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Demolition of Rouse estate in Dominion Hills (file photo by Jay Westcott)

The Arlington Historical Society is trying to convince homeowners of older and potentially historically significant properties to consider alternatives to tearing their homes down or selling to homebuilders.

The society said earlier this week that it “has sent an appeal letter to dozens of area homeowners, home-builders and real estate agents” which “asks that owners, builders and agents conduct research on their properties before rushing to the tear-down option.”

The society cited the demolition of the Febrey-Lothrop house on the 9-acre Rouse estate in Dominion Hills, along with the more recent demolition of the circa-1889 Fellows-McGrath House at 6404 Washington Blvd. Both properties are slated for the construction of new housing.

‘The recent demolition of several valuable properties… are key examples of beloved properties that fell to the wrecking ball without sufficient consideration, in our view, of creative alternatives,” the society’s letter said. “We believe the best way to preserve more properties that reflect Arlington’s heritage is through education and negotiations that honor the interests of all parties.”

The letter comes as a pair of bills intended to bolster historic preservation efforts failed to pass the Virginia legislature this year.

Supporters of the proposed legislation want to require local governments to block demolition of properties that are under consideration for historic status. In the case of the recently-razed Arlington homes, demolition took place before the county was able to complete a historic designation process urged by preservation advocates.

A press release from the Arlington Historical Society is below.

As part of its new push to improve preservation of historic properties, the Arlington Historical Society has sent an appeal letter to dozens of area homeowners, home-builders and real estate agents.

‘The recent demolition of several valuable properties — the historic Febrey-Lothrop house at 6407 Wilson Boulevard and the “Memory House” at 6404 Washington Boulevard — are key examples of beloved properties that fell to the wrecking ball without sufficient consideration, in our view, of creative alternatives,” the letter said. We believe the best way to preserve more properties that reflect Arlington’s heritage is through education and negotiations that honor the interests of all parties.”

Acknowledging that the county is changing and expressing respect for “by-right ownership and the free-market considerations that go into home sales and improvements,” the nonprofit asks that owners, builders and agents conduct research on their properties before rushing to the tear-down option. “We feel that Arlington’s government, residents, and businesses could do more to preserve properties that represent either notable personages, events, or architectural styles,” the letter said.

While the society cannot offer official advice as to whether a given property is historic, it could assist in explorations of alternatives to demolition — finding a historically minded buyer, or an architect who could design a partial renovation.

Society president Cathy Bonneville Hix invites residents who have questions on the historic importance of any residential or commercial property to contact the society via the website arlingtonhistoricalsociety.org or the county’s Historic Preservation Program office at 703-228-3831.

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Morning Notes

Soccer practice at Long Bridge Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

New Organ Debuts Tomorrow — “The new organ [at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Virginia Square] cost $1.2 million… Opus 28 arrived in Arlington on Oct. 3, 2021. For three weeks, Pasi put together the 500,000 parts that constitute it. He spent the next two months ‘voicing’ the organ: doing the painstaking adjustments necessary to make everything sound just right.” [Washington Post]

Reminder: Pizza Boxes Can Be Composted — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “There’s No ‘I’ in Food Scraps: Arlington viewers of ‘The Big Game’ can give 110% and go all in in the green curbside cart: pizza crusts and boxes, wing bones and greasy napkins. You won’t be denied.” [Twitter]

County Helping With Museum Renovations — “As efforts begin to renovate its museum, the Arlington Historical Society is working to embrace close collaboration where possible with the Arlington County government. Whether that will turn into a financial partnership remains to be seen, but county staff will be providing their knowledge to help the renovation move ahead.” [Sun Gazette]

Public Defender Pay Bill Fails — “A measure to equalize pay between staff of Virginia prosecutors and those working in public-defender’s offices died in a House of Delegates subcommittee. The measure, patroned by Del. Alfsono Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax), would have required localities that supplement the compensation of staff in its office of commonwealth’s attorney beyond state minimums to do the same for staff of a public defender’s office, if a locality has one.” [Sun Gazette]

Nearby: Scammers Impersonating Police — “Officers have received reports from community members who stated that callers contact them claiming to be members of a police department or sheriff’s department. The law enforcement impersonator may… tell the community member they missed a court appearance or jury duty [and] state they need to send money or a warrant will be issued for their arrest or they may turn themselves in to jail.” [City of Falls Church]

Snow Possible This Weekend — “Light to moderate snow could fall in the D.C. area on Super Bowl Sunday. But it’s still not clear whether it will snow hard enough or be cold enough for it to amount to much and have serious effects on the region.” [Capital Weather Gang]

It’s Thursday — Sunny, with a high near 55 today, and wind gusts as high as 21 mph. Sunrise at 7:04 a.m. and sunset at 5:40 p.m. Sunny again tomorrow, with a high near 57 and wind gusts as high as 22 mph. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Man Found Unconscious in Jail Cell — “A 58-year-old adult male has been transported to an area hospital for medical treatment after being found unconscious in his cell in the Arlington County Detention Facility. At approximately 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 5, 2021, the individual was found unconscious in his cell in the medical unit. Deputies and medical staff began immediate resuscitation efforts until the arrival of Arlington [County Fire Department] units. He was transported to Virginia Hospital Center for additional treatment and is in stable condition.” [Arlington County]

Expect More Pedestrians Near Schools — “On Wednesday, Oct. 6, Arlington Public Schools is taking part in Walk, Bike and Roll to School Day, an annual international celebration that encourages students to walk, bike or roll to school while teaching the health, environmental and community-building benefits of active transportation and safe routes to school.” [Arlington County]

New DCA Checkpoints Opening Soon — “Reagan National Airport’s new security checkpoints are set to open in about a month, in time for holiday travel. This will dramatically reshape the airport, putting most of what is now open space (Ben’s Chili Bowl) in the B/C terminals BEHIND security.” [NBC Washington, Twitter]

Honors for Fmr. W-L Volleyball Player — “Kate Sheire ’24 led the Bears offense, scoring 21 kills and blocking three shots to help bolster their defense… Sheire, who leads the Bears roster with 136.5 points over 11 games, added to her already-stellar rookie campaign with the performance against Yale. The Ivy League announced Monday that Sheire — whose 21 kills led all scorers in the first week of conference play – was selected as both the Ivy League Rookie of the Week and Ivy League Player of the Week Monday.” [Brown Daily Herald]

Historical Society Talk Planned — “In another sign of a rebound in the COVID era, the Arlington Historical Society is resuming in-person meetings. First up: An Oct. 14 gathering focused on the Syphax family. The event will be held at 7 p.m. at the Reinsch Library on the main campus of Marymount University… Historian and genealogist Steve Hammond will discuss the Syphax family, starting with those who were enslaved on the Arlington House plantation, continuing with the post-Civil War era and running through the modern day.” [Sun Gazette]

Football Trophy Returns to Yorktown — “After years of being elsewhere, a championship football trophy has returned to where it originated – in possession of the Yorktown High School football team. Back in 1976, when David Gebhardt was Yorktown’s first-year head football coach, the Patriots won the Great Falls District title. When Gebhardt moved to Jamestown, N.C., years later, that trophy unintentionally was taken along.” [Sun Gazette]

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With a membership list that has included five presidents and 19 Supreme Court justices, Washington Golf & Country Club is known as the “Club of Presidents.”

Without the help of one prosperous Arlington doctor, however, the elite club founded in 1893 would have closed in 1906.

Rear Admiral Presley Marion Rixey, Surgeon General in the U.S. Navy, served as the full-time personal physician to Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. He is considered the first “White House Physician,” though the title wasn’t officially used until 1928.

Beyond his medical exploits, the doctor owned a significant amount of land in Arlington. He lived on a large property then-called Netherfauld, which he purchased in 1888 from Mary Ann Hall, known for the rowdy brothel she ran in D.C. According to Johnathan Thomas, the former president of the Arlington Historical Society, there is no evidence her property in Arlington housed a similar business.

(Her brother, Bazil Hall is the namesake of Halls Hill: He owned enslaved persons and later sold his land to African-American families in Arlington, leading to the founding of the historically Black neighborhood.)

Rixey’s relationship to Teddy Roosevelt was not just one between a doctor and patient. They were friends, and so were their wives. President Roosevelt often came to Netherfauld to ride on horseback with Rixey through his many acres of rural lands and to eat ice cream made on the property. Mrs. Roosevelt, meanwhile, would frequently walk from the White House to Netherfauld to have lunch with Mrs. Rixey.

While Rixey enjoyed his property, he also was generous with it, ensuring the Washington Golf & Country Club — of which he was a member and the Chairman of the Greens Committee — had a permanent home.

“Admiral Rixey carried Washington Golf through its worst financial times, restructuring notes and forgiving interest so the fledgling club could survive,” according to an article written by Thomas, who also acted as the historian for WGCC.

Thomas went so far as to call Rixey the “Godfather” of the golf club. In 1906, WGCC was pushed out of its original Rosslyn location by investors looking to develop a residential area instead. Close to disbanding, members of the club searched for a location that would keep them close to D.C. 

The club unsuccessfully tried to reestablish the club on the Saegmuller Farm — land that is now used by Arlington’s Knights of Columbus. Rixey’s offer in 1908 to sell 75 acres of his Netherfauld Farm for $50,000 saved WGCC from extinction.

“There’s a story handed down at the club that one of the members got the [Saegmuller Farm] under contract because he wanted to make a fee off of it. They said ‘forget it,’ and ended up buying the property from Rixey,” Thomas tells ARLnow.

Rixey helped the club after the sale. With it struggling financially, Rixey redesigned the agreed-upon payment plan and forgave interest. The doctor also donated more acres to WGCC as a prize to club president Joseph Johnson for defeating him in a golf game. Later, he offered to sell even more of his land to the club at a discounted price, but the leaders declined.

While clearing out part of Rixey’s land for the golf course and club, Richard Wallace — Rixey’s valet, Roosevelt’s former White House chauffeur, and one of four men who laid down the first nine holes in 1908 — happened upon a previously uninhabited log cabin on the Netherfauld grounds.

Wallace became enchanted with the log cabin and Rixey gifted it to him to live there. Whenever President Roosevelt visited the Rixey home, Wallace would bring homemade ice cream that Roosevelt enjoyed so much that Wallace let him lick the ice cream from the paddles once he was done churning.

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Morning Notes

Another Rosslyn Redevelopment Planned — “Rosslyn’s aging Xerox Building could soon be replaced with a massive new apartment complex, as the neighborhood’s older properties continue to steadily redevelop. The investment advisory firm TIAA, which owns the building, and its real estate arm, Nuveen, filed plans in Arlington County last month calling for the full overhaul of the property at 1616 Fort Myer Drive. In its place, the companies hope to build a 691-unit apartment building reaching up to 30 stories tall.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington History Museum Reopens — “Having reopened its museum to the public on the nation’s 245th birthday, leaders of the Arlington Historical Society are now looking ahead to completing a top-to-bottom renovation and reimagining of the facility in time for the nation’s 250th… The museum is located in the 19th-century Hume School, located on Arlington Ridge Road. It came into the society’s possession 60 years ago, and is showing its age.” [Sun Gazette]

Last Week’s Tornado, As Seen from D.C. — “Lightning softly flickered inside the body of the storm. The shelf cloud, a smoothed and rounded arc fanning outward just above the ground, was lit from below as it tumbled over the urban glow of Ballston, Clarendon and Rosslyn… I began fixating on a ringed, collar-shaped cloud above the curtains of rain. Shortly before 9 p.m., the lowest portion of the cloud appeared to be curling inward, deviating from the storm’s heading.” [Capital Weather Gang]

Local Swim Club Update — “The Overlee Flying Fish defeated the Donaldson Run Thunderbolts in a rare all-Arlington matchup in the Northern Virginia Swimming League. Overlee won, 236-184, on July 3, keeping the Flying Fish tied for first with the Tuckahoe Tigers at 3-0 in Division 1. Donaldson Run fell to 0-3.” [Sun Gazette]

Nearby: Alexandria Removes SROs — The Alexandria City Council has voted to remove School Resource Officers from city schools, despite opposition to the move from the School Board. Last month the Arlington School Board voted to move SROs off school grounds.  [ALXnow]

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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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