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The Barnes & Noble store in Clarendon (via Google Maps)

The Barnes & Noble store in Clarendon was the scene of an alleged armed robbery today.

Police responded around noon to the bookstore at 2800 Clarendon Blvd, in The Crossing Clarendon shopping center, after a caller reported a crime that happened earlier that morning.

“At approximately 12:06 p.m. on September 29, police were dispatched to the late report of an armed robbery inside a business,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 10:50 a.m., the unknown male suspect began to conceal merchandise inside a bag. When employees confronted the suspect, he displayed a pocket knife before exiting the business with the stolen merchandise.”

“No injuries were reported,” Savage added. “The suspect is described as a Black male in his 40’s or 50’s, 5’10” tall, 240lbs with black hair. He was wearing a cream colored sweater, tan khaki pants, brown boots and black rimmed glasses. The investigation is ongoing.”

Photo via Google Maps

“1619 Project” author Nikole Hannah-Jones (photo courtesy of Arlington Public Library)

(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) Arlington Public Library is hosting Pulitzer Prize-winning “1619 Project” author Nikole Hannah-Jones as part of “Banned Books Week” next month.

The journalist and Howard University faculty member who led the 2019 New York Times project will talk about her book and “the freedom to read.” The event is set to take place on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Washington-Liberty High School auditorium.

“While this event is taking place at Washington-Liberty High School, Arlington Public Schools is not involved in the planning or hosting of this event,” notes the event page on the library website.

The event is “first-come, first-served until capacity is reached,” the page also notes. For those who can’t attend in person, the event will be live-streamed.

The “1619 Project” is an effort to better explain and contextualize slavery’s legacy, as well as Black Americans’ contributions, within the center of America’s history. It’s named as such after the date that the first enslaved African peoples arrived in Virginia.

The event at W-L is part of the nationwide “Banned Books Week,” an annual celebration by libraries and bookstores that highlights the value of “free and open access to information.”

The county’s library director Diane Kresh explained in a 2017 blog post that the reason Arlington Public Libraries celebrates Banned Books Week is that books are expressions of freedom.

“Books are change agents. They challenge our beliefs and biases. They expose us to different experiences and cultures. They help us learn to think for ourselves and not follow the crowd or cult of public opinion,” Kresh wrote.

The lecture is also part of the larger “Arlington Reads” event series.

The “1619 Project” has been both celebrated for its groundbreaking exploration of the topic and criticized for what some say are a series of historical inaccuracies and an emphasis on the significance of enslaved peoples in America’s history over other well-known dates, people, and events. It also sparked political controversy, with conservative members of Congress calling for measures to prevent it from being taught in K-12 schools.

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Archivist of the United States nominee and Arlington resident Colleen Shogan (photo courtesy of the White House Historical Association)

President Joe Biden has nominated Arlington resident Dr. Colleen Shogan to be the Archivist of the United States.

In normal times, the Archivist nomination does not make national news headlines. But now, Shohan is reportedly facing pushing back on Capitol Hill by some Republicans upset with the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home.

The long-time local resident appears to be uniquely qualified for the role of Archivist, whose job is to serve as the “nation’s record keeper” and manage the National Archives.

Shogan is currently a director at the White House Historical Association, an instructor at Georgetown University, and was formerly a deputy director at the Library of Congress. Additionally, she is the board chair of the organization charged with building a national monument to women’s suffrage.

Shogan, a Yale Ph.D., is also the first woman nominated as the permanent Archivist of the United States.

However, in recent days, it seems her path to confirmation could be in peril due to events that are beyond her control.

Two weeks ago, the FBI conducted a search of former President Trump’s Florida home at the behest of the National Archives. For the last 18 months, the National Archives has been trying to retrieve at least two dozen boxes of presidential records material that belong to the federal government but were taken to Mar-a-Lago.

Among the items missing were letters from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and a note that President Barack Obama left Trump, according to the New York Times.

Trump reportedly refused to turn over the materials, which triggered a criminal investigation and the FBI search.

This, however, has led a number of Republicans, as well as Trump himself, to criticize the FBI and the National Archives for what they believe is an overreach of authority and a “witch hunt.”

This has led some GOP senators who will be part of Shogan’s confirmation hearings to say that they will be questioning the nominee much more closely and will “absolutely demand answers” from her about the search.

It’s worth noting that Shogan had nothing to do with the National Archives’ 18-month attempt to get back records nor the FBI search since she was nominated only several weeks ago and is still awaiting confirmation.

Nonetheless, the Arlington resident could be facing a “hostile path to confirmation,” as Bloomberg reports.

While a date has yet to be set for a confirmation hearing, it is expected to happen within the next few months. In response to a request from ARLnow, the White House declined to arrange an interview with Shogan prior to the confirmation.

Aside from her academic and professional accomplishments, Shogan has another unique entry in her biography. She is a murder mystery author who pens novels starring a congressional staffer who has a habit of stumbling upon homicides.

One of her “Washington Whodunit” series of novels is entitled “Larceny at the Library.”

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Arlington Public Library is getting more than a half a million dollars to add 12,000 more titles to its collection, mostly in the form of ebooks.

Last month, the County Board adopted a budget that included a one-time allocation of $543,000 to the county library system for the purpose of adding to its collection. That money will kick in at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.

“The additional funds will allow us to get more books into more hands, more quickly,” said Library Director Diane Kresh in a press release. “A well-stocked, diverse collection benefits the entire community.”

Notably, the money will go towards increasing the library’s collection of electronic titles. The demand for both of these are at an “all-time high,” according to Arlington Public Library, with check-outs increasing by 210% for eAudio titles and 98.5% for eBooks since 2019.

The hope is that the extra funds will help “drastically reduce” how long patrons are waiting for popular titles.

“The lion’s share of the one-time funding will go towards bringing down those wait times by adding more copies of ebook/eaudiobooks with high holds to the collection,” Peter Petruski, who is in charge of the library’s collections, told ARLnow via email.

A smaller portion of the funding will go to more copies of print books, since demand isn’t as high as it is for electronic versions. Print books cost less than their electronic equivalents, Petruski noted.

“The growth in the e-material formats has been the biggest change in recent history,” Petruski writes. “This funding will allow us to continue to provide a broad collection for every reader’s interest while bringing wait times down.”

The library will also expand its catalog of Spanish language books with some of the funding.

The County Board approved its $1.5 billion annual budget last month. In it, Arlington Public Library was allocated a total of about $16 million — an increase of close to 6% from the previous year’s budget.

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Looking for books at the Columbia Pike Branch Library (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) Arlington’s public libraries are trying to figure out how to get patrons back after Covid closures.

Since starting to reopen in mid-2021, library use has been down more than 25% from pre-pandemic levels, the Sun Gazette reports.

In a budget presentation with County Board members, longtime library director Diane Kresh acknowledged that the 75,000 users of her system in the days before COVID had dwindled to 55,000 today. (She didn’t do the math for board members, but it represents a drop of roughly 26.5 percent.)

“We want those people back. We’ve got to bring them back,” said Kresh, on hand to push for a library-system budget increase of 6 percent to $15.9 million and a staffing increase to about 140 full-time-equivalent positions from 131.

Meanwhile, while printed material remains the centerpiece of local libraries, digital rentals are quickly catching up. Kresh’s budget presentation cited the following national figures.

In 2009, non-digital materials made up 98% of a library’s collection. In 2019, that number was 45%.

In 2019, use of digital collections is at an all-time high of 37% of all collection use. This is triple what it was in 2013.

But in terms of borrowing, more physical books are borrowed than digital ones, with roughly 5.6 physical books borrowed per person per year and 3.5 digital.

The presentation noted that hold times in Arlington are long for popular material, like the novel The Lincoln Highway. Digital holds — e-books and e-audiobooks — are roughly twice as long as that for print, the presentation said, with 702 holds for the digital versions compared to 264 for print.

Hold times from library budget presentation (via Arlington County)

Arlington’s public library system, like others across the country, has been evolving its offerings, adding digital material rentals, holding various events and children’s activities, opening makerspaces, providing free meeting space rentals, and offering free Wi-Fi — indoors and outdoors — in addition to computer rentals.

A library is very much a public space: a place to meet up, study, research, create things, and participate in community activities.

Ultimately, though, much of the library system’s physical footprint and operational focus remains devoted to printed materials, at a time when you can read many books instantly on a screen and complete research projects entirely online.

There’s nostalgia for the democratization of knowledge unlocked by the Gilded Age rise of public libraries in the U.S., and print materials are still undoubtedly popular, but there is an argument to be made that libraries could serve more people by repurposing some space for more computers, kids activities and other public functions.

On the other hand, fewer physical books on the shelves could backfire and turn off some devoted patrons while failing to attract marginally higher numbers of new patrons.

What do you think? Should Arlington Public Library should consider gradually de-prioritizing print and using the space for other community uses?

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Washington-Liberty High School students browse copies of “Beloved” and “Maus” (courtesy photo)

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) This afternoon, a group of Washington-Liberty High School students are giving their peers more than 100 copies of two politically controversial books.

The books are “Beloved,” Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel following a Black family during the Reconstruction era, and “Maus,” Art Spiegelman’s award-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust and his father’s life during World War II. Both have explicit content that has some parents and politicians questioning their place in schools.

Controversy around “Beloved” is part of the origin story for a bill passed by the state Senate earlier this month, which would require teachers to label classroom materials that have sexually explicit content. “Maus,” meanwhile, rocketed into the national spotlight after a Tennessee school board voted last month to remove the book from its curriculum due to “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a nude woman.

In addition to labeling classroom materials that have sexually explicit content, the new law requires teachers to notify parents if they are going to teach the materials. It gives parents the right to opt their children out of these lessons and request alternative materials.

But some high school students in Arlington and Fairfax counties are calling the law “backdoor censorship” and organized the distribution in response. It began at 3:15 p.m. in Quincy Park, near W-L.

“Great thinkers and proud Virginians like Thomas Jefferson, Maggie Walker, James Madison, George Mason and Oliver Hill — men and women who understood the importance of education and the value of studying difficult and divisive ideas — are rolling over in their graves,” W-L freshman and giveaway organizer Aaron Zevin-Lopez said in a statement.

Zevin-Lopez tells ARLnow he teamed up with George Marshall High School student Matt Savage — who has been facilitating distributions in Northern Virginia schools this month — to host a book giveaway in Arlington.

“Kids at my school understood that the Governor was attempting to limit reading rights within schools, so we thought that handing out the books beforehand could be a great way to spread the message of resistance and making sure the youth understands our past, both good and bad,” Zevin-Lopez said.

The two students are leaders of the Virginia chapter of a Gen-Z political advocacy group called Voters of Tomorrow, which is providing financial support for the giveaway.

“When the government establishes laws to label literature in terms of a single factor like ‘sexually explicit’, regardless of that factor’s significance to the larger world of literary merit or meaning, it edges closer to censorship,” said Savage, president of Voters of Tomorrow Virginia. “It means we are labeling content for the sole purpose of suppressing it.”

The students say requiring teachers to define their lessons in terms of how much “sexually explicit” content it contains will dissuade them from using anything that may be considered “objectionable.” They add that the law will force teachers to draft two entire lesson plans for one class on the objection of just one parent.

The bill is similar to one passed in 2016, which became known as the “Beloved” bill because it was inspired by a mother’s attempt to have the novel removed from her son’s English class. It was vetoed, however, by Gov. Terry McAuliffe — and his veto narrowly avoided being overturned by the House of Delegates.

The question of parental involvement in education became a central theme of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign after McAuliffe said during a debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Passing the law was a campaign promise of and priority for Youngkin when he assumed office. The Republican governor unsuccessfully tried to pass other laws, including one rooting out curriculum based on critical race theory, and created a tip line for people to report teaching strategies they object to.

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Poet Reginald Dwayne Betts, the first author in 2022’s “Arlington Reads” event series (courtesy of Arlington Public Library)

Arlington Public Library’s annual series “Arlington Reads” is back in person this year, with seven events scheduled throughout the year.

The series will feature conversations between library system director Diane Kresh and notable authors about their favorite classic novels, sharing insights on why their universal themes remain relevant today.

The first event is March 2 and will highlight local poet Reginald Dwayne Betts. He’s also the founder of the nonprofit Freedom Reads, which is a partner on the series.

“2022’s [Arlington Reads] ‘Rebooting the Classics’ focuses on the classic novel: how it is defined, who is its audience, how it influences the works of other authors, and, most importantly, how it affects the reader,” writes Kresh to ARLnow about this year’s theme.

Since its inception in 2006, Arlington Reads has featured conversations with more than 50 nationally known authors. The last two, in 2020 and 2021, have strictly been virtual. The virtual events included conversations with Colson Whitehead and Alexis Coe.

This year’s iteration will essentially be a hybrid, with limited in-person seats available in Central Library’s auditorium and the events also streamed online.

Seven talks are scheduled from March to October, including with fiction author Deesha Philyaw, New Yorker staff writer and book critic Parul Sehgal, and well-known writer of “Lincoln in the Bardo” George Saunders.

Kresh and the writers will discuss impactful classic novels, including “The Great Gatsby,” “The Scarlet Letter,” and “Huckleberry Finn.” The series is financed with help from the Friends of the Arlington Public Library.

The first event’s author, Betts, is from Maryland and wrote “Felon,” a book of poetry about the impact of incarceration on one’s life. In 1996, he was arrested for committing a carjacking outside of Springfield Mall in Fairfax County. After serving time, he’s since become an acclaimed author, poet and advocate.

He founded the nonprofit Freedom Reads, which provides books to those who are incarcerated. The organization is partnering with Arlington Public Library on this year’s version of “Arlington Reads.”

“Freedom Reads gives books to people serving time and through this access, the chance to ‘deepen and envision their lives in new ways,'” writes Kresh.

Arlington-based nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration, which helps individuals return to the community after being incarcerated, is also a partner for the series of events.

Last month, Covid-related staffing shortages resulted in several library branches shuttering — but all regular operations and services resumed on Jan. 31.

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Cover of “From Lee Highway to Langston Boulevard” (photo courtesy of Nadia A. Conyers)

As a fifth generation Arlingtonian and longtime Halls Hill resident, Nadia A. Conyers was thrilled when Lee Highway was renamed Langston Blvd last summer.

Sharing that joy with her daughter Arrington, the 6-year-old was understandably curious. Together, they went looking on Amazon for a kid-friendly book that could help explain why this was a big deal and the accomplishments of the road’s namesake, John M. Langston.

But there was no such book.

“There was a void,” Nadia tells ARLnow. “So, we decided to fill it.”

Arrington’s voice pipes in, explaining what needs to be done when something you need isn’t available.

“You just gotta make it,” she cheerily says.

That’s the genesis of “From Lee Highway to Langston Boulevard,” the new book authored by the mother-daughter team.

The 26-page picture book aimed at young elementary school kids tells the story of John M. Langston, why the road is now named after him, and why that matters.

“It’s a very local book. For kids who live in Arlington, [the dialogue] will resonate with them because they’ll understand the places that are talked about in the book,” Nadia says. “It gives them a good context of how they are part of Black history and how Black history is right here in your neighborhood.”

Arrington and Nadia Conyers (photo courtesy of Nadia A. Conyers)

Halls Hill, where Nadia (and, now, Arrington) grew up, is a historically Black neighborhood in the northern section of the county. For a long time, it was one of the only places in Arlington where African Americans could buy homes, along with Green Valley in South Arlington. In the 1930s, a “segregation wall” was built to separate the Black neighborhood from the surrounding white neighborhoods. A portion of that wall still stands today.

And, for years, a road named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee cut through it.

“As you were walking or driving down Lee Highway, you would start thinking about who Robert E. Lee was and became perplexed about why the road here is named after him,” Nadia says, pausing for a moment. “Angry, even. There are a lot of emotions.”

With the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that were held across the country in the summer of 2020, it became clear to many that it was time for the road’s name to change.

The renaming effort was led by many Halls Hill residents, including by Nadia’s mother and Arrington’s grandmother Saundra Green. In December 2020, a working group proposed “Loving Avenue” as the new name with the state Senate passing a bill two months later to allow for the change. But the Lovings’ descendants nixed the idea and the group went with one of its alternatives: Langston Blvd.

John M. Langston was an attorney, abolitionist, and one of the most prominent African Americans during the Civil War period. Described once as “Obama before Obama,” Langston was the first Black man to represent Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“He was an activist. He was a teacher. He was a good person. He was Black,” Arrington says about Langston.

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Jennifer Sauter-Price with R.E.A.D’s book bus (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Kids dance around tables full of books outside of Arlington Science Focus Elementary School on an overcast December afternoon. There are stories in Spanish, books about Black history, and novels about being the next president, all waiting to be picked up and read.

And parked a few feet away from the book fair is a bright blue “book bus” with a dragon painted on the side.

In the middle of it all is “Pajama Mama,” aka Jennifer Sauter-Price, dressed in her best dog pajamas. She’s the executive director of the Arlington-based nonprofit R.E.A.D. with a mission of providing brand new books to young children who may not have access to them.

R.E.A.D stands for “read early, and daily” and it’s the brainchild of Sauter-Price.

“We want to help [kids] grow libraries and encourage their families to read to them on a daily basis,” she tells ARLnow.

There’s ample research that there’s immense benefits in constantly reading to kids prior to them entering kindergarten. It improves their vocabulary and helps them associate words with feelings along with a number of other benefits, studies show.

Sauter-Price’s R.E.A.D program is simple: Families sign up and get to choose one new book a month for each kid under the age of five in their family.

“It would be really easy for me to just hand them a book, but we learned that families are more engaged when they choose their own book,” says Sauter-Price, who is a mom herself and lives in the Arlington Forest neighborhood. “They feel more empowered.”

Currently, there are about 200 children enrolled.

The books available, Sauter-Price notes, are intentionally chosen to reflect Arlington’s community.

“We have a diverse population of young children here. We have kids who speak English, Spanish, Arabic, Mongolian,” she says. “I search high and low to find those books as well as one that have a diverse set of families.”

Two bilingual books inside of R.E.A.D’s book bus (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

These are what are called “mirror and window” books, ones that reflect the child themselves (mirror) and ones that show the community they live in (window).

Sauter-Price describes a time, pre-COVID, when she showed up to a community event with a book featuring a mom wearing a hijab.

“There was a group of Muslim moms and when one of them saw [the book], they started crying,” she says. “She was like, ‘I’ve never seen this before. Thank you.'”

When asked what are the most popular books, Sauter-Price says that’s universal.

“I would probably say anything about transportation or things that go ‘vroom’,” she laughs.

The book fairs across the county that Sauter-Price puts on, like the one held at Arlington Science Focus Elementary, are revenue generators for R.E.A.D, allowing her to buy more books for more families who are in need.

In 2021 alone, Sauter-Price says the fairs have done about $125,000 in sales, much of which goes back to the program. The hope is to double those sales numbers next year.

Community donations and grants also help to finance R.E.A.D. In the summer of 2019, the program received a $50,000 grant from the newspaper publisher Gannett to spruce up an old school bus.

R.E.A.D’s book bus (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Sauter-Price drives this bus around, brings it to fairs, while families can also shop out of it. She always dress in pajamas because, she says, “it breaks down barriers.”

Future aspirations for R.E.A.D. are high. Sauter-Price just got her peddler’s license meaning she can do “pop-up” book fairs on weekends in commercial areas like Ballston and Clarendon. She’s planning to start doing that this month. Additionally, beginning sometime early next year, the nonprofit is partnering with Virginia Hospital Center to provide a bag of books to uninsured and underinsured moms-to-be.

If R.E.A.D. is able to reach all of those moms, Sauter-Price estimates that it could mean the program could be working with as many as 1,800 babies and young kids a year.

That’s okay by Sauter-Price, who says some of her best memories are reading to her own kids. While they are both grown now and likely don’t want their mom reading to them, reading remains a huge part of Sauter-Price’s life.

She says, “I just feel like my whole life has just been sort of leading to this.”

This feature article was funded by the ARLnow Press Club and was previously published in the Press Club’s weekend newsletter.

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Morning Notes

An airplane taxis after landing at Reagan National Airport (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Calling 911 Over Leaf Blowers — Writes a former Arlington County 911 dispatcher, regarding a recent ARLnow opinion column about leaf blower noise: “Hard hitting stuff coming out of ArCo, as always. I remember taking a 911 call once where the caller complained about this very issue and, in an effort to get police dispatched, called his neighbour’s leaf-blower a ‘violent weapon.’ This county is truly deranged.” [Twitter]

New Drug Recovery Resource — “For individuals having difficulty with substance use, the first step to a better life involves withdrawing  from alcohol or drugs. The new Arlington Recovery Center – a partnership between the County and National Capital Treatment and Recovery (NCTR) – is ready to help people with that journey. Arlington Recovery Center opened its doors this year and includes both Withdrawal Management and Early Recovery programs.” [Arlington County]

Book About Arlington House’s Builder — “Arlington journalist, historian and author Charles S. (‘Charlie’) Clark recently penned ‘George Washington Parke Custis: A Rarefied Life in America’s First Family.’ The book chronicles the complicated life of Custis (1781-1857), who was raised at Mount Vernon – he was the grandson of Martha Washington and step-grandson of George Washington – and in adulthood was responsible for the construction of the Arlington House estate using both free and enslaved workers.” [Sun Gazette]

VHC Expanding With McLean Building — “Virginia Hospital Center is charging ahead with its campus expansion while growing its ambulatory footprint — starting with a $34.5 million purchase in McLean. The Arlington health system has purchased a building at 1760 Old Meadow Road where it’s setting up an orthopedic outpatient surgery center, according to VHC CEO Jim Cole. The hospital is now renovating a 14,900-square-foot area of existing building in a project expected to cost $6.4 million including construction and equipment.” [Washington Business Journal]

Crossing Guard Spreads Thanksgiving Cheer — From Williamsburg Middle School Principal Bryan Boykin: “Mr. La is bringing a little holiday flavor to his traffic duties,” thanks to a large turkey costume. [Twitter]

New Tech Repair Store in Pentagon City — “Leading tech repair provider uBreakiFix by Asurion has opened its newest location in Pentagon City at 1101 S. Joyce St., Suite B-12 on Pentagon Row. The store offers professional repair services for anything with a power button, from smartphones, tablets, and computers to game consoles, smart speakers, and drones-and everything in between.” [Press Release]

Officials Urge Caution on the Roads — “The American Automobile Association predicts that 1.4 million Virginians will travel for this Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday, which equates to 11 percent more motorists than in 2020. Virginia State Police urge patience for motorists planning to hit the roadways. ‘With traffic on the roads increasing and many people anxious to get to their destination, I encourage all Virginians to be patient. Buckle up and take your time,’ said Col. Gary Settle, Virginia State Police superintendent.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Wednesday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 47. Sunrise at 7:01 a.m. and sunset at 4:48 p.m. Thanksgiving day will be mostly sunny, with a high near 55. Showers early Friday morning, then mostly sunny, with a high near 46. We will not be publishing Thursday but will be back with a light publishing schedule on Friday.

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Luna Park (Courtesy of the Center for Local History, Arlington Public Library)

Before Six Flags and Busch Gardens, Luna Park, on what is now the Arlington-Alexandria border, was the go-to amusement park for D.C. area residents.

Opening a few years after the turn of the 20th century, the local Luna Park — it was part of a chain of dozens of parks — featured everything from roller coasters to circus performances. In one famous incident, reminiscent of the recent zebra escape in Maryland, a pack of elephants broke loose from the park during a storm and terrorized unsuspecting local residents for more than a week.

Memories of the park and the elephant escapades are included in local journalist, historian and Falls Church News-Press columnist Charlie Clark’s new book, Lost Arlington County. The book, which was released Monday, “provides a compendium of gone-but-not-forgotten institutions, businesses, homes and amusements.”

Clark shared with ARLnow an excerpt on Luna Park, below.

Arlington bid to be a regional playground at the dawn of the twentieth century. A vacuum in the entertainment market was created after commonwealth’s attorney Crandal Mackey’s cleanup of saloons and brothels in Rosslyn and Jackson City.

Pittsburgh entrepreneur Frederick Ingersoll spent $350,000 to build, near the rail line and Four Mile Run at the Arlington-Alexandria border (the edge of today’s Crystal City), what promoters called “unquestionably the grandest and most complete amusement and recreative place between the great ocean resorts.”

When it opened in May 1906, Luna Park was forty acres of tackiness with space for three thousand picnickers, restaurants, a circus arena and a ballroom in varying Gothic, Moorish and Japanese themes. At night, attendees were thrilled to behold fifty-one thousand electric lights. A 350-foot-tall inclined chute spilled riders into an 80-foot-deep lagoon.

The press enthused: it was like “a silver city set with diamonds,” said the Washington Post. Guests were entertained by Liberati’s sixty-piece band and by the Bessie Valdare All-Girl English Bicycle Team, as reported in a 2012 narrative by Jim McClellan and Shirley Raybuck in the Northern Virginia Review. Their article “The Pachyderm Panic of 1906” is the most detailed account of an oft-told tale that has brightened books on Arlington since the 1950s.

To liven the offerings at Luna Park, impresarios brought, by boxcar, four live elephants from Coney Island, New York. The much-hyped act, Barlow’s Elephants, arrived in August 1906 as a procession of the animals debarked from a Potomac barge. Dubbed Queenie, Annie, Jennie and Tommy, the elephants were trained to perform tricks, such as playing barber and shaving a man. But on that first night, a violent storm hit Alexandria County, which frightened the pachyderms that were chained together inside their hippodrome. They began kicking equipment (destroying an ice cream vendor’s cash register). To the screams of onlooking women and men, three made their escape.

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