Arlington, VA

A new public art project set to debut later this summer will place numerous model slave ships in front of the Arlington Arts Center (3550 Wilson Blvd) in Virginia Square.

Local artist Lynda Andrews-Barry‘s display of 25 wooden slave ships, formed from driftwood collected from the Chesapeake Bay, will fill the lawn in front of the arts center. The ships will be staked into the ground and have sails that collect sunlight during the day and light up at night.

According to Barry:

This site-specific project was conceived through researching Arlington Arts Center and its location in the former Maury school. The institution’s namesake, Matthew Fontaine Maury, was a native Virginian astronomer, historian, oceanographer, meteorologist, cartographer, author, geologist, education, United States Navy officer, and Chief of Sea Coast, River and Harbor Defenses for the Confederacy. However, Maury was not a proponent of American slavery. Instead he favored relocating slaves (and their owners, if desired) to the Amazon, and sent a crew there to map the river and determine if his plan was feasible.

Maury’s proposal was part of a broader movement to relocate, rather than integrate, Black Americans formerly held as slaves. A school in Alexandria is also named after Maury.

The artwork commemorates the 12 million people captured and loaded onto those ships as cargo, some of whom Barry said she is descended from.

Megan Niewold, director of development at the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, said the project was funded by a $10,000 grant. Niewold said the focus of the grant this year was on funding public art that was helping to transform communities.

“We wanted to do public art opportunities that were accessible for everyone and in a diverse area,” Niewold said. “[The project] had to be public, interactive, environmentally friendly, and had to talk about a big topic and encourage heavy discussion.”

Niewold said ten submissions were considered in the final review, but a volunteer grants committee was particularly impressed with how this design tackled race relations and the history of the Maury school — as well as the use of reclaimed driftwood.

The project was originally supposed to go up in April, Niewold said, but the foundation didn’t want to promote more public art during the height of COVID-19 so the timeline was changed to mid-August.

Image via The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia

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Nazis picket Arlington, VA civil rights sit-in: 1960

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Arlingtonians are marching in the streets protesting for racial justice, but 60 years ago that fight took the form of sit-ins at Arlington lunch counters.

This day in 1960 marked the start of a series of demonstrations that remained peaceful despite harassment by local white students, police, and Neo-Nazis. The sit-ins went on for 13 days and were a pivotal moment in local civil rights history.

“On June 9, 1960, just after 1 p.m., about a dozen people walked into the People’s Drug Store at 4709 Lee Highway in Cherrydale and began what would become a peaceful County-wide demonstration for the right of all people to be served at what had historically been white-only lunch counters,” Arlington’s Historic Preservation Program said. “Although African Americans could patronize stores as clientele, employees refused to serve customers of color at the lunch counters within the stores.”

The Historic Preservation Program said other shoppers, including local students, harassed the protestors. A group of members of the Arlington-based American Nazi Party, led by George Rockwell, also showed up and were photographed harassing the protestors while wearing swastika armbands.

Images from the sit-ins showed black protestors sitting at the counter while white counter-protesters marched behind them with signs bearing racist slogans and images. The police were called but made no arrests, and the protestors left when the drug stores closed at 10 p.m.

Confrontation at the Cherrydale Drug Fair Counter: 1960

The next day, police arrested one of the leaders of the protests, Lawrence Henry, allegedly for driving without glasses or proper tags. Protestors returned to stores the next day even though the lunch counters had been closed.

“Protesters arrive around noon at the People’s Drug Store on Lee Highway, the Drug Fair at 5401 Lee Highway, the Howard Johnson restaurant at 4700 Lee Highway, and the Drug Fair at 3815 Lee Highway around noon,” wrote the Historic Preservation Program. “All lunch counters are closed, and eventually crowds, largely of high school students, gather to harass the demonstrators. At the Drug Fair at 3815 Lee Highway, George Rockwell and some uniformed followers try to provoke the protesters. Then, however, police required the Neo-Nazis and the ensuing crowd of over 100 to leave, allowing the protesters to remain.”

That evening, demonstrators announced a temporary halt to the protests for negotiations to take place, after which the heads of People’s Drug and Drug Fair said they would be willing to discuss mediation.

Arlington County government did not intervene, saying that store owners had the right to decline service. The sit-ins continued on June 18, and by June 22 some of the stores that had initially discriminated against black customers started to change their position.

The F.W. Woolworth store in Shirlington announced that patrons would be served indiscriminately and on June 22 an integrated group of protestors were served at the counter. The next day, 21 lunch counters opened to black patrons, including several where the protests had started.

“We remember and honor the 20 determined individuals who took a stand against unfair, discriminatory practices,” the Historic Preservation Program said. “Their bravery helped change Arlington, Alexandria, and surrounding localities, and brought about an important and visible step toward desegregating our community. They inspire us today in our ongoing efforts to achieve racial equity.”

Counter Closed During Sit-In: Arlington, Virginia: 1960

Photos via Washington Area Spark/Flickr

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(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) The mid-century rambler near Williamsburg Middle School that was home to astronaut John Glenn and his family has been torn down.

The demolition came just days after the death of Annie Glenn, widow of the former U.S. senator and first American to orbit the earth. She died on Tuesday, May 19 from complications of COVID-19, as a backhoe sat in the front yard of the place she called home for nearly five years, including during John’s history-making Friendship 7 mission in 1962.

During the lead-up to the mission, reporters camped outside the house on N. Harrison Street and Vice President Lyndon Johnson tried to visit, but was rebuffed by Mrs. Glenn. After, Glenn continued working in D.C., and at one point hosted at his home a cookout with special guest Gherman Titov, the Russian who was the first person to orbit the earth multiple times, according to an Arlington Public Library history.

Glenn moved with his family to Texas in 1963, but his presence in Arlington is still felt. In 2012, the home’s owners told WUSA 9 that people still stopped by to gawk at the space hero’s former house. John Glenn died in 2016 and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

The property was sold in October for $1 million and the house is being torn down to make way for new construction. Local preservationists objected to the demolition, but nothing could be done legally to stop it and most respondents to an ARLnow poll last year said that the new owners should be allowed to tear down the house if they so chose.

Photo (3) via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Arlington Nat’l Cemetery Time Capsule Opened — “An interdisciplinary team recently unsealed a memorabilia box more than a 100 years old at Arlington National Cemetery, in honor of the Memorial Amphitheater’s centennial. And now, a peek inside the old copper box, along with its historic relics, are available virtually, as ANC hosts it’s first-ever online exhibit starting this week.” [U.S. Army, Washington Post]

Bus Protest on I-395 — A caravan of buses made its way up I-395, through Arlington and into D.C. yesterday. The buses were heading the the National Mall to protest a lack of federal help for the motorcoach industry. [@hhowardWTOP/Twitter, @STATter911/Twitter]

Whitlow’s Reopening Friday — “Open for carry out daily starting this Friday from 4-8pm! Cocktails, Jell-O shots, frozen boozy slushees and a limited menu! Check out the menu and our new online ordering store.” [Facebook]

Rosslyn BID Offering Reopening Consulting — “Today, the Rosslyn BID announced the launch of Rosslyn Ready, a multifaceted program to support and organize businesses in promoting proper safety measures when people are welcomed back into the neighborhood… In just under a week since launch, 90 businesses and restaurants have signed up to be part of the program.” [Press Release]

New Org Looking for Drivers — “Cooperative for a Hunger Free Arlington is looking for volunteers to deliver meals to local Arlingtonians on Thursdays and Fridays for the next few weeks. You must have your own car and a valid license.” [Facebook]

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Morning Notes

Northam Announces COVID Changes — Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesdays that, starting today, Virginia residents can start having nonemergency surgeries and dental procedures again. The governor also announced that the state Dept. of Health will soon start releasing ZIP code-level coronavirus case data. [WTOP, @kamamasters/Twitter]

County Announces New Housing Director — “Arlington County has selected Anne Venezia to be the County’s new Housing Director… She most recently served six months as the Acting Housing Director and was the Housing Finance Manager for four years prior. Venezia joined Arlington County in 2008.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Pushing for More Census Participation — “Arlington government officials say the county’s census-response rate has passed 60 percent, and local efforts will now be made to reach out to low-response hotspots across the community… the 2010 response rate of 74 percent [was] slightly below the overall Virginia average that year.” [InsideNova]

County’s Memorial Page for Erik Gutshall — Arlington County has established a “Remembering Erik” page on its website, memorializing the late County Board member Erik Gutshall, who passed away earlier this month from brain cancer. [Arlington County]

Library Seeks Material for New Archive — “Arlington Public Library announces the COVID-19 Archives project, designed to create a comprehensive picture of Arlington during an extraordinary period in our history. The Center for Local History (CLH) seeks donations of journals, photos, and objects to help document this time of difficulty and struggle, but also of resilience and hope.” [Arlington County]

Overnight Crash on Carlin Springs RoadUpdated at 9:10 a.m. — “Video appears to show a car crash took down electric lines on Carlin Springs Rd near 7th St. S.” [@statter911/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

County Board Candidates So Far — “Announced Arlington County Board special election (to replace Erik Gutshall, who sadly was forced to resign while being treated for brain cancer) Democratic candidates… so far are: Barbara Kanninen; Chanda Choun; Nicole Merlene.” [Blue Virginia]

Arlington Allocates $300k for Emergency Help — “Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz has allocated $300,000 from the FY 2020 budget to meet increased demand for emergency financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The money will be provided from the FY 2020 budget contingency fund to Arlington Thrive, a nonprofit that provides financial assistance to County residents who experience sudden crisis.” [Arlington County]

Gov. Northam’s Reopening Conditions — “Gov. Ralph Northam offered what he called a ‘blueprint’ Friday for easing business restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lifting of restrictions will include a phased approach based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Beyond a steady decline in new cases, the state will also have to increase testing and contact tracing, while ensuring hospitals have the necessary capacity, Northam said.” [InsideNova]

Group Urges Northam to Take More Action — “We respectfully request that you immediately implement the following low-cost, high-impact actions: Empower local governments… Maximize social distancing… Expand mask usage… Deploy approaches that have worked elsewhere to cheaply scale up testing… Leverage volunteers to cheaply scale up contact tracing… Convert unused college dormitories into voluntary isolation facilities… Implement ‘safe travel’ rules to prevent importation of new cases.” [EndCoronavirus.org, Google Docs]

Arlington History Jigsaw Puzzles — “In Arlington County there are locally-designated historic districts, which provide the greatest protection for our historic resources… In order to celebrate these locally designated districts AND to provide some relief during the COVID-19 quarantine/stay-at-home order from our local and state governments, Preservation Arlington has put together two collections of online puzzles.” [Preservation Arlington, Jigsaw Planet]

History of Arlington Meteor Caper — A dull black meteorite, found in Murray, Kentucky, in 1950, had gone missing from a Vanderbilt observatory display case, replaced by a suspicious-looking black-painted papier-mache rock… law enforcement sleuths had found fingerprints traced to former observatory employee and student Hugh Heefner Howard, 24. The perpetrator had brought it to his Arlington River House apartment at 1111 Army-Navy Dr., where our cops arrested him for grand larceny.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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One year after Robert E. Lee’s name was stripped from what is now Washington-Liberty High School, Arlington County is preparing to name a new park after an enslaved person Lee’s household.

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.

According to A Guide to the African American Heritage of Arlington County, Virginia:

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 staff report on the project noted that some of the items from the Washington collection had disappeared, despite Gray’s efforts, but General McDowell was able to secure them.

“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

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Rumor has it the Febrey-Lothrop House (6407 Wilson Blvd) — the home on a huge lot at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. McKinley Road — could be headed to market soon.

The 9+ acre parcel, which includes the main house and two other side buildings, is one of the last large pieces of contiguous property of its kind in space-constrained Arlington.

Officials have recently been made aware that the property was for sale, according to Arlington County spokeswoman Jennifer Smith. The property is listed as a “generational” site in the county’s Parks Master Plan (page 162) — a place that could be potentially acquired and turned into a public park, although it’s just a block from Upton Hill Regional Park.

The county, with its need for land for schools and public facilities, might also consider it for other uses.

The house sits removed from the main road, near Seven Corners, on a long driveway. It’s an isolated, wooded retreat even though it’s just two miles down Wilson Blvd from the high rises of Ballston. The exterior of the house is in a disheveled state. Windows are broken, paint is peeling away from the side of the building, foxes drink from rainwater in the clogged pool.

The property’s financial value is in the large tract of mostly undeveloped land.

“In terms of development potential, the price (of around $30 million) is reasonable, as the land is already zoned for single-family homes and/or townhouses development,” local activist Suzanne Sundberg, who supports converting the property into a park and potentially a school, told ARLnow. “With so little undeveloped land in the county that comes on the market once in a blue moon, we cannot afford to be picky about location. Land is land.”

Sundberg noted that, should the property be developed as housing, it could stress already-crowded local schools.

“With the proposed upzoning of single-family neighborhoods, the property could hold 2, 3 or even 4 times as much housing as the current estimate [of] 67 townhouses,” she wrote.

The property also holds some sentimental value in its long and curious history of opulence.

“The expansive size of the property… with a number of domestic and agricultural outbuildings surrounded by mid-twentieth-century development, adds to the grandeur of the main dwelling,” an architectural survey of Arlington prepared in 2009 said.

The earliest records of the property show a house being built at the then-rural property in 1855. The original building, called Fairmount, no longer exists but later additions to the property were incorporated into the new structures.

The property was purchased by Alvin Lothrop — one of the founders of the Woodward and Lothrop department stores chain — in 1898. By 1907 the Fairmount building was destroyed and replaced with the colonial revival style home, inspired by George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Lothrop died in 1912, and the family maintained the estate through the Second World War, when it was reportedly leased to Howard Hughes, according to Arlington Magazine. Among the guests entertained at the house were movie star Jane Russell.

After the war, the home was purchased by local real estate developer, socialite and expert horseman Randy Rouse. When Rouse purchased the property, most of the acreage was broken up to form the Dominion Hills neighborhood, though he kept the house and the surrounding property.

Rouse was briefly married to The Honeymooners star Audrey Meadows. The stress of her commute from Arlington up to New York on Fridays reportedly took a toll on their short-lived marriage, according to local historian Charlie Clark.

Rouse died in 2017 at the age of 100. The business Randolph Rouse Interprises is still listed as operating out of the building.

Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Transit Union Gets Its Money Back from Dorsey — “Union verifies (to me, 5 minutes ago) that it has received [embattled County Board member Christian Dorsey’s] repayment of $10,000 campaign donation.” [Twitter]

Board Advances Reeves Farmhouse Plan — “The [Reeves] farmhouse will be preserved and protected as a historic site, the parkland around the house will stay as parkland, and the County will get much needed housing for people with developmental disabilities without our taxpayers footing the bill. It’s a win-win-win.” [Arlington County]

Va. Legislature OKs Amazon Delivery Bots — “Amazon.com Inc. package delivery robots could soon hit Virginia’s sidewalks and roadways. The General Assembly has made quick work of a bill that would clear the way for Scout, Amazon’s six-wheeled delivery robot, to operate in the commonwealth.” [Washington Business Journal]

Airport Helper Service to Launch Tomorrow — “Goodbye, airport chaos… SkySquad is launching this week at Reagan Airport to improve the airport experience for anyone who needs an extra hand. Travel is stressful for most people, especially families with young kids; and senior citizens who need extra support.” [Press Release]

A Look at Arlington’s Oldest Families — A series of articles profiling long-time local families takes a look at the Parks, the Shreves, the Smiths, the Syphaxes, the Birches and the Thomases. [Arlington Magazine]

Sheriff’s Office Welcomes New K-9 — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office recently welcomed its newest K-9 officer – Logan, a one-and-a-half-year-old black Labrador retriever who is paired with handler Cpl. Matthew Camardi. The duo will work in narcotics detection and other specialized fields. [InsideNova]

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Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) next month will host an exhibition that pays tribute to women who have helped to shape Arlington.

The exhibit, open from March 5 to April 2, will display “stories, photographs, letters and memorabilia, which spotlight individuals and groups of Arlington women who dedicate their work to improve their community and the lives of others,” according to the library website.

Dubbed “Women’s Work: Then & Now,” the exhibit coincides with both Arlington County’s centennial and the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote and was passed in 1920.

Liza Mundy, the author of “Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II,” will participate in an author talk after the opening reception, which is being held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 5. Attendees are asked to RSVP for the event.

More from the library website:

Discover and learn about the work of Anna Barber, Charlene Bickford, Ellen Bozman, Judith Brewer, Elizabeth Campbell, Gertrude Crocker, Pauline Haislip Duncan, Alice Fleet, Alice Foster, Saundra Green, Critchett Hodukavich, Seema Jain, Carolyn (Carrie) Johnson, Cintia Johnson, Dr. Phoebe Hall Knipling, Puwen Lee, Marguerete Luter, Mary A. R. Marshall, Sushmita Mazumdar, Ruby Lee Minar, Constance (Connie) Ramirez, Caroline Gary Romano, Cornelia Bruere Rose, Jr., Virginia Lillis Smith, Florence Starzynski, Margarite Syphax, Nancy Tate, Marjorie Varner, and Dr. Emma Violand-Sanchez.

The nominees, selected by the 16 exhibition partners, were based on their groundbreaking, visionary and ongoing contributions to the communities they serve. Also included in this exhibition, are women who were curated from the Center for Local History’s online exhibition, “Women’s Work: Stories of Persistence and Influence.”

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Morning Notes

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

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

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

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

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