Tucked away in an Arlington County storage facility is a shattered Tiffany Studios stained glass window of Jesus Christ in the act of blessing those who gaze on him.
For decades, it adorned The Abbey Mausoleum that once stood near Arlington National Cemetery. Light would have pierced the 12-paneled, 9-foot by 6-foot window, casting jewel tones on the burial site of the man to whom the window was dedicated — E. St. Clair Thompson, a wealthy Mason interred there in 1933.
Surrounding “Christ in Blessing,” fittingly, were 12 windows with a simple geometric border and a floral design in the middle.
The Abbey Mausoleum was once “a prestigious burial ground,” built by the United States Mausoleum Company in the 1920s, according to a write-up of the mausoleum and windows Arlington Arts provided to ARLnow.
“However, with the bankruptcy of the managing Abbey Mausoleum Corporation in the 1950s, the building fell victim to vandalism and neglect,” the report says.
So too did “Christ in Blessing,” which has lost many panels. When the U.S. Navy acquired the mausoleum site in 2000, it decided to tear down the Romanesque structure due to its poor condition.
“Arlington was permitted to salvage architectural features from the building, including the windows,” the document said. “At the same time, the enormous task of relocating remains and contacting the families of those interred at the mausoleum began.”
While removing the window, the county discovered a signature in the bottom right-hand corner — “Louis C. Tiffany, N.Y.” — tying the window to the famous Art Nouveau artisan, son of the founder of Tiffany & Co., and his stained glass studio.
“The inscription coincides with those used by Louis C. Tiffany at the time this window was created, confirming its authenticity to the degree possible absent written documentation regarding its commission,” the Arlington Arts document said.
The window was likely commissioned by Thompson’s family, although no records of that exist, Arlington Arts says.
Today, visitors can view some of the geometric windows at Arlington Arts Center and Westover Library. Those that were too damaged were broken into fragments to restore other windows. Visitors to the Fairlington Community Center can see a stained glass skylight that also ornamented the mausoleum.
For two decades, however, the county has held onto “Christ in Blessing,” which it has not displayed because it’s in poor condition and needs the right setting.
“Significant damage to the panel was sustained from vandalism during the four decades that the mausoleum sat abandoned, and it definitely needs restoration before it can be safely and properly displayed,” Arlington Arts spokesman Jim Byers, Jr. said.
Now, the county is on the cusp of finding a restorer and a permanent home. This Saturday, the County Board is slated to approve a loan agreement with Central United Methodist Church in Ballston, which has agreed to pay for restoration work and display the window after the church is rebuilt.
“The restoration is being overseen by Ballston Limited Partnership and the Central United Methodist Church, which can offer the liturgical setting that is ideal for the restored work,” Byers said.
The church is set to be redeveloped by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing. The new, 8-story building on Fairfax Drive, near the Ballston Metro station, will include 144 committed affordable housing units and a childcare facility for up to 100 children. Construction is slated to start this fall and APAH expects work to finish by winter 2023-24.
All that would remain is to adorn the church with the resurrected Tiffany window.
‘Kindness Yard Sale’ in Penrose — “Susan Thompson-Gaines wants to spread kindness. This weekend, she’s doing it through a big yard sale at her house. She says it’s hard to miss the home she shares with her husband, David — it’s the yellow house with purple trim at the corner of South Second and South Fillmore streets in Arlington… what makes this yard sale different is that the proceeds are all spent on acts of kindness.” [WTOP]
Flood Cleanup for Pike Businesses — From WUSA 9’s Matthew Torres: “A dental hygienist sent me this other video of the flash flooding in Columbia Pike in Arlington. Their business had to close today as they clean up the water that seeped through. Other businesses are having to do the same thing.” [Twitter]
More Vaccinations Added to State Stats — “Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has incorporated vaccination data from jurisdictions in Maryland. Virginians who received vaccinations in Maryland that were not reported through the Virginia Immunization Information System are now included in the locality and statewide dashboards. The updated data reflects an increase in COVID-19 vaccine first dose rates of 0.33% Alexandria, 0.46% Arlington, and 0.39% Eastern Shore.” [Virginia Dept. of Health]
AFAC Gets Donation from Library Program –“Representatives of the Friends of the Arlington Public Library (FOAL), together with the Arlington Public Library and Arlington County Department of Technology Services, presented a check for $4,525 to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). The donation represents the number of Library readers who successfully completed the 2021 Summer Reading Challenge. The Library’s popular Summer Reading program helps children avoid the ‘summer slide.'” [Arlington County]
Fmr. County Board Member Dies — “Jay Edwin Ricks, 88, passed away at home in Arlington, Virginia on July 18, 2021 due to complications of Parkinson’s Disease… In 1967, Jay was elected to the Arlington County Board where he served until 1971. During this time, he was active in transportation issues and Vice Chairman of Metro during the critical phase of planning the Metro system.” [Legacy]
Local Church Adapts to Pandemic — ‘As another wave of the pandemic comes at us, we are different as a congregation,’ said the Rev. Amanda Poppei, senior minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia… Poppei’s congregation began hosting outdoor events in spring 2021, including a handbell parade to ring in Pride Month in June and a Flower Communion in May, which they intentionally designed as a multiplatform event.” [UUWorld]
A retired colonel who helped Iraqi interpreters flee Baghdad will be speaking in Arlington a few days after the government said it will evacuate Afghans who helped the U.S.
While on his second of three tours in Iraq, Col. Steve Miska (U.S. Army, Ret.) aided dozens of interpreters trying to flee Baghdad before state militias could kill them for treason. Now retired after a 25-year career, he has written a book about the “underground railroad” he helped to establish, which led interpreters to safety from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan before ending in the U.S.
In retirement, Miska has been vocal about the need to protect interpreters, and now his cause is in the news. This week, the Biden administration announced it will expedite visas for Afghans who, having worked with the U.S. military, could face revenge attacks by the Taliban.
Miska will discuss his book, “Baghdad Underground Railroad: Saving American Allies in Iraq,” and how it relates to current events this Sunday at Clarendon United Methodist Church. The event at 606 N. Irving Street will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. It is free but registration online is required.
National news outlets have recently featured the retired colonel, who calls the current plight of interpreters “one of the most significant human rights issues of the Global War on Terrorism.”
“The mostly young men and women who embraced American idealism risked their lives to support U.S. service members in countries where understanding the language, the people, and the contours of the culture are often a matter of life and death,” his event page reads. “Yet, according to recent estimates, more than 100,000 interpreters and at-risk family members remain in Iraq and 70,000 remain in Afghanistan, each in grave danger.”
He told the Washington Post that leaving interpreters behind would betray both the interpreters and American soldiers.
“We need to evacuate now,” he told CNN in May. “The Taliban have been hunting our interpreters in Afghanistan for 20 years. It’s only intensifying with the withdraw. As we near the end, it’s only going to get worse.”
Proceeds from the book will support the United States Veteran Artists Alliance, a nonprofit that helps veteran writers and artists.
Miska’s visit is something of a reunion, as CUMC’s Pastor Tracy McNeil Wines used to serve at a church he attended.
Central United Methodist Church in Ballston is auctioning off hymnals, furniture and various equipment ahead of a planned redevelopment.
The online auction kicked off this week, after the final service in the church’s current building was held last month. Services are now being held virtually as the property at 4201 Fairfax Drive, across from the Ballston Metro station, is torn down and rebuilt as an affordable housing complex.
The new “Ballston Station” development will feature 144 committed affordable housing units, a childcare facility for up to 100 children, and a church space for up to 200 people. Demolition is set to happen this fall and construction is expected to wrap up in the winter of 2023-24.
The developer — the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing — plans to take possession of the building on July 31, according to a church newsletter, and will begin hazardous materials work to remove asbestos. Auction items, meanwhile, will begin to close on July 13 so that things like bibles, tables, air conditioning units and even an organ keyboard can be removed by then.
Parishioners and other churches were given a chance to request items before they were put up for auction, according to the newsletter. The church also posted a farewell video, below, as a tribute to the “much-loved” building.
A long-stalled affordable housing development project in Ballston has secured the funding it needs to move forward.
On Saturday, the County Board approved an allocation of nearly $16 million for an 8-story building at the Central United Methodist Church site on Fairfax Drive near the Ballston Metro station.
The project, which will have 144 committed affordable housing units, a childcare facility for up to 100 children and a church space for up to 200 people, is being developed by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing.
“It’s a move that goes a long way — there’s still much more work to do — toward achieving our affordable housing goals here in the county,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said.
The funding is in addition to the $3 million allocated to APAH in September 2019.
APAH proposes a mix of units: 15 units are affordable up to 30% of AMI, 60 units affordable up to 50% AMI and 69 units affordable up to 60% AMI.
Twelve units will be accessible to people with disabilities.
Setting aside 75 units for residents earning 50% of the area median income or below “is an elusive income target in affordable housing developments,” said Housing Commission Chair Eric Berkey in a letter to the county.
Twelve of the 69 units will be three-bedroom, something the Housing Commission is also pushing to see more of in the county, generally, Berkey said.
APAH will be providing free in-unit internet access to residents as well.
“Low-income residents often cannot afford internet access or can only afford service that provides very low bandwidth or limited service,” the staff report said.
Although there is momentum now, those involved have had a hard time getting the Ballston Station project off the ground.
The County Board originally approved the development in 2017, when the church was working with Bozzuto Development Company.
The county reapproved the project in 2019, once APAH took it over, to upsize the project from 119 units, including 48 designated as affordable, to 144 units of 100% committed affordable housing.
Last fall, the County Board granted APAH a three-year extension on the site plan amendment, giving the developer until October 2023 to start building.
The project has also faced setbacks, as multiple applications for competitive Low Income Housing Tax Credits were unsuccessful. APAH had to find other ways to make the project financially sustainable.
It changed the mix of apartment units, worked with the county and Virginia Housing to restructure the financing for the project, and applied for and won an $8.75 million Amazon REACH grant from Virginia Housing.
“It is noted that this project was made possible due to APAH and CUMC making changes to the income-level mix of the property and obtaining Virginia Housing Amazon REACH Grant funding,” Berkey said. “That this project required such efforts should be a reminder about the challenges currently faced by our development partners and should inform both our local efforts and advocacy at the state and federal levels.”
Next, the County Board will review the loan documents, likely this fall. Construction is slated to start in October or November and APAH expects work to finish by winter 2023-24.
The third time may be the charm for a residential development slated to be built in Ballston where a vacated church stands.
McLean-based Jefferson Apartment Group is taking over plans to build apartments and townhomes at the intersection of N. Vermont Street and 11th Street N. The site used to house Portico Church Arlington, which, according to its website, is now found at 800 N. Illinois Street.
The project at 1031 N. Vermont Street has changed hands three times since the County Board first approved a redevelopment plan in 2018. It has also drawn some backlash from neighbors who said the plan added density to an already congested Ballston neighborhood.
The first developer, NVR, proposed to replace the two-story church and its parking lot with a 72-unit condo building and 12 townhouses. Arlington-based BCN Homes took over the development in 2019 and in June 2020, was granted an additional 4,300 square feet to develop.
With the County Board’s approval, BCN proposed a new plan: a 7-story apartment building with 98 units and 10 townhouses across the street. JAG indicates it will not be making major changes to this configuration.
“We plan to move forward with substantially the same plans that the Board approved last June,” the developer tells ARLnow. “We may pursue a few, minor changes related to the interior programming and unit mix but the project will look largely the same.”
The boutique apartment building will have a rooftop terrace, 120 underground parking spaces and 40 bicycle parking spaces, according to JAG.
Meanwhile, the 10 luxury townhomes across 11th Street N. will each have about 2,000 square feet of space, with three bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, a private rooftop terrace and a private, two-car garage.
“Ballston is one of the most desired submarkets in the Washington, D.C. region,” noted Greg Van Wie, Senior Vice President and Development Partner at Jefferson Apartment Group, in a press release.
The development, he said, “underscores [JAG’s] commitment to create a contemporary, sophisticated boutique apartment building with top-of-the line finishes and luxe amenities and underscores the strength of the housing market here in Northern Virginia.”
A private, Chile-based real estate company, STARS REI, has invested in the property.
“We are thrilled to be working with Jefferson Apartment Group again on this boutique apartment project in this amazing neighborhood,” said Joaquin Canessa, Vice President at STARS REI in the press release.
Construction is slated to begin this winter and is expected to be done in summer 2023.
Photos (1-2) courtesy Jefferson Apartment Group
Police responded to an Arlington church last week after a man was seen open carrying a pistol on its grounds.
The incident happened on the afternoon of Thursday, April 8. A childcare center operates out of the church, on the 600 block of N. Vermont Street near Ballston.
“At approximately 2:32 p.m. on April 8, police were dispatched to the report of a subject openly displaying a holstered handgun while walking on a property containing an occupied child care facility,” said an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “The subject left the scene prior to the arrival of police and was not located in the area by responding officers.”
“The subject is described as a white male in his 50’s, 5’8″, medium build, white hair beneath a dark ball cap, long sleeve button-down shirt and tan pants,” the crime report continues. “The investigation is ongoing.”
Initially, officers told dispatch that the man might have been legally open carrying the gun. However, the crime report indicates that the incident is now believed to have been a weapons violation. It is illegal to open carry on the grounds of a childcare center or preschool during operating hours in Virginia.
Va. ‘Seals Deal’ for Rail Expansion — “Virginia finalized agreements Tuesday with CSX, Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express as part of the state’s $3.7 billion passenger rail expansion program that seeks to relieve a rail bottleneck and get more commuters onto trains. The signing of agreements advances a pledge Gov. Ralph Northam (D) made in December 2019 to significantly grow passenger rail service this decade by building a new rail bridge over the Potomac River, adding new track in the Washington-Richmond corridor and buying hundreds of miles of passenger right of way from CSX.” [Washington Post, Twitter]
Affordable Housing CEO Retiring — “Longtime CEO of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing Nina Janopaul will retire June 30, 2021, after a remarkable 14-year career at the helm of the organization, leading APAH through a period of transition and rapid expansion. The APAH Board has appointed Executive Vice President Carmen Romero to lead APAH into its ambitious next phase of growth and service.” [Press Release, Twitter]
New Restaurant Fighting for Funding — “Andrew Darneille had a sense of deja vu when he clicked on the link from his certified public accountant. It led him to a page that said, in essence, that the Restaurant Revitalization Fund would not be the lifeline he had hoped for. Based on the fund’s grant calculations buried in the larger $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, his Smokecraft Modern Barbecue in Arlington, Va., would not get a cent in federal relief during a pandemic that has left many restaurateurs hanging by a thread.” [Washington Post]
No GOP County Board Candidates Yet — “The Arlington County Republican Committee remains on the hunt for a candidate or candidates to challenge for the one County Board seat on the November ballot. ‘We have had people reach out to us,’ party chairman Andrew Loposser said on March 24, though none has yet stepped forward publicly.” [Sun Gazette]
Green Valley Church Helping with Vaccinations — “At Macedonia Baptist Church in Arlington, the sanctuary has sat empty since the start of the coronavirus pandemic… So when Harcum was recently approached about a new vaccine equity partnership with Arlington County and Neighborhood Health, he said he was happy to offer up space inside the church.” [WJLA]
Photo courtesy James Mahony
Members of Grace Community Church in Arlington honored thousands of unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic: grocery store employees.
Over the course of three days, 75 volunteers from the church distributed 5,000 gift bags to employees at 60 grocery stores in Arlington and seven neighboring counties, said Anna Maia, the Director of Compassion and Justice at Grace Community Church, in a video.
“Thank you, grocery store workers for serving us through this whole year of this pandemic. It’s an honor to be a church in your community and to serve you as you’ve been serving us,” she said. “We are so excited to be part of this operation and to just show a little bit of appreciation to everything you’ve been doing.”
Each employee received a bag with a gift card, granola bars, lip balm, and an “essential” button that Maia said is a reminder “that they are remembered and appreciated.”
This was one way the church has worked in the community while being uprooted from its previous indoor location at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Grace currently holds its services online and, weather permitting, outside of the school.
A volunteer named Stephanie said in the video that she was glad to participate because these frontline workers “are not thanked as much as the other essential workers.”
In the video, another volunteer named Anne said workers told her, “We are always telling each other that no one cares what we’re doing.”
One woman who works in a store’s customer service department called the church “to say how incredibly touched I am by this crazy-thoughtful gift. It’s just so beautiful. I deeply appreciate it.”
Photos via Grace Community Church/Vimeo
A new tenant could be taking over a vacant church on Arlington Boulevard in Buckingham.
“Due to uncontrollable circumstances related to parking availability, we made the decision to sell our building and move into a shared property relationship with Arlington Church of the Brethren,” according to the church’s website. The church has only tiny lots for drop-off, and there are few available street parking spots within easy walking distance.
The church building has been on the market since then, according to Saul Corral, of Fairfax Realty of Tysons, who represents the church.
“It’s such a beautiful building, inside and out,” he said, adding that there are impressive old beams that are hard to come by in modern architecture.
Contracts have been drafted with potential buyers three times already, “but unfortunately, they’ve fallen through,” Corral said.
The fourth time could be the charm for the church. A potential buyer is studying whether or not the investment is feasible, and this study period expires at the end of April, he said.
Previous buyers have had their contracts cancelled based on what they intend to do with the building, he said.
“That’s where the contracts fall through,” Corral said. “Buyers that have other intentions put a contract on it and they’re not approved” by the Arlington County Zoning Department.
The church lot is zoned for single- and multi-family dwellings, according to a county zoning map.
Although the church is vacant, the founding location of a full-time preschool, Children’s International School, continues to operate on the site.
The preschool school has been housed in the church since it was founded in 1985, and has since expanded to three more locations in Arlington and Alexandria. It expects to be able to continue operating from the building, managers have told parents.
Rainy, Then Windy Today — Updated at 8 a.m. — From the National Weather Service: “Rain will end later this morning into this afternoon from northwest to southeast. However, gusty winds will develop and river flooding is expected along portions of the Potomac River and nearby tributaries.” [Twitter]
Freddie’s Expanding to Delaware Shore — “Freddie’s Beach Bar, the gay bar that has been operating in the Crystal City section of Arlington, Va., since 2001, is planning to open a new version of itself in Rehoboth Beach in time for Memorial Day weekend, according to owner Freddie Lutz. Lutz said that similar to the Freddie’s in Arlington, the Rehoboth version will operate as a restaurant and bar with entertainment that is expected to include karaoke, drag bingo, and possibly drag shows.” [Washington Blade]
AG Candidate Wants to Intervene in Local Cases — “A candidate for state attorney general says that, if elected, he’ll press for the authority to step in when local prosecutors will not act on specific cases. ‘George Soros-backed commonwealth’s attorneys are not doing their jobs,’ Del. Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) said in remarks to the Arlington County Republican Committee.” [InsideNova]
Local Restaurants Make New Washingtonian List — A half dozen Arlington restaurants are among a new list of “61 Neighborhood Restaurants That Make the DC Area a Better Place to Eat — and Live.” Among them: The Green Pig, Lebanese Taverna, Los Tios Grill, Medium Rare, Nam-Viet, and Pupatella. [Washingtonian]
Church Providing Food to Those in Need — “The Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington hosted its first Mobile Market Feb. 25 in conjunction with the Capital Area Food Bank to serve those dealing with food insecurity. This drive-thru food distribution provided nonperishables as well as fresh produce including fruits and vegetables. The monthly market originally was scheduled to begin Feb. 18 but was delayed due to inclement weather.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]
Bouncers Recognized for Spotting Fake IDs — “Tonight the Arlington Restaurant Initiative, Washington Regional Alcohol Program and Responsibility.org recognized staff from Don Tito and Whitlow’s on Wilson for their excellence in detecting false identifications and preventing underage drinking. We commend the recipients for their dedication to safe service and responsible alcohol consumption.” [Facebook]
Crystal City Company Planning IPO — “Leonardo SpA is moving forward with an initial public offering for its Arlington-based defense electronic systems subsidiary. The Italian defense and space contractor filed its plans Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The unit will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker ‘DRS.'” [Washington Business Journal]