Rosslyn wasn’t always the ho-hum collection of office towers and apartment buildings that it is today. A century ago, it was filled with gambling dens, rough-and-tumble saloons and houses of prostitution.
Photos from the bad old days adorn the walls of Artisphere’s Work-in-Progress Gallery for an exhibit called “Rosslyn: A Work in Progress.” The exhibit, which runs through March 13, “chronicles Rosslyn’s origins as a lawless, rowdy community in the 1800’s to the thriving urban village it is today, through historical items and images, and renderings of developments coming soon.”
At an opening reception last week, we caught up with local historian Kathryn Holt Springston, who told us some stories of Rosslyn’s bawdy past.
“From 1865, the end of the Civil War, up until 1906, it was so bad. There were 38 saloons, 14 bordellos and who knows how many gambling dens, that were open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
“Cunningham’s was just on a hill above Rosslyn, and it was the only [bordello] that was actually burned before Crandall Mackey’s great raid. What happened was that a soldier from Fort Myer was killed there, so the other soldiers from Fort Myer went over there one night and torched the place.”
“Crandall Mackey is like the hero of Rosslyn. In 1904 he was elected Commonwealth’s Attorney by one vote. He armed a party of 12 men with axes, sawed-off shotguns, etc. They rode the train down to Jackson City, which is where the 14th Street Bridge is today, and smashed it up because Jackson City was even worse than Rosslyn. Then they walked up to Rosslyn, they smashed in all the bordellos, threw the whiskey into the street, set some of the places on fire, smashed the gambling dens. The next day the Evening Star had a two inch headline: “Mackey Makes it Safe for Humanity in Alexandria County by Cleaning up Rosslyn Bums.”
(Arlington was called Alexandria County up until 1920, when it was renamed by the Virginia General Assembly to honor Robert E. Lee.)
“So Mackey did a lot, but it still stayed pretty bad. There were bordellos such as Follansbee’s, which continued up until the 1920s or 1930s. [There was a] church was in the back, [behind] the 23 bedroom house. My favorite story about this house, though, comes from 1981. A person bought it and petitioned the county board for permission to return it to ‘original use.’ They were ready to vote on it and were going to go ahead with it, when one of the planners said ‘um, excuse me, isn’t prostitution illegal?’ And they went ‘oh no!’ So [the owner] turned it into a tanning parlor, which isn’t far off. That house is gone now, and so is the church.”
“After Mackey’s raid, Rosslyn had some bordellos and gambling dens and a few saloons but it started getting more desperate. The lumber yards moved in, the junk yards, the pawn shops. And it became a real dive. Even as late as the 1960s, people didn’t want to come to Rosslyn. It was so bad that they would form armed convoys to go back and forth. To go into D.C. they would have to line up along Lee Highway and form a convoy.”
“A lady I knew took a government job that was headquartered in [Rosslyn] in 1946. She got on the train, came down here, got off the train at Rosslyn station, walked two blocks over there, took one look and said ‘I don’t care how good this job is. Forget it, I’m not working in a place like this.’ So it was pretty bad.”
New Spring Street home near Westover Village, 2 home offices, screened porch
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Is home ownership a goal of yours in 2023? Now is the time to make it happen! Grab a (virtual) drink with the area’s top Real Estate experts, learn all about the home buying process and on how you can get $1,500 towards your closing costs immediately!
Did you know the average Arlington renter will spend $150K in 5 years of renting? Stop paying down someone else’s mortgage! Join us for a Rent vs. Buy Happy Hour on Wednesday, April 5th at 6 p.m. via Zoom. If this time doesn’t work, we also are offering times convenient for your schedule!
A lot has happened in the local market since the beginning of the pandemic. Sip on your drink of choice and learn from Northern Virginia, Arlington and Washingtonian Magazines top producing agents! We will discuss the latest market updates, the home buying process and rent vs. buy cost savings. Please RSVP by clicking here.
Call/text Manavi at 703-869-6698 with any questions!
Synetic Theater Camps are a wildly fun, highly accessible choice for young people who love moving, playing games, and making memories. Registration is open now for Summer Camps (sessions June 20-August 25) and there are even a few spots left for Spring Break camp, April 3-7.
Located in National Landing, these performance-based camps are designed for students of all ages – no theater or performance experience required.
Led by professional teaching artists, campers learn acting, movement, and technical theater skills through the lens of Physical Theater. Physical Theater incorporates acting, movement, dance, mime, and acrobatics. If you’ve seen a Cirque du Soleil performance, you’ll find many similarities.
Most first-time campers are new to the performing arts, and teaching artists are well-versed in engaging students at all levels. Parents and campers report that one of the best parts of Synetic is the community, with many families returning year after year because they feel a strong sense of belonging.
Private School Fair
Congressional School to Host MONA Private School Fair Thursday, April 27 at 6:30 PM
Congressional School in Falls Church, VA is delighted to host the MONA (Mothers of North Arlington) at an upcoming Private School Fair. Private schools from around
WHS Spring Festival
Join us at the WHS Spring Festival on April 22, 2023, from 10am- 3pm at Wakefield High School(main parking lot). Come out to shop, play, and eat!
Shop local vendors, arts & crafts, new and used items, food vendors/trucks, and