Arlington, VA

As a large Arlington estate nears a potential demolition, a local historic preservation group is fighting to have the estate’s main house saved.

The Febrey-Lothrop Estate — also known as the Rouse estate — is a 9-acre site at 6407 Wilson Blvd, near Arlington’s western border with Fairfax County. On it sits a more than 100-year-old home that has housed prominent business figures and celebrities over the years.

With a demolition permit application pending, a local nonprofit hopes that the county government can intervene and preserve the building.

“Over the past 150 years, the Febrey-Lothrop Estate has graced the Upton Hill neighborhood of Arlington,” the Arlington Historical Society (AHS) said in a letter recently sent to the County Board. “Despite war, twentieth-century alterations, and major development of the neighborhood, the manor home and grounds remain a proud, historically significant Arlington landmark.”

The original home on the property was built before the Civil War and once hosted a Union encampment and hospital. The property later became residence of Alvin Lothrop, co-founder of Woodward & Lothrop Department Store; Howard Hughes; and most recently businessman Randolph Rouse and his wife, Honeymooners actress Audrey Meadows.

According to an application for a historical district to protect the home from demolition, filed last year against the wishes of the estate of its late owner, the original home was destroyed and replaced by the current colonial revival-style house in 1907. The Arlington Historical Society, however, says portions of the original home and subsequent additions are likely still part of the building.

“Given the historical significance of the Febrey-Lothrop House, the Arlington Historical Society believes the property must be saved for future generations,” AHS said in the letter. “With requests for demolition permits already in the pipeline, AHS feels an urgent need to prevent harm coming to the Estate.”

The organization requested that the County Board and County Manager issue cease and desist orders, preempting the proposed demolition. AHS also requested that the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmarks Review Board quickly recommend approval an application for Local Historic District designation and forward the designation to the County Board for approval.

The county has already listed the site for potential conversion into a public park in the Parks Master Plan (page 162), though so far it remains owned by Rouse’s estate. The historic district application notes that the property “is extremely attractive to developers for townhouse, condo, single family home, and retail commercial establishments,” due to its large size.

“Over the past 15 years, Arlington has lost many historically and architecturally important buildings to the wrecking ball,” AHS wrote in its letter to the County Board. “Let’s not let another gem go unprotected.”

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The Arlington Historical Society is raising $50,000 for a feasibility study to renovate its home at the Hume School (1805 S. Arlington Ridge Road).

What is now the Arlington Historical Museum was originally constructed in 1891, and is the oldest schoolhouse in Arlington. The school was turned over to AHS in the 1960s, and now needs renovations.

“The end result will be the creation of something sorely lacking in our Arlington County — an updated first-class museum reflecting our history, our accomplishments and the lives of those who have lived here,” said AHS member Frank O’Leary in an email. “If we do not start now, then when?”

O’Leary is also a trustee of the Warren G. Stambaugh Foundation, which is planning a virtual AHS fundraising event honoring Stambaugh, a former member of the House of Delegates who wrote the Virginians With Disabilities Act. The foundation will match funds raised for the AHS renovation project at the “I Remember Warren” event.

O’Leary said the AHS renovation will take a number of years to accomplish. Donations can be made on the AHS website.

“Our immediate objective is to raise $50,000 to fund the feasibility study of the existing structure, its deficiencies, and necessary improvements, and specific steps that must be undertaken to create a state-of-the-art local museum,” O’Leary said. “In short, as an immediate objective, we seek to create a detailed plan or ‘blueprint’ and then AHS will proceed on its enactment.”

The AHS to-do list includes:

  • New drop-down ceilings on all floors, or the restoration of the original ceiling
  • New windows
  • New paint
  • Climate-controlled storage for artifacts
  • Americans with Disabilities Act access to the second floor
  • Second floor display area
  • Basement renovation for improved storage
  • New exhibit cases
  • Security upgrades
  • New interpretive signs

Photo via Arlington Historical Society/Facebook

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Local historian Charlie Clark has helped produce and narrate a compilation of rare Arlington footage from the late 1950s.

Clark, a columnist with the Falls Church News-Press, said the 8mm home videos came from a Belgian family visiting the area. The video includes footage of everything from Bernie’s Pony Ring to shopping in a local grocery store.

“Thanks to Arlington Historical Society backers and to technical director David Downey of Transvideo in Falls Church, who continues to utilize all that funky old audio-visual equipment,” Clark said.

Clark admitted there’s some cheating, in that the video isn’t just sights around Arlington — it includes footage of Glen Echo Park in Maryland, for instance — but he said the park was a regional attraction for many locals at the time.

Comments on the video said it was a nostalgia trip for many locals who lived in the area.

“I grew up in Arlington, Fairfax and McLean,” one said. “Our cousins, my sister and I used to play in the Lyon Village park, ride ponies, visit Glen Echo during the late 40’s through the early 60’s.”

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Morning Notes

Parents Protest APS Proposal — “School officials tasked with the perpetual jigsaw puzzle of reassigning school zones have stirred new tensions… If you drive McKinley Rd., you can’t miss the printed signs ‘SAVE MCKINLEY: Our Neighborhood School Since 1951.’ The Madison Manor Civic Association has revved up with nearby PTAs and community groups to assemble contrary arguments.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Tafti Pushes Back on AG Comments — From Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney-elect Parisa Dehghani-Tafti: “We are neither righteous warriors nor avenging angels. We are public servants. So a little humility in how we do our job and how we accept public critique of our work would go a long way toward building a system that is both safe and just.” [Twitter]

Free Holiday Grief Support Service — “For those who’ve suffered loss-whether recently, or even years prior-the holiday stress can make the season more difficult. To help those grieving in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia during the holidays, Capital Caring Health, a local non-profit, offers a wide range of free counseling and support services.” [Press Release, Arlington Public Library]

Special Burial at Arlington National — “Private Edwin Francis Benson was killed in action at Tarawa during World War II. In 2017, his remains were located. Earlier this year, his remains were identified and a couple weeks ago he was laid to rest in Section 60. We honor his service.” [Twitter]

APS Students Learn About the Census — “The U.S. Census Bureau kicked off its Statistics in Schools program, offering Arlington teachers and others a wide array of resources that teach students not only about data but also about the importance of being counted in the upcoming 2020 Census. Arlington Public Schools shared the free program with its teachers, who can integrate it into their lesson plans.” [Arlington County]

Road Closures for Race in Pentagon City — “The Jingle Bell Run/Walk 5K for Arthritis will take place on Saturday, December 7. Police will conduct road closures in the area of South Joyce Street and Army Navy Drive to accommodate this event.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

New Additions to Story Map — A number of properties have been added to the Arlington Historical Society’s Story Map, per organizer Charlie Clark, including: 817 N. Irving St. (Lyon Park), built circa 1904; Hendry House, 2411 N 24th St. (Woodmont), built circa 1900; 3405 N. Glebe Rd. (Country Club Hills), built circa 1907. [Arlington Historical Society]

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(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) Cherrydale’s volunteer fire house is set to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its construction in 1919 this weekend.

The Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department will host festivities and a fundraiser for the anniversary this Saturday (July 20) from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. The Central Firehouse, owned the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department, is the oldest in Arlington and recognized by the National Register of Historic Places as a local historic landmark.

A parade will kick off the Saturday celebration at 10 a.m. starting from Saint Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street). The remainder of the festivities will be held at the firehouse (3900 Lee Highway). All activities are open to the public.

For kids, volunteers will set up a bouncy house and firetruck demonstrations after the parade.

Tours of the fire house and swing dance lessons will be available throughout the day, according to spokeswoman Elise Nelson. Radio station 94.7 FM The Drive will broadcast live from the event.

(Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department members are trained as firefighters and medics. They sometimes ride along with professional crews from the Arlington County Fire Department and provide some support services to ACFD during incidents, but do not currently fight fires, according to the local firefighters union. The Cherrydale VFD disputed the assertion that its members do not fight fires, but did not directly answer a request from ARLnow to provide a recent example of a VFD member engaged in fire suppression operations alongside ACFD.)

A chili cook off, a raffle, bingo and various games will wrap-up the evening. Guests can use a donation to vote for their favorite chili, made by members of the volunteer fire department. Prizes for raffles and bingo include gift basket from 35 partnering businesses.

The celebration will take on a more serious note mid-afternoon as firefighters who served during 9/11 will share their experiences with the audience, and the organization will remember Marvin Binns, a former member of the Cherrydale VFD. A plaque will be presented and hung on the wall along with his uniform. Binns died of cancer in 2015, according to his obituary.

“His inspiring 62-year legacy included many years of leadership as President, and 36 years bringing Santa to the station — making him a cherished figure for countless generations,” Nelson said.

The Cherrydale Fire Department began with a group of 12 men after they came together to battle a small fire, according to public library records. Over time, Cherrydale VFD grew as an organization and today has 50-60 members in its ranks. Though Arlington County took over responsibility for everyday emergencies, most of the members have emergency medical technician training and can assist police or other firefighters whenever a need may arise. They also help local authorities with lighting at emergency scenes and events.

The Saturday event will double as a fundraiser and proceeds will go towards the refurbishment of the fire house. Nelson said that the building needs foundational repairs as well as cosmetic retouches.

As a historical landmark, Nelson said that the building requires special attention from an expert familiar with refurbishing old buildings, which often comes at a higher cost.

“We can’t do anything that would go against that historical precedent,” she said.

For example, to repair crumbling brickwork on the outside of the building, they were quoted a cost of $50,000.

According to the book “The Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department: A History” by author Kathryn Holt Springston, former President Woodrow Wilson and his wife each purchased a brick for the fire house during a fundraising event when it first opened. But, Wilson’s brick was later stolen.

Today, the building serves as a center for the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department and as a gathering space for community members. There is a gathering hall which is available to rent for weddings, banquets, parties or other events.

Nelson said that the group hopes to raise $100,000 in 2019 to keep the Cherrydale fire house running for at least another century.

Photos courtesy of Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department

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November will mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, and Arlington will take some time to mark the occasion this week.

Arlington’s World War I Commemoration Task Force and the Arlington Historical Society will host an educational event tomorrow (Thursday) at the Navy League Atrium (2300 Wilson Blvd.) to commemorate the centennial of the conflict’s conclusion.

The event, entitled “Arlington Remembers the Great War,” will include a performance of period music from Opera NOVA, a video on the war produced by Arlington Independent Media and a keynote address on the war’s effect on Arlington from Mark Benbow, the director of the Arlington Historical Museum.

Admission is free, though the hosts encourage attendees to support the event and future World War I education efforts by donating online, by check or by purchasing commemorative coins for $25 each.

More information and instructions on how to RSVP to the event are available on the Arlington Historical Society’s website.

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Morning Notes

Clement to Face Kanninen Again — “The 2018 Arlington School Board race is likely to be a rerun of 2014. Audrey Clement and incumbent Barbara Kanninen have qualified for ballot access, county elections chief Linda Lindberg told the Sun Gazette, setting up a reprise of their campaign from four years ago.” [InsideNova]

PenPlace Sketches Released — JBG Smith has released new sketches of its planned PenPlace development in Pentagon City. The development includes “two seven-story apartment buildings totaling 300 units, 40,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and a future park.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Palooza Set for Saturday — The second annual Arlington Palooza,”a free outdoor program for all ages with live music, art, games and more,” is set to take place Saturday from 1-4 p.m. at Alcova Heights Park. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Arlington Historical Society Getting Donation — Per a press release: “The Arlington Historical Society will receive a significant donation this spring as Arlington welcomes National Capital Bank to the Courthouse/Clarendon area on Wilson Blvd. National Capital Bank President Randy Anderson, who grew up in Arlington, called to inform AHS President Johnathan Thomas that the Society was chosen as one of the charities the Bank will support with a grant award.”

Real Estate Inventory Crunch — “Long & Foster says… the number of houses and condos on the market, in D.C., Loudoun County and Arlington County was down 22 percent in March compared to a year ago.” [WTOP]

Live Construction Cam in Ballston — The new 672 Flats apartment building (an ARLnow.com advertiser) in Ballston set up a live camera to track the construction progress. The camera is viewable online and shows an aerial view of the apartments and a portion of the neighborhood. [OxBlue]

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Karl VanNewkirk(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) A new proposal for the Reevesland farmhouse may be the compromise needed between the County Board and farmhouse supporters who don’t want the farmhouse to be sold to a private party.

Karl VanNewkirk, the president of the Arlington Historical Society, spoke at the Arlington County Board meeting on Saturday, informing the Board members that he has been working with the Boulevard Manor Civic Association to create a new plan for the farmhouse.

While VanNewkirk did not provide a detailed plan during his speaking time, he did say that the county’s estimate of $2-2.5 million in renovations costs was being driven by the need for a large parking lot and American Disabilities Act compliance. Under a private ownership, the farmhouse would not need the lot nor to be fully compliant with ADA.

“I would like to ask two things from you,” he said to the Board. “A: would you give us a little more time to develop a detailed plan that would meet with your approval and B: would you continue to allow staff, the county staff, to work with us?”

VanNewkirk told ARLnow.com that the Boulevard Manor Civic Association and Preservation Arlington are looking at options for the farmhouse. Arlington Historical Society will discuss whether it wants to join in the effort at a meeting of board directors on tonight, he said.

Reeves farmhouse (photo courtesy Peter Roof)

The bare bones of the plan is for a non-profit partner of the Boulevard Manor Civic Association, and other supporting groups, to buy the farmhouse from the county, said Sandra Spear, who is leading the working group on the farmhouse for the civic association.

The civic association is helping to raise funds through charitable donations to help with the costs of renovations, Spear said.

“Our plan is nascent at this time, but the barest bones are that we propose to purchase the house from the County for a nominal sum, lease the land on which it sits, raise money to restore it, and use it in some fashion as a museum to Arlington’s agricultural past. Each element of this plan differs from Reevesland Learning Center’s (RLC) proposal,” Spear said.

It would not be a full learning center, as the Reevesland Learning Center proposed, because of ADA and parking lot runoff concerns. However, the groups may incorporate some of those elements into its proposal, VanNewkirk said.

“Have we fleshed it [a proposal] out, not yet, but we are working on it,” VanNewkirk said.

Board member Libby Garvey told the other Board members that she had also met with the Boulevard Manor Civic Association and that she found its plan for Reevesland to be more responsible than the one proposed by the Reevesland Learning Center.

“What the Boulevard Manor folk are looking at is a different approach and much more responsible, and I’m pleased to see them doing that,” Garvey said.

VanNewkirk and the Boulevard Manor Civic Association have reached out to the Reevesland Learning Center but they have not responded yet, VanNewkirk told ARLnow.com.

Board member John Vihstadt was also in support of VanNewkirk and Boulevard Manor Civic Association’s work toward a plan for the farmhouse.

“This is really the first time that we have heard that there has been any effort by the supporters of Reevesland and the larger community to actually raise funds and I look forward to some sort of public-private partnership as opposed to just county tax dollars for this facility,” he said during the board meeting.

Despite the newfound potential steps forward for the farmhouse, members of the Reevesland Learning Center group are still upset over the Board’s May vote.

Joan Horwitt of the Reevesland Learning Center on Saturday asked Board members to reverse their vote on the sale of the farmhouse. Her public comment turned heated as Chair Mary Hynes and Horwitt argued, with both speaking over the other.

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The Hume School (photo via Arlington Historical Society)The Arlington Historical Society is hoping to expand the hours it hosts visitors to the Arlington Historical Museum and other historical properties it serves, and it needs help.

The AHS has put out the call for volunteers to sign up to be docents — who serve as guides and helpers — at the museum at The Hume School (1805 S. Arlington Ridge Road) and the Ball-Sellers House (5620 3rd Street S.), the oldest school building and house, respectively, in the county.

“With the right mix of volunteer docents we could not only preserve … visiting hours but also expand weekend hours and — most eagerly sought — add at least one weekday afternoon to our schedule,” AHS said in a posting on the Volunteer Arlington website. “At present many potential visitors, including school students, simply can’t explore the museum during the week, which means that whole sectors of visitors never have the opportunity to see what we have to show them. Museum certification organizations and many grant-makers also require weekday opening hours, which prohibits us from upgrading and expanding the museum.”

AHS is also looking for a volunteer to run its newsletter and a new membership director, and general volunteers for a “variety of behind-the-scenes roles, including public relations, event and program planning, database management, writing and editing, and curating.

The nonprofit runs both properties as museums and testaments to Arlington’s pre-20th century history. Each docent is expected to work just a few hours a month, staffing each property during their hours of operation and catering to guests.

Photo via Arlington Historical Society

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Shrlington-based public television station WETA and the Arlington Historical Society have produced a series of videos highlighting the county’s history.

The partnership began in late 2013, when AHS President John Richardson approached WETA digital manager Mark Jones about starting a video web series. According to AHS spokesman Garrett Peck — also the subject of the above video — Jones immediately took to the idea, and they’ve produced a video a month since.

“The videos have really helped a lot of awareness,” Peck said. Each video is paired with AHS’s monthly lecture series, with topics like local brewing, Arlington’s fire department and a noted local civil rights leader. “Mark interviews each speaker about a month beforehand. It’s a nice little promo and it stays online forever.”

Considering the nonprofit’s interest in permanence, Peck said he’s enjoyed WETA creating a library of sorts of the short videos they’ve produced.

“It’s a permanent record of history, and people really like seeing video,” Peck said. “That’s the way people want their information nowadays.”

For sneak peeks into the next video and speaker program, you can visit AHS’ website. Coming up next month: a history of the Arlington County Police Department.

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The Hume School (photo via Arlington Historical Society)At 3:15 p.m., any building with a bell is encouraged to ring it for four minutes to commemorate the end of the Civil War, 150 years ago today.

Bells across the Land” will start at 3:00 p.m. at Appomattox Court House 170 miles away from Arlington, where Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.

Fifteen minutes later, “churches, temples, schools, city halls, public buildings, historic sites, and others are invited to ring bells” for four minutes, one minute for each year of the Civil War, the National Park Service said in a press release.

In Arlington, at least one building will be joining in the nationwide campaign. The Arlington Historical Society will ring the bell at The Hume School, which now serves as the Arlington Historical Museum.

The National Park Service also owns the Netherlands Carillon near Rosslyn, which has 50 bells on its distinctive structure. The Carillon is less than a mile away from Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee.

Photo via the Arlington Historical Society.

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