(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) Cherrydale’s volunteer fire house is set to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its construction in 1919 this weekend.
The Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department will host festivities and a fundraiser for the anniversary this Saturday (July 20) from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. The Central Firehouse, owned the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department, is the oldest in Arlington and recognized by the National Register of Historic Places as a local historic landmark.
A parade will kick off the Saturday celebration at 10 a.m. starting from Saint Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street). The remainder of the festivities will be held at the firehouse (3900 Lee Highway). All activities are open to the public.
For kids, volunteers will set up a bouncy house and firetruck demonstrations after the parade.
Tours of the fire house and swing dance lessons will be available throughout the day, according to spokeswoman Elise Nelson. Radio station 94.7 FM The Drive will broadcast live from the event.
(Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department members are trained as firefighters and medics. They sometimes ride along with professional crews from the Arlington County Fire Department and provide some support services to ACFD during incidents, but do not currently fight fires, according to the local firefighters union. The Cherrydale VFD disputed the assertion that its members do not fight fires, but did not directly answer a request from ARLnow to provide a recent example of a VFD member engaged in fire suppression operations alongside ACFD.)
A chili cook off, a raffle, bingo and various games will wrap-up the evening. Guests can use a donation to vote for their favorite chili, made by members of the volunteer fire department. Prizes for raffles and bingo include gift basket from 35 partnering businesses.
The celebration will take on a more serious note mid-afternoon as firefighters who served during 9/11 will share their experiences with the audience, and the organization will remember Marvin Binns, a former member of the Cherrydale VFD. A plaque will be presented and hung on the wall along with his uniform. Binns died of cancer in 2015, according to his obituary.
“His inspiring 62-year legacy included many years of leadership as President, and 36 years bringing Santa to the station — making him a cherished figure for countless generations,” Nelson said.
The Cherrydale Fire Department began with a group of 12 men after they came together to battle a small fire, according to public library records. Over time, Cherrydale VFD grew as an organization and today has 50-60 members in its ranks. Though Arlington County took over responsibility for everyday emergencies, most of the members have emergency medical technician training and can assist police or other firefighters whenever a need may arise. They also help local authorities with lighting at emergency scenes and events.
The Saturday event will double as a fundraiser and proceeds will go towards the refurbishment of the fire house. Nelson said that the building needs foundational repairs as well as cosmetic retouches.
As a historical landmark, Nelson said that the building requires special attention from an expert familiar with refurbishing old buildings, which often comes at a higher cost.
“We can’t do anything that would go against that historical precedent,” she said.
For example, to repair crumbling brickwork on the outside of the building, they were quoted a cost of $50,000.
According to the book “The Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department: A History” by author Kathryn Holt Springston, former President Woodrow Wilson and his wife each purchased a brick for the fire house during a fundraising event when it first opened. But, Wilson’s brick was later stolen.
Today, the building serves as a center for the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department and as a gathering space for community members. There is a gathering hall which is available to rent for weddings, banquets, parties or other events.
Nelson said that the group hopes to raise $100,000 in 2019 to keep the Cherrydale fire house running for at least another century.
Photos courtesy of Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department
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Nearby: Update on Flooded Commuter Routes — “After time-consuming repairs, the District Department of Transportation reopened Canal Road between Reservoir and Foxhall roads late Monday morning…. In McLean, a rain-swollen [Pimmit] Run undermined a large section of Kirby Road. VDOT said the work to repair the road and embankment will take weeks.” [WTOP]
Flickr pool photo by John Sullivan
Today, Chain Bridge is a sleepy three-lane crossing between Virginia and D.C., but the bridge and its predecessors have played a prominent — if curious — role in the nation’s history.
“Most modern-day Arlington commuters who use Chain Bridge in their daily trek to and from the District would be astonished to learn how prominent the area at Pimmit Run at the Virginia end of the bridge was in the early days of our fledgling country,” Jim Fearson wrote in his “Chain Bridge: A History of the Bridge and Its Surrounding Territory from 1608-1991.”
Long before ferries ran from Virginia to the budding village of Georgetown, there was reportedly an American Indian village at the mouth of the Pimmit Run near Chain Bridge. It was also the furthest point up the river reached by explorer and Disney hero John Smith on his 1608 journey up the Potomac.
A town was planned in 1772 on 100 acres of land on the Virginia side of where the bridge is today. It was to be named Philee after Philip Ludwell Lee, the owner, but the town never materialized.
After the American Revolution, the removal of restraints on trade between states led to an increase in traffic across the Potomac and made a bridge necessary. The first bridge, built in 1797, was tolled — from 3 cents for pedestrians to 25-50 cents for horses and wagons — but ultimately collapsed in 1804 under the weight of a heavy load of cattle.
Another succession of bridges appeared in the 10 years that followed, including a short-lived, single-span suspension bridge from which the bridge derived the name it still holds today.
It was across one of these bridges that, on Aug. 2, 1814, the Declaration of Independence and other national relics were smuggled out of Washington, D.C. during the burning of Washington. They were reportedly hidden in an unoccupied grist-mill on the Virginia side of the river, according to documents in Arlington’s Center for Local History.
Later that month, the papers were moved to Leesburg, where they remained until being brought back to the city following the departure of the British navy.
The Virginia side of the bridge was also a popular dueling ground in the early 1800s. A historical marker commemorates the spot where a duel between Secretary of State Henry Clay and Senator John Randolph took place at the Virginia side of the bridge.
Control of the bridge was critical during the Civil War, during which a Union outpost was established on the Virginia side. After the war, the foundations of the outpost would be used as the basis for a casino, beginning the criminal descent of the Virginia side of the Potomac.
During the prohibition era, Fearson said the Virginia side of the bridge became something of a red-light district.
“Local lore had it that the tavern at the end of the bridge was a drop-off point for rum-runners during prohibition,” Fearson said in his history of Chain Bridge. “Supposedly they came up the river and put into Pimmit Run which joins the river directly behind the tavern.”
The bridge was rebuilt a few times throughout the mid-1800s, but by the 1920s heavy auto and truck traffic was starting to put a strain on a bridge built for carriages. Severe weight and speed limits were put into place. Eventually, the strain became too much. Following a flood, in 1939 the bridge as it mostly exists today was built on top of stone piers constructed for the 1850 bridge.
The last building at the Virginia side of the bridge was a service station, which last appeared in a 1955 Arlington County directory. In the early 1980s, the deck of the bridge was rebuilt to increase the width of the roadway by 10 feet, creating the final form of the bridge that is there today.
“A walking trip along the banks of Pimmit Run reveals little of what was there; a few possible foundation stones near the bridge, the early abutment,” Fearson said. “Further upstream the abutment of an early bridge that used to carry Glebe Road over the Pimmit, a large depression and stones that may have been a building site… nothing of substance to indicate more than 200 years of man’s involvement.”
Development may be surging around the Ball Family Burial Grounds on N. Kirkwood Street, but the fate of the historic site remains uncertain.
The gravesite of the family who is the namesake for Ballston is located in the middle of Virginia Square’s newest development hub, which includes plans to rebuild the YMCA and repurpose American Legion Post 139 as mixed residential buildings.
The Arlington County Board is also set to vote Saturday to approve a third project in the area: a long-standing application by Eleventh Street Development LLC to redevelop the 1.726 acre site located at 1122 N. Kirkwood Road at Washington Boulevard, currently a mix of one-story retail and office uses, into a new 255-unit multifamily residential building.
But when it comes to the plan for the cemetery — which is adjacent to the new development — the county is at an impasse, according to Richard Woodruff, chairman of the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB). The county can’t legally access the land to maintain it or take actions to preserve it because it was deeded to the heirs of John Ball who founded it in the 1700s.
The problem? No one knows who those heirs are.
During a Thursday visit to the grounds, Woodruff pointed out how wild strawberries have overgrown the gravesites’ grass and a secret Samaritan has been mowing the plot.
“It’s sort of now a mystery as to who maintains it,” he said.
However, other site maintenance issues are piling up. Broken branches rest on the dozen mossy grave stones piled in the far corner of the burial ground where the grass grows higher and trash accumulates.
HALRB and the Arlington Planning Commission have asked the county to hire a genealogist to locate the Ball family heirs. They added that the county should also create a fund to maintain the land and study what could be buried in the cemetery because people have moved the graves over time.
These recommendations are not included in the list of actions for the Board members to review this weekend.
A staff report to the Board notes that one of the project’s goals is to “preserve, respect and enhance the historic integrity” of the gravesite. But aside from asking developers to follow protocols if they find artifacts or human remains during construction, the document is short on specifics.
Arlington Public Library unveiled a trove of photographs and documents this week that spotlights the women in Arlington who’ve shaped the county’s history.
The digital exhibition is called Women’s Work: Stories of Persistence and Influence and it contains photographs, letters, bumper stickers, and voting guides taken from the Center for Local History’s (CLH) Community Archives. The exhibition organizes the records under several categories from politics to education.
Library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist said the project has been in the works for the past two-and-a-half years.
“The Center for Local History’s mission is to collect, preserve, and share the history of Arlington County,” he said.
One of the project’s stories chronicles how women created at network of neighborhood libraries before WWI, despite the work being considered “too dangerous” for women not long beforehand.
After the war, the county’s population grew enough to sustain a more formal library system, the exhibition’s page on libraries explains. Arlington resident Eleanor Leonard was appointed as the first professional librarian.
Other stories introduce readers to famed figures like suffragette Gertrude Crocker, who was jailed multiple times while fighting for women’s right to vote, and Margarite Syphax, who created her own real estate company to serve all families after learning other companies refused to sell or buy from African-Americans.
The digital exhibition is a permanent one funded by the library’s fiscal year 2018 budget, and staff hopes the project will continue to grow.
“Our goal is to highlight some of the untold stories of the many women pioneers who helped shape Arlington,” Sundqvist said. “Our hope is to uncover more stories as our collections grow.”
Although the files shared online were already a part of Arlington archives, the exhibition’s organizers wanted to shine a light on women’s history in the county.
“We always knew that women played an important part in building this County, but the extent of their contributions was amazing,” said Judith Knudsen, who works as a manager at the Center for Local History. “We learned, for example, that one of the many initiatives of The Church Women United was to help migrant workers in the early ’60s.”
Currently, none of the women featured in the digital collection are Vietnamese and few are African American. Both groups have helped build historical Arlington landmarks like Little Saigon and the newly re-named Green Valley neighborhood.
Sundqvist said the library hopes to expand the collection to include additional diversity.
“Yes, of course,” he said in response to a question from ARLnow. “The library welcomes donations of materials that help tell the stories of Arlington in a more comprehensive way.”
Those interested in donating materials to the Community Archives can learn how here.
Photos via Arlington Public Library
Arlington’s Nauck neighborhood is now one step closer to changing its name back to Green Valley, thanks to the Arlington County Civic Federation.
The federation approved the Nauck Civic Association’s request to change its name to the Green Valley Civic Association on Tuesday. The vote came after neighbors requested the county nix the name they said obscures the true history of freed slaves who founded the community.
“We’re just very happy that it’s changed and it’s the name that’s always associated with it,” said Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark.
The historically black neighborhood was first built partly by freed slaves Sarah Ann and Levi Jones. They bought 14 acres of land along Four Mile Run and sold parcels to other African Americans during and after the Civil War, according to research from Dr. Alfred O. Taylor Jr., who formerly led the Nauck Civic Association and the local NAACP chapter.
The renaming resolution passed by the Civic Federation notes:
“The residents of the area continually celebrate and honor the heritage of a ‘FREED’ community that reminds us of the many hills our ancestors had to climb, slavery, segregation and racial covenants that have bought us to today with the freedoms that we hold.”
Taylor wrote in a February open letter that his research indicates county officials began calling the area Nauck in the 1970s after Confederate soldier and German immigrant John D. Nauck, who purchased almost 80 acres of land in the area in the 1870s.
“It is inappropriate for the diverse community to venerate a person who fought to preserve slavery and whose memory evokes painful reminders of laws that segregated and excluded African Americans from public life,” Taylor wrote. “We find no record or evidence linking Nauck to efforts to improve the quality of life for its residents.”
Tuesday’s vote by the Civic Federation is not the last step in the process. The organization must transmit the matter to the County Board, which will then discuss and vote on the change.
Support for reconsidering the county’s Confederate vestiges has gained steam since the deadly Charlottesville white supremacist rally in 2017 and amid national conversations about the recent rise of racist hate groups.
In Arlington, leaders waged heated battles to strip Washington-Lee of the second half of its hyphenated name, which referenced Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. They are also poised to remove the “Stratford” in Stratford School, which originated from the name of Lee’s birthplace.
The County Board previously has acknowledged Green Valley’s unique history. In 2013, members approved a historic location designation to the Green Valley Pharmacy in recognition of it being the first store in the county to serve black and white customers, including serving food at an integrated diner inside the shop.
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Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
(Updated at 2 p.m) Some community leaders in Nauck are pushing to see the neighborhood’s name changed to “Green Valley,” arguing that an area so rich in African American history shouldn’t be named for a former Confederate soldier.
The historically black South Arlington neighborhood was founded, in part, by freed slaves. Yet it’s come to be known for John D. Nauck, a German immigrant who served in the Confederate Army, then purchased a total of 79 acres of land in the area in 1874 and 1875.
In an open letter to the Nauck community distributed Friday (Feb. 15), longtime civic leader Dr. Alfred Taylor argues that it is “inappropriate for the diverse community to venerate a person who fought to preserve slavery and whose memory evokes painful reminders of laws that segregated and excluded African Americans from public life.”
The county has been locked in some contentious debates over Confederate symbols across Arlington ever since the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville in August 2017 sparked a nationwide conversation about the issue. The School Board’s push to strip Robert E. Lee’s name from Washington-Lee High School proved to be an especially heated process, but Taylor suggested that other communities in the county should be “taking a page” from the Board’s example on this front.
It’s not yet clear how the process of renaming the neighborhood might proceed — the community’s civic association could look to simply change its own name, though there may be additional county approvals tied up in that process. But Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark is at least circulating Taylor’s letter in a bid to receive feedback on the proposal, particularly given the persistent complaints from residents that the county has failed to listen to their voices.
In the letter, Taylor argues that Nauck residents increasingly support naming the neighborhood “Green Valley/Nauck” or just “Green Valley,” in a bid to honor the area’s original nickname.
The exact origins of the “Green Valley” name are uncertain — Taylor, once the head of the Nauck Civic Association and Arlington’s chapter of the NAACP, wrote that his extensive research into the area’s history suggests the name is linked back to James Green, who owned property on what is now the site of the Army-Navy Country Club.
Yet he writes that “Green Valley” name bears more of a link to the area’s African American history than it does to any one person. Levi and Sarah Ann Jones became famous as the first freed slaves to purchase property in the area back in 1844, and Taylor argues that they helped build up a community in the area and make the “Green Valley” name more widespread.
The area was occupied by the Union Army during the Civil War, and eventually became home to a “Freedmen’s Village” following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Taylor also writes that the Jones family subsequently sold some property to other African American families, helping to establish the area as an enclave for Arlington’s black residents.
As Virginia officials increasingly embraced policies of segregation, the area became home to a large number of businesses owned by black residents, according to the Guide to the African American Heritage of Arlington County, prepared in 2016 as part of the county’s Historic Preservation Program.
Taylor pointed out that the area was “largely excluded from full participation in mainstream American political and social life and commerce” and so residents felt they had to “do for themselves.” Many of the businesses to spring up in the 1900s bore the “Green Valley” name, including the Green Valley Pharmacy, which the County Board designated as a historic district in 2013.
Nonetheless, Taylor argues that the name “Nauck” took hold among the “official Arlington” set in the 1970s — the county’s history of the area suggests that the name “Nauck” first appeared in reference to the area as far back as 1876, and that black residents referred to it as “Nauckville” dating back to the late 19th century.
But Taylor hypothesizes that the destruction of the manor on Green’s original property in 1924 helped contribute to the “Green Valley” name fading away, or perhaps that leaders at the time avoided referring to Green Valley because it was “extensively occupied and used throughout most of the Civil War by the Union Army.” The construction of many Confederate statues and monuments in the early 20th century has often been connected to efforts by white leaders to send a message to black residents, and Taylor suggests some of that could be at play in the decision to embrace a former Confederate soldier like Nauck.
While recounting that John D. Nauck held county positions like Justice of the Peace and “sold considerable property to African Americans,” the county’s heritage guide notes that Nauck fled Arlington in 1891 after his efforts to evict an African American resident were met with resistance.
Taylor also points out that community leaders like the Jones family or William Augustus Rowe (a leader within the “Freedmen’s Village” who later won political office) were passed over in favor of Nauck, and Taylor argues they also deserve consideration.
“We find no record or evidence linking Nauck to efforts to improve the quality of life for its residents,” Taylor wrote. “Look at many of the local, national and international contributions that were made by the residents under the banner of Green Valley… to let that name slip into nothingness would be a travesty to their memory.”
Clark did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the civic association’s next steps for considering Taylor’s proposal.
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Arlington’s (Sometimes) Hidden Gems — “In Arlington, we’re lucky to be home to 10 of ‘the oldest federal monuments.’ Those 40 oft-overlooked boundary stones were laid back in 1791 to mark borders of the spanking new District of Columbia.” [Falls Church News-Press]
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Lunar New Year Event This Weekend — The Eden Center in Falls Church is holding a Lunar New Year event Sunday “with a lion dance, entertainers, balloon sculptures, face painting and ‘other surprises and giveaways.'” [Tysons Reporter]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf