The County is rushing through the local historic designation process for the the mid-19th century property. It voted on Tuesday to advertise hearings on the potential historic value of the property in April.
The process is accelerated by the owner’s applications in December and last month for permits to demolish the buildings on the property, and an apparent effort to front-run any historic designation. The 9+ acre estate is owned by a trust established by sportsman Randy Rouse, who passed away in 2017.
The permit is administrative — meaning outside of the need for County Board approval — and was approved. Cynthia Liccese-Torres, coordinator for Arlington County’s historic preservation program, said the demolition permit will be not actually be issued until approval of an associated land disturbing activity permit.
Parallel to this administrative approval, an application filed last year by an Arlington resident to give the estate a local historic designation was reviewed by the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) in November. The HALRB found that the home met eight of 11 criteria for the designation and recommended that the structure of the home and the surrounding property be designated as a local historic district overlay.
The property owners — who seek to demolish the building and sell the property for redevelopment — have repeatedly objected to this designation. Staff noted that despite having been in contact with the owners, they had not been given access to the property to research it, which has hamstrung efforts to make a more thorough report.
Meanwhile, in mid-January, workmen at the house started to demolish the roof until the County issued a stop work order.
“Staff made numerous good faith attempts to access property, [but] staff has still not been able to gain owner’s consent for time and date to view property,” said Richard Woodruff, chair of the Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board. “These issues taken by owners gave cause to believe that the house is at substantial risk of being damaged or destroyed.”
Woodruff said there is plenty of information on the property — even without an first-hand inspection — that says there is likely historic significance that could be lost if the area is demolished and redeveloped by-right.
“It was an upper middle class 19th century farm owned by prominent families,” Woodruff said. “We know Native Americans hunted on the hill and Civil War soldiers on both sides of war camped there. That land has not been disturbed and may contain artifacts, even pre-Columbian artifacts.”
Additionally, Woodruff noted the main house contains portions of the original 1855 structure, and key figures like Howard Hughes lived and stayed at the home in the 19th and 20th centuries.
“Anyone who has driven by property knows it represents uniquely pastoral image of Arlington,” Woodruff said. “What is there, known and unknown, could be lost forever. We know owners want to sell, but there are no immediate buyers. It would be premature and a complete disaster for these buildings to come down before any of that is known. If you agree this property is worthy of protection for future generations of Arlingtonians, if you believe some or all of it should be protected, then please figure out how to do it and don’t wait until it’s too late.”
Tom Colucci, from the law firm Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh P.C., spoke on behalf of the owners and reiterated earlier objections to the historic classification.
“We request that the Board stop this runaway freight train to nowhere,” Colucci said. “What has happened is this was initiated by one individual who had no economic or other interest in the property and staff took the ball and ran with it. There have been a lot of things rushed with this because the owner has a desire to demolish these structures. These buildings are not in good condition, some are not in safe condition, and there are overriding policy decisions that have not been considered. Does the Board want to put itself in a position where it tries to thwart an otherwise legal act of a property owner by using this process?”
Colucci said the historic overlay would significantly devalue the property and would cause concern among potential buyers. Colucci also noted that the property has an R-6 zoning — single family homes — and the owners are currently only interested in redeveloping it within that zoning.
Selina Gray Square is a park planned for the north end of a residential development called The Trove, an addition to Wellington Apartments at 1850 Columbia Pike that was approved in 2016.
More about the park from a county staff report (emphasis added):
The park will be located at the north end of one of the new residential buildings and adjacent to a new segment of 12th Street South the developer will construct (See Attachment I, Figure 2). It is within the Columbia Heights Civic Association and adjacent to the Arlington View Civic Association boundary. The 8,700 SF (.2-acre park) will be a publicly accessible, privately owned park and will have a bocce court, plaza, benches, walkways and landscaping. Per the recommendation of the HALRB, the Developer will create and place a plaque in the park to commemorate Ms. Selina Norris Gray.
Selina Norris Gray was a second-generation slave in Arlington and was owned by Mary Anna Custis Lee, the great-granddaughter of Martha Custis Washington and wife of Robert E. Lee. Gray worked as a maid and was the eventual head housekeeper of Lee’s Arlington House.
At the outbreak of the war, when Lee’s family fled south, Gray was left the keys to the house and its care entrusted to her. She is credited with saving George Washington artifacts from looters.
Unable to remove all the Washington artifacts from the house prior to fleeing to the South, Mary Custis Lee entrusted the household keys to Selina Gray. For six months she actively protected the items from pilfering soldiers. In December 1861, she requested that General McDowell safeguard the collection. McDowell subsequently removed the items to the patent office.
“The continued existence of family heirlooms that had once belonged to Martha Custis Washington, and President George Washington can be attributed to Selina Gray’s courageous actions,” the staff report said.
After the war, Gray and her husband purchased a 10-acre property in Green Valley and remained there for the rest of their lives. Their descendants provided first-hand accounts of Arlington House during the 20th century restoration and some still live in Arlington.
The new park is located near The Harry W. Gray House, a historic home built by Selina Gray’s son, Harry Gray.
The naming of the park is docketed for consideration at next weekend’s County Board meeting.
Images via Arlington County
Route 1 may have a new name, but users of Apple Maps still need to enter the old name lest they be led astray.
Arlington County placed new “Richmond Highway” signs along Route 1 in Crystal City last week. During a ceremony marking the occasion, Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey and Del. Mark Levine stomped on the old signs honoring Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
However, the vestige of the Old South remains alive and well on Apple Maps. Users of Apple’s mapping app need to keep using “Jefferson Davis Highway” for now as it doesn’t yet recognize the new “Richmond Highway” name for the stretch of Route 1 in Arlington.
When entering a Richmond Highway address into the app today, Apple Maps redirected users to either Route 1 in Alexandria or a Richmond Street in Hopewell, Virginia.
The confusion comes 8 months after Google Maps unilaterally re-named Arlington’s Route 1 stretch as “Richmond Highway,” and a year after Alexandria officially renamed its portion of Route 1. Apple Maps does list Richmond Highway addresses along the Alexandria section of the road.
Apple did not respond to requests for comment.
State and local officials vied for years to strip the Confederate name from Crystal City’s main commuter thoroughfare, renewing efforts last fall in the wake of Amazon’s arrival. This year, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion allowing local leaders to sidestep state legislators and perform the change on their own, with approval from Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board.
(Updated at 11 a.m.) County crews replaced the first “Jefferson Davis Highway” sign this morning as officials work to complete Route 1’s renaming to “Richmond Highway” in Arlington.
Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey and Del. Mark Levine stomped on the sign honoring Confederate President Jefferson Davis, folding it up as crews placed the first new “Richmond” signs in Crystal City this morning at the 23rd Street S. intersection.
“It felt great,” Dorsey said afterward. “We are at a point now where we don’t have to have these monumental signs hanging over the streets of Arlington.”
Arlington’s lawmakers have pushed for the change for several years, but were stymied by conservative representatives in Richmond. The county renewed its efforts last year in the wake of Amazon’s arrival.
Earlier this year, at the prompting of Del. Mark Levine, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion that local leaders could sidestep Richmond entirely. The opinion clarified that the Arlington County Board had the authority to change the name on its own.
In an statement Wednesday, Levine wrote that today’s event was important because the General Assembly named the highway after Davis long after the Civil War — in 1922 — and Davis himself few connections with Virginia.
“The purpose instead was to terrorize Virginia’s black population into submitting to unconstitutional second-class legal status under Virginia law,” said Levine. “In 1922, Jim Crow laws, lynching, and the KKK were at their peak power, while poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses kept the descendants of the courageous African-Americans who fought Davis and died for the Union from exercising their constitutional right to vote.”
“While it is necessary for us to honestly discuss and interpret Virginia’s history, I feel strongly that commemorating the president of the Confederacy through the name for a major thoroughfare is not appropriate,” Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board Secretary said after approving the name change in May.
The highway was named after Davis at the request of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a group which sponsored confederate monuments across the south in the 20th century, including a now-removed plaque in Bluemont Park. In 1946, the group also commissioned a stone marker along the highway bearing Jefferson Davis’ name, which county or state transportation officials are not quite sure what to do about.
“I’m proud of Mark Levine for getting this through,” said Freddie Lutz, owner of longtime Crystal City LGBT bar Freddie’s Beach Bar, who attended this morning’s ceremony. “It’s a great, progressive move. I’m all about celebrating diversity.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” Levine said. “It’s a sign of oppression. It was wrong to put it up [then] and it was wrong today.”
Levine added that having himself and Dorsey personally take the Jefferson Davis sign down “wasn’t planned that way, but it’s wonderful symbolic justice.”
Officials previously estimated that total cost of changing Jefferson Davis Highway to Richmond Highway in Arlington would be around $17,000, and that work would continue through October.
“We are thrilled about the overdue name change,” Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, President of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, told ARLnow. “It’s much more consistent with our values — and provides a progressive and inclusive environment to live and work.”
Jay Westcott contributed to this report.
Union soldiers stationed at Bon Air Park will offer a tour of their fortifications and military lifestyle tomorrow (Saturday) as they keep a watch on Confederate skirmishers to the south and west.
The Civil War reenactors will be posted at the park along Wilson Blvd and Four Mile Run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. to honor the 158th anniversary of the Ball’s Cross Roads Skirmish, part of a series of small battles along the defenses of Washington, D.C. in the wake of the First Battle of Bull Run.
An article from the New York Times cited one Union death and two wounded, and up to 15 Confederate casualties.
“The companies under the command of Capt. Todd and Capt. Dingleday, of the Twenty-third New-York Regiment, conducted themselves heroically, returning the enemy’s fire, which evidently told upon them severely, and repulsed them, and after the rebels had retreated, fell back to the Cross Roads in good order, after which the pickets were again advanced to their original position, and there remained,” the New York Times reported. “Too much credit cannot be given to the officers and men, as each man behaved splendidly.”
The event is free to the public, and will include military drills, a photography exhibit, and various camp displays. One word of warning: the bathrooms at Bon Air Park remain inoperable due to storm damage, which will presumably lend the camp more mid-19th-century authenticity.
More from the event page:
During the war the area near Ball’s Cross Roads and Upton hill was host to tens of thousands of Union and Confederate troops. From June to October of 1861 Arlington’s Four-Mile Run Valley was witness to several Civil War skirmishes. One of the largest occurred on the afternoon of August 27, 1861. Several hundred Union soldiers from the New York 23rd were performing picket duty east of the railroad, which was then called the Alexandria, Loudon & Hampshire. The Union skirmishers were fired upon by Confederates from the 11th Virginia.
The military engagement, as documented by the New York Times, lasted several hours and involved close to 900 soldiers spread out along both sides of Wilson Blvd. including Bon Air and Bluemont Parks. Recent research, including written first hand accounts, suggest the skirmish may have been part of a much larger military operation conducted by the Confederates to probe the Union lines. The engagement, which included an artillery bombardment of Hall’s Hill, resulted in several soldiers being killed and wounded on both sides. The proximity of the skirmish forced General George McClellan to strengthen the forts protecting Washington DC.
Photo courtesy Arlington County
Once upon a time, there was a community in Arlington called Marceytown. In that quiet village of Marceytown, at the outbreak of the Civil War, someone allegedly buried some treasure.
There is little in Arlington today that marks the vast swaths of land owned by the Marcey family — collectively called Marceytown — except Marcey Road and Marcey Park in North Arlington. But the Marcey family was one of the early settlers in the area, tilling the land near the Potomac River towards the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th.
In Calvin Marcey’s history of the family from 1986, he noted that many of the lands they farmed and worked on were owned by the more famous George Mason family. The Marcey family also married into the prominent Ball family — they for whom Ballston is named — from central Arlington. One daughter, Catherine married Horatio Ball in 1815, and her younger sister, Elizabeth, married Horatio when the elder sister died.
But you’re here for the story about the buried treasure.
The primary source for the story about the treasure is local historian Eleanor Lee Templeman’s 1959 book Arlington Heritage. In the book, Templeman said the story was told to her by a woman whose father-in-law, James Marcey Jr., was living in Marceytown during the Civil War.
A frightened Union soldier begged him to keep, until the cessation of hostilities, a large sum of money which he was carrying on his person. He feared that other soldiers would take it from him. Mr. Marcey refused the responsibility of either keeping it or of knowing its exact hiding place, but loaned the man a pick to bury it nearby. He never returned to retrieve it.
Templeman said there were no records afterward of the treasure being recovered.
Local historian Jessica Kaplan, who lives across from the rumored treasure house, said the family was impoverished by the Civil War and received little compensation from the government for the damage caused to their lands by military encampments and defenses.
The family survived by subdividing and selling off swathes of their land, turning more and more of Marceytown into neighborhoods and subdivisions. Eventually, the Marceys were unable to afford to live on the land they once owned, and the family largely moved to the outer suburbs or dispersed across the country.
In 1983, even the family log cabin — built in 1843 — was moved log-by-log out to Vienna by a wealthy lawyer after the land it sat on in Arlington was sold.
Today, the cul-de-sac where James Marcey Jr. lived is a suburban residential street. A new house is currently under construction near where the treasure was allegedly buried. ARLnow reached out to the developer but did not receive an answer on whether or not any Civil War treasure was found.
Kaplan said the story of the buried treasure is likely a folk legend, noting that Templeman’s histories somewhat notoriously litter “buried treasure” throughout the area.
“I highly doubt [it’s true],” Kaplan said. “I think it was a little folk legend to get people interested, but who knows?”
Kaplan said there are several Marcey and unmarked Civil War graves nearby, so if there were buried treasure on a Marcey property, the location in Templeman’s notes at least matches a feasible vicinity.
“It’s a total myth,” Kaplan said. “It would be fun to find, but I wouldn’t spend any free time looking for it.”
But then again, isn’t that what a rival treasure hunter would want you to think?
Arlington’s Nauck neighborhood is now one step closer to changing its name back to Green Valley, thanks to the Arlington County Civic Federation.
The federation approved the Nauck Civic Association’s request to change its name to the Green Valley Civic Association on Tuesday. The vote came after neighbors requested the county nix the name they said obscures the true history of freed slaves who founded the community.
“We’re just very happy that it’s changed and it’s the name that’s always associated with it,” said Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark.
The historically black neighborhood was first built partly by freed slaves Sarah Ann and Levi Jones. They bought 14 acres of land along Four Mile Run and sold parcels to other African Americans during and after the Civil War, according to research from Dr. Alfred O. Taylor Jr., who formerly led the Nauck Civic Association and the local NAACP chapter.
The renaming resolution passed by the Civic Federation notes:
“The residents of the area continually celebrate and honor the heritage of a ‘FREED’ community that reminds us of the many hills our ancestors had to climb, slavery, segregation and racial covenants that have bought us to today with the freedoms that we hold.”
Taylor wrote in a February open letter that his research indicates county officials began calling the area Nauck in the 1970s after Confederate soldier and German immigrant John D. Nauck, who purchased almost 80 acres of land in the area in the 1870s.
“It is inappropriate for the diverse community to venerate a person who fought to preserve slavery and whose memory evokes painful reminders of laws that segregated and excluded African Americans from public life,” Taylor wrote. “We find no record or evidence linking Nauck to efforts to improve the quality of life for its residents.”
Tuesday’s vote by the Civic Federation is not the last step in the process. The organization must transmit the matter to the County Board, which will then discuss and vote on the change.
Support for reconsidering the county’s Confederate vestiges has gained steam since the deadly Charlottesville white supremacist rally in 2017 and amid national conversations about the recent rise of racist hate groups.
In Arlington, leaders waged heated battles to strip Washington-Lee of the second half of its hyphenated name, which referenced Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. They are also poised to remove the “Stratford” in Stratford School, which originated from the name of Lee’s birthplace.
The County Board previously has acknowledged Green Valley’s unique history. In 2013, members approved a historic location designation to the Green Valley Pharmacy in recognition of it being the first store in the county to serve black and white customers, including serving food at an integrated diner inside the shop.
(Updated at 2 p.m) Some community leaders in Nauck are pushing to see the neighborhood’s name changed to “Green Valley,” arguing that an area so rich in African American history shouldn’t be named for a former Confederate soldier.
The historically black South Arlington neighborhood was founded, in part, by freed slaves. Yet it’s come to be known for John D. Nauck, a German immigrant who served in the Confederate Army, then purchased a total of 79 acres of land in the area in 1874 and 1875.
In an open letter to the Nauck community distributed Friday (Feb. 15), longtime civic leader Dr. Alfred Taylor argues that it is “inappropriate for the diverse community to venerate a person who fought to preserve slavery and whose memory evokes painful reminders of laws that segregated and excluded African Americans from public life.”
The county has been locked in some contentious debates over Confederate symbols across Arlington ever since the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville in August 2017 sparked a nationwide conversation about the issue. The School Board’s push to strip Robert E. Lee’s name from Washington-Lee High School proved to be an especially heated process, but Taylor suggested that other communities in the county should be “taking a page” from the Board’s example on this front.
It’s not yet clear how the process of renaming the neighborhood might proceed — the community’s civic association could look to simply change its own name, though there may be additional county approvals tied up in that process. But Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark is at least circulating Taylor’s letter in a bid to receive feedback on the proposal, particularly given the persistent complaints from residents that the county has failed to listen to their voices.
In the letter, Taylor argues that Nauck residents increasingly support naming the neighborhood “Green Valley/Nauck” or just “Green Valley,” in a bid to honor the area’s original nickname.
The exact origins of the “Green Valley” name are uncertain — Taylor, once the head of the Nauck Civic Association and Arlington’s chapter of the NAACP, wrote that his extensive research into the area’s history suggests the name is linked back to James Green, who owned property on what is now the site of the Army-Navy Country Club.
Yet he writes that “Green Valley” name bears more of a link to the area’s African American history than it does to any one person. Levi and Sarah Ann Jones became famous as the first freed slaves to purchase property in the area back in 1844, and Taylor argues that they helped build up a community in the area and make the “Green Valley” name more widespread.
The area was occupied by the Union Army during the Civil War, and eventually became home to a “Freedmen’s Village” following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Taylor also writes that the Jones family subsequently sold some property to other African American families, helping to establish the area as an enclave for Arlington’s black residents.
As Virginia officials increasingly embraced policies of segregation, the area became home to a large number of businesses owned by black residents, according to the Guide to the African American Heritage of Arlington County, prepared in 2016 as part of the county’s Historic Preservation Program.
Taylor pointed out that the area was “largely excluded from full participation in mainstream American political and social life and commerce” and so residents felt they had to “do for themselves.” Many of the businesses to spring up in the 1900s bore the “Green Valley” name, including the Green Valley Pharmacy, which the County Board designated as a historic district in 2013.
Nonetheless, Taylor argues that the name “Nauck” took hold among the “official Arlington” set in the 1970s — the county’s history of the area suggests that the name “Nauck” first appeared in reference to the area as far back as 1876, and that black residents referred to it as “Nauckville” dating back to the late 19th century.
But Taylor hypothesizes that the destruction of the manor on Green’s original property in 1924 helped contribute to the “Green Valley” name fading away, or perhaps that leaders at the time avoided referring to Green Valley because it was “extensively occupied and used throughout most of the Civil War by the Union Army.” The construction of many Confederate statues and monuments in the early 20th century has often been connected to efforts by white leaders to send a message to black residents, and Taylor suggests some of that could be at play in the decision to embrace a former Confederate soldier like Nauck.
While recounting that John D. Nauck held county positions like Justice of the Peace and “sold considerable property to African Americans,” the county’s heritage guide notes that Nauck fled Arlington in 1891 after his efforts to evict an African American resident were met with resistance.
Taylor also points out that community leaders like the Jones family or William Augustus Rowe (a leader within the “Freedmen’s Village” who later won political office) were passed over in favor of Nauck, and Taylor argues they also deserve consideration.
“We find no record or evidence linking Nauck to efforts to improve the quality of life for its residents,” Taylor wrote. “Look at many of the local, national and international contributions that were made by the residents under the banner of Green Valley… to let that name slip into nothingness would be a travesty to their memory.”
Clark did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the civic association’s next steps for considering Taylor’s proposal.
A new visitor center is celebrating its grand opening Saturday (March 31) at Woodmont’s Fort C.F. Smith with free activities.
The center will focus on “Civil War life at Fort C.F. Smith and across Arlington County,” according to an county event page.
During the event, park staff will take community members through fort tours and Civil War museum exhibits. Union Army historic reenactors will perform demonstrations and drilling activities.
Activities will run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Fort C.F. Smith Park (2411 24th Street N.) Kids can don Civil War era uniforms, learn about camp life, and check out archaeological artifacts on display.
The fort is home to the Hendry House event venue, as well as preserved ruins, and ornamental peace garden, wildlife observation points and garden trails.
Photo via Arlington County
Social Media Threats Against Arlington Schools — “There is an increased police presence at a middle school and high school in Arlington Friday after authorities say they were the targets of social media threats Thursday night. Arlington County Police say ‘threats of violence’ were made to Williamsburg Middle School and Yorktown High School… police have identified a person in connection with the incident.” [WJLA, Twitter]
Cannonball Found Near the Run — “A remnant of the most turbulent period in Arlington’s history was unearthed during the recent renovation of the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s warehouse space in the Four Mile Run corridor. A 24-pound spherical shell was found during the construction period.” [InsideNova]
Snow Showers Dust Area — Winter is not over yet. A brief period of snow showers left some white patches on lawns this morning. Meanwhile, a potential snowstorm looms for next week. [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]