The Arlington National Cemetery Defense Access Roads (ANC DAR) Project will realign Columbia Pike from east of S. Oak Street to Washington Blvd (Route 27). It will also modify the S. Joyce Street intersection, change the Columbia Pike and Washington Blvd interchange, and replace Southgate Road with an added segment of S. Nash Street.
Because of this, and as of early last month, parking is now permanently prohibited on Southgate Road between S. Oak Street and Columbia Pike.
Construction is expected to start in the early fall and be completed within four years, by summer of 2025, a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) spokesperson tells ARLnow. This timeline is slightly pushed back from what’s listed on the FHWA project page.
The project will also add a new sidewalk and a shared-use trail, improve bicycle facilities, add street lighting, and put utility lines underground. FHWA’s project page also notes that the work done will be consistent with Arlington County Master Transportation Plan and Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements Project. No residents will be displaced, though construction may bring added noise and traffic disruptions to the nearby Foxcroft Heights neighborhood.
All of this is being done to accommodate a 70 acre southern expansion of Arlington National Cemetery. It will add about 60,00 burial sites, including an above-ground columbarium, which will allow the cemetery to continue burials through the 2050s. The expansion will also bring the Air Force Memorial within cemetery grounds.
This project, particularly the modification of the Columbia Pike and Washington Blvd interchange, will also provide space for the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center. Construction on that is expected to start late 2023 with a completion set for two years later.
While this realignment project has been long awaited, it hasn’t happened without some proverbial bumps in the road. Initially, the Army proposed a land exchange agreement with the county where the federal government would acquire the land from the county that was needed for the expansion. In exchange, the county would get “all land south of a realigned Columbia Pike to meet a variety of public facility needs.”
But, in 2017, the Army decided against the land exchange agreement, leaving the county “disappointed.”
Then, last summer, the federal government filed a civil suit to claim through eminent domain nine acres of land from Arlington County. The feds offered the county $10 for the land, but Arlington County Attorney Steve MacIsaac told DCist/WAMU in November 2020 that wasn’t going to cut it.
However, in January 2021, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved an agreement with the state, the Army, and the U.S. Department of Transportation that essentially provided the needed land in exchange for the feds paying for nearly all of the $60 million project. The county is only responsible for $500,000 to design a multi-use trail along Washington Blvd.
An Arlington man has been sentenced to decades in prison for killing a man in the Douglas Park neighborhood three years ago.
Michael Nash, 29, is set to spend nearly 35 years behind bars. Five years and one month of the 40 years sentence was suspended. Nash will have five years of supervised probation.
Earlier this summer, Nash pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for killing Arlington resident Patricio Salazar, who had tried to intervene when he found Nash sexually and physically assaulting his then-girlfriend. Other charges, including forcible sodomy and robbery, were dropped as part of the agreement.
“It was the most accurate charge for the most serious conduct, and it had the support of the other victims,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti said.
At a 2019 hearing, Nash’s then-girlfriend told a judge that they argued loudly enough for police to come, but were allowed to leave together after separate interviews, the Washington Post reported. They continued walking and ended up on near Doctor’s Run Park.
That’s when Nash “pushed her to the ground and began beating her, stripping her of her clothing and touching her sexually,” the Post reports.
Salazar tried to stop him, but Nash beat him and knocked him unconscious, police said at the time. Salazar was transported to George Washington University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Nash fled the scene and robbed a woman of her cell phone, police previously said. Officers and a police helicopter eventually apprehended Nash near the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive.
Salazar’s sister Loty launched a GoFundMe fundraiser to honor her brother’s life and raise money for three organizations that support victims of sexual assault in the U.S. and Bolivia. It brought in more than $30,000. Bradley Flood, a witness, also raised money for the family.
His sister remembered Salazar as “one of the most kindhearted and genuine people I have ever met.”
“And, as he showed by his final act of great courage, he was a man of integrity and character, who believed in doing the right thing no matter what the cost,” she wrote.
Flood wrote that it chills him to think what would have happened if Salazar had not intervened.
“He is a Good Samaritan if there ever was one,” he said.
Update on 9/30/21: Charges against Briscoe were dropped earlier this week.
Earlier: Celtic House Irish Pub on Columbia Pike says it “does not wish to embroil itself” in the ongoing saga involving a local TikTok personality.
The bar released a statement on its social media channels yesterday, in response to allegations traded between TikToker Coco Briscoe, who attracted a sizable following with her videos about dating in the D.C. area, and a bartender the business now calls “a former employee.”
While the statement suggests that the bartender who Briscoe accuses of harassing her is no longer employed by Celtic House, it does not specify the circumstances around her departure. The bartender previously testified in court, during a hearing about an emergency protective order she obtained against Briscoe, about being “terrified” of the social media personality and her devoted followers.
“I’m afraid to be in my house. I’m afraid to be in this courtroom with her,” the bartender testified. “I just want to be left alone and don’t want attention.”
The judge allowed the protective order to expire, suggesting that it should not have been issued by a county magistrate in the first place due to a lack of evidence of legitimate physical threats, but Briscoe is still facing a misdemeanor charge for allegedly violating it by continuing to post about the situation on TikTok. She is next due in Arlington General District Court in two weeks, on Sept. 23.
Briscoe says the bartender is among a group of people, including employees of two Columbia Pike bars, who “bully, stalk and harass” her, making her feel unsafe in her neighborhood.
The Celtic House statement references at least some of Briscoe’s specific claims, which she has repeated in many of her dozens of TikTok posts over the past month — namely that video taken of Briscoe riding her bike near one of the bars, along with derogatory comments about her, were shared in a group chat.
“It would be improper to further comment… or to engage persons who have attacked the Celtic House, or the reputation of its owners and staff,” the statement says, before adding: “To be clear, the Celtic House does not condone the filming of any patron by employees, nor the public dissemination of pictures or comments on the actions of its patrons, except where such matters are required by, or, in furtherance of some interest of law enforcement or required as part of a civil or investigative action.”
The bartender in turn testified in court that it is Briscoe who has been the aggressor, weaponizing her following to harass her and others via hundreds of phone calls, social media messages and online reviews. The video sent to the group chat, which Briscoe subsequently obtained, was intended as a warning to local restaurant employees about an erratic customer, the bartender said.
Briscoe, meanwhile, has continued to rail against the two bars — Celtic House and Rebellion on the Pike — and their employees in videos posted since her last court appearance. She has also levied various accusations against the Arlington County Police Department, ARLnow, the Washington Post, and online review site Yelp.
Celtic House, in its statement, asserted that its business has been unfairly targeted. The bar “does not tolerate, nor wish to participate in on-line posturing or bullying,” it said.
Celtic House’s owner has not responded to emailed requests for further comment.
A statement issued by Rebellion on the Pike last month insisted that the accusations against it were an “attempt to smear our business [that] has zero evidence and truth to it.”
The full statement from Celtic House is below.
It looks like the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is not going to consider a Metro line through Columbia Pike any time soon.
In December 2019, Metro mulled the idea for a Silver Line extension down Columbia Pike and up Route 7, connecting with the West Falls Church Station, as one of a handful of ways to address congestion in the Rosslyn Metro tunnel, system reliability and future ridership growth. News of President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which coincided with WMATA’s deliberations, further crystallized those hopes.
A new study posted this week, however, indicates this extension — which nearly 70% of ARLnow readers supported in an April poll — has been ruled out. That follows a cost-benefit analysis by planners, which favored four other routes — each starting with a second Metro station in Rosslyn and adding an underground Metro station in Georgetown — as well as two options that don’t involve new construction.
Pretty much all of these (admittedly far-off) scenarios call for Metro to finally pass through Georgetown…and you may recall that the city could soon buy a very prominent Key Bridge site for a station there: https://t.co/E1DaxMAn1e https://t.co/Lp0OhMsHGX
— Alex Koma (@AlexKomaWBJ) September 7, 2021
WMATA is looking for the next way to expand Metro on a scale similar to the Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport, as it seeks to alleviate traffic and congestion in the Rosslyn tunnel and along the the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. In early 2019, it launched the Blue/Orange/Silver Capacity & Reliability Study (BOS Study) to identify a line that would do so.
Metro planners outlined the four finalists, absent the Pike, in an update to the BOS Study that Metro posted this week. The four options use a second Rosslyn station to alleviate congestion at the existing station, and establish a long-discussed underground station in Georgetown, which has never had a Metro connection.
The possible projects, which would cost billions of dollars to build, include a Blue Line loop to National Harbor — which planners think would add the most new riders and revenue to the Metro system — as well as a Blue Line extension to Greenbelt, a Silver Line express tunnel option through Arlington, and a Silver Line to New Carrollton.
The express option “would create a separate tunnel and tracks for the Silver Line, starting at West Falls Church Station,” according to WMATA. A diagram suggests it would skip all Arlington stations except the second Rosslyn station and perhaps a second Ballston station.
“From WFC to a new second Rosslyn station, the new tunnel could support express service, local service or a mix of express and local service,” WMATA said. “From the second Rosslyn station, the Silver Line would travel through Georgetown…. to Greenbelt.”
Northam Declares State of Emergency — “Governor Ralph Northam today declared a state of emergency to respond to impacts from Tropical Depression Ida, which is expected to cause heavy rains and flooding along the I-81 and I-66 corridors. Localities in the southwest region have already experienced heavy rainfall in recent days, leading to flash floods and complicating storm preparation efforts. In addition to the flood threat, there is also a risk of tornadoes across the Commonwealth.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]
Jail to Distribute Fentanyl Tests — “Beginning September 1, 2021, Arlington County will begin to distribute fentanyl test strips to individuals being released from incarceration. This new effort is in response to rising overdose numbers.” [Arlington County]
Pike Apartment Building Sold — “Zurich Alternative Asset Management has sold Siena Park, a 188-unit multifamily community in Arlington, Va., for $80.1 million. The property includes 33,602 square feet of retail and 17,373 square feet of office space. Located at 2301 Columbia Pike, Siena Park is just 15 minutes from Washington, D.C.” [Commercial Observer]
Marymount Testing VR Headsets — “Eric Bubar, a Marymount associate professor of physics, has led 3D printing projects and testing for face masks and other polymer-based personal protective equipment. But more recently, the professor… is working with three other science faculty members to develop virtual reality technology for Marymount chemistry students to take lab classes remotely — and, perhaps in the future, for physical therapy patients.” [Washington Business Journal]
Local Catholic Org Seeking Help with Refugees — “Following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, diocesan Catholic Charities has issued a plea for resources to support Afghan refugees resettling in Virginia as the Taliban’s rapid resurgence prompted Afghan translators and others who assisted U.S. military forces to flee the country along with their families… Catholic Charities has prioritized finding properties for rent in Fredericksburg, Sterling and Woodbridge, as the agency hopes to place the Afghans near family and friends in the area.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]
It’s National Preparedness Month — “It’s a situation everyone has experienced: The media and public safety agencies warn of an impending storm, chance of power outages, and loss of service. But you find yourself scrambling at the last minute for batteries, water, and ideas to keep your family entertained. Disasters don’t plan ahead — even during a pandemic — but you can.” [Arlington County]
On Sunday, 13 pints of Miller Lite stood vigil at an empty, but reserved, table at The Celtic House Irish Pub & Restaurant on Columbia Pike.
The beers represented the 13 U.S. servicemen and women who died in suicide bombings at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul that also killed 170 Afghan civilians. Terrorist group ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attacks conducted during the evacuation.
A woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, had purchased the beers after seeing posts on Facebook of similar scenes at other bars and thinking to herself, “This is good. This is something to do.”
Similar scenes played out in Courthouse at Ireland’s Four Courts and across the country, as individuals and bars have poured out beers and placed them at reserved tables to pay tribute to the fallen troops.
For the Celtic House patron, the little tribute and the now-complete withdrawal effort, were personal.
“Just by way of background, my husband died from suicide last year,” she told ARLnow. “He had several tours in Afghanistan. This is the kind of thing, that if he were still here — well, first of all, he would’ve been super upset — but this is something he would’ve done. It was a way to honor those who were lost and honor him, in a way.”
The woman said the last few weeks have been hard on her, and she had to stop watching the news coming from Afghanistan. Going to the bar, which she said is her local watering hole, was also a way of distracting herself from the news of Hurricane Ida that devastated her hometown of New Orleans (the remnants of which are now bound for the D.C. area).
The reaction to her beer purchase was positive, she said.
“I didn’t have my phone yesterday,” she said. “I got the guys to take a picture, and send it to me. I did post it on Facebook, and got positive reactions there, and I sent the pictures to a bunch of my husband’s friends.”
The Celtic House didn’t charge her for half of the beers, she said — but she would’ve still done it if they had. The bar posted the picture on Twitter on Sunday.
Remembering those servicemen and women who lost their lives this week in Afghanistan, an extremely nice gesture by one of our regulars today. pic.twitter.com/UF8npV8qAs
— The Celtic House (@CelticOnThePike) August 30, 2021
A similar tribute could be seen at Ireland’s Four Courts. On Saturday, a group of Marines who were regulars four years ago and have since moved back to the area, ordered 13 beers, General Manager Dave Cahill said.
They were placed on a table reserved all weekend with a napkin note that read “reserved for our fallen heroes.”
Cahill connected the tribute to the “Missing Man Table” tradition of setting a table for fallen or missing soldiers with a number of symbolic pieces. People with loved ones buried in Arlington National Cemetery regularly come to the pub and place a mug on the table in memory of the deceased friend or family member, he said.
“We have a lot of Marines who come in here,” he said. “A lot of Marines would be deployed here for a number of years, and people who are visiting Arlington Cemetery come in as well.”
— Irelands Four Courts (@irelands4courts) August 29, 2021
The Celtic House patron said hers was a “trite little gesture,” but she encouraged people to reach out to the veterans in their lives, support organizations and get involved in other ways.
“The idea should be that, all the people who were with them — and not even the people wounded — they’re all going to suffer unimaginable trauma from seeing their friends blown to pieces, and trying to rescue them. One hundred seventy civilians were also killed,” she said. “Just get involved. See what you can do.”
A man was stabbed multiple times and robbed of his wallet along Columbia Pike early Saturday morning.
The stabbing happened on the 2300 block of the Pike, the same block as Bob & Edith’s Diner, William Jeffrey’s Tavern and Xsport Fitness. Police say the man suffered serious injuries but is expected to be okay.
More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
ROBBERY, 2021-08280042, 2300 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 2:47 a.m. on August 28, police were dispatched to the report of trouble unknown. Arriving officers located the victim with multiple stab wounds and began to render aid. The victim was transported by medics to an area hospital with serious, but non-life threatening injuries. The investigation determined that at approximately 2:30 a.m., the victim was walking to his vehicle when the suspect approached him from behind, began to assault him, produced a knife and stabbed him multiple times. The suspect then reached into the victim’s pocket and stole his wallet, containing credit cards and an undisclosed amount of cash, then fled on foot prior to police arrival. The suspect is described as a Black male, 20-30 years old, with a lean and muscular build, approximately 5’11”, with a short afro that had a red hue, wearing a blue shirt, and dark pants. The investigation is ongoing.
(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Arlington Transit buses will return to full service after Labor Day weekend, the county-run transit agency says.
Rush-hour-only ART buses 53, 61, 62 and 74 will run again starting Tuesday, Sept. 7, after being out of service since March 2020 due to the pandemic. Once these buses resume operation, Arlington Transit will largely be back at full service. ART 72 will continue on a modified weekday schedule, however.
While seating restrictions were lifted on Aug. 1, riders will still be required to wear masks as per a federal mask mandate for passengers on planes, trains and buses from the Transportation Security Administration, effective until January 2022.
Meanwhile, Metrobus is set to implement some changes after Sunday, Sept. 5, adding more buses and trains and extending Metrorail’s weekend hours.
Notably, bus 16Y from Columbia Pike to Farragut Square will resume operation, going both directions during weekday rush hours. The limited-stop service route, which once connected Columbia Pike stops to McPherson Square in D.C., was halted during the pandemic and was absent from when a number of routes were restored earlier this summer.
Buses 16A, 16C and 16E in Columbia Pike and 16G and 16H between Columbia Pike and Pentagon City will get service upgrades as well.
“Service will operate every 12 minutes or better from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily between Columbia Pike & South Joyce Street and Columbia Pike & South Dinwiddie Street at stops served by all routes,” WMATA said.
Bus 25B from the old Landmark Mall in Alexandria to Ballston will see some changes, with Alexandria working to overhaul its own DASH bus network. 25B will travel between Ballston, Southern Towers and Mark Center every day except Sunday, and between Ballston and Southern Towers on Sundays.
Metrorail trains will be available until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, an hour later than was previously offered. Trains will also start running earlier on Sundays, with riders able to board at 7 a.m. rather than 8 a.m.
More on the planned Metro changes from a press release, below.
(Updated 8/27/21) The long-planned 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center is aiming for a September 2025 opening, executive director Jim Laychak tells ARLnow.
A video announcement with updated designs, plans, and visuals for the education center that will be located along the soon-to-be-realigned Columbia Pike will be unveiled in the coming weeks and prior to the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Laychak says.
The website and provided renderings currently shows a sleek, modern design with exhibits, “interactive biographies” of those who died at the Pentagon on 9/11, a rooftop terrace, ample parking, and a family gallery.
Construction on the anticipated companion to the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial is expected to start within two years.
“September 2023, we could start construction and, in two years from that, we will be open,” says Laychak, who also oversaw the building of the nearby memorial. “It’s about a two year construction [phase].”
However, that timeline isn’t set and and is dependent on the completion of the Arlington National Cemetery Defense Access Roads Project. That project will realign Columbia Pike, modify the S. Joyce Street intersection, and shift the Columbia Pike and Washington Blvd. interchange. This is all being done to allow for Arlington National Cemetery to expand.
“The site where we are going to build is on that whole grassy area where the gas station used to be,” says Laychak. “It’s got a cloverleaf there and… that needs to change to a parallel on and off ramp… to Washington Blvd. So, all of that needs to happen first.”
Construction on the road realignment was originally slated to start in “summer 2021,” according to the U.S. Department of Transportation website, but work hasn’t begun yet.
ARLnow has reached out to the department about an updated timeline for the project but has yet to hear back as of publication.
The Pentagon Memorial opened to the public in 2008, but the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center wasn’t announced until late September 2015. It will sit on land owned by Arlington National Cemetery.
“The 9/11 Pentagon Visitor Education Center site is in a dramatic location,” the museum’s website said back in 2015. “Right where the attack of 9/11 took place and adjacent to the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and Air Force Memorial.”
In 2016, renderings were displayed at the Pentagon City mall. Initially, it was expected to be completed by 2020 but that didn’t happen due to the project needing to wait for the ANC expansion and roads projects to take shape, says Laychak.
The last few years have mostly been filled with completing the architecture design, raising money, and reassembling a board of directors that now includes Sean Connaughton, a former Virginia transportation secretary.
The project has raised about $5 million, which was used to complete the design of the education center and exhibits. Overall, it will need to raise another $80 million, which Laychak estimates will be a split between federal appropriations (much like what was the case for the memorial) and private funds. The executive team is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise those funds.
Laychak believes the addition of the education center, along with the expansion of the cemetery and the roads project, will transform the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial into a “destination location.” It will also make the memorial much easier to get to, he says, since right now it can be a bit of a maze of a walk through parking lots, concrete barriers, and closed access points.
Update on 9/30/21: Charges against Briscoe were dropped earlier this week.
Earlier: Coco Briscoe, the local TikTok personality arrested for violating a protective order amid a spat with local restaurants, has had that protective order lifted.
Briscoe was in Arlington General District Court Wednesday afternoon for her arraignment. A judge also heard arguments about whether the 72-hour Emergency Protective Order issued early Monday morning by an Arlington magistrate should be extended.
During the hearing, the woman who asked for the protective order — Charlotte, an employee of Celtic House Irish Pub on Columbia Pike — testified that she was “terrified” of Briscoe and her army of devoted social media followers.
Charlotte said Briscoe was a regular customer at Celtic House but things between her and the bartenders deteriorated over time. At one point, Charlotte testified, she and Briscoe encountered each other in Georgetown and Briscoe followed her, yelling “crazy bitch.”
In another incident, Charlotte testified that Briscoe had been drinking for ten hours straight when she took a brief video of her riding her bike near the bar and sent it in a group chat to other Columbia Pike restaurant employees — including employees of Rebellion on the Pike, another target of Briscoe’s ire — to warn them, given what she described as Briscoe’s erratic behavior.
Briscoe somehow obtained the message sent by Charlotte and has since been posting TikTok videos about it and her spat with the restaurant employees. The videos accuse Charlotte of “stalking” Briscoe and of revealing her location in the group chat, as well as using Briscoe’s credit card and ID in order to obtain her name and date of birth for the protective order.
In addition to allegations against Charlotte, Briscoe accuses a larger group of Celtic House and Rebellion employees of creating social media accounts and fake online dating profiles to “bully, stalk and harass” her. In her videos, she expresses concern about her safety and that of other women who patronize the bars.
The videos also infer that police are protecting the bars and Charlotte, who is reportedly dating an Arlington officer, given that a police report filed by Briscoe did not result in action against any of them.
The videos have prompted many of Briscoe’s nearly 25,000 TikTok followers to come to her defense in social media comments, in negative online reviews of the restaurants, and via emails and phone calls.
“Unfortunately this bar is unsafe for single women,” a woman named Elizabeth from South Carolina posted on Rebellion’s Yelp page, echoing Briscoe’s accusations. “Several bartenders… have stalked, harassed and created an unsafe environment.”
“Be careful here, the bartenders like to share your location with a group of stalkers, get personal information off your credit card and share it with them. This happened to my friend,” wrote a woman named Nora from Utah. “When confronted the manager/owners did not investigate or fire the employee who was doing this.”
“Absolutely disgusting @ArlingtonVaPD for not protecting Coco after she filed a report with you,” an Arlington woman named Julie posted on Twitter. “And abusing your power to rush ridiculous restraining orders against her. Scary to thing as a woman in Arlington you are sh-t out of luck if your stalker has a friend that’s a cop.”
Charlotte testified that Celtic House has been getting “hundreds” of phone calls from angry followers of Briscoe, accusing Charlotte of things and calling her names.
A single mom, Charlotte said she has had to take unpaid leave from work, move away from her apartment, and bring her son to live with his father for fear of his safety.
“I’m afraid to be in my house. I’m afraid to be in this courtroom with her,” she testified. “I just want to be left alone and don’t want attention.”
An attorney for Briscoe briefly questioned Charlotte, who said she could have been more “tactful” with her message to the group.
Long-time Arlington resident and community leader Fannie McNeil died late last month at the age of 84, her family tells ARLnow.
A constant presence at Lomax A.M.E Zion Church on 24th Road S., McNeil was a member of numerous boards there and the founder of the SPICE (Sisters Providing Information & Christian Encouragement) program. Since the early 1990s, the church program has mentored hundreds of young women in the community.
“She really had us learn the importance of community, love, and women empowerment,” says Reba Nettles, McNeil’s daughter.
McNeil grew up in North Carolina and moved to Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood in her early 20s with her husband.
A few years later, in the 1960s and with a growing family, they moved to the Columbia Pike corridor, right off of S. Fillmore Street. In the early 1970s, they moved to the Johnson’s Hill neighborhood, now known as Arlington View.
It was then that McNeil became a single mother, raising six children by herself. She also had eight grandchildren, three of which she raised, as well as 13 great-grandchildren, all while living in the Columbia Pike corridor and working to clean residences for more than fifty years.
And she loved her community.
Family describes how she would invite the entire neighborhood over for parties, donating countless hours and money to her church, mentoring children in the community, and bringing food to election officers at Carver Community Center on election day.
“My grandmother, when she would go vote, she would bring food for everyone,” says her granddaughter, Tiffany Jones.
Despite her positive attitude, life wasn’t always easy.
“It was a hard struggle for her,” says Nettles. “But my mother was always there for us… She never missed a step.”
She became an entrepreneur, creating a home cleaning business that allowed the family to live comfortably. The kids and grandchildren say they were never left wanting, always having food, nice dresses, and a loving home.
“This was a woman who witnessed lynchings and was in the era of the [Ku Klux Klan] and surviving that, coming to Arlington County, and building a foundation,” says Danielle McNeill, another granddaughter of Fannie’s. “I mean, she was just so phenomenal.”
As Nettles puts it, “My mother was a role model for all of us.”
She was long-time and welcoming presence at Lomax A.M.E Zion Church, says Brenda Cox who is the chairperson on the church’s historical committee as well as McNeil’s neighbor in Johnson’s Hill.
“They don’t make them like Mrs. McNeil anymore,” Cox says. “She was a pillar of our church and will be missed.”
She was also an amazing cook, so much so that the kids would fight over who would sit next to McNeil at church to get first dibs on what was being prepared for Sunday night family dinner.
“We even got her to cook for her own birthday party,” laughs April Nettles, a granddaughter. “Her own surprise birthday party, at that.”
Cox says at every big church event and moment, McNeil was there, usually doing what she did best.
“She was always in the middle of it,” says Cox. “Probably cooking.”
As McNeil grew older, she saw her neighborhood changing. Johnson’s Hill was first established in the 1880s and in close proximity to Freedman’s Village, which was in the process being closed by the federal government. By the turn of the century, 300 to 400 Black residents lived in Johnson’s Hill. In the 1960s, and around the time McNeil moved in, that number had tripled.