Arlington, VA

The Mount Salvation Baptist Church cemetery — which served as the final resting place Black Arlingtonians denied access to white graveyards — could be granted a historic district designation by the Arlington County Board.

As part of the consent agenda at its Jan. 23 meeting, the County Board approved advertisement of public hearings to review the designation of the cemetery at 1961 N. Culpeper Street at the Monday, Feb. 8 Planning Commission meeting and at the Saturday, Feb. 20 County Board meeting.

“There are many community members in this church and I’ve been there to listen and pay respects,” said County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti. “This is historic preservation done well to help us remember our African-American community and history. The final resting places in this burial ground, it’s important for us to recognize this for historic preservation.”

The Mount Salvation Baptist Church congregation has gathered in the Halls Hill/High View Park neighborhood since the first church was constructed on the property in 1892. That church was later demolished with a replacement church build in 1975. The earliest marked burial at the cemetery was a woman named Helen Thompson in 1916, but a staff report on the cemetery said there are likely older, unmarked graves on the plot dating back to the church’s founding. There are a total of 89 confirmed burials at the site.

“There are two other historic African American cemeteries in Arlington County that are designated as local historic districts: most of Lomax African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Cemetery in Green Valley and Calloway United Methodist Cemetery in Hall’s Hill,” a staff report said.

The report noted that Mount Salvation Baptist Church was as much of a social gathering place for Black Arlingtonians in the late 19th century and early 20th century as it was a religious institution.

Both the trustees of the church and Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board support the designation.

Part of the designation could also open the way to a barrier around the cemetery to limit pedestrian through-traffic.

“Church trustees have expressed a desire to discourage casual pedestrian traffic through the cemetery,” the report said. “The installation of a permanent fence around the cemetery would deter such activity; recommendations for appropriate fencing types are included in the accompanying proposed Mount Salvation Baptist Cemetery Local Historic District Design Guidelines.”

Image via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Amazon Makes Local Donations — Amazon has made a some substantial recent donations to local charitable organizations. Arlington-based Doorways for Women and Families received $100,000 from Amazon “in COVID-19 relief to keep survivors safe in housing and hotels,” while newly-created Project Headphones received $75,000, which “allows us to get headphones with mics for all grade levels in @APSVirginia.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Clement Blasts ‘Missing Middle’ Housing — “‘Missing middle’ may be two words totaling 13 letters, but depending on which side of the Arlington political divide you are on, it may qualify as a single four-letter word. The proposed housing policy, which in theory aims to find ways to stop Arlington from becoming an enclave of the very wealthy with some low-cost housing thrown in as fig leaf, came under withering attack from a veteran campaigner during the recent Arlington Committee of 100 County Board debate.” [InsideNova]

Food Hall Coming to Rosslyn Development — “The first level of the new concept will include a bodega that carries everyday essentials and prepared food for dine-in or to-go. The second level will offer seven food stalls, including an oyster bar, coffee bar and diner concept. There will also be access to a main bar, full-service dining area and a communal work lounge.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Offering Free Online Job Training — “City of Alexandria and Arlington County residents can get free job skills training online as part of ‘Skill-Up City of Alexandria and Arlington County,’ an initiative of the Alexandria/Arlington Regional Workforce Council, Alexandria Workforce Development Center, and Arlington Employment Center. The online classes are funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.” [Arlington County]

Recollection of Racism in Arlington — “There was a time, Araya recalled, when Blacks couldn’t walk along the north side of Columbia Pike without getting frisked by police. So for an African American to walk from Green Valley to see friends in Halls Hill, ‘You had to know the route through white neighborhoods. It was like the Green Book for Arlington.'” [Falls Church News-Press]

Cemetery Likely to Get Historic Status — “The cemetery at Mount Salvation Baptist Church in Arlington is now virtually assured of becoming a local historic district. The county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) has approved the nomination, setting the stage for public hearings before the Planning Commission and County Board.” [InsideNova]

Local Man Convicted of Embezzlement — “A well-connected Virginia financial advisor was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison for embezzling approximately $8 million from money that the U.S. government and a hospital had entrusted to him to set up annuities for 13 people who were the beneficiaries of medical malpractice settlements. Joseph Edward Gargan, owner of The Pension Co. in Arlington, Va… is a relative of the late President John F. Kennedy.” [Claims Journal]

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The historic Southern-Shreve cemetery is a tiny cemetery plot located just off the Custis Trail, next to St. Ann Catholic church and west of Ballston.

It’s easy to miss, but its small size belies its local historical significance. Here’s what the historic marker says about the cemetery:

Five generations of the Southern, Shreve, and related families are interred in this burial plot. The Shreve family in Arlington dates from the arrival of Samuel Shreve from New Jersey about 1780. Shreve purchased a tract of land near Ballston in 1791. The earliest grave (1832) is that of John Redin (Sixth Continental Line), a veteran of the American Revolution. Redin’s daughter married Richard Southern.

But there’s even more to the cemetery than that. You can thank one of its occupants for helping to popularize tomatoes as a food. Until the mid-1800s, tomatoes were largely regarded as an ornamental plant.

More from an article on the Arlington Public Library website:

Of the two Shreve family cemeteries in Arlington, the Southern-Shreve cemetery could possibly lay claim to having a more unique history. Located on the north side of Fairfax Drive, between North Frederick and North Harrison streets, the cemetery sat near the property of Richard and Frances (Redin) Southern. Richard Southern was a landscape architect and horticulturist, who became known for pioneering the use of the tomato as a food. It may seem hard to believe in these modern times, but prior to Southern’s efforts, the tomato was widely regarded as being poisonous and was only used for decorative purposes.

The land was given as a dowry by Frances Redin’s brother, a prominent Georgetown attorney, and was the burial place of John Redin, father of Frances and her brother. This generous act may have been precipitated by the fact that the Southerns cared for John Redin during his final years. He was buried in the garden of the Southern’s home in 1832, his gravestone being the first in what was to become the family cemetery.

Being neighbors of the Shreves, Birches, and Balls, the families intermarried and the house and property remained in the Shreve family until 1904.

There are approximately 20 marked stones in the cemetery, which is still in fairly good condition today, with the most notable being that of Richard and Francis Shreve, who were both killed by lightning on June 25th, 1874. The inscription reads: “Struck by a thunderbolt from Heaven, they both lay down and died, they left three lambs whom God had given them, may he for them provide.”

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Morning Notes

Changes to Stalled Ballston Development — “An Arlington homebuilder is reviving plans to redevelop a church in Ballston with a new proposal for a mix of townhomes and condos on the site… The site is currently home to the Portico Church, but the developer [BCN Homes] could someday replace it with 10 townhomes and 98 condo units.” [Washington Business Journal]

Beloved Former County Official Dies — “Ann Bisson, a long-time resident and former Deputy Commissioner of the Revenue for Arlington County, passed away peacefully on January 7, 2020… In addition to her work in the Commissioner’s office, Ann was very active in the community.” [Dignity Memorial]

History of Royal Visits to Arlington — “If Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ever decided to make their home in the DC area, they’d be in good company. Many members of the royal family have made their way to Arlington over the years.” [Arlington Public Library, Twitter]

Bill Proposes Funding for Local Cemeteries — “Three Arlington cemeteries would receive state funding under a program designed to preserve burial places of African-American Virginians. Del. Rip Sullivan (D-Fairfax-Arlington) has patroned legislation to add the three graveyards – at Calloway, Lomax and Mount Salvation churches – to the more than two dozen statewide that already receive support from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.” [InsideNova]

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Development may be surging around the Ball Family Burial Grounds on N. Kirkwood Street, but the fate of the historic site remains uncertain.

The gravesite of the family who is the namesake for Ballston is located in the middle of Virginia Square’s newest development hub, which includes plans to rebuild the YMCA and repurpose American Legion Post 139 as mixed residential buildings.

The Arlington County Board is also set to vote Saturday to approve a third project in the area: a long-standing application by Eleventh Street Development LLC to redevelop the 1.726 acre site located at 1122 N. Kirkwood Road at Washington Boulevard, currently a mix of one-story retail and office uses, into a new 255-unit multifamily residential building.

But when it comes to the plan for the cemetery — which is adjacent to the new development —  the county is at an impasse, according to Richard Woodruff, chairman of the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB). The county can’t legally access the land to maintain it or take actions to preserve it because it was deeded to the heirs of John Ball who founded it in the 1700s.

The problem? No one knows who those heirs are.

During a Thursday visit to the grounds, Woodruff pointed out how wild strawberries have overgrown the gravesites’ grass and a secret Samaritan has been mowing the plot.

“It’s sort of now a mystery as to who maintains it,” he said.

However, other site maintenance issues are piling up. Broken branches rest on the dozen mossy grave stones piled in the far corner of the burial ground where the grass grows higher and trash accumulates.

HALRB and the Arlington Planning Commission have asked the county to hire a genealogist to locate the Ball family heirs. They added that the county should also create a fund to maintain the land and study what could be buried in the cemetery because people have moved the graves over time.

These recommendations are not included in the list of actions for the Board members to review this weekend.

A staff report to the Board notes that one of the project’s goals is to “preserve, respect and enhance the historic integrity” of the gravesite. But aside from asking developers to follow protocols if they find artifacts or human remains during construction, the document is short on specifics.

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Morning Notes

Crash Closes WB Lee Highway — All lanes of westbound Lee Highway were closed at Spout Run for part of the morning after a crash. [Twitter, Twitter]

Flyover Planned Today — A flyover of Arlington National Cemetery, in support of a funeral, is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. today. [Twitter]

More Buses for Rosslyn Commuters — “After initially providing no additional backup options for riders during the Blue Line shutdown and major Orange and Silver Line work that began Aug. 11, Metro is now making some changes… Without much fanfare or notification to riders, Metro said this week it will add four additional Route 5A buses between Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride and Rosslyn and L’Enfant Plaza each morning.” [WTOP]

Rep. Jim Jordan Coming to Arlington Fundraiser — Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) will be the special guest at a fundraiser for Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) in Arlington next month. The fundraiser is being held Sept. 7 at Washington Golf and Country Club. Jordan has been in the news this summer over accusations that he turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of wrestlers while an assistant coach at Ohio State. [TrailBlazer]

Ballston Apartment Building Sold — “The Ballston Place transaction… has closed with Akelius Residential AB buying the 382-unit apartment complex for $170 million, or $445,026 per unit.” [Globe St.]

Photo courtesy Patricia Kime

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Morning Notes

Metro Leaders Square Off with Union Over Strike Threat — The transit service is still negotiating with its largest union to avert a strike, though details remain murky. Virginia’s Republican lawmakers in Richmond are urging Gov. Ralph Northam to ask a federal court to intervene to prevent any work stoppage. [Washington Post]

County Board Approves Incentives for DoD Tenant — Arlington officials agreed to spend $8 million over the next decade to keep the Office of Naval Research in a Ballston office building. [InsideNova]

Landscapers Spruce Up Arlington National Cemetery — Roughly 400 landscapers from the National Association of Landscape Professionals for Renewal and Remembrance donated their time to work on the cemetery Monday. [WTOP]

“Evictions in Arlington” Forum Set for Tonight — The county and its Tenant Landlord Commission is hosting a panel discussion the issue at 6:30 p.m. at the Department of Human Services building (2100 Washington Blvd). The conversation will center on “resources and gaps, opportunities and challenges” in preventing evictions. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo via wolfkann

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As remaining burial plots become more scarce, Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) has released a second public survey regarding its future.

If current burial eligibility policies remain in place, the cemetery will reach full capacity in 23 years, according to cemetery officials. In the first survey, conducted July of 2017, 93 percent of respondents said keeping that keeping ANC’s hallowed grounds open to burials long into the future was important to them.

The second survey specifically asks which veterans or active military members should be qualified for a burial, including questions relating to the eligibility of those with Purple Hearts, prisoners of war, elected officials once on active duty, and World War II veterans.

Results from the first survey showed that many respondents felt that eligibility should be given to those killed in action or on operational missions, Medal of Honor and other high award recipients, and former prisoners of war.

Current eligibility is currently more flexible, including prisoners of war and retired veterans who had served at least one day of active duty.

The survey notes that another cemetery expansion is expected to add additional burial plots, but it is not a long-term solution.

“The next possible expansion, into the area south of the cemetery (the Southern Expansion; around 40 acres) will add about 10-15 years of life to the cemetery – closing the cemetery to new burials by the mid-2050’s,” the survey says. “This does not achieve the objective or the desire of previous survey respondents to keep ANC open for new burials well into the future.”

In 2014, ANC began its $82 million “Millennium Project” to expand into an undeveloped land parcel adjacent to Fort Myer.

File photo

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It’s going to be an active weekend for military flyovers.

According to an advisory for the National Capital Region, the following flyovers will be conducted over or around Arlington.

  • Friday at 2:04 p.m. — “Four (4) F-15E aircraft will be conducting a flyover of Arlington National Cemetery.”
  • Saturday at 5:38 p.m. — “Four (4) E-2C aircraft will conduct a flyover of Washington Nationals Park (NLDS Game 2).”
  • Sunday at 7:40 a.m. — “U.S. Army Golden Knights will be conducting a planned parachute jump at the Pentagon in support of the Army 10 miler race.”
  • Sunday at 7:40 a.m. — “Four (4) UH-60 aircraft will be conducting a flyover of the Pentagon for the Army 10 Miler Race following the parachute jump.”

The advisory also lists a flyover planned for next week.

  • Friday, October 13 at 9:45 a.m. — “Four (4) A-10 aircraft will be conducting a flyover of Arlington National Cemetery.”
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(Updated at 4:17 p.m.) A historic graveyard could get a new lease on life thanks to newly updated plans to redevelop a Ballston church.

The graveyard is located next to Ballston’s Central United Methodist Church, which has filed a site plan application to redevelop its property at 4201 Fairfax Drive into an eight-story building with a new house of worship, 119 apartments (48 would be affordable units), a daycare and preschool facility and charitable facilities.

The site the developer wants to build on includes the Robert Ball Graveyard, the final resting place of some members of the family behind the Ballston name. The 150-year-old, 325-square foot burial ground includes several white headstones originally for members of the Ball family and may even contain some of their remains, though no one knows for sure whether the remains are still there or have been moved.

The plan to move the graveyard has ruffled some feathers. Residents urged the developer behind the project not to move the graveyard last October. The Arlington County Board has also considered granting the graveyard a special historic designation.

Members of the Ball family said that, although they do not want to prevent the redevelopment of the church, they do want the church to honor its century-old commitment to preserve the graveyard. In a Dec. 15 letter to the chair of Arlington’s Site Plan Review Committee, Ball family attorney Alexander Berger wrote that “further design evolution is required to preserve the historical integrity of the cemetery.”

The cemetery merits more “breathing room,” green space and separation from the building, Berger wrote.

Now, it looks as though the family might get their wish. Fairly recent renderings show the graveyard would be preserved next to the church inside a larger, fenced-in grassy area.

 

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