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Then and Now: Clarendon Metro Area

by Katie Pyzyk December 12, 2012 at 1:00 pm 8,035 48 Comments


The above photo on the left shows the Clarendon Metro station under construction, before it opened in December 1979. Clarendon first became part of a streetcar line in 1896, as a transfer point between the Rosslyn-Clarendon line and the D.C.-Falls Church line. The current Metro Orange Line closely follows the old Rosslyn-Clarendon route.

In 1920, the same year the Virginia legislature officially named Arlington (previously known as Alexandria County) to avoid confusion with the City of Alexandria, there was an effort to incorporate Clarendon as a town. The courts eventually prevented it from going through. Under current Virginia law, counties that have population densities greater than 1,000 people per square mile cannot create a new municipality within the county.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Clarendon affectionately became known as “Little Saigon” due to a number of Vietnamese restaurants opening in the neighborhood. Queen Bee is one of those restaurants, pictured in the late 1980s photo on the above right.

Below is a photo of how that section of Clarendon looks today. Spider Kelly’s now occupies 3181 Wilson Blvd, which is where Queen Bee was located until it closed in 2006.

Historic photos courtesy Arlington Public Library’s Virginia Room

  • Clarendon

    Love how the county has added street trees everywhere like from the time the top picture was taken to now along the strip with Ballroom and Spider Kelly’s. They’ve grown pretty big.

  • JamesE

    Ballroom would look better as the rubble in photo #1

    • novasteve

      It’s a waste of space. I wish some other business would open up and make good use of the building. Anything would be better than the current douche magnet it currently is.

      • John Fontain

        So you don’t like the idea of free markets working on their own?

        • John Fontain

          Meant as a reply to steve

        • novasteve

          When did I say that? I just look forward to actually wanting to go to that building one day.

  • novasteve

    Went from Little Saigon to Little Pretentious.

    • chris

      Funniest thing I have read all day, funnier than “Naked ballston Guy”

    • tiredofsteve

      novasteve -if you dislike this area and the people that represent it so much, why don’t you find another community to live in. I just went through all your comments on Rep. Moran (many of which were either inaccurate or just not true) and now your comments about Clarendon being pretentious. Just stop it. Stop being so negative about a pretty wonderful community.

      • Patrick

        Way to be tolerant of other viewpoints. Steve has just as much a right to express his opinions on things in arlington as anyone else. He certainly doesn’t deserve to be told to go live somewhere else b/c some people on a comment section of a local website don’t agree with him. If you don’t appreciates steve comments DON’T read them. I for one am thankful to know that this entire county isn’t filled with bleeding heart liberals who think alike. Not to mention I would say that steve’s comment on Clarendon is pretty spot on.

        • Ivy

          Patrick, where does tired of steve say Steve has no right to express his opinions? Tired of steve has a right to express his opinions as well. Perhaps you should be more tolerant.

      • novasteve

        Go defend our antisemitic congressman. Go defend him calling bashing a woman’s head in as an “accident”. I will continue to post about Arlington and Clarendon and my views on such places. Funny how you guys tell me to leave if I dont’ like it, but if you found a community that was too conservative, you’d demand that it change to accomodate you.

        • Ivy

          I guess it is just common sense to move if you find so many things wrong with a place. I would never live in a place I don’t like. If you are interested in “too conservative,” there is always Spotslyvania County and a lot of Loudon County and West Va.

      • DisplacedArlingtonion

        Sounds like he hit pretentious right on the head, may I ask, are you a native Arlingtonion? I would bet against it…..

  • nom de guerre

    As a tribute to Little Saigon, Sam’s Food Truck features Vietnamese style grilled pork and lemongrass with a carrot, cucumber, daikon radish and bean sprout slaw infused with nuoc mam and rice vinegar on an artisan french baguette topped with toasted peanuts.

  • arlcyclist

    For those who enjoy old photos of Arlington I highly recommend Michael Horsley’s flickr set, Hidden Arlington… http://www.flickr.com/photos/kinorama/sets/72157623355857077/

    • Buckwheat

      Great old pics of Arlington!

      What happened to the guy at Arlington Shoe Repair? I know he relocated to a small shack in the lot behind Whole Foods, but then he disappeared.

    • CrystalMikey

      Wow, thanks for sharing!

    • 1RLI

      Thanks for the link. I just took a pretty enjoyable journey down memory lane.

  • NumNum

    Queen Bee > Spider Kelly’s

    • novasteve

      But you couldn’t go to Queen Bee and show off. I’m glad a bit of culture is gone so I can go show off and impress people I don’t even like!

    • b-money

      In other news, 2 > 1

      • ballstonbot

        bus > streetcar

        • Trolly Troll

          Worst emoticon ever

          • ballstonbot


    • GrownUpAlready

      I LOVED the Queen Bee! Especially the Hanoi grilled pork wraps with the vermicelli noodles. If we give back the playpen of infantility that is Spider Kelly’s, can we please have the Queen Bee again?

  • Ashton Heights

    Old things really suck. I’m glad it’s all different now. Can’t wait for the VA Square-Clarendon infill to undergo the same treatment.

  • History Repeats

    Based on the photo during the construction of the Clarendon Metro, they apparently tore a building down that was standing where the Metro is now. What building used to be there?

    • Clarendon

      There were several. Including JC Penny, Ashton Theatre and some other little shops. I think the Clarendon Trust Bank was at the other end (where the WWI monument is now).

  • Mike

    “Clarendon first became part of a streetcar line in 1896, as a transfer point between the Rosslyn-Clarendon line and the D.C.-Falls Church line.”

    And what a mistake that was! Horse cars would have offered a lot more flexibility, and would not have led to the area getting so gentrified.

    • Clarendon

      I think the first street car was actually pulled by horses up the hill from Rossyln.

      • John

        JC Penny’s and Peoples Drug were right across the street. The Clarendon Alliance has beautiful color photos of that side of the block back in 1958.

        • Helen

          JC Penny’s was located at the corner of Highland & Wilson where the metro is located. Down the street was Clarendon Optical also.

    • Hank

      An excellent point. That streetcar totally screwed Clarendon. Back in the 1920s, you couldn’t go a furlong on Clarendon Blvd without passing a new frozen dairy treat emporium or a flipped over Packard (probably because the driver was too busy fiddling with his crystal radio).

  • CW

    This is awesome!

  • arlvapete

    I used to frequent My-Ann fabrics. Beautiful silks and other elegant fabrics in the front, a pool hall in the back. It was on the block with the Clarendon Ballroom, but I don’t exactly remember where now.

  • CrystalMikey

    Love the “then and now”s…keep them coming!

  • School Marm

    Clarendon first became part of a streetcar line in 1896

    Uh-huh. And where is your “streetcar” now? Remember that, Columbia Pike!

  • Tall Boy


    Pictures of KalashniKEV’s and novasteve’s ideal Arlington.

    • novasteve

      God I miss putt putt so much 🙁

      • Louise

        So walk up the hill to Upton Hill, Steve . . .

  • John

    The Clarendon Alliance has excellent photos of Clarendon in its 1950s heyday for the curious. The alliance is right next to South Block Smoothie.

  • snicker

    LOVE Spider Kellys – screw you old folks, from reading this thread, this is what I gather – boohoo, they tore down all the stuff I thought was cool, but the last generation probaly thought was pretentious, to build new stuff that we now think is pretenious. Yay for the circle of life so to speak. Hey, you know what – Arlington is expensive, Arlington is trendy, don’t like it – too bad, as many of us do and we chose to live here and make this our home — you were here first, you say? so what, that just makes you older and as such we will be here last.

    • JamesE

      ^^^^ dude bro

    • Glebe Roader

      I don’t love Spider Kelly’s in any way shape or form. But, I agree with your assessment that Arlington has evolved and the “old folks” don’t like it. Many of the “old folks” seem to love Dr. Dremo’s. But, the Dremo’s building was an Oldsmobile dealership. The “old folks” of that time probably wanted their dealership back and the “trendy douches” of the time loved Dremo’s.

      Also, if you look at the flickr photos (which are great, BTW), you will see virtually nobody walking the streets of Clarendon. The photos are mostly from 25 years ago – the late 1980s.

    • drax

      And when you’re older you’ll be ranting about whatever pretentious douchebag joint replaces Spider Kelly’s.

  • Govleach

    So in the late 70’s and early 80’s, what were the happening party spots in Clarendon/Ballston? I moved here in 2000, so just curious.


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