The following letter to the editor was submitted by Joan K. Lawrence, Chair of the Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Board.
The recently posted “Peter’s Take” commentary calling for the rejection of historic designation for the Stratford School is both premature and uninformed. Arlington does not create local historic districts lightly. There are many public hearings involving the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB), the Planning Commission and the County Board, as well as the School Board, when the property in question is a school. This process is still in progress.
The designation process was started by a request from Arlingtonians and included one of the four African-American students who made national headlines on February 2, 1959. On that day, in the face of the massive resistance movement in Virginia, four students, escorted by police, walked from Old Dominion Drive and entered Stratford through a door in the back of the building to begin the integration of Virginia’s public schools. This door and the adjacent central portion of the building remain part of Stratford and are clearly visible. It is still possible today to experience the site and enter the building as those courageous students did over 56 years ago. Children and adults can actually put themselves into the picture of what happened that day because the façade of the school has not been altered.
Capacity can be added to the current Stratford building without covering over the central portion of the rear of the building. This has been demonstrated over and over at public meetings. We just need the will to maintain the visual link with our past.
Stratford’s significance in our history was recognized over a decade ago when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. We owe this designation to these four brave students and to the current and future generations of students and citizens of Arlington.
Joan K. Lawrence
Chair, Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Board
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