? They were utilitarian buildings when built, served their purpose ( such as to house public works or wartime government employees), but were never designed to be “affordable housing” for the 21st century, which is what the County wants to have them as. While some are solid and attractive, many are institutional, in poor condition and not easily upgraded to modern amenities. Public housing projects from the Depression area can look today like depressing housing project. They were never glamorous, they were meant to look like public schools, and I can’t get too sentimental about them.

  • wat

    I was super stoked when I saw Sheffield Court old timey photo.

  • wat

    “The video notes that since the survey began, about 100 of the 400 historic properties have been demolished.”

    I liked some of those a lot, like the ones on clarendon blvd around 14th st in rosslyn, just before clarendon blvd merges back with wilson. I’m sure they were shitholes on the inside, but i really liked the layout of the buildings and community.
    whatever goes in, though it may look nicer, will still be a shithole in comparison to old architecture.

  • othersideoftheriver

    The Mesrobian buildings he mentions are lovely.

    Also, the copy for most of the historic markers in the county is on the Arlington Historical Society web site: http://www.arlingtonhistoricalsociety.org/learn/sites_properties/index.html

  • g_clifford_prout

    No personal property sticker on that woman’s car. County vehicle?


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