(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.
W-L Defeats Yorktown, Heads to Playoffs — The Washington-Lee Generals defeated cross-county rival Yorktown Friday night to advance to the football playoffs. W-L was trailing when senior quarterback Ricardo Mestre passed for a touchdown with just seconds remaining to clinch the win. [Washington Post]
Board Advertises Ballston Historic District — The Arlington County Board voted unanimously Saturday to advertise hearings on designating a small family graveyard in Ballston a local historic district, ahead of a planned redevelopment by the Central United Methodist Church. “The Board on Saturday received assurances from the church that it will not seek to remove any remains from the graveyard before the County has an opportunity to consider its historic designation,” according to a press release. [Arlington County]
Students: Adults Should Tone Down Boundary Rhetoric — Some adults have taken their rhetoric over the current Arlington Public Schools high school boundary refinement process too far, according to a pair of high school students who spoke at Thursday’s School Board meeting. “We honestly consider some of the comments made thus far to be an embarrassment,” said a Yorktown student. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Arlington Smartphone App Updated — Arlington County has made a number of new upgrades to its My Arlington App for smartphones. The changes include a new home screen design, transit alerts and, just in time for Election Day, polling locations and a map of voter precincts. [Arlington County]
Library Director: Vote on Nov. 8 — From Arlington Public Library Director Diane Kresh’s blog: “Every election is important and every vote counts. And it’s a privilege that for people in many parts of the world is not enjoyed. On Tuesday, vote as if your life depends on it; it does.” [Arlington Public Library]
Free Home Buying Seminar Tonight — Sponsored — The Orange Line Living Team is hosting a Free Home Buying Seminar with a local lender and all attendees will receive two guarantees just for attending: 1) Buyer satisfaction — if you don’t love your new home they will buy it back or sell it for free for 12 months, and 2) $1,500 home purchase credit. See website for details and conditions. The event is being at 1600 Wilson Blvd #101 in Arlington, from 6-8 p.m. tonight, Nov. 7. [Orange Line Living]
Arlington’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board has recommended designating a tiny Ballston graveyard a local historic district, potentially disrupting a church’s redevelopment plans.
The HALRB voted 8-2-2 Wednesday night for a local historic district designation of the Robert Ball Sr. Family Burial Ground, after hearing from 37 speakers both for and against the designation.
The County Board will now decide, as early as next month, whether to authorize an advertisement of public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Board. Following the hearings, the County Board could vote on the historic district as early as December.
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, 132 apartments (55 would be committed as affordable units), a daycare and preschool facility and charitable facilities.
The 150-year-old, 325-square foot burial ground includes headstones for members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named. Nobody knows for sure whether there are human remains buried in the graveyard or whether the remains were relocated elsewhere decades ago during any number of construction projects.
Historic preservation activists have pushed for a historic designation, which could scuttle or at least significantly alter the redevelopment plans.
The church and its members, on the other hand, want the development to proceed.
“This project… is excellent for the community as it will provide much needed affordable housing in Ballston, maintain a sacred space of a church in Ballston proper, continue a strong outreach by providing meals to those in need on Fridays, and provide expanded daycare and preschool options in Ballston conveniently located near the Metro for commuting parents,” said Kathy Sibert, a congregant who’s also the president and CEO of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.
“[The graveyard] was deeded to the church from the Ball Family in the 1920s,” said Sibert. “It is NOT an active grave site and the entire site has been heavily excavated for construction by the church and the County since that time so that virtually the entire site has been disturbed.
Sibert said the county officials have stopped processing its site plan application, “despite their prior commitment to us to hold our March 2017 tax credit application deadline.”
Update at 3:30 p.m. — The church’s pastor, Rev. Sarah Harrison-McQueen, tells ARLnow via email: “The local historic district boundaries recommended by county staff to the HALRB would have made our project infeasible. The HALRB voted to designate a smaller section of land than the staff proposed boundaries so we’ve asked our design team and engineers to evaluate the impact of this smaller section. I anticipate that we will have a better understanding of the potential ramifications sometime next week.”
She added: “Our current sanctuary is built within the boundaries of the former Ball family graveyard. The grave-markers do not appear to be in their original location. The church is seeking permission from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to investigate this further.”
Arlington Featured on MTP — Arlington County was featured in a Meet the Press segment on Sunday, comparing the level of support for Hillary Clinton here to support for Donald Trump in a rural Ohio county. The show interviewed residents in the Clarendon area. [NBC News]
Surge in Registration, Absentee Voting — Officials are anticipating about 43,000 absentee ballots in Arlington this year, up 50 percent compared to the last presidential election in 2012. Throughout the region and the state, absentee voting is on the rise, which is generally good news for Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, a surge in last-minute voter registrations yesterday and a statewide software slowdown has the county advising that it could take several days to process all of the applications. [Washington Post, WTOP, WTOP]
Vehicle Decal Design Contest Starts — The Treasurer’s Office Decal Design Competition is back for another year. Local high school students will compete to design the next Arlington County vehicle decal, which will appear on some 160,000 vehicles in the county. The submission deadline is Nov. 28. [Arlington County]
Pike Recycling Center May Move — Next month the Arlington County Board is expected to consider whether to relocate the recycling facility at the corner of Columbia Pike and Four Mile Run Drive to the Arlington Trades Center in Shirlington. County officials want to lower the level of illegal dumping that’s currently taking place. [InsideNova]
Historic Designation for Ballston Cemetery? — On Wednesday night Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board will discuss the merits of a proposed local historic district designation for the Ball cemetery in Ballston. The cemetery is currently slated to be relocated to make way for the redevelopment of a church. [Preservation Arlington]
Last Day at Fuego Cocina — Fuego Cocina y Tequileria in Clarendon served its final meals and margaritas Sunday. “We’re turning the light off now. Farewell,” the restaurant said via Twitter. [Twitter, Twitter]
The graveyard, which contains headstones and perhaps the remains of members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named, is being moved to make way for a redevelopment of the Ballston Central United Methodist Church site.
The development will consist of a new church, 132 apartments and a daycare and preschool facility.
The petition, which has more than 215 signatures as of publication time, says “to remove the graves is to remove the center of the city, the center of the history of the community, the center of Ballston.”
“The Robert Ball Family Cemetery does not need to be moved,” the petition concludes. The full text from the petition is below.
The Robert Ball Family Cemetery is threatened by development, which proposes to remove the human remains and markers to an off site location. The Robert Ball Family Cemetery was set aside in 1866 as a burial ground for his family, when his land was divided among his children and families.
The town of Ballston was platted around 1900, entitled Central Ballston, with the graveyard in the exact center of the plat. The town was named for Robert Ball and his family. In 1906, a 1/4 acre of the original 11 acres was given to the Methodist Episcopal Church for use as a church, parsonage and such, and the church was to maintain the graves and markers accordingly. In 1922, the road was widened, but curved around the church and graveyard. The church and county considered the cemetery closed for additional burials.
The church has maintained the cemetery since 1906, now over 110 years. With development closing in from all sides, the church is under pressure to allow the removal of the graves, as the developer wants to build to the curb. The permit to remove the human remains filed with the Virginia Department of Human Resources states very clearly that even if relatives and concerned parties do not want the burials removed, the development can proceed without their permission because of the benefits to the public.
It is the very presence of the graves and graveyard in 1906 that allowed for the church site to receive the land from the Ball family. It is the land from the Ball family and their presence that the name Ballston was given to the community. The plat for the center of Ballston plotted the graveyard in the center of the plat for the Center of Ballston. Relatives still visit the site. To remove the graves is to remove the center of the city, the center of the history of the community, the center of Ballston.
No provision appears to have been made to incorporate the cemetery into the development design. The developers always thought they would move the graves. The cemetery is on the corner of the development and could be spared by simply building around it. A nice border wall already exists. The buildings could curve around the cemetery, and even curve or arch over it, allowing sunshine down. Signage could be added on how Ballston was formed and the pivotal role the graveyard and Robert Ball family had on the placement of the church and the community.
The Robert Ball Family Cemetery does not need to be moved.
Average Lifespan in Arlington — Arlington and Fairfax county residents have a higher average lifespan than residents of D.C., Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, according to newly-released data. The average life expectancy in Arlington and Fairfax is 86, compared to a nationwide average of 78. [Washington Post]
Protesters Arrested Outside Pentagon — A total of 21 demonstrators were arrested during an anti-war protest outside of the Pentagon yesterday. According to Pentagon police, those who were arrested were attempting to block an employee entrance near the Pentagon transit center. [Patch]
African American History Book — Updated at 7 p.m. — Arlington County’s Historic Preservation Program has published a new, 59-page book about the history of African Americans in Arlington. The book includes the history of Calloway Cemetery. Since 1891 the cemetery, along Lee Highway, “has been the burial site for dozens of African Americans, including a slave who fought in the Union Army.” [WJLA]
Wardian’s Berlin Marathon Performance — Arlington resident Michael Wardian, 42, ran the Berlin Marathon over the weekend in 2:28:19. Wardian is currently on pace to run all five 2016 World Marathon Majors faster than anyone in history. [Twitter, Competitor]
Theater: ‘Man of La Mancha’ — The Arlington Players performance of ‘Man of La Mancha’ was “filled with exceptional performances and is quite inspiring,” writes a reviewer. “Don’t miss it.” The one-act performance is two hours with no intermission. [DC Metro Theater Arts, InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
In the northeast corner of Marymount University’s North Arlington campus, there has stood an old cemetery with gravestones covered in weeds, without so much as a clue as to who was buried there, and when.
Many of the gravestones read “Gone but not forgotten.”
“That was pretty ironic because the people there had been pretty much forgotten,” MU nursing student Jen Carter, one of the students who was worked to uncover the mysteries of the old cemetery, said in a school press release.
This year, history professor Patrick Mullins, at the urging of MU President Matthew Shank, has led a group of students in unearthing the history behind the cemetery, and they’ve gotten results. According to the school, the Birch-Campbell Cemetery is the burial place for dozens of Arlington residents, dating back to 1841. The most recent burial was in 1959, nine years after the school was founded.
Mullins said they’re still not sure who owns the land — the discovery project is ongoing — but they do know more about some of the cemetery’s permanent residents. Most, the school said, were middle-class farmers and landowners.
The fathers, sister, uncle and brother-in-law of Mary Ann Hall, who owned an “upscale brothel” near the U.S. Capitol, are all buried in the cemetery, the students found. Hall owned a farmhouse on the land where Marymount’s Main Hall now stands. She is buried in Congressional Cemetery after her death in 1886.
“Some of the big questions we discussed — and we need to ask as a society — is who do we remember and what do we preserve?” Mullins said in the release. “We learned a great deal about the site and how it ties into local and regional history. We didn’t answer all the questions we were trying to answer, but it’s an ongoing project. We’re not even positive who actually owns that plot of land. That’s part of the research that we’d like to complete.”
Photos courtesy Marymount University
Vihstadt Says His Election Won’t Stop Streetcar — Even if Republican-endorsed independent Arlington County Board candidate John Vihstadt were to be elected, the Columbia Pike streetcar project would likely continue unabated. Currently, Libby Garvey is the lone anti-streetcar vote on the five-member board. With Vihstadt in, the number still favor the streetcar: 3-2. Still, Vihstadt suggested that increased community opposition could derail the project. [Sun Gazette]
Why There Are Tiffany Windows in County Buildings — In case you’ve ever noticed the Tiffany stained glass windows in the Arlington Arts Center, Westover Library and Fairlington Community Center and wondered how they got here, the answer is: somewhat by accident. The windows were salvaged from a mausoleum next to Arlington National Cemetery that was slated for demolition. It was during the salvage operation that workers noticed the very sought-after signature of Louis C. Tiffany on the windows. [Preservation Arlington]
Arlington National Cemetery Documentary — A public television documentary on Arlington National Cemetery will premiere tonight. The hour-long documentary is scheduled to air locally at 8:00 p.m. on WETA. [WETA]
Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk
BBQ Competition to Film in Arlington? — A production company from New York is apparently scouting locations in Arlington for the filming of a BBQ competition show. The show would then air on network television. [Falls Church News-Press]
APS to Discuss Williamsburg Plans — Arlington Public Schools will be holding two meetings to discuss plans to build a new elementary school at the Williamsburg Middle School site. The meetings will be held on Nov. 13 and 14. The school is expected to open by September 2015. [Arlington Public Schools]
Eternal Flame Restored at Arlington Cemetery — The eternal flame at the President John F. Kennedy gravesite has been restored following several months of repairs. A temporary flame was installed during the repairs. The flame was transferred back to the permanent burner on Tuesday. [Military Times]
Flickr pool photo by Sunday Money
Earlier this year, the county held a public hearing about designating the tiny 7,100 square foot Calloway Cemetery at 5000 Lee Highway a historic district. The cemetery, which dates back to the 19th century, is part of Calloway United Methodist Church, in the Hall’s Hill area.
A new county-produced video (above) explores the history of the cemetery plot and the process of documenting and preserving its historic features.
Neighborhood Thanks Power Crews — A few special guests stopped by the Waycroft-Woodlawn Fourth of July picnic yesterday (see photo, above). The neighborhood invited two hard-working power crews from Ontario, Canada to have a quick lunch with them. “The community clapped and cheered to say thanks,” writes resident Jim Pebley. “Was a nice moment after a long hot couple days.”
Storm Damage at Arlington National Cemetery — Arlington National Cemetery is reporting some significant damage in the wake of last Friday’s storms. The cemetery lost three of its oldest trees, which are all between 225 and 240 years old. In all, 8 large trees were lost and 17 were damaged to the point where they need to be removed. Falling trees also damaged some headstones. The cemetery says the damage is similar to that suffered during Hurricane Irene. The cemetery “continues to assess the extent of the damage and has started on the restoration.” [Arlington National Cemetery]
Hospital Visits Up Last Weekend — The number of patient visits to Virginia Hospital Center were about 30 percent higher than normal last weekend, largely due to heat-related symptoms, especially among the elderly, following Friday’s storms. No heat-related deaths have been reported in Arlington since the storms. [Arlington Mercury]
Tree Destroyed House While Family Was Inside — An Arlington couple and their two young girls were, amazingly, unharmed after a large oak tree came crashing through their house during Friday’s storm. The family was at home at the time. The parents were watching a movie in the basement; they came upstairs to find the girls still sleeping in their beds. [WUSA 9]
Blackwell Re-Elected as RNC Rep — Arlington resident Morton Blackwell — founder of the Courthouse-based Leadership Institute, a conservative political training organization — has been re-elected as Virginia representative to the Republican National Committee. [Sun Gazette]
Photo courtesy Jim Pebley
The man accused of firing bullets at the Pentagon and other military installations in Northern Virginia pleaded guilty in federal court today.
Yonathan Melaku, 23, of Alexandria, pleaded guilty to three counts of: damaging government property, using a firearm during a crime, and attempted injury to veterans’ memorials. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have jointly asked for a 25-year sentence.
As part of the plea, Melaku admitted that on or around the early morning of Oct. 19, 2010 he fired multiple 9mm rounds at the Pentagon building. He also admitted to firing bullets at the National Museum of the Marine Corps (twice), a Marine Corps recruiting sub-station in Chantilly, and a U.S. Coast Guard recruiting office in Woodbridge. The shootings took place between Oct. 17, 2010 and Nov. 2, 2010.
Prosecutors say terrorism was the motive of the shootings. In a video, investigators say Melaku can be seen firing a handgun out of the passenger-side window of his car, then repeatedly shouting “Allahu Akbar.”
“Yonathan Melaku pled guilty to carrying out a calculated, destructive campaign to instill terror throughout our community,” U.S. Attorney MacBride said in a statement. “The video he filmed during one drive-by shooting is a chilling portrayal of his intent and the escalating danger he posed. Thanks to the FBI and their law enforcement partners, we were able to apprehend Mr. Melaku, develop the evidence that linked him to the shootings, and secure this conviction today.”
Melaku was arrested on June 17, 2011 after what’s being described as an unsuccessful attempt to vandalize the graves of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at Arlington National Cemetery. At about 1:30 a.m., police spotted Melaku on the property of Ft. Myer. He attempted to flee, and dropped a backpack in the process.
Prosecutors say the backpack contained “numerous spent 9mm shell casings; four bags containing ammonium nitrate, and a spiral notebook with numerous Arabic statements referencing the Taliban, al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, ‘The Path to Jihad,’ as well as a list of several other individuals associated with foreign terrorist organizations.”
After he was taken into custody, Melaku admitted that he was trying to sneak into Arlington National Cemetery “to desecrate and injure the grave markers by spray-painting the markers with Arabic statements and by leaving the ammonium nitrate he was carrying at the sites of the grave markers.”
Later, prosecutors say, a list of parts for a bomb detonator was discovered in Melaku’s Alexandria home.
The FBI-led investigation received assistance from Arlington County Police, Virginia State Police, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, U.S. Park Police and other federal and local law enforcement agencies.
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who died at the age of 92 last Monday, was a towering figure in the Senate, even as his health began to deteriorate in recent years. He chaired the powerful Appropriations Committee and has twice served as Senate majority leader. He was derided as the “King of Pork” for his tireless efforts to steer federal funds to his home state of West Virginia. His passionate floor speeches against the Iraq war and in support of the Constitution are the stuff of legends.
Byrd, once a local leader in the Ku Klux Klan, filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act. His membership in the Baptist church would later prompt him to renounce intolerance and vote for the 1968 Civil Rights Act.
At this morning’s funeral at the Memorial Baptist Church on North Glebe Road, speakers focused more on Byrd’s Baptist beliefs than on his former bigotry.
“He described himself to me as a born-again, old-time-religion, Bible-based Christian,” Smith said, recalling a time when Byrd recited 20 Bible verses by memory following a church service.
A number of dignitaries were among those filling the wooden pews in the church’s sunny white sanctuary. They included Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), former U.S. senator Paul Sarbanes and Victoria Reggie Kennedy, wife of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Music played a central role in the service. The sounds of mountain fiddle music filled the church as mourners took their seats. A 21-person choir later performed “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” It was a fitting tribute to Byrd, who was himself an accomplished fiddler and occasional singer.