Press Club

Long-time Ashton Heights resident Trudy Ensign was happy to talk about a lot of things during her 101 years. She loved to paint, bowl, watch the Washington Nationals, and was a constant presence at Clarendon United Methodist Church.

But there was one thing that she never talked about: Being an intelligence analyst for the United States Army during World War II.

“No, never,” chuckles Jane Brown, Ensign’s daughter. “Even when stuff started becoming redacted or public knowledge.”

Gertrude Carley Brown Ensign died on February 28, but this past weekend a memorial service was held in her honor at the church on N. Irving Street.

During the eulogy, Reverend Tracy McNeil Wines told all those sitting in the pews paying their respects what Ensign never would.

“She used her intelligence to gain intelligence for our nation,” Wines said. “And… we enjoyed having this secret spy woman in our midst.”

Ensign was born in Iowa in 1920, lived through the Great Depression there, and was recruited out of college by the Army Security Agency (a precursor to the National Security Agency) to move to the D.C. area to help with the war effort.

She was stationed at Arlington Hall, like so many others in the Women’s Army Corps. While she wasn’t a famed “Code Girl,” Ensign undoubtedly supported their efforts.

“She knew Morse code, so [the Army] literally sent her all over the world, to Panama, Japan, Hawaii. During the Vietnam War, she worked at the [Arlington] base too,” Brown tells ARLnow. “She was the highest grade civilian woman when she retired. It was a big deal and she got all of these awards.”

In 2018, Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History interviewed Ensign about her time working for the Army and living in Arlington in the mid-20th century.

After the war, she stayed in Arlington, got married, bought a house in Ashton Heights, and had two children.

For decades, Ensign was deeply involved in the Arlington community. She was known to hand out sandwiches in the Central Library parking lot to those in need, supporting the work of A-SPAN (now, PathForward). She was president of the Maury School PTA and was a Girl Scouts troop leader, serving alongside Annie Glenn.

And she alway made time for her church. She was the membership secretary of Clarendon United Methodist for years. As former Reverend Eugene Thomas noted at the memorial service to laughs, Ensign always knew who was at Sunday services — and who wasn’t.

In September 2020, the Ashton Heights community celebrated the resident’s 100th birthday with a socially-distanced parade, signs, and well-wishes. Her positive thinking, enthusiasm, and sense of humor was on full display sitting in front of her long-time home.

“Somebody may be looking at this real estate,” she told ARLnow at the time, laughing. “But I think I’ll keep telling them how the roof leaks and they’ll go someplace else.”

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Arlington Festival Of The Arts crowd shot from 2016 (Courtesy Howard Alan Events)

If you like the arts, 5Ks or family- and earth-friendly events, Arlington is the place to be this weekend.

Three separate events in the county will make it bit harder to get around by car.

The Arlington Festival of the Arts will take pace on Saturday and Sunday (April 23-24), shutting down several roads in the Clarendon area. The outdoor event offers art for display and sale over several blocks, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

The Arlington County Police Department announced the following road closures for the event.

The following roads will be closed from approximately 3:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 23 through 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 24:

  • N. Highland Street will be closed from Wilson Boulevard to 13th Street N. Local traffic will be allowed to access the public parking garage to 3033 Wilson Blvd.
  • N. Hartford Street will be closed from N. Highland Street to 13th Street N. Local traffic will be able to access the parking garage for 1210 N. Highland Street.
  • The alleyway between N. Herndon Street and N. Hartford Street will be closed at N. Hartford Street

Meanwhile, starting at 6 a.m. Saturday morning, the Bunny Hop 5k Race will close streets in the Ashton Heights and Lyon Park neighborhoods. The race kicks off at 8 a.m. and involves the following road closures, according to ACPD.

The following roadways will be closed in order to accommodate the event:

From approximately 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

  • N. Irving Street, between 7th Street N. and 5th Street N.

From approximately 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

  • N. Irving Street, between 2nd Road N. and 5th Street N.
  • N. Pershing Drive, between N. Piedmont Street and N. Edgewood Street
  • N. Fillmore Street, between 3rd Street N. and Pershing Drive
  • N. Garfield Street, between Pershing Drive and 3rd Street N.
  • 4th Street N., between N. Fillmore Street and N. Garfield Street
  • 2nd Road N., between N. Irving Street and the Columbia Gardens Cemetery

A portion of the course winds through the Columbia Gardens Cemetery.  The Cemetery will be closed to vehicular traffic and have a delayed opening at 10:00 a.m.

Finally, on Sunday, the 2022 Earth Day Every Day Festival will be held off Langston Blvd in front of the Lee Heights Shops. The event will include various family activities, live music, sidewalk sales, food and drink specials, and its own art market.

“Let’s come together as a community to celebrate the beauty and promise of our local environment and the planet,” says the website for the Earth Day event. “Every year, communities worldwide uplift Earth Day to mark the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. It reminds us all to do what we can, in ways small and significant, restore, conserve and protect our environment.”

From ACPD:

The 2022 Earth Day Every Day Festival will take place on Sunday, April 24, 2022 and will be held from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The following roadways will be closed from approximately 8:00 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. in order to accommodate the festival:

  • Cherry Hill Road, between N. Woodstock Street and N. Woodrow Street
  • Northbound N. Woodrow Street, between 20th Road N. and Cherry Hill Road will be restricted to local traffic only

Additional Information

Community members should expect to see an increased police presence in the area around these events, and motorists are urged to follow law enforcement direction, be mindful of closures, and remain alert for increased pedestrian traffic. Additional closures not mentioned above may be implemented at police discretion in the interest of public safety.

Residents of the affected neighborhood areas will be escorted through the road closures to minimize the impacts on the community, only when safe to do so. Motorists should be on the lookout for temporary “No parking” signs, as street parking in the area around these events will be limited. Illegally parked vehicles may be ticketed or towed. If your vehicle is towed from a public street, call the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.

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Jefferson Apartment Group has filed plans to redevelop the Clarendon Wells Fargo site with offices, retail space and apartments.

The company proposes to build a 128-foot tall, 12-story structure with 238 apartments, nearly 67,000 square feet of office space, about 34,500 square feet of ground-floor retail and 244 parking spaces across a two-level, below-grade garage.

The bank at 3140 Washington Blvd is situated on a parcel bordered by N. Irving Street and N. Hudson Street. Next door is the 97,000-square foot Verizon building at 1025 N. Irving Street.

Jefferson proposes only to redevelop the bank property for now. Wells Fargo — the seller of the property at 3140 Washington Blvd — is requiring the developer to keep the bank open for business during construction.

“The project must take a phased permitting and construction approach, first constructing a new bank branch on the northwest corner of the site, followed by demolishing the existing Wells Fargo building and constructing the new mixed-use building once Wells Fargo is operational in the new bank branch building,” writes Sara Mariska, an attorney for the project.

Including the Verizon site in the overall plan will “facilitate development of the Wells Fargo property, while also facilitating preservation of critical telecommunications infrastructure on the Verizon property,” Mariska continues.

The Verizon site “is not going to redevelop any time soon,” noted Brett Wallace, a county planner, during an Arlington Committee of 100 discussion about Clarendon area development projects on Wednesday.

The new filing comes comes a week before the Arlington County Board is set to consider adopting an update to the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan, which targets the western portion of the neighborhood. The Committee of 100 panelists discussed the plan and potential changes to the area.

The sector plan update was precipitated by multiple property owners expressing a “strong interest” in redevelopment around the Clarendon Metro station area, Jennifer K. Smith, a county planning supervisor, told attendees.

Forthcoming developments include: the Silver Diner/The LotJoyce Motors and Wells Fargo/Verizon sites, as well as projects proposed by the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the YMCA and George Mason University.

Clarendon Sector Plan update area (via Arlington County)

“The process would provide an opportunity to showcase preliminary proposals that were being contemplated and share them in a broad way with all the civic associations and other stakeholders who may be reviewing those individually over time,” she said. “Some of the developers were seeking alternatives that diverged from sector plan guidance and zoning regulations that apply in this area and [Planning Commissioners] wanted to provide forum for review and consideration of those potential changes or divergences from the sector plan.”

She added that the county felt “it was important that we consult with the community on new ideas to meet public facility and public space needs going into the future.”

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Two cats were rescued by firefighters after a smoky fire inside a local apartment building.

The fire broke out Sunday afternoon at the Ballston Park apartment complex in Ashton Heights.

“On April 10th at around 4:15 p.m. units from the Arlington County Fire Department were dispatched to a reported structure fire in the 3900 block of 5th Street N.,” ACFD spokesman Capt. Nate Hiner tells ARLnow. “Units quickly arrived on scene and found smoke [coming] from the second floor of a two-story apartment building.”

“The fire was quickly knocked down and contained to the apartment of origin,” said Hiner. “Two pets were rescued from an adjacent apartment, and the fire remains under investigation.”

The pets that were rescued were cats, according to scanner traffic. The fire broke out on a busy day for ACFD that included a large response to a car fire behind a restaurant in Courthouse.

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Trapped coyote that was freed by animal control officers (photo courtesy Animal Welfare League of Arlington)

(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) Coyote sightings are not uncommon in Arlington, but it’s also not every day that a coyote gets stuck in someone’s yard.

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington says its animal control officers were able to free a coyote that recently became stuck between two fences.

In a social media post, AWLA said the frightened coyote was able to run away unharmed after being being freed.

When two local residents went out to see what their dogs were both barking at near their fence line, they were NOT expecting to find a coyote stuck in between their fences! Thankfully, they called us right away and Officer Elpers was able to safely maneuver him out and he ran away unharmed. While residents don’t spot coyotes often in Arlington, they are naturalized to the area. If you catch a glimpse of a coyote in your neighborhood, there’s no need to be alarmed, but you can always give us a call if you spot an animal that is injured or in distress!

The coyote incident happened south of Clarendon, well away from Arlington’s more wooded areas.

“It was on the border of the Lyon Park and Ashton Heights neighborhoods,” AWLA spokeswoman Chelsea Jones tells ARLnow.

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(Updated at 11:20 p.m.) Arlington County police are investigating a possible shooting in the Ashton Heights neighborhood near Ballston.

The investigation seems to be centered around the intersection of N. Piedmont Street and 5th Street N., about two blocks from Mosaic Park to the north and the Buckingham Center shopping strip to the south.

The gunfire happened around 3:45 p.m. Multiple people called 911 to report hearing 2-3 shots fired and seeing an SUV fleeing from the scene, along with a man fleeing on foot, according to scanner traffic.

So far no injuries have been reported, but officers say they found some broken glass, potentially from the SUV’s back window.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) Arlington County police are investigating after two people were found dead in an apartment near Ballston on Wednesday.

The investigation is taking place at the Clarendon Court Apartments complex, located on the 3800 block of 6th Street N. in the Ashton Heights neighborhood, about two blocks from the Gold’s Gym. Detectives could be seen using a ladder to take photos of the apartment, which is on the second floor of a two-story garden-style building.

“ACPD is conducting a death investigation in the 3800 block of 6th Street N.,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirms to ARLnow. “Police were dispatched at 12:01 p.m. to the report of a cardiac arrest and located two adults deceased inside a residence. The investigation into the circumstances of the deaths are ongoing and cause of death will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.”

Numerous police and fire department were on the scene. The parking lot of the building was cordoned off with crime scene tape while the investigation continues.

On Thursday morning, police said preliminary information suggests that “there is no apparent ongoing threat to the community.” From ACPD:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is conducting a death investigation in the Ashton Heights neighborhood.

At approximately 12:01 p.m. on December 22, police were dispatched to the 3800 block of 6th Street N. for the report of cardiac arrest. Upon arrival, an adult male and female were located deceased inside a residence. This investigation into the circumstances of the deaths is ongoing. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine cause of death. Based on the preliminary investigation, there is no apparent ongoing threat to the community.

Anyone with information that may assist with the investigation is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Things that go bump in the night have resumed their haunting of Arlington, including the famed N. Jackson Street in Ashton Heights, ready to scare trick-or-treaters.

And some decor ARLnow found is frighteningly topical. On N. Vermont Street a skeleton can be seen holding a sign that reads, “I did my own resurch.”

The pandemic caused residents of N. Jackson Street to rein in their usually elaborate displays in 2020, but this year neighbors along Arlington’s favorite street for trick-or-treating have filled their porches and yards with ghouls and goblins ahead of Halloween with gusto.

“Dismembered” body parts hang from trees, while skeletons frolic on swing sets and drive cars, and busts of Kiss frontman Gene Simmons — in full “demon” makeup — give one porch a retro demonic edge.

Another home in the 100-year-old neighborhood blew the competition out of the water with a pirate scene dredged up from Davy Jones’ Locker, complete with cannons.

Know of any other elaborate Halloween displays around town? Post some photos in the comments.

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(Updated at 10:20 a.m.) The new Dunkin’ store at 3300 Wilson Blvd, near Clarendon, is now open.

The standalone Dunkin’, which features its own parking lot and a drive-thru window, officially opened on Tuesday, a company spokesman said. The coffee and donut purveyor was open this morning, serving a trickle of customers who notice the “now open” sign.

The building — which was previously a Dunkin’ Donuts, before it closed and was succeeded Peruvian chicken restaurant Pio Pio, Indian-Pakistani-Bangladeshi restaurant Naan Kabob, and, briefly, Red Hook Lobster Pound — was completely renovated over the past few months.

The new interior includes a steel “Arlington Runs on Dunkin'” sign and “next generation” Dunkin’ features like a front-facing bakery case and tap-based iced coffee, nitro cold brew, and iced tea pours.

The new store, which is about halfway between the Virginia Square and Clarendon Metro stations, takes the place of the previous, more central Dunkin’ location at 3009 Clarendon Blvd in Clarendon, which closed earlier this month.

A company spokesman says Dunkin’ is planning “a two-part grand opening celebration for the end of the month.”

“On [Thursday], Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 2, we’ll be hosting a Free Medium Hot or Iced Coffee offer from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” the spokesman said. “We’ll also be offering guests Dunkin’ swag from the Dunkin’ Prize Wheel, photos with Dunkin’ mascot Cuppy and more.”

The grand opening will also include the presentation of a $2,500 donation to the Capital Area Food Bank from Dunkin’ franchisee DDC Management LLC, we’re told.

Given Arlington County’s propensity for encouraging more pedestrian-oriented and less car-oriented facilities — including county staff push-back on a proposed second drive-thru lane for a busy McDonald’s along Langston Blvd — the new Dunkin’ drive-thru is something of a curiosity. According to Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt, the use of the drive-thru window was grandfathered in, given that the building previously featured one.

ARLnow observed the drive-thru already in use this morning, as an Arlington police cruiser was seen making a U-turn on Wilson Blvd and then pulling up to the order lane, apparently after the driver saw the “now open” sign.

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(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) Work is nearly complete to convert a dilapidated former restaurant space near Clarendon to a “next gen” Dunkin’ store, while a nearby location has closed.

Signs — including “now hiring” — are up at the renovated storefront at 3300 Wilson Blvd, which will feature a drive-thru window for those who want their coffee and donuts on the go. The space was once a Dunkin’ Donuts, before it closed and was succeeded Peruvian chicken restaurant Pio Pio, Indian-Pakistani-Bangladeshi restaurant Naan Kabob, and, briefly, Red Hook Lobster Pound.

After only a few months of construction, the store is now expected to open at some point this month, according to a company spokesman. No exact date was given, but it could be as soon as this week.

A sign on the front door of the Dunkin’ location 3009 Clarendon Blvd, in Clarendon, says the store — which also housed a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop — is now closed and customers should instead head to other Dunkin’ locations in Courthouse, Ballston or at 3300 Wilson Blvd. The latter is opening this coming Friday, Sept. 10, the sign says.

Located about halfway between the Virginia Square and Clarendon Metro stations, the new Dunkin’ will have some of the company’s “next generation” store features, which typically include things like front-facing bakery cases, tap-based iced coffee and tea pours, and mobile order pickup areas, a spokesman previously told ARLnow.

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Morning Notes

New Rosslyn Food Hall Now Open — “Assembly, the area’s latest food hall, located above the Rosslyn Metro stop in Arlington, hopes to entice you by taking a something-for-everyone approach, including plenty of healthy-ish options. Their lineup includes Great Lake Diner; Charo’s vegetarian tacos; Asian street food stall Beng Beng; GiGi’s salads, smoothies, and grain bowls; Big Day Coffee; sandwich joint Sammy Pickles; modern-minded bodega PNTRY; and Fog Point, a 40-seat sit-down oysters and seafood restaurant with a separate entrance.” [DCist]

Abduction Suspect Arrested in Va. Square — “The victim was inside a business when the suspect approached and attempted to engage her in conversation. The suspect then left the business, but remained seated outside. When the victim left the business, the suspect followed her into a neighboring building and onto an elevator, where he again attempted to engage her in conversation, advanced towards her, grabbed her waist and touched her buttocks. The victim attempted to step away but the suspect prevented her from exiting the elevator.” [ACPD]

Courthouse ‘DMV Select’ Office Reopening — “‘DMV Select’ services operated by the Arlington Commissioner of Revenue’s office in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles will reopen Sept. 7 after an 18-month COVID shutdown. The office will operate by appointment Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center, 2100 Clarendon Blvd.” [Sun Gazette]

How Ashton Heights was Sold — “‘Build Your Love Nest in Ashton Heights, Virginia,’ read the ad in the Evening Star a century ago. ‘$500 cash will finance your home; $20 will reserve your lot.’ Exclusive sales agents at the D.C.-based (all female) Kay-Alger Co. were luring federal employees to join the automobile generation’s embrace of suburbanization, to ‘get away from the crowded city and enjoy the freedom of a most picturesque surrounding.'” [Falls Church News-Press]

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