Arlington, VA

The Arlington County War Memorial in Clarendon is getting a significant addition this Veterans Day.

The memorial, which overlooks the intersection of Washington, Wilson, and Clarendon boulevards in Clarendon Central Park, will receive 10 new markers on Monday, November 11.

An unveiling ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. on Veterans Day, hosted by the Arlington chapters of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

One of the new markers will delve on the history of the memorial itself, while the others will highlight five armed conflicts over the last two centuries in which Arlington residents lost their lives.

Over two years of work and study has gone into the project, said program coordinator Cynthia Torres.

“Historic research undertaken for the project revealed the names of five additional World War I soldiers whose sacrifice had previously been unrecognized,” said Torres.

Last year, to commemorate the centennial of the World War I, the county’s Historic Preservation staff received partial funding from the U.S. World War I Centennial Committee to develop the historical markers.

“The overall goal of the interpretive project is to enhance visitor engagement with the Clarendon War Memorial by explaining its history and community significance,” said Torres.

The memorial was built in 1931 and has been moved around Arlington several times, but all with the original plaque intact. In May the World War I plaque on the memorial was removed to correct an 88-year-old typo.

The plaque has been the subject of some controversy for its separation of two “colored” soldiers killed in WWI — listed as Arthur Morgan and Ralph Lowe — from the other 11 soldiers.

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A new historical map of Arlington allows users to explore what the county looked like 100 years ago.

The digital map depicts a mix of new and old pictures, showing the buildings that were standing in Arlington’s neighborhoods in the 1920s. By clicking pinpoints on a county map, users can check out the homes and businesses that are (or were) located on that site and read caption notes.

“I think that this StoryMap, besides being nifty, allows people to play with it, and also give you a real historical sense of what Arlington used to look like besides these fantastic visions of glamour columns,” said Falls Church News-Press columnist and local historian Charlie Clark, who made the map for the Arlington Historical Society.

Clark told ARLnow he was inspired by the Smithsonian’s map last year that depicted John Wilkes Booth’s escape route through the streets of D.C. and down to Fredericksburg. He said the ability to combine a map with on-the-ground photos and text could also help tell Arlington stories.

“I just happen to think of this before the anniversary of Arlington getting its name,” Clark said, referring to the bill in 1920 that allowed the county to change its name from Alexandria County to Arlington County. “So I think this would be a great opportunity to get this out.”

The society hopes to plan several celebrations next year to mark the 100th anniversary of Arlington’s name.

Clark assembled photos from the era from his own records as well as from public archives and friends around town. He said it took months to fact-check the photos and captions against newspaper clippings from the Washington Post or the Alexandria Gazette, and to visit the still-standing homes, driving there as many times as it took to get a picture without modern elements like trash bins or cars out front.

“It’s really amazing the number of homes that were around in that time and how many of them are still around if you look as you walk,” added Hix.

The Historical Society helped fund the project with $500 to help cover costs like the Esri map software, while Arlington-based digital mapping company Blue Raster donated its time to help design it.

Today the map features everything from multi-family homes in the newly re-named Green Valley neighborhood, to houses with sweeping porches in Westover, as well as Ballston churches and Crystal City brick kilns.

“One of the things I like about this is that this is really throughout the county, not just the more fabled homes that we’re all familiar with, like the Glebe House” said Hix.

“We tried to get every neighborhood represented,” said Clark. “We wanted normal houses because a lot of the wealthy historic houses that have names — those are sort of twice-told tales.”

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(Updated at 6:35 p.m.) When Cowboy Cafe’s beloved regular Jerome Williams passed away earlier this year, he didn’t have any immediate family to mourn him — but he had his friends at “the Cowboy,” and the bar’s memorial service was packed out the door.

“Working at the Cowboy, the customers aren’t just customers,” said current general manager Amanda Wellborn. “They’re family, and I mean it. I’ve never experienced anything else like it.”

There aren’t many dive bars left in Arlington — Cowboy Cafe (4792 Lee Highway) and the Forest Inn in Westover are two notable exceptions. As time goes on there’s concern for what’s left: Cowboy Cafe, for instance, once made a Preservation Arlington “endangered places” list.

But the current owners are confident it’s not going anywhere, and actively want its customers to call it a dive. (Nearby, the shuttered greasy spoon Linda’s Cafe is still waiting to reopen as a new Bob and Edith’s Diner.)

“Yeah, we’ve made improvements, but we make an effort to not change a lot and keep it the way it is,” said owner Mike Barnes, who bought the place in 2011 with his brother James and two of their friends from Yorktown High School. They also own several Lost Dog Café franchises together.

Before the bar was founded, it was a smokey, old-school American restaurant called Clam House, built in 1948.

In 1991, Cowboy Cafe founder Charlie Campbell took over Clam House and transformed it into the rough-and-out, Southwestern biker bar. Mementos from the mid-90s still remain, such as a Native American statue and a wall lined with various license plates — plus the much-adored, half-priced burger specials.

Then in 2007, it was purchased by Zac and Matt Culbertson, who also work with the Lost Dog franchise.

“When I heard the Culbertsons were thinking about selling [in 2011], I immediately offered,” said Barnes.

Barnes and his team got right to work on giving the place some much needed TLC, including remodeling the “scary” bathroom, installing a 14-tap beer system, and promoting its family-friendly brunch.

But aside from those improvements, they’ve kept it largely the same — including keeping the mural on the back wall that depicts Campbell, the Culbertsons, and Williams, a testament to its rich history and the customers who’ve kept it going.

Regulars say it’s still the Cowboy Cafe they know and love, complete with quirks and a convivial sense of community.

“I love the nachos, the authenticity, the wait staff that gets to know you, and the fact that almost nothing inside has changed in 20 years,” said Jeremy Flantzer, a long-time Arlington resident and effusive Cowboy Cafe fan.

Like many others who frequent the restaurant, he has a particular Cowboy Cafe story that helps cement its local legend.

“I once saw someone eat The Barnyard” — a $15 burger consisting of two half-pound beef patties, barbeque pork, two slices of cheddar, a fried egg and bacon — “after a full order of wings,” he said, still in amazement.

“It’s my ‘Cheers’ bar,” said another longtime regular, who asked ARLnow not to include her name. “I’ve seen it all here — once a man came in without wearing pants. And it’s no secret that the parking is tight, everyone’s [had a fender-bender] at least once.”

But, she continued, when it happened to her, there was a note on the windshield and everything was taken care of.

“People who go to the Cowboy — they care — they know to leave a note,” she said. “Not quite sure if I could say that about everyone else in Arlington.”

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The public now has access to long-inaccessible local documents, courtesy of Arlington Public Library.

The library’s Center for Local History recently repatriated to Arlington a trove of historic documents dating as far back as the 1840s, held in safekeeping by the Library of Virginia for many years.

More from a county press release:

Arlington Public Library announces the return of thousands of historic materials from the Library of Virginia. Some of these repatriated records date back to the late 1840’s, which make these the oldest records in the Center for Local History’s collection. A goldmine for genealogical researchers, these documents provide a window into our social, economic and agricultural history.

“These early records represent a snapshot of a time in Arlington we know little about,” said Library Director Diane Kresh. “We are excited to learn more as we begin to examine these records.”

The acquisition includes:

  • Personal property tax records dating back to the late 1840’s
  • Precinct and teacher registers from the early 1900’s
  • Election papers and other miscellaneous records

Years ago, a large quantity of historic documents was transferred to the Library of Virginia for storage and safe-keeping. The transfer included a small number of non-Circuit Court records. With the recent renovation of the Community Archives, Arlington Public Library is now able to provide space to house and catalog these historic documents.

A sampling of the collection will be on display during two public viewings on October 16, 7-8:30 p.m. and October 23, 2-3:30 p.m. at the newly remodeled Community Archives. The Center for Local History’s Community Archives is an off-site storage facility which collects and preserves materials that illustrate the history and culture of Arlington County. The facility is located at the Woodmont Community Center on 2422 N. Fillmore St. in Arlington, VA 22207.

Once the records are processed, they will be made available to the public. Over time, records will be digitized as part of an ongoing effort to increase public access to government records and archival materials.

We asked Arlington Public Library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist about the documents and the library’s plans for them.

ARLnow: Can you tell me some of the things historians and residents can learn from precinct and teacher registers?

Sundqvist: These materials will of course be of interest to genealogists who can find family members represented in the documents. But historians and researchers can also use them to understand Arlington and its history. For example, the teachers’ registers can reveal subjects taught, textbooks used, daily schedules, student names, grades and ages and class size. Voter materials can reveal the number of voters registered in a precinct, voter gender, voter race and voter occupation.

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Weenie Beenie was recently commemorated in an Arlington mural, but the shack near Shirlington has a surprising history involving gambling winnings and a beef with a popular D.C. restaurant.

Founded as a simple hot-dog stand in the 1950s in Green Valley at 2680 Shirlington Road, Weenie Beenie’s current incarnation was the creation of gambling legend Bill “Weenie Beenie” Stanton, lauded as the “one of the premier gentleman gamblers of pocket billiards” aka pool.

According to the Arlington Public Library, Staton took $27,000 in winnings from a gambling trip to Arkansas and used it to purchase the hot dog stand in 1960.

There was, at one point, several Weenie Beenies throughout the area, but the only one remaining is the one just north of Four Mile Run.

The storefront boasts that Weenie Beenie is the home of the original half-smoke — a local sausage variant popularized by Weenie Beenie rival Ben’s Chili Bowl in D.C. Also offered: North Carolina style barbecue and breakfast served all day.

The restaurant is also notable as the title of a Foo Fighters song from the group’s first album. Dave Grohl, frontman for the group, grew up in the area, once rented a home near Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood with his fellow Foos, and has recorded at nearby Inner Ear Studio, just steps from Weenie Beenie.

ARLnow reached out to RCA Records to request an interview with Grohl but received no response. Dave, if you’re reading this, that’s a standing offer.

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If you want to remain in the dark about the contents of the mysterious Ballston time capsule, which is set to be opened next year, read no further.

Melinda Schaedig, who was a third grader at Taylor Elementary School in 1988 when the capsule was buried, approached ARLnow with details from when the capsule was put into the ground.

“In 1988, it seemed like 2020 would never arrive, but here it is in the blink of an eye,” Schaedig said. “I just turned 40 and the time capsule is all that I have been thinking about as I have been waiting for this day for a long time.”

In the 31 years between the time capsule was buried and now, Schaedig said some of her memories from the burial have grown hazy, but she reached out to her third grade teacher to help put more details together.

“It was a big deal at the time,” Schaedig said. “I’ve always thought about it. I recall a couple months ago I was driving in the car with my mom and kids and I said ‘2020 is coming, is there anything on the building?'”

Schaedig saw the plaque and inquired inside the building, eventually being directed to the top floor where the building’s owners told her what a spokesperson for WashREIT told ARLnow yesterday: the capsule is there and but the company has no idea what’s inside.

But Schaedig remembers.

“I remember seeing a steering wheel with an airbag, which was new at the time, and maybe some Redskins memorabilia,” Schaedig said.

An article in the Northern Virginia Sun said a signed baseball, old coins and a postcard from an Arlington auto dealership were included as well. The article notes that Schaedig — then Melinda Foulke — added a poster showing how America has changed since the Constitution was signed.

The poster selected via a competition for local elementary school students.

“The contest presented local teachers with an opportunity to review Ballston’s evolution from farmland in the 1800s to the retail, business and retail center county planners forsaw when they wrote the Ballston Sector Plan in 1980,” the Sun noted.

Foulke said she dug up old news footage her mother had kept around, in which the building owners talked about how Ballston was poised to become the new downtown of Arlington.

“They talked about how in the future, there were unlimited possibilities because of the number of corporations moving in,” Foulke said. “They were predicting that with growth between Rosslyn and Ballston, [Arlington] would have more office space than Miami.”

(That turned out to be true: as of 2018, Arlington had 41.7 million square feet of office space compared to the Miami area’s 35.6 million square feet.)

The video does show some items being placed in the capsule, confirming Foulke’s memories of a steering wheel and a Redskins pin.

WashREIT said they were unsure how to open the time capsule. One of the old clippings shows Schaedig and the late County Board member Ellen Bozman holding a key to the capsule. Schaedig says she doesn’t know where the key is now.

“I hope to go when they open it,” Schaedig said. “It’ll be exciting to bring my kids and my family. It’s silly, but it’s been a part of my life.”

Newspaper photos courtesy Melinda Schaedig

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A time capsule in Ballston that has been largely forgotten to time is set to be opened at some point next year, and no one seems to know what’s inside.

An inconspicuous plaque on the side of the Fairgate office building (1005 N. Glebe Road) announces the time capsule.

“A time capsule celebrating Arlington County and the building of Ballston, placed by the Rouse and Associates in 1988, to be opened in 2020,” the plaque reads.

A lot has happened since 1988, however. For one, Rouse and Associates no longer exists. In 1994 it was sold and the company, based in suburban Philadelphia, is now known as Liberty Property Trust.

“Oh wow, that would be us [behind the plaque],” says Jeanne Leonard, vice president of Liberty Property Trust. Over the phone, she detailed how Rouse and Associates did have a Northern Virginia office at one point, but it was shuttered several decades ago.

“We developed this office building in 1986,” Leonard said, confirming the site of the capsule. “But we have not owned it in many years. Unfortunately, there is no one here now who was with our Northern Virginia operation back in the 80s. I’ve got no idea what could be in it.”

Per county records, the building was sold in 2012 to WashREIT, a D.C.-based real estate company. Deanna Schmidt, a communications official at WashREIT, confirmed that the firm knows about the capsule and said they are exploring the best ways to celebrate the capsule come 2020.

They aren’t quite sure how to go about opening it and said they will update their plans once that detail is figured out.

As for what’s in there?

“No idea,” said Schmidt.

A reader first tipped ARLnow off about the plaque, which can be seen from the corner of 11th Street N. and N. Vermont Street. Representatives for the Ballston Business Improvement District, Arlington County and Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History were similarly unable to find any information on the time capsule.

“I’ve probably walked past that plaque 100 times without noticing,” said Peter Golkin, spokesman for the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services.

Update on 9/20/19 — We now know at least some of what is in the capsule.

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Arlington officials have proposed two preliminary designs for the replacement of Fire Station 8 on Lee Highway.

The designs will be discussed tonight at a 7 p.m. public community meeting in the Langston-Brown Community Center (2121 N. Culpepper Street).

In July, the county asked residents in an online survey which outdoor features they’d like to see at the new station. There were 164 responses, with a “historic map” as the top request.

All of the outdoor features in question — a historic map, seating wall, exterior skin, beacon of light, and virtue monuments — are distributed between two design proposals.

The design process was conducted with the fire station’s history in mind. For decades, Fire Station 8 was the only station in Arlington staffed by African-Americans — members of the Hall’s Hill Volunteer Fire Department.

Designed by the architecture firm Lemay Erickson Wilcox, the firm aims to “pay homage to the past while providing an updated and modern facility for this 21st-century fire department and the community it serves.”

One of the proposed designs, “Plaza Concept A” would feature a salvaged stone wall made from the Hicks family house, memorializing the importance of the Hicks family, which owned businesses along Lee Highway and in 1934 provided the land — at the intersection with N. Culpeper Street — on which the fire station now sits.

Additional “Plaza Concept A” features include the requested historic map, designed as a stone outline of the Station 8 coverage area, plus landmarks of the Hall’s Hill neighborhood.

Alternatively, “Plaza Concept B” would feature a large perforated metal screen on the outside of the station, depicting a historical image of the station to be seen by cars which drive by.

A seating wall wrapped around the edge of the “Plaza Concept B” would provide seating areas for the public and firefighters, with historical dates written throughout.

The county is still a ways away from breaking ground. The $21 million reconstruction project for the 100-year-old station is expected to officially kick off next fall, with full completion slated for fall 2022.

Photos via Arlington County

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The National Park Service (NPS) will host a special event near Rosslyn on Sunday (Aug. 25) to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first slaves arriving in the English colonies.

The Park Service is hosting events throughout the region as a day of remembrance for the first slave ship’s arrival at Point Comfort and the centuries of oppression that followed.

The Arlington event is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. at the Netherlands Carillon, near the Iwo Jima memorial.

According to the event page:

Beginning at 2 p.m. park rangers from George Washington Memorial Parkway will offer opportunities for visitors to explore themes of remembrance, healing and reconciliation related to African American history at the Netherlands Carillon in Arlington Ridge Park. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own bells to ring alongside the carillon at 3 p.m. The carillonneur will also play African American hymns and musical selections that reflect the African American experience.

Image via National Park Service

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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

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Arlington switched over to a more “rational” street naming system in 1934, but documents from the transition give some insight into the names that were lost.

Many of the casualties were founding fathers and other Revolutionary War-related vocabulary words.

American and French revolutionary leader Marquis de Lafayette had his road stripped and incorporated into 8th Street N.

Several of the streets in what is now the Crystal City area were renamed. S. Joyce Street was once Hamilton Street, named after the ten-dollar founding father without a fatherAlexander Hamilton.

Other streets throughout the area, like S. Kent Street, were previously named after George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, but don’t be too sad for those two founding fathers: they both still have streets named after them in other parts of Arlington.

A few streets were named after Native Americans. N. Hancock Street in Lyon Village was once Pocahontas Avenue. 25th Street N. in Donaldson Run was Algonquin Way, either a reference to the Algonquin tribe from the Great Lakes area or an alternate spelling of Algonquian, a Native American language associated with Virginia’s Powhatan tribe. Moccasin Trail, renamed to 24th Street N. and 22nd Street N., was once called Indian Trail.

Arlington Ridge Road has gone through a series of name changes over the years. N. Arlington Ridge Road, in once-seedy Rosslyn, had previously been called Oil Plant Road, or Oil Road, though no further information on an actual oil plant could be found.

Photo via Arlington County

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