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1313 N. Harrison Street frontage, with an excerpt of restrictive covenants from its 1938 deed (by ARLnow)

Using a restrictive covenant in a 1938 deed, neighbors in the Tara-Leeway Heights neighborhood convinced a developer to build a single-family home instead of a duplex.

The home, 1313 N. Harrison Street, is not far from a wall that separated the historically Black neighborhood of Hall’s Hill from single-family-home subdivisions originally built exclusively for white people.  In addition to specifying that only one home can be built on the lot, a second provision in the deed bars owners from selling to people who are not white.

This second provision came to light this week after ARLnow and Patch reported on the neighbors convincing the developer to back down from building a two-family home. A copy of the deed circulated on social media shortly after and ARLnow obtained a copy from Arlington County Land Records Division to confirm its authenticity. 

While racially restrictive covenants were rendered unenforceable by a 1948 U.S. Supreme Court ruling and illegal by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, many homeowners never scrubbed them from their deeds, according to local researchers who are mapping racially restrictive covenants in Arlington. Thus, in some cases, they exist alongside separate covenants restricting multifamily construction.

Using the covenant against multifamily housing appears to be a valid workaround for neighbors and Arlington County says it has no legal role in how these covenants are used between private parties. The county began approving 2-6 unit homes in previously single-family-only neighborhoods two months ago, but this is the first instance ARLnow knows of where such a document was used in this way. 

Their use, however, resituates one of the initial reasons Arlington County said it embarked on the housing policy changes in the first place: to right historical wrongs caused by racism. It provoked the ire of some Missing Middle advocates, including the Arlington branch of the NAACP, which is calling on the county to address the issue.

“The whites-only restriction can’t be disentangled from the one-house restriction; they were meant to work together, with the purpose and effect of excluding people of color,” said Wells Harrell, the chair of the housing committee of the NAACP, in a statement. “It is profoundly disappointing to see restrictive covenants from the Jim Crow era being invoked to block new housing and exclude families today.” 

Several months ago, Arlington resident Stephanie Derrig identified these covenants as a way property owners could block Missing Middle-type housing from being built in their neighborhood.

She told ARLnow this week that she does not support the racist elements of restrictive covenants. At the same time, she sticks by her belief that a “restricted deed is a land use tool… to protect your largest investment, in many cases.” 

YIMBYs of Northern Virginia leader Jane Green and Former Planning Commissioner Daniel Weir, both supportive of Missing Middle, take the view of the local NAACP that the two restrictions are part of one legal document, written with exclusionary intent. 

Whether these provisions can be separated is a legal question — and a thorny one, at that, according to Venable land-use attorney Kedrick Whitmore. 

When a court rules part of an agreement is unenforceable, the court does not rewrite the agreement to be legal, he said. This principle might affirm the initial view of the developer, BeaconCrest, which argued — before backing down and deciding to build a single-family home — that the document seems unenforceable. 

On the other hand, courts do not want to remove other rights and obligations for which two parties negotiated. This means the court could uphold the rest of the agreement, giving credence to the arguments made by the neighbors. 

“This is not exactly cut and dry,” Whitmore said. “You could make arguments either way. If you went to court, the stronger argument is for the non-racially restrictive elements to remain valid. But again, that’s a question.” 

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A trail leading to VDOT-owned land near Chain Bridge Forest (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 9:15 a.m. on 7/12/23) A secluded wooded area south of Pimmit Run in North Arlington with a little-known history is up for sale and Arlington County could become the buyer.

The county is considering whether to buy a 6.7-acre parcel near the Chain Bridge Forest neighborhood from the Virginia Dept. of Transportation for $2.88 million. The property, between a curving section of N. Glebe Road and Pimmit Run, includes both developable and protected land.

VDOT originally intended to use it for a connector road from N. Glebe Road to Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) in Fairfax County, which it never built, the county says. It now is giving Arlington first dibs before turning to private buyers. Should the sale go through, the county would set the land aside for public open space.

The property in question sits within the historic boundaries of a near-forgotten settlement by freed Black people who worked the land from the 1850s to the 1950s, according to the county and Jessica Kaplan, a local expert on and author of a definitive 2018 article about the community.

Kaplan pieced her article together from census data, deeds, wills, maps and claims residents made against the government for property it confiscated during the Civil War.

The settlement grew after John Jackson, a free Black man, bought three acres from white landowner William Walker, who he had known since childhood, shortly before the Civil War broke out, Kaplan writes. She says it is unclear if he sold to Jackson because of their friendship or because white people were not interested because it was a low-lying, flood-prone area.

Despite those issues, Jackson went through with the purchase. Walker’s initial sale sparked a small exodus of Black families — who had either escaped slavery, bought their freedom or were born free — from Fairfax County to what is now Arlington.

In what may be a riff on the problems with the land, residents called it “The Bottom,” Kaplan writes. At its peak, 20 families lived there.

“Whether [leasees] or owners, they found relative safety in numbers and in the secluded, timber-lined hollow of The Bottom,” she said. “The Bottom remained their home through challenging times: war, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, segregation, and suburbanization.”

The presumed borders of The Bottom and the VDOT property within it (via Arlington County)

Residents eked out a living farming, tending livestock and quarrying stone, she said. During the Civil War, men helped build nearby Fort Marcy and Fort Ethan Allen while women sold baked goods and did laundry for soldiers. Some of the Union soldiers, however, raided their farms and burned the land for fuel.

With paltry government repayments for confiscated property, the families built back after the war, Kaplan wrote. They farmed, quarried stone and worked for nearby white families. Their children walked three miles to attend the closest school for Black children, then called Sumner School.

The enclave dwindled to non-existence in the 1950s as residents died, moved to other Black neighborhoods in Arlington such as Halls Hill, or left the area. Economic pressures were compounded by access: Arlington County abandoned a road running along The Bottom’s west side and circumvented it with the new N. Glebe Road to Chain Bridge.

Investors ended up owning all the land comprising The Bottom, eventually selling to the U.S. government. Kaplan says the community “became the anchor for an overpass of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.”  Read More


Moore’s Barber Shop, in Arlington’s historically Black neighborhood of Halls Hill, has survived Covid and remained in business despite competition from low-cost chains.

Its secret, according to owner James Moore Jr., is not a business strategy or particularly talented barber — it is community. In a video (below) produced by Arlington County recently, he muses this must be what motivated his local government to offer to support in any way it could.

“I was like, ‘Why would they do that for me?’ It’s not just because we’re a legacy business. We’ve been here a long time,” he said. “It must have value to the community. It has something intangible that is more than just a good haircut.”

His barbershop is tucked into a nondescript, two-story brick building painted gray at 4807 Langston Blvd. Built in the 1940s, it is a few blocks from the shop his father, James Moore, Sr., opened in 1960.

The current barbershop does not exemplify a grand architectural style but — judging by the video and its prominent place in a draft Historic and Cultural Resources Plan — Arlington County sees in it a cultural landmark worth preserving.

The vehicle for preserving Moore’s Barber Shop would be this new draft plan, released by Arlington County Historic Preservation Program (HPP) staff. It lists the goals they have for preserving storied places and animating them for residents and visitors today. People can provide input on the draft plan this summer via open houses, pop-up events and an online questionnaire. The Arlington County Board could adopt it this fall.

The draft reckons with a historic approach that saved architecturally significant homes but abandoned to development landmarks associated with ethnic groups, like the Vietnamese enclave of Little Saigon, now Clarendon. In the plan, Arlington commits to highlighting diverse stories, saving modest buildings where history happened — like Moore’s Barber Shop — and making preservation relevant.

“Populations and their stories cannot be only (and comprehensively) expressed through architecturally significant buildings, but rather through a varied collection of landscapes and open spaces, public buildings, modestly built neighborhoods, and iconic structures,” the plan says.

“People and culture are key to understanding our environment and the work of historic preservation; as such, they are at the heart of the Plan’s Statement of Historical and Cultural Significance,” it continues.

The draft grapples with the drumbeat of development and HPP’s mixed success saving buildings. Successes include adding historical installations at Dorothy Hamm Middle School, the site of the first Arlington school to racially integrate, and the under-construction Fire Station 8, which Black residents started to put out their own fires when the county would not during the Jim Crow era.

HPP notes, however, some recent demolitions: the Wilson School, now the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program in Rosslyn; Arlington Presbyterian Church, now affordable housing; the Arlington Education Center, now the Washington-Liberty Annex; the Febrey-Lothrop Estate and the Fellows-McGrath House, which will be replaced with single-family homes.

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When living civil rights legend Joan Trumpauer Mulholland participated in sit-ins, she carried a Bible with her.

She kept her birth certificate inside “so that they could identify the body,” her son, Loki, said during an event on Saturday at the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington honoring his mother’s activism.

Joan piped up: “I didn’t have a driver’s license or anything like that. So I needed some way for them to know who I am.”

For protesting segregation with lunch counter sit-ins and bus trips known as Freedom Rides, Mulholland was briefly incarcerated in a maximum security prison and hunted by the Ku Klux Klan. In the intervening 60 years, her activism inspired books and documentaries and the creation of the Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Foundation, which provides anti-racist education.

During the event — just shy of the 60th anniversary of a historic sit-in in Jackson, Mississippi, in which Mulholland participated — people gathered at the Columbia Pike museum to hear from her and check out an expanded exhibit with objects from her days as a Freedom Rider.

Just under her Bible, visitors can see memorabilia from the historically Black sorority she joined, Delta Sigma Theta, to advance racial integration.

Nearby is a blue dress she wore during a sit-in at the Woolworth’s in Jackson, Mississippi on May 28, 1963, in which white people attacked her and other Tougaloo College student and faculty demonstrators.

“We want to honor her… because when I talk around and ask people to name some white, anti-racist civil rights leaders, they can’t name anybody but Abe Lincoln, but there’s a lot of them,” museum president Scott Taylor says. “If you don’t know what to do with white privilege, you can look at this right here and she’ll show you.”

Author M. J. O’Brien told attendees that seeing a photo of two demonstrators flanking her — “in all her glory, getting sugar dumped on her, as if she wasn’t sweet enough” — moved him to write a book about the impact of the Jackson Woolworth’s sit-in, “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

Reminiscing, Mulholland said that photo, taken by local newspaper photographer Fred Blackwell, “went worldwide.”

“Back in the days before color photography in the press, it was colorized on the front page above the centerfold of the Paris Match, the most widely read newspaper in Europe,” she recounted.

Mulholland called it “the most integrated picture” of a sit-in, as fellow demonstrators included Anne Moody, a Black woman, and John Hunter Gray, who was of Native American descent.

The Woolworth’s sit-in in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963, taken by photographer Fred Blackwell (via KHSU)

“We didn’t have any Asian-American students at that time in the school, but we had it pretty well-covered,” she said.

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A unique reunion will take place at Arlington National Cemetery later this month.

Descendants of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee will gather with descendants of enslaved persons at the place where they once lived: Lee’s former plantation home, Arlington House.

The reunion, supported by the National Park Service, will feature families whose name has been etched in Arlington history over the years: Syphax, Custis, Gray, and so on.

A planned program on Saturday, April 22 will be open to the public and is set to include “music, remarks from descendant family members, and a ceremonial signing of a commitment letter to affirm the shared interests of the National Park Service and descendant families in shaping and sharing how descendant family histories and legacies are presented to the public.”

More, below, from a press release.

After more than 160 years, the descendants of the families, both enslaved and free, who lived on the historical plantation home of George Washington Parke Custis and Robert E. Lee will come together in-person for a milestone celebration of togetherness, reconciliation and storytelling. The three-day event, the first of its kind, will be held the weekend of April 21-23, 2023.

The Saturday April 22nd program beginning at 10AM on the grounds of Arlington House, will be open to the public and include music, remarks from descendant family members, and a ceremonial signing of a commitment letter to affirm the shared interests of the National Park Service and descendant families in shaping and sharing how descendant family histories and legacies are presented to the public.

Stephen Hammond, one of the organizers of the event and a Syphax family descendant, said, “We are pleased to announce our first face-to-face reunion of the descendant families connected to Arlington House. For the last two years, we have been meeting virtually, as a family circle, thanks to reconciliation dialogues sponsored by the National Park Service. Our facilitated conversations grew from members’ initial work to get to know one another and listen to one another. Through these deliberate and thoughtful conversations, the group has become a meaningful circle for its participants, who are now inviting the larger Arlington House descendant community to join us.”

Sarah Fleming, a Lee family descendant, said, “My fourth great grandfather, Richard Bland Lee, was Robert E. Lee’s uncle. I grew up knowing slavery was abhorrent and hearing of the pride my family took in being related to the Lees. We never talked about the space in between – about how the Lees themselves were enslavers. As a descendant of the Lees of Virginia, I am honored to have been invited to join the Arlington House Descendants’ Family Circle and to work towards healing the racial harms caused by slavery and by my ancestors.”

The Arlington House Family Circle was formed in 2021 with support from the National Park Service by descendants of enslaved persons, including the Branham, Custis, Gray, Henry, Norris, Parks and Syphax families, as well as descendants of enslaver families including the Custis and Lee families. The Family Circle participated in an innovative trust-building and truth-telling process, called The Welcome Table, which fostered difficult but necessary conversations about history that created a pathway to address the past while also charting a way forward together.

Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial, reopened in June 2021 after a 3-year renovation. The renovated plantation house, along with gardens and other buildings with exhibits will be open. Descendants will be on hand as docents, to answer questions.

Author Michael Twitty (photo courtesy of Arlington Public Library)

Arlington Public Library is putting on a number of events over the next several weeks to commemorate and celebrate Black History Month.

Highlights include a talk with a James Beard award winner, a documentary screening about one of Arlington’s most famous musicians, and a presentation about the historic Green Valley Pharmacy.

February marks Black History Month which, as the library’s website notes, has origins that date back more than a century ago. In honor of the month, the Arlington Public Library is hosting several programs “to celebrate Black culture and stories.”

Unlike the previous few years, the majority of the events will be in-person this year.

This week at Central Library, James Beard award-winning author Michael W. Twitty will discuss his book “KosherSoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew.”

Based in D.C., Twitty has earned recognition for his cooking, writing, and fusing of two culinary histories. There will be an audience question and answer session and a book signing after the discussion.

The talk on Thursday, Feb. 16 is being held in person inside the auditorium at Central Library and seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. It will also be live-streamed and a recording will be available on the county’s YouTube page for 30 days after the event.

On Sunday, Feb. 19, the library is partnering with local PBS station WETA and the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington for a screening of the new documentary about musician Roberta Flack. It will take place at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse on Columbia Pike starting at 7 p.m.

Flack grew up in Green Valley and went to Hoffman-Boston High School. She’s famed for singing a number of number-one hits, including “Killing Me Softly.”

American Masters: Roberta Flack features “exclusive access to Flack’s archives of film, performances, interviews, home movies, photos, hit songs and unreleased music,” the library’s website reads. “The film documents how Flack’s musical virtuosity was inseparable from her lifelong commitment to civil rights.”

The screening is free but registration is required. There will be free popcorn courtesy of WETA.

Later in the month, Green Valley Civic Association Portia Clark will give a “special presentation” about the Green Valley Pharmacy at the Shirlington Branch Library. The local landmark was owned by Doc Muse for decades, where he dispensed medicine to the Black community.

“The longest-operating African American pharmacy in Arlington County and likely the first African-American-owned pharmacy in the county, the Green Valley Pharmacy has helped shape and define the local community for over 60 years,” reads the event listing.

The property was designed as a local landmark in 2013 and a historic marker was placed in front in 2014.

Doc Muse died in 2017 and the property was transferred to his daughter. The building has remained vacant ever since, though a kabob restaurant is still expected to move in at some point.

Clark’s presentation will take place on Thursday, Feb. 23 and registration is required.

Several other Black History Month events both online and in person at Central Library, including a kid-aimed production highlighting Black American heroes this Wednesday, a discussion of the 1930s project of interviewing formerly enslaved Virginians, and a family-friendly “musical experience.”

Green Valley Pharmacy (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

It appears that the new restaurant coming to the former Green Valley Pharmacy could finally be ready to open by this summer.

Over the last several months, the county has reviewed and approved a number of plans related to the proposed renovations at the historic building. Another sign of progress: recent meetings with the community that had in the past pushed back on some of those proposals.

Construction could begin within weeks on the property, which has sat mostly untouched for the better part of six years, we’re told.

The county, the building owner, the restaurant tenant, and the Green Valley Civic Association have all signaled to ARLnow that they are ready to move forward to redeveloping the local landmark into a kabob restaurant.

“We do still have concerns with parking, ingress, and egress,” Green Valley Civic Association president Portia Clark told ARLnow via email. “[But] the community is not holding up this project.”

The restaurant project was first reported in September 2021 and came with the blessing of Jessie Al-Amin, the daughter of former pharmacy owner Doc Muse.

Muse was a graduate of the Howard University School of Pharmacy and opened Green Valley Pharmacy in 1952 as Arlington’s only pharmacy and lunch counter to serve the county’s Black community during the Jim Crow era.

The business at 2415 Shirlington Road was designated by the county as a local historic landmark in 2013, with a historic marker placed there in 2014.

Al-Amin inherited the building from Muse when he died in 2017. The pharmacy at 2415 Shirlington Road closed shortly after his death.

In August 2019, Al-Amin made a deal with local business owner Nasir Ahmad for him to rent the building and open a new business. Ahmad owns restaurants in Sterling and Fredericksburg and told ARLnow he previously owned a fried chicken eatery in Green Valley close to twenty years ago, where John Robinson, Jr. Town Square is now.

Since it is protected as a local historic district, any proposed exterior alterations had to be approved by the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board’s (HALRB) design review process.

In October of last year, the HALRB approved proposed hardscaping and parking modifications. Last month, the board issued a Certificate of Appropriateness allowing for exterior alterations.

“For the time being, the HALRB process is complete, unless there are future changes needed to their approved certificates OR if additional exterior alterations are proposed (signage, outdoor seating, etc.),” Historic Preservation Program coordinator Cynthia Liccese-Torres told ARLnow.

Even if the HALRB needed to review external signage, Liccese-Torres said, the restaurant could still open without signage being finalized.

The only hang-up now, at least on the county side, is for the Dept. of Environmental Services (DES) to approve the building permit. A county spokesperson said that a review is currently taking place, though said that they could not provide a timeline for when it might be completed.

Ahmad told ARLnow he believes he’ll hear back from the county within the next few days, noting that even if plans needed to be altered that shouldn’t delay the project that much.

From there, construction would likely take three to four months. That could put an expected completion date sometime in the late spring or early summer.

As previously reported, the restaurant is set to serve chicken, rice, kabobs, burgers, and pizza. While “Halal Spot” was thought to be the restaurant’s name, Ahmad said they have yet to make a final decision on that.

Clark said that whatever the name might be, the community is ready for it to be redeveloped.

“They need to do something because the building is now just an eyesore,” she said. “The window coverings look awful.”

Trash and illegal parking have also become problems, locals tell ARLnow, which has added to the downtrodden look of the property.

But “slow and steady” progress seems to be happening and those involved are looking forward to finally opening a new community-serving business.

“I’ve always wanted to make sure [the redevelopment] represented my father’s legacy,” Al-Amin said. “It will be nice when it’s done.”

The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington on Columbia Pike (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) It’s set to be a busy month at the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington as it continues to look for a permanent home.

The museum is participating in a number of Black History Month programs while preparing to put up new exhibits, museum director Scott Taylor told ARLnow.

This past weekend, the museum partnered with the Columbia Pike Partnership and the Embassy of Switzerland on a program focused on the importance of museums in the community.

On Sunday (Feb. 5), families and staff from Tuckahoe Elementary School visited the museum. Plus, Taylor monitored a panel last night for the local PBS station WETA discussing the production of last year’s documentary series “Making Black America.”

Coming up on Sunday, Feb. 19, the museum is again partnering with WETA as well as the Arlington Public Library for a screening of the documentary American Masters: Roberta Flack at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse on Columbia Pike.

Flack is known for several number-one hits including “Killing Me Softly” and grew up in Green Valley.

All of these events and programs have kept Taylor so busy that he hasn’t had a chance to put up any new exhibits, but that’s hopefully changing this week.

The museum is planning to set out a display featuring items from what was once Hoffman-Boston High School, Arlington’s only high school for Black students at a time when the county’s schools were segregated.

“We have some sixty-plus-year-old yearbooks that people see and feel and look at,” Taylor said.

There will also be a “few new things” from Fire Station 8, including several firemen hats and boots. Located in Halls Hill, it was Arlington’s only fire station staffed with Black firefighters. A state-of-the-art station is replacing the old one and is expected to be completed later this year.

Later this month, Taylor plans to put up an exhibit about Camp Casey featuring a gun from the era as well.

All of this comes as the museum continues its search for a permanent home. In September, it moved into a new space with the Columbia Pike Partnership on the first floor of the Ethiopian Community Development Council building at 3045B Columbia Pike.

While Taylor appreciates the temporary home, it is small and the museum is often unable to do everything it wants to do.

“Arlington needs this and, most people who come through, want [us] to expand,” he said. “I have things that I can’t even put up because we don’t have enough space.”

The museum is not close to finding its own home, Taylor said, noting money is the main obstacle.

“The rent in Arlington is just crazy. These new buildings want $10,000 a month,” he said.

At their grand re-opening in September, Taylor said he had a conversation with several County Board members about possibly moving into the building across the street if it ends up getting redeveloped by the county into a library.

But that remains only a possibility and somewhat far in the future.

The Black Heritage Museum is a “big asset” to the county, he said, one that he says needs to be cherished and given assistance to.

“This history is not being taught in schools. We bring voices to unsung heroes,” Taylor said. “This history belongs to Arlington.”

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(Updated at 8:50 p.m.) A new historic marker has gone up at the 138-year-old Mount Salvation Baptist Cemetery, honoring the final resting place for a number of early Halls Hill leaders.

The county installed a historic marker in October at Mount Salvation Baptist Cemetery on N. Culpepper Street in the Halls Hill neighborhood, also known as High View Park. A brief unveiling ceremony was held in late November and attended by Board Chair Katie Cristol, local historian Charlie Clark, Black Heritage Museum president Scott Edwin Taylor, and others.

The marker reads:

“The Mt. Salvation Baptist Church trustees have maintained this cemetery since June 7, 1884 when they bought the property for $80. Reverend Cyrus Carter cultivated the congregation which began at the nearby home of Isabella Washington and Moses Pelham, Sr. The cemetery contains 89 known burials from 1916 to 1974, although earlier burials were likely.

This is the final resting place of many community leaders, including those who were formerly enslaved and their descendants. Members of this church provided stability and social support throughout segregation and served as a pillar of Arlington’s African American community. The cemetery became an Arlington Historic District in 2021.”

The cemetery was designated as a local historic district last year and the marker was approved by the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) in April 2022.

“Being a Local Historic District (LHD) is not required to request a marker, but we thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our newest LHD and provide a small glimpse into the history for those enjoying the neighborhood,” county historic preservation planner Serena Bolliger wrote ARLnow in an email.

The cemetery is the final resting place for at least nearly 90 early residents of Halls Hill, a fact known thanks to a ground-penetrating probing survey that was done in October 2019 with permission from the church. The probing also revealed potential grave markers and borders.

Buried at Mount Salvation are a number of influential Arlingtonians including Lucretia M. Lewis, Moses Pelham, and Annie and Robert Spriggs.

Scott Edwin Taylor, president of the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, told ARLnow that what also makes Mount Salvation special is that it’s a great example of how traditional African American cemeteries were laid out and designed prior to the turn of the 20th century. Graves are often oriented east to west, with the head point westward. Burial plots tend to be shallow, no deeper than four feet, with plantings.

“Some anthropologists have suggested that marking graves with plants may have been rooted in the African belief in the living spirit,” reads the county’s report on the cemetery.

Some graves even have seashells.

“A lot of Black Americans, before the turn of the [20th] century, used seashells. It was… like asking angels to watch over the graves. A couple of the graves still have those seashells on there,” Taylor said.

Mount Salvation is one of two still-remaining, church-affiliated, historic African-American cemeteries in the Halls Hill neighborhood with the other being Calloway Cemetery on Langston Blvd.

It’s important to preserve these sites for generations to come, Taylor explained.

“The gentrification that’s going on in Arlington is moving at the speed of light,” Taylor said. “When we have landmarks like [this], we need to cherish them because it shows the real African-American experience.”

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The following in-depth local reporting was supported by the ARLnow Press Club. Join today to support local journalism and to get an early look at what we’re planning to cover each day.

Marguarite Gooden, who is now in her 70s, remembers the day that her grandfather, “a sage man,” as she describes him, told her something that would forever alter her family’s course.

“Keep the land,” he said.

When she could afford it, she purchased her first childhood home, which her father built on her grandfather’s property. She then purchased her second, larger childhood home, which her father built across what’s now named Langston Blvd, then Lee Highway, when his wife became pregnant with twins.

“I own both properties and I have had the wherewithal to make sure they’re in trusts, and that my kids and grandkids cannot sell them,” Gooden tells ARLnow.

Gooden, who shared her anecdote during a county-facilitated conversation on the Missing Middle housing study, said in an interview with ARLnow that she is glad she could help her kids stay in Arlington if they wanted. She said she wants teachers, firefighters and nurses at the nearby Virginia Hospital Center to be able to afford to live here, too.

But all around her, new construction in Halls Hill is increasingly unaffordable — a new six-bedroom, single-family home with a modern design recently went for $1.7 million compared to a circa-1995, three-bedroom townhouse went for $825,000. Another new construction, single-family detached home on a dead-end street is listed for sale for $1.9 million.

There are still some relative bargains to be had in the neighborhood, like the five-bedroom rambler that sold for $735,000, but with each “fixer-upper” sale comes with the chance that another huge house from a local builder will replace it.

The pricier homes came at the expense of this historically Black community, Gooden said, as neighbors moved away for more space or cheaper property taxes and sold the property they inherited from their parents and grandparents.

“That completely changed that neighborhood,” Gooden said. “We don’t even know all our neighbors anymore. I used to know everybody.”

After all this upheaval, could the county’s plan to allow two- to eight-unit buildings in single-family neighborhoods create more attainable homeownership opportunities in Halls Hill? Could it prevent future displacement?

It’s unclear.

One prevailing attitude is “something is better than nothing,” but concerns remain that Missing Middle will increase development in Halls Hill without bringing down the price. Certain streets already allow low-density multifamily units, and given the recent sale of two duplexes for $1.2 million apiece, they’re worried new “middle housing” won’t be attainable and won’t stem the tide of gentrification.

“People who live here are worried Halls Hill will be targeted, not more north in Arlington, where options are needed,” said community leader Wilma Jones.

Some developers, meanwhile, are excited to tap into buyers who want homes that feed into Yorktown High School and still have lower property values, at least to compared to other North Arlington neighborhoods.

“There’s such little supply, people want to be anywhere in North Arlington,” said Charles Taylor, the head of acquisitions for Arlington-based Classic Cottages. “It’s pretty schools driven. A lot of times, we don’t granularly pick and choose ‘We want to be in this block or that block,’ it’s like, ‘Hey, this is a lot in North Arlington, it feeds into Yorktown, let’s go there.'”

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A $10,000 state tourism grant will revamp how Arlington promotes its Black history to tourists.

Currently, the county’s tourism webpage outlines some of the important historic moments and existing landmarks. The landing page links to blog posts featuring Black businesses and artwork celebrating Arlington’s Black culture and history.

Travelers who want more can download a 68-page online tour guide last updated in 2016.

Arlington Convention and Visitors Service — the tourism division of Arlington Economic Development — wants to give the branding for these resources a facelift. And on Saturday, the Arlington County Board accepted a $10,000 grant from the Virginia Tourism Corporation to fund these upgrades.

“The Black Arlington experience is an incredibly representative one of American history and we are really excited to welcome in more tourists to learn about those landmarks and narratives,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said during the Saturday meeting.

The changes would make it easier to plan a trip engaging with Arlington’s Black history and support its Black-owned businesses.

“One idea is to create a customized map that highlights sites and experiences that honor and commemorate Arlington’s Black history across the County as well as showcase Black-owned business locations,” said ACVS director Emily Cassell. “We’re also considering adding suggested itineraries for visitors.”

The grant will pay for fresh photos, a professional video of major sights and digital assets for social media.

How Arlington celebrates its Black history has changed since the last reprinting of the tour guide.

Nauck — a historically Black neighborhood named for a Confederate soldier — was renamed Green Valley in 2020. The Nauck Town Square was dubbed the John Robinson Jr. Town Square and construction there on a new plaza and sculpture wrapped up this spring.

Last summer, Lee Highway was renamed Langston Blvd and Arlington Public Schools unveiled panels at Dorothy Hamm Middle School honoring the four students who integrated the building — formerly Stratford Junior High School — six decades ago.

On Friday, the Black Heritage Museum celebrated its grand reopening in a new space at 3045B Columbia Pike.

Eventually, visitors will be able to see more historical reminders of Arlington’s Jim Crow era. The new Fire Station No. 8 (4845 Langston Blvd) will pay tribute to the Hall’s Hill Volunteer Fire Department, which served the historically Black neighborhood, and the forthcoming restaurant in the former Green Valley Pharmacy space will pay homage to the only lunch counter and pharmacy that served Black people during segregation.

Information like this is expected to migrate to a new tourism website that will go live next year.

“We are well into plans for a new website launching in 2023, and are actively working on improved and expanded tourism content across the board,” Cassell said. “We are very pleased that this new [funding] will help us enhance visitor experiences and better tell the story of Arlington’s African American heritage. We’re also thrilled with today’s ribbon cutting at The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington and look forward to our continued partnership.”

The grant will facilitate collaboration with other groups, too, including Arlington’s business improvement districts, neighborhood groups, libraries, the county’s Historic Preservation Program, Walk Arlington and Bike Arlington, according to the county report.

ACVS applied for the grant early this year as part of an effort to conduct strategic tourism planning as travel recovers from the pandemic, according to a county report. From February through May, ACVS heard from nearly 40 “local hospitality stakeholders” on ideas they thought could boost local tourism.

“Of numerous ideas considered, participants expressed enthusiasm for promoting visitor sites and experiences that showcase Arlington’s African American heritage,” the report said.

Other ideas for improving tourism, discussed in the report, include a more up-to-date calendar of events, more live music venues, and water taxi routes to Reagan National Airport, the Pentagon and Rosslyn.


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