Procession for Long-Time ACPD Chief — “[On Friday] ACPD and our regional law enforcement partners paid final respects to retired Chief of Police William K. ‘Smokey’ Stover. He passed away from natural causes on Friday, April 17, 2020 at 89 years old. His service was held today at” Arlington National Cemetery.” [Twitter, Legacy]
No Local GOP Candidates So Far — “As of yet, Arlington Republicans have not lined up candidates for County Board and School Board. The monthly meeting of the Arlington County Republican Committee came and went April 28 with no candidate announcements for the two local races, and no inklings that there may be possibilities in the pipeline.” [InsideNova]
Pentagon Says No to Motorcycle Rally — “The Department of Defense denied a parking permit to the American Veterans organization to use the Pentagon as a rallying point for the Memorial Day ‘Rolling to Remember’ ride, ending a 32-year tradition… [The Pentagon said] it would reconsider the request once COVID-19 conditions change.” [Washington Examiner]
History of Arlington’s Rail Lines — “By 1924, the larger Washington-Virginia Railway had 64 trolley stops in Arlington alone, on four branches. Lines crossed the Potomac on the old Aqueduct Bridge and on another branch on what became the 14th Street bridges, taking passengers through ‘Arlington Junction’ in what became Crystal City and all the way to Mount Vernon.” [Falls Church News-Press]
New Section of 9/11 Trail in PA — “Somerset County and other officials cut the ribbon Friday in Garrett for the first 1.5 miles of the newly developed, off-road section of the 1,300-mile-long 9/11 National Memorial Trail. Currently, the recreational trail is a patchwork of about 55% off-road trails and 45% roads connecting the three 9/11 memorial sites in New York City, Arlington, Va., and Shanksville.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]
Rent Rising in Arlington — “Of the 10 top apartment markets in the D.C. metro tracked by Apartment List, average rents are lower than a year ago in six of them. Arlington County, Virginia, remains the most expensive apartment rental market, with an average monthly rent of $2,144. Arlington County rents are still 9.7% lower than a year ago, but rents have bounced back the most, rising by 2.7% over the past month.” [WTOP]
Local Spots on Spring Dining Guide — Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema’s prestigious Spring Dining Guide includes three Arlington or Arlington-connected restaurants: Cafe Colline on Lee Highway, Spice Kraft Indian Bistro in Clarendon, and the soon-to-open Lucky Danger in Pentagon City. [Washington Post]
Arlington, D.C.’s Factory District? — From WAMU’s Martin Austermuhle: “Apparently the idea of re-retroceding Arlington and Alexandria to D.C. was being debated in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Congress. Some believed it would give D.C. a bigger tax base, others said Arlington would be a good place for factories. (Not of cheesecake variety.)” [Twitter]
Thieves Steal Cars With Found Keys — “Between 10:00 p.m. on April 25 and 9:38 a.m. on April 26, the suspect(s) gained entry into the victims vehicle parked in their driveway where a garage door opener was located. The suspect(s) allegedly used the garage opener to gain entry into the victims garage where a second vehicle was located with keys for both vehicles inside. The two vehicles, along with the victims personal property and an undisclosed amount of cash, were stolen.” [ACPD]
F.C. Lowers Tax Rate, Renames Schools — The City of Falls Church has lowered its real estate tax rate by 3.5 cents, the first time it has reduced the rate since 2006. The city’s School Board also selected new names for George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary. [Falls Church News-Press, InsideNova]
Lyon’s Legacy is a limited-run opinion column on the history of housing in Arlington. The views expressed are solely the author’s.
“IN THIS early-twentieth-century era, when African Americans in the South faced terror that maintained them in subjugation, when African Americans throughout the nation were being driven from small towns where they had previously enjoyed a measure of integration and safety, and when the federal government had abandoned its African American civil servants, we should not be surprised to learn that there was a new dedication on the part of public officials to ensure that white families’ homes would be removed from proximity to African Americans in large urban areas.”
Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law
A century ago, Robert E. Lee defeated both George Washington and Pocahontas. The contest? A decision to rename the county today known as Arlington.
In 1919, this was Alexandria County. But it was growing. The county was tired of being confused with Alexandria City to its south. So the Civic Federation held a contest to choose a new name, and “Arlington,” the name of Robert E. Lee’s personal mansion, won out over our nation’s first president and one of its most mythologized Native inhabitants.
This is the fourth part of Lyon’s Legacy, a biweekly series (you can read the whole thing, with citations, here). It will tell an eight-part history of how Black people, and other groups that experience racial or economic discrimination, have been excluded from living in Arlington County. Last week, the story told how Frank Lyon and his allies built their power in our county. This week we’ll see what they did with it.
Arlington’s new symbol was a good one to represent the new county that men like Frank Lyon were building. Lee fought for white supremacy just decades earlier, and the Union army drove him out of his home. Now Lyon led the county’s developers and planners to create a new Arlington. Frank Lyon, by pen and by brick, would succeed where Lee by sword had failed. The developers and planners of Lyon’s day embeded white supremacy so deeply in the foundation of our county that it has not yet today been driven out.
The raid in Rosslyn was a turning point. Shortly after that day, Lyon claimed a stake in the county’s land values: he became a real-estate developer. First, he joined a colleague to build a few blocks of houses in Clarendon; then he bought out that colleague’s share of the business and built a few more. But it wasn’t until 1919, the year of the county’s renaming, that Lyon really got going. That year he broke ground on Lyon Park. Four years later he began Lyon Village. Today those neighborhoods hold about 3,500 houses. Lyon’s partners in the Good Citizen’s League built many other neighborhoods: Maywood, for example, was largely organized by Crandall Mackey. By the time Lyon was done, nearly three percent of all the land in Arlington County had passed through his personal hands.
Frank Lyon, like other white developers and legislators of the time, did all he could to keep Black people out of Arlington. Lyon used three methods to this end: restrictive covenants, exclusive zoning, and automobile-oriented design.
Lyon’s first technique was blunt. Whenever he sold land, Frank Lyon made a binding contract with the buyer that they would never sell or lease the land to Black people or to any other non-whites. The legal agreement remained with the property, so that no Black person would ever be able to live on the land except as a servant. This type of contract was called a “restrictive covenant,” and it was the most explicit weapon in Lyon’s arsenal.
One such covenant mandates that “neither said property nor any part thereof nor any interest therein shall be sold or leased to any one not of the Caucasian race.” Racism even became a selling point. Lyon Village was advertised under the claim that it was “reserved for the white race alone.”
The second technique was pragmatic: Like many developers of his time, Frank Lyon made sure his houses would be expensive.
In a rear wing of the Febrey-Lothrop Estate in Dominion Hills, there was an ornate wooden compass floor inlay built into what had been a library.
Like the windows, decorative ornaments and columns, it had been part of the original 1859 home that had seen Civil War soldiers, servants and national celebrities come and go over the years.
All these architectural embellishments were destroyed, and according to the Arlington County Board, any historical merit that could have justified a proposed local historic district overlay went with it.
The County Board voted unanimously at a meeting this past Saturday to reject the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) recommendation to give the area at 6407 Wilson Blvd with a historic designation.
During the meeting, Cynthia Liccese-Torres, the coordinator for Arlington County’s historic preservation program, ran through what photos and information the county could obtain before bulldozers took the main house and the estate’s other buildings down.
Liccese-Torres said many of the interior sections of the house were in fair condition and many of the architectural details could have been salvaged both in the section of the house that dates back to 1859, an outbuilding from 1898, and a bungalow on the property from 1910.
But they weren’t saved, and Liccese-Torres said with the buildings now torn down, there was little left to convey the historic significance of the property.
Over the last few months it was clear that saving the property was a long shot, with the county’s bureaucratic process for preservation far outpaced by the by-right demolition permitting the homeowner was entitled to. For Tom Dickinson, a local activist who helped lead efforts to preserve the house, the whole process was a failure of county leadership.
“This did not have to happen, but the County Board, county manager and county staff allowed it to happen without the slightest effort at intervention,” Dickinson said. “Our reasonable expectations for total preservation just weeks ago has been utterly destroyed and permanently denied.” Read More
Final Departure for Gate 35X — Reagan National Airport’s notorious Gate 35X served its last unhappy passengers last night. A newly-built, fully-indoor concourse opens today. [WTOP, Twitter, Twitter, The Points Guy]
Rosslyn Resident Makes Big Donation to UNC — “The University of North Carolina at Pembroke… has received a $6 million planned gift — the second largest in the university’s history — from former trustee Mary Ann Elliott to name the McKenzie-Elliott School of Nursing.” Elliott is a Rosslyn resident and former aerospace executive. [Yahoo]
Thursday Is Earth Day — “It might be easy to overlook Earth Day this time around, even in Arlington. Vaccine progress indicates better days ahead; in-person classes are returning; the air is visibly cleaner, and winter failed to freeze growth in bike sales and trail use. But Earth Day, April 22, has always offered a good pause to note long-term progress and dig below the surface. Just ask the periodical cicadas, due to reappear any moment after 17 years of silence.” [Arlington County]
History of the Pentagon’s Waterfront — “Today it’s home to the Pentagon, but around the turn of the 20th century, the riverfront area just north of National Landing was a seedy district known as Jackson City. A haven for drinkers, gamblers and daredevils, its attractions included, among other things, a half-mile-long racetrack near the foot of the 14th Street Bridge used for horse racing, and later, drag racing. Some even referred to it as a ‘Miniature Monte Carlo.'” [Arlington Magazine]
This is set to be a pivotal year for how Arlington County represents itself in its logo and its infrastructure.
At the close of 2020, Arlington County kickstarted the process of updating its logo — a process that will soon be inviting public input — and this fall, County Board members expect to review a new framework for considering the possibility of new names for things like parks, streets and building.
Board member Christian Dorsey and NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain, Sr. previewed these upcoming changes during a recent discussion on renaming hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, a group that talks about local issues.
Meanwhile, Marymount University assistant professor Cassandra Good shed light on the history of Arlington’s street naming and made recommendations for a new approach.
Spurred by a national discussion of systemic racism and police violence in 2019 and 2020, Arlington County is re-examining its logo, which depicts Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial, the former plantation home of the Confederate general and descendants of George Washington. The county is also reconsidering the names of various roads, parks and local landmarks named for Confederate generals and soldiers, slaveholders, plantations, and historic figures known for their racism.
That work is ongoing. A county logo review panel has received more than 250 submissions to consider and narrow down to five for the community to rank in May, Spain said. The County Board will select a new logo in June.
Meanwhile, county staff members are hammering out a formal process for naming and renaming places in Arlington going forward, to bring a systematic approach to what has so far been a case-by-case process.
“We expect that during the fall of this year, we will have a proposal from our county manager for how we ought to think about the renaming issue,” Dorsey said. “There’s going to be a lot more that comes with that, I expect.”
Some Committee of 100 members wondered whether the panelists think the county ought to change its name, too, given that the county is named after the plantation house that’s being removed from the logo.
Panelists said such a conversation could take place but changing the name Arlington would not only pose an extreme logistical challenge but may also not reflect a nuanced view of renaming.
“When we’re talking about changing the name of Arlington, it may come a time when we need to have that conversation,” Spain said. “But Arlington — I believe changing the name of a county is a pretty heavy lift.”
Dorsey said he is not in favor of throwing out everything that was the product of a certain time in history as “the poisonous fruit of a poisonous tree.”
A recurring question for officials tasked with renaming has been whether to swap one historical figure with another. The community could choose a person whose character could come into question later on, they said.
Good, the Marymount professor, said while her preference is not to use names of historical figures, there ought to be a few new historical figures featured.
“There need to be some names for people,” she said, otherwise, “the names that remain will mostly white people.”
Dorsey added that while the county can think beyond individuals, there will be some figures who community members will want to honor.
“I would hate to lose that entirely,” he said.
Good said Arlington first formalized a naming process for streets in 1932, when a commission of, as far as she can tell, all-white Arlington residents finalized the names for the county’s streets. Several — including Lafayette, Hamilton and Pocahontas Streets — were renamed at that time, she said.
Going forward, she recommended that all renaming decisions include those who have been excluded and involve a professional historian. Renaming should be considered if the current name was originally chosen to honor somebody for reasons that are at odds with the community’s values, she said.
Feds: Comfort Inn Hosted Gun Cache — “Members of the Oath Keepers paramilitary group likely stored weapons at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, as part of their plan to have an armed rapid-response force during the January 6 insurrection, federal prosecutors said. The new details flesh out previous accusations from prosecutors that members of the Oath Keepers assembled a ‘quick reaction force,’ or QRF, in Virginia that could deploy into the nation’s capital if needed.” [CNN, Politico]
Nature Centers Reopen — “Another sign things are returning to a semblance of normalcy, albeit slowly (this is Arlington, after all): The Gulf Branch and Long Branch nature centers, operated by the county government, have reopened. Hours and exhibitions are limited, but this marks the first time in nearly 13 months that Arlington residents have had consistent access to the nature centers.” [Sun Gazette]
Shirlington’s Past and Present — “This pet-friendly community five miles southwest of the District and adjacent to Highway 395 started off as a 27-acre former shopping center. Shirlington was one of the first strip malls in the country when it opened in 1944. For a while, it had the largest shopping center in the area and originally was named Chernerville, after automobile dealer Joseph Cherner, but the name didn’t stick. Instead, it was renamed Shirlington, a blending of Shirley Highway (395) and Arlington.” [Washington Post]
Amazon Not Abandoning Office Work — “As vaccines become more available, most companies may start to expect their workers back in the office and allow for just one or two days of teleworking a week — and Amazon is likely to be among them… That’s good news for many of the businesses and jurisdictions expected to benefit from the 25,000 to 37,850 employees Amazon has said it will bring to the D.C. region as it continues to build out its HQ2 campus in Arlington.” [Washington Business Journal]
Local Company Donates to African School — “Washington Workplace, an award-winning commercial office furniture dealer in Arlington, teamed up with Business Furniture Installations and a nonprofit alumni association to donate unused office furniture to Pioneer Middle School in Senegal, in West Africa.” [Press Release]
Letter Writer: Don’t Hate on the Cicadas — “The message of the havoc wreaked on young trees and shrubs, and the month of constant shrill buzzing has sent home an idea of impending doom… Although the ominous message of cicada arrival is likely still in your head – and I can’t argue that cicadas aren’t a nuisance – I ask you to remember that they do have a role in our ecosystem and a purpose on our planet.” [Sun Gazette]
Lyon’s Legacy is a limited-run opinion column on the history of housing in Arlington. The views expressed are solely the author’s.
“Discrimination! Why that is exactly what we propose… That exactly is what this convention was elected for — to discriminate to the very extremity of permissible action under the limitation of the federal Constitution, with the view to the elimination of every Negro voter who can be gotten rid of.”
Carter Glass, Virginia Constitutional Convention, 1902
Arlington wasn’t always white. Before 1900, the population of the county was nearly 40% African-American. By 1950, it was less than 5%. Today, the number is still less than 10%.
This is the third part of Lyon’s Legacy, a biweekly series on ARLnow (you can read the whole thing, with citations, here). It will tell an eight-part history of how Black people, and other groups that experience racial or economic discrimination, have been excluded from living in Arlington County. Last week, the story told who Frank Lyon was and what he found when he arrived in the county. This week, it will tell how he began to leave his mark.
In 1901, Frank Lyon and Crandal Mackey travelled to Norfolk to attend the Virginia Commonwealth Constitutional Convention. As at similar conventions across the South, the convention’s leaders hoped to use the resurgent power of white Democrats to upend the Reconstruction-era constitution that had enfranchised Black citizens.
Lyon served as Clerk of the Committee; Mackey was one of our county’s delegates. In Norfolk, they heard Senator Carter Glass say that the “white race” held the “divine imprimatur of that intellectual and racial supremacy which gave them the exclusive right of government.” Glass’s new constitution was about to give Lyon and Mackey just the advantage they needed to reshape our county in the convention’s vision of “racial supremacy.”
The 1902 Virginia constitution was imposed without popular approval and it systematically disenfranchised African Americans across Virginia. A poll tax was levied. Land ownership was made a condition for voting. The statewide electorate was cut in half. Jim Crow reigned. The new constitution remained in place until 1971.
Across the nation, the Progressive movement brought reforms at the turn of the century. It fought political corruption, regulated labor standards, and modernized the schools. But: “The blind spot in the Southern progressive record — as, for that matter, in the national movement — was the Negro, for the whole movement in the South coincided paradoxically with the crest in the rise of racism. The typical progressive reformer rode to power in the South on a disenfranchising or white supremacy movement.”
Crandal Mackey, and the rest of the Good Citizens’ League, was no exception.
A year after the constitutional convention, Mackey ran for Commonwealth’s Attorney. The incumbent, Richard Johnston, was a white landowner whose family sold a neighborhood’s worth of land to the county’s Black residents. Mackey took on Johnston in an election with heavy racial overtones.
“The reduction of the negro vote… under the new Virginia constitution, helped Mackey wonderfully,” wrote the Washington Times. He won by two votes.
Frank Lyon didn’t run for office. He bought the county’s preeminent weekly newspaper, the Alexandria County Monitor. As the historian Lindsey Bestebreurtje describes, “under Lyon’s leadership as owner and editor, The Monitor pushed League policies and opinions.” He built an image of Alexandria County as a desirable suburban retreat for Washington’s growing upper-middle class. He also built an image of Black people and saloons as obstacles to progress.
Manager: Say No to Rouse Historic Designation — “With much of the physical infrastructure on the site now a pile of rubble, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz wants County Board members to throw in the towel on designating parts of the Rouse estate parcel as a local historic district… While recommending that the County Board reject the historic designation, Schwartz also proposes that staff be directed to come back by October with a report on potential ways the site could be incorporated into Arlington’s historic-preservation and/or affordable-housing efforts.” [Sun Gazette]
Police Looking for Missing Man — Updated at 8:45 a.m. — The Fairfax County Police helicopter assisted with the search for a missing Arlington man Sunday afternoon. Early his morning, ACPD announced: “[The missing man] has been safely located. Thank you to everyone who assisted by sharing this information.” [Twitter, NBC 4]
DCA Noise Meeting Tonight — “An online public meeting on April 5 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. will discuss aircraft noise north of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The Aircraft Noise Mitigation Study meeting, to be hosted by Montgomery County (Md.) Council member Andrew Friedson and Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey, is a follow-up of a meeting held last year by those localities.” [Sun Gazette]
Amazon Cites Va. As Example for Voting Rights — “UPDATE: @Amazon says it opposes state efforts to limit voting rights, urges states to follow Virginia’s lead and make it easier to vote.” [Twitter]
Wakefield Makes Football Playoffs — “For the second straight season and third time in four campaigns, the Wakefield Warriors have qualified for the football region playoffs. Wakefield (4-1, 3-1) clinched a 6D North Region Tournament berth with a 13-0 home victory over the Falls Church Jaguars on April 1 in National District action. It was the team’s final regular-season contest in this condensed high-school schedule.” [Sun Gazette]
Reminder: Water Switch in Effect Today — “It’s… that time of year again: the time when your tap water starts to smell a bit like a swimming pool… On Monday, April 5 the disinfectant used in Arlington County’s drinking water will be temporarily switched from chloramine to chlorine.” [ARLnow]
Nearby: New Store Coming to Bailey’s Xroads — “Five Below is moving into the former Pier One space at the Bailey’s Crossroads Shopping Center. Pier One closed in early 2020. Five Below specializes in items for teens and tweens mostly priced at $5 or less. The stores feature toys, snacks, cosmetics, room décor, sports items, accessories, party supplies, and $5 t-shirts.” [Annandale Blog]
Photo courtesy Christina Schnoor
Lyon’s Legacy is a limited-run opinion column on the history of housing in Arlington. The views expressed are solely the author’s.
Arlington County was once home to a community of former slaves so prosperous that tours were given to foreign dignitaries as evidence of America’s racial progress.
Today, just about the only physical trace of Freedman’s Village is a plaque on a highway overpass. Some of the descendants of that community remain in Arlington today, but for others, exile has been made permanent.
This is the second part of Lyon’s Legacy, a biweekly series on ARLnow (you can read the whole thing, with citations, here). It will tell an eight-part history of how Black people, and other groups that experience racial or economic discrimination, have been excluded from living in Arlington County. Last week, the story started with Freedman’s Village. But with the destruction of that community comes the arrival of Frank Lyon and others who willfully embedded white supremacy into our county’s laws and urban planning.
What those men did is still with us, a century later.
By the 1880s, the county’s white leaders began to agitate against Freedman’s Village. One of Virginia’s U.S. senators called it “improper that government property should be continually occupied by squatters who have no interest in it such as to stimulate improvements.” These ‘squatters’ were residents who had worked to build on the land for a quarter-century, paid rent, and paid municipal, state, and federal taxes of all kinds. But they were Black, and their law-abiding industry didn’t turn a profit for white real-estate developers in the county. The government issued eviction orders at the beginning of winter, 1887. Mt. Zion Baptist Church, like all the other people, businesses, and institutions in Freedman’s Village, had to go.
The diaspora of Freedman’s Village took root across the county and beyond. The forbearing evictees settled in middle-class Black communities like Johnson’s Hill, Butler-Holmes, and Green Valley, as well as poorer areas like the farms of Hall’s Hill and the bustling Queen City. Queen City was so egalitarian that some residents later recalled that “a man sometimes didn’t know he was poor until he was 27 years old.” But Queen City isn’t on any Arlington map today. Only fifty years later, the government demolished their homes a second time — not to build the Pentagon, but to build the Pentagon’s freeway exit.
In the late 19th century, the county’s Black community had political power. No fewer than five Black men served on the County Board between 1871 and 1888: William A. Rowe, John B. Syphax, Travis B. Pinn, John W. Pendleton, and Tibbett Allen. Tibbett Allen lost his seat under suspicious circumstances and was replaced by a white Confederate veteran. There were no more Board members of color for a full century afterwards.
After the dispersal of Freedman’s Village, before the turn of the century, there were Black neighborhoods, there were white neighborhoods, and there was Rosslyn. Rosslyn was a residential district inhabited by working-class Black people. They were attracted by the chance to live so close to the Federal jobs across the river, where racial discrimination in employment wasn’t quite as intense.
Rosslyn was also “Dead Man’s Hollow,” a thicket of saloons, gamblers, and sex workers. It attracted white Washingtonian drinkers, too, on the merit of its location: The county was outside the jurisdiction of Washington’s cops, but close enough that a drunk who’d blown his streetcar fare on cards could teeter home across a bridge. And the county maintained a police force totalling two — not enough for a crackdown.
But what made Rosslyn special wasn’t the Black people or the saloons — it was their combination. These saloons weren’t segregated. At least one was Black-owned. These were tables where spades and diamonds meant more than black and white.
To the anguish of preservationists, the Febrey-Lothrop House — also known as the Rouse estate — is in the process of being torn down as of Wednesday morning.
A crew is using heavy equipment to demolish the aging mansion at 6407 Wilson Blvd, the origins of which are historic in nature, according to those that have waged a campaign to save it following the death of its long-time owner.
Built prior to the Civil War war, the original house on the estate was largely replaced by a new building in the early 20th century, though some parts of the original structure may remain. Aside from age, those arguing for the building’s preservation also point to the estate’s role in hosting Civil War encampments and some of its notable past residents: business magnate and aviator Howard Hughes, actress Audrey Meadows, and sportsman Randy Rouse, who passed away in 2017.
Rouse’s trust reportedly plans to develop the 9 acre Dominion Hills property, near Seven Corners, as a collection of single-family homes.
The demolition comes after the Arlington County Board scheduled a hearing in April — following a unanimous Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board vote — to consider a historic designation for the property that could prevent such demolition, if approved.
County officials said recently they were still planning to move forward with the hearing, but they were unable legally to prevent the owners from demolishing the home and other structures on the property in the meantime. A demolition permit was issued earlier this month; some initial prep work was performed in January.
In a statement to the County Board this weekend, a local preservationist who was leading the charge to save the estate called it a “sacred site,” citing the probability that it was originally built by enslaved labor. The statement also said its demolition would be “equivalent” to destroying crematoriums at a notorious Nazi concentration camp.