A new logo and seal for Arlington County could be chosen from community submissions in June of 2021.
Members of the County Board gave the go-ahead to a logo-change process during their recessed meeting Tuesday evening. Before doing so, Board members agreed to shorten the process by one month and asked county staff to come back in June with a timeline estimating how long it will take to phase out the logo.
“We’ve had this discussion since July,” Takis Karantonis said. “This logo is offensive, therefore we are really in a hurry to retire it and make it disappear from our official documents, etc.”
County Manager Mark Schwartz promised to come back with a timeline next summer, anticipating it will take a while to figure out everywhere the logo pops up.
“I will not begin to even guess the number of places the symbol appears on the sides of vehicles and things,” he said.
Board Chair Libby Garvey, who said she no longer wears a pin with the county seal, predicted that “it’s going to take us a little while” to completely phase out the use of Arlington House — also known as the Robert E. Lee Memorial.
The County Board agreed to embark on a plan to change the logo this September, after the Arlington branch of the NAACP said it is time to remove the “divisive and racist” Arlington House, “a symbol of a slave labor camp,” from the County logo and seal.
With the Board’s blessing, Schwartz will start advertising a logo review panel. It will be filled with nine to 11 community members representing a range of races and ethnicities, ages and abilities, who hail from different neighborhoods and business communities. Schwartz will ultimately pick the panelists.
The County would ask for submissions in February. The panel will narrow them down to five at most and have the top contenders developed by a professional graphic designer in March and April. In May, the community would rank their picks and in June, the County Board will make the final choice.
The new design, whatever it is, will be used both as a seal and a logo.
Proposed design ideas have included dogwood trees, the Potomac River, the Rosslyn skyline, and the Pentagon, as well as abstract concepts like peace and diversity.
The history of the logo is fairly recent, according to Schwartz.
The first instance of the Arlington House on an official county document that the County could find was in 1974. In 1983, the County adopted the house to adorn the County flag, and in 2004, the symbol in use now was adopted as the logo. Today, the County has a separate seal and logo, both of which feature the house.
In 1972, Congress renamed the Arlington House as “Arlington House: the Robert E. Lee Memorial,” in honor of the Confederate general, who once lived in the historic mansion on the grounds of the future Arlington National Cemetery. In 1861, after Virginia seceded, the Lees fled the home and in 1864, the federal government seized the property because the Lees owed taxes on it.
The redesign joins a growing list of public spaces that have been or are being renamed. A renaming process for Lee Highway (Route 29) has recommended “Loving Avenue” as a new name for the commercial corridor and commuter route. On Saturday, the County Board approved a new name for Henry Clay Park: Zitkala-Sa, after an Indigenous writer and activist who lived in the area.
To streamline the renaming and naming parks, streets and buildings — which involves multiple departments — the County also approved on Tuesday a new process that includes the formation of a group that would review every proposed name or name change.