This is set to be a pivotal year for how Arlington County represents itself in its logo and its infrastructure.
At the close of 2020, Arlington County kickstarted the process of updating its logo — a process that will soon be inviting public input — and this fall, County Board members expect to review a new framework for considering the possibility of new names for things like parks, streets and building.
Board member Christian Dorsey and NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain, Sr. previewed these upcoming changes during a recent discussion on renaming hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, a group that talks about local issues.
Meanwhile, Marymount University assistant professor Cassandra Good shed light on the history of Arlington’s street naming and made recommendations for a new approach.
Spurred by a national discussion of systemic racism and police violence in 2019 and 2020, Arlington County is re-examining its logo, which depicts Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial, the former plantation home of the Confederate general and descendants of George Washington. The county is also reconsidering the names of various roads, parks and local landmarks named for Confederate generals and soldiers, slaveholders, plantations, and historic figures known for their racism.
That work is ongoing. A county logo review panel has received more than 250 submissions to consider and narrow down to five for the community to rank in May, Spain said. The County Board will select a new logo in June.
Meanwhile, county staff members are hammering out a formal process for naming and renaming places in Arlington going forward, to bring a systematic approach to what has so far been a case-by-case process.
“We expect that during the fall of this year, we will have a proposal from our county manager for how we ought to think about the renaming issue,” Dorsey said. “There’s going to be a lot more that comes with that, I expect.”
Some Committee of 100 members wondered whether the panelists think the county ought to change its name, too, given that the county is named after the plantation house that’s being removed from the logo.
Panelists said such a conversation could take place but changing the name Arlington would not only pose an extreme logistical challenge but may also not reflect a nuanced view of renaming.
“When we’re talking about changing the name of Arlington, it may come a time when we need to have that conversation,” Spain said. “But Arlington — I believe changing the name of a county is a pretty heavy lift.”
Dorsey said he is not in favor of throwing out everything that was the product of a certain time in history as “the poisonous fruit of a poisonous tree.”
A recurring question for officials tasked with renaming has been whether to swap one historical figure with another. The community could choose a person whose character could come into question later on, they said.
Good, the Marymount professor, said while her preference is not to use names of historical figures, there ought to be a few new historical figures featured.
“There need to be some names for people,” she said, otherwise, “the names that remain will mostly white people.”
Dorsey added that while the county can think beyond individuals, there will be some figures who community members will want to honor.
“I would hate to lose that entirely,” he said.
Good said Arlington first formalized a naming process for streets in 1932, when a commission of, as far as she can tell, all-white Arlington residents finalized the names for the county’s streets. Several — including Lafayette, Hamilton and Pocahontas Streets — were renamed at that time, she said.
Going forward, she recommended that all renaming decisions include those who have been excluded and involve a professional historian. Renaming should be considered if the current name was originally chosen to honor somebody for reasons that are at odds with the community’s values, she said.
The county is calling on the community to submit their ideas for a new county logo and seal.
The logo will phase out the depiction of Arlington House, also known as the Robert E. Lee Memorial, on all county communications and materials starting this summer. Over time, the new logo will appear on signage for county amenities such as parks, community centers and buildings, the submissions webpage said.
“We are writing a brighter chapter in Arlington’s story, one that aligns with the County’s important focus on racial equity,” the website said. Submissions are due by Sunday, March 14.
According to submission guidelines, artists only can submit one idea and it must be new and original. The art should “look good” in black and white and in color, and when it is printed on something as small as a pen and as large as a billboard. Designs in any media — from digital to crayon — are accepted.
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.
“As you create your design, think about the images, symbols and feelings unique to Arlington and shared by people across neighborhoods,” the county website said.
A submission form is available on the county website. It asks people to submit a .jpg, .png or .pdf version of their design, to share whether they are a current or former resident or have some “other” affiliation with Arlington, and to briefly describe the art and what it depicts or represents.
The move to update the emblem began with a push from the Arlington branch of the NAACP last summer, which decried the current logo as a “racist plantation symbol” that honors a slave-owning Confederate general. County Board members expressed their support in September and approved a process for replacing it in December.
County Manager Mark Schwartz previously told the board that the earliest instance of the logo’s use by the county was in 1974.
When the March deadline passes, a panel of community members picked by Schwartz will choose three to five top contenders. A professional graphic designer will further develop the concepts through April. The community will then rank their picks in May and the County Board is expected to choose one in June.
Schools Closed, Federal Gov’t on Delay — Due to anticipated icy conditions this morning, Arlington Public Schools has closed schools, though distance learning is still on. Federal government offices have a 10 a.m. delayed opening. [Twitter, Twitter]
Arlington Xmas Decorations Go Viral — Two Arlington homes, next door to one another, have very different approaches to holiday decorating, as seen in a tweet that went viral. [Twitter]
Might Mayor Pete Live in Arlington? — “Pete and Chasten have an affinity for airports — Pete proposed to Chasten at O’Hare in Chicago and Chasten proposed to Pete at an airport in Berlin — so why not live walking distance from DCA? Besides having a great beer bar and Synetic Theater, the area also known as Crystal City is a major transportation hub, which could work in Pete’s favor as he starts his new role.” [Washingtonian, Twitter]
Bill Would Strip Lee’s Name from Arlington House — Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s name is likely to soon be removed from Lee Highway in Arlington, and potentially from his former home in Arlington National Cemetery as well. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has introduced legislation that would rename what’s currently known as “Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial” as just “Arlington House.” Arlington County is in the process of removing an illustration of the house, which critics say is a symbol of slavery, from its logo and seal. [Press Release, Twitter]
Funeral for Vietnam War Hero — “Despite the winter elements that hit the [D.C. area] Wednesday morning, Medal of Honor recipient Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins was given modified military funeral honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Adkins died from COVID-19 earlier this year in April at the age of 86.” [WJLA]
Local Nonprofit Gets Grant — “The Arlington-based nonprofit organization, Latinas Leading Tomorrow (LLT) announced their latest financial contribution from the Arlington Women’s Civic Alliance (AWCA) to support LLT’s leadership training and college readiness programs. ” [Press Release]
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.
Protest Outside Westover Post Office — About 15 protesters held a “Save the U.S. Postal Service” rally outside the Post Office at 5877 Washington Blvd in Westover yesterday. The two-hour lunchtime demonstration was organized as part of the American Postal Worker Union National Day of Action. [@KalinaNewman/Twitter]
Historic Review Board Likes Shirlington Plan — “The Arlington County government’s historic-preservation advisory body seems generally satisfied that retention of historic features will be seen as an important component of the redevelopment of the Village at Shirlington. In particular, the low-slung storefronts along Campbell Avenue are expected to be protected from the wrecking ball, even as taller and more dense development likely will be allowed immediately behind them.” [InsideNova]
New BBQ Restaurant Opens Patio — “Smokecraft Modern Barbecue is excited to debut its much-anticipated patio, now open daily for outdoor dining and drinking. Arlington residents and visitors can now enjoy Smokecraft’s award-winning barbecue outside on a socially distant patio, consisting of 38 seats.” [Press Release]
TTT in Clarendon to Host Virtual DJ — Updated at 9:30 a.m. — “Beginning Friday, September 4… TTT (Tacos, Tortas & Tequila) known for its casual Mexican-influenced fare is adding an exciting bit of fun on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons with virtual DJs. Guests dining on the first floor and on the third floor TTT Rooftop, which seats 82 and offers wonderful views on the city, will enjoy watching and listening to live streaming DJ performances via large screen projection.” [Press Release]
Family Pushing for Arlington House Change — “Descendants of Charles Syphax have been courting lawmakers for the past few months to make the change, said Syphax family historian Steve Hammond, who lives in Sterling, Va. The family’s effort is motivated as much by a desire to accurately honor the full history of the property and the enslaved people who lived there as it is by any antipathy toward Lee.” [Washington Post]
Nearby: Back to School in Falls Church — Students have started the fall semester, virtually, in Falls Church. A TV news segment shows teachers conducting their virtual classes from their actual, physical classrooms. [NBC 4]
Since 1972, Arlington House — the recognizable Greek revival mansion atop the hill in Arlington National Cemetery — has been officially called “Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial.”
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is now planning to propose legislation that would remove the Confederate general’s name.
Beyer said today, as first reported by the Associated Press, that it’s time to drop Lee from the official name of the house, from which Arlington County gets its name, logo and seal. The general lived in the house, but its history goes beyond his time there, both before — it was built by George Washington’s adopted son around the turn of the 19th century — and after — when it was seized during the Civil War.
“The choice of Lee’s home for the site of a national military cemetery was intended to be a punitive measure against Lee, who himself said after the Civil War that he opposed erecting Confederate monuments,” Beyer said in a statement sent to ARLnow. “Given these considerations and requests from members of the community, including descendants of enslaved people in the area, I am working on legislation to remove the reference to Robert E. Lee from the official name of Arlington House.”
“Part of the reckoning with the history of racism and slavery in America and in our own community has been a reexamination of public symbols,” Beyer continued. “I absolutely support that process, including the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from the U.S. Capitol and taking other actions that make it clear we do not revere Confederate leaders or approve of the cause for which they fought.”
Beyer’s push to remove the name comes as Arlington County is in the midst of a series of proposed renamings, some brought about by the national racial reckoning that followed George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police.
A name change process has been launched for Lee Highway (Route 29), and new names have been proposed for Henry Clay Park and the S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395 in Fairlington. Previously, Washington-Lee High School was renamed Washington-Liberty and Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) was renamed Richmond Highway.
The Arlington branch of the NAACP, meanwhile, called last month for Arlington’s logo and seal to be redesigned in order to remove Arlington House from each, calling it “divisive and racist” and “a symbol of a slave labor camp.”
School Walkouts Today — Student walkouts are planned at Arlington’s high schools today, part of a national demonstration against gun violence. The walkout is happening at 10 a.m., is expected to last 17 minutes, and is being treated as an excused absence by Arlington Public Schools. Middle schoolers at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington, meanwhile, have organized a 2:30 p.m. prayer service to honor the victims.
JBG Talks HQ2 in Quarterly Earnings — Property owner JBG Smith has stayed largely mum about its wooing of Amazon — until now. In its quarterly earnings report, JBG said it believes that its Crystal City properties are well-positioned to win the bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. The D.C. area’s tech prowess “combined with our blend of walkable places, in-place infrastructure and low-cost housing makes Crystal City a compelling location,” the company wrote. “Our holdings alone can accommodate Amazon’s entire long-term space requirement and we have a cost advantage over our competitors given the existing in-place parking and substantial infrastructure.” [Washington Business Journal]
Lobbyist Claims Attack at Local Hotel — Jack Burkman, a “conservative lobbyist known for his controversial positions” who in January told police he was pepper sprayed outside his house near Rosslyn, is alleging another attack. Burkman claims, in a press release, that he was “run down by a large, black SUV” last night while “working with an FBI whistleblower” at the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn. [Twitter]
Two Charged in Murder of Arlington Man — Two suspected gang members from Maryland have been charged in the fatal stabbing of an Arlington resident in Oxon Hill, Md. on Feb. 25. [Town of Morningside]
Arlington House Closing for Rehab Project — Arlington House, the iconic historic mansion at Arlington National Cemetery that was formerly home to Gen. Robert E. Lee, “is closing to the public beginning Monday, March 19, so it can undergo a monthslong rehabilitation project… part of a $12.35 million restoration plan.” [WTOP]
National PTA Meeting in Arlington — The National Parent Teacher Association is holding its annual legislative conference at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Crystal City this week. The conference runs from March 13-15 and kicked off yesterday with a keynote address by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. [National PTA]
One BR Rental Near Clarendon: $4,300/month — A sub-800 square foot one bedroom apartment in a newly built building in Lyon Park, near Clarendon, is leasing for a staggering $4,300 per month. [Real House Life of Arlington]
Metro Delays Planned This Weekend — Trains on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines will run every 20 minutes this weekend due to “emergency call box installation and testing for a safer ride.” [WMATA]
Ballston Office Building Sold — JBG Cos. has sold a five-story office building on Fairfax Drive in Ballston to a partnership that hopes to eventually tear it down and build a new mixed use development. The building sold for about $22 million. [Washington Business Journal]
Delhi Dhaba Turning 25 — Delhi Dhaba restaurant in Clarendon is turning 25 next year. “Although it’s not at the pinnacle of Indian food in Northern Virginia, Delhi Dhaba is a great restaurant with more than decent service,” writes a reviewer. [Falls Church News-Press]
Park Service Studying Bricks — The National Park Service is studying the original bricks at Arlington House, Robert E. Lee’s family house in what is now Arlington National Cemetery, in order to help with a preservation and renovation effort. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Three Arlington Restaurants in ‘Dining Guide’ — Three Arlington restaurants are in Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema’s annual Fall Dining Guide. The eateries getting the honor: Green Pig Bistro, Thai Square and Water & Wall. [Washington Post]
Arlington Woman Wins Army Ten-Miler — An Arlington woman was the top female finisher in the 30th annual Army Ten-Miler on Sunday. Kerri Gallagher, 25, won the race with a time of 54:50. Two other Arlington women cracked the top 10: eighth place finisher Samantha Diehl, 26, and tenth place finisher Amy Laskowske, 27. [Stars and Stripes, Army Ten-Miler]
Rare Photo of Arlington House Slave — The National Park Service unveiled a rare photo of Selina Norris Gray, a slave at Robert E. Lee’s Arlington House, over the weekend. The photo was purchased on eBay by a Park Service volunteer, who recognized Gray in the photo. It was sold by a seller in England who had found a box of “unwanted” photos at a yard sale. [Washington Post, WJLA]
Home Sales Up, Prices Down — The average home sale price in Arlington slid 2.8 percent in September, compared to one year prior, but the volume of sales rose by about 10 percent. [InsideNova]
Demolitions in Historic Districts — Since the beginning of the year, applications have been filed to demolish at least 25 homes in historic districts in Arlington. “The looming demolition of these houses and buildings represents an incredible loss of history, architecture, time, energy and materials,” the group Preservation Arlington said in a blog post. As previously reported, home demolitions are on pace for a record pace this year. [Preservation Arlington]
(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, received a major donation this week.
D.C. philanthropist David Rubenstein, co-founder of private equity firm The Carlyle Group, donated $12.35 million to the National Park Service “to restore and improve access to Arlington House.” The donation will fund a project that will restore Arlington House “as it was in 1860,” including more attention to the slave quarters. The money will also fund technology investments, with more mobile and web “assets,” an audio tour and a virtual tour, NPS said.
“I am honored to support the National Park Service’s renovation of historic Arlington House built in honor of George Washington and located on hallowed ground atop Arlington National Cemetery,” Rubenstein said in the release. “I hope that upon its restoration, Arlington House will appropriately remind visitors of America’s rich history and our country’s good fortune to have such a unique site to honor our veterans, especially those who gave the last full measure of devotion on behalf of this nation.”
Arlington House went through a round of renovations 2-3 years ago — including work done to repair damage from the 2011 mid-Atlantic earthquake.
The Washington Post reported that Rubenstein, a billionaire, decided to make the donatation after funding half of the Washington Monument’s post-earthquake repairs. NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis suggested the $12.35 million repair project for Arlington House — described as languishing in “embarrassing” condition — to which Rubenstein simply replied, “be glad to do that.”
Arlington House was built by George Washington Parke Custis — and, the NPS points out, his slaves — between 1802 and 1818 as a memorial to George Washington, before it was the home to Lee and his plantation. The plantation was used as a base for Union soldiers during the Civil War, as a community for freed slaves after the Emancipation Proclamation and, later, as a military cemetery.
The NPS says more than 650,000 people visit the house every year, making it the country’s most-visited house museum. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), the ranking member on the Interior and Environment Appropriations Committee, which oversees the National Parks, issued a statement after Rubenstein announced his gift yesterday.
“On behalf of 8th District voters and local history buffs I’d like to thank Mr. Rubenstein for his generous gift,” Moran said. “I’ve been a supporter of Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial, throughout my 24 years representing the people of Northern Virginia. Mr. Rubenstein’s philanthropy allows the flexibility needed to restore this historic site, working beyond the constraints of public funding to build on the restoration work already completed by the National Park Service.”