Arlington, VA

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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Morning Notes

Labor Rule Violations Alleged at Temporary HQ2 Projects — “A union is charging that employers at six construction projects that will house Amazon employees or operations in Northern Virginia have evaded federal and state taxes by misclassifying workers, failing to carry workers’ compensation coverage and avoiding overtime pay.” [Washington Post]

Beyer Voting Yes on Impeachment — “The facts allow for no other interpretation: President Trump violated his oath of office to faithfully execute the laws. In order to cover up his offenses, he engaged in unprecedented obstruction of Congress’s oversight power and role as an equal branch of government.” [Press Release]

Voting Precinct Changes Planned — “Voters in two Arlington precincts will see their polling locations changed in 2020. Those in Overlee Knolls (Precinct 017) will move from the Reed School at 1644 North McKinley Road… Those in Rosslyn (Precinct 019) will move from 1911 Fort Myer Drive to the new H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program building.” [InsideNova]

How Arlington’s Streets Got Renamed — “If you harbor gripes that our county government gets too ambitious, consider an episode from the 1930s. In what probably ranks as the most disruptive Arlington project ever, our entire street grid was renamed.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Road Closures for Wreaths Across America — “The annual Wreaths Across America escort of handmade, balsam wreaths destined for Arlington National Cemetery will begin arriving in Arlington County on Friday… On Saturday, December 14th, several thousand volunteers will descend upon the Cemetery and help lay wreaths on every gravesite throughout the property beginning at 8 AM. The public can anticipate large crowds and heavy pedestrian traffic related to the event.” [Arlington County, YouTube]

Holiday Arts and Crafts Show in Crystal City This Weekend — “GRUMP is back for its 9th year, returning to The Shops at Crystal City at 2100 Crystal Drive. GRUMP Crystal City is where you can shop local from 50 exciting artists and makers and stop for a photo op with one of our many Yetis.” [Event Calendar]

Nearby: Police Warn of Abduction Attempt — “City of Falls Church Police are seeking a suspect in an attempted abduction… The suspect is wanted for questioning after he approached a juvenile outside of a grocery store and told the juvenile to leave with him. The suspect left when the juvenile’s mother returned.” [City of Falls Church]

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Morning Notes

Parents Protest APS Proposal — “School officials tasked with the perpetual jigsaw puzzle of reassigning school zones have stirred new tensions… If you drive McKinley Rd., you can’t miss the printed signs ‘SAVE MCKINLEY: Our Neighborhood School Since 1951.’ The Madison Manor Civic Association has revved up with nearby PTAs and community groups to assemble contrary arguments.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Tafti Pushes Back on AG Comments — From Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney-elect Parisa Dehghani-Tafti: “We are neither righteous warriors nor avenging angels. We are public servants. So a little humility in how we do our job and how we accept public critique of our work would go a long way toward building a system that is both safe and just.” [Twitter]

Free Holiday Grief Support Service — “For those who’ve suffered loss-whether recently, or even years prior-the holiday stress can make the season more difficult. To help those grieving in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia during the holidays, Capital Caring Health, a local non-profit, offers a wide range of free counseling and support services.” [Press Release, Arlington Public Library]

Special Burial at Arlington National — “Private Edwin Francis Benson was killed in action at Tarawa during World War II. In 2017, his remains were located. Earlier this year, his remains were identified and a couple weeks ago he was laid to rest in Section 60. We honor his service.” [Twitter]

APS Students Learn About the Census — “The U.S. Census Bureau kicked off its Statistics in Schools program, offering Arlington teachers and others a wide array of resources that teach students not only about data but also about the importance of being counted in the upcoming 2020 Census. Arlington Public Schools shared the free program with its teachers, who can integrate it into their lesson plans.” [Arlington County]

Road Closures for Race in Pentagon City — “The Jingle Bell Run/Walk 5K for Arthritis will take place on Saturday, December 7. Police will conduct road closures in the area of South Joyce Street and Army Navy Drive to accommodate this event.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

New Additions to Story Map — A number of properties have been added to the Arlington Historical Society’s Story Map, per organizer Charlie Clark, including: 817 N. Irving St. (Lyon Park), built circa 1904; Hendry House, 2411 N 24th St. (Woodmont), built circa 1900; 3405 N. Glebe Rd. (Country Club Hills), built circa 1907. [Arlington Historical Society]

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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.

Read More

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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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