Arlington, VA

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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From zoning to storefronts to its very name, Green Valley (formerly known, officially, as Nauck) is changing — so one Arlingtonian put together a book to remember the neighborhood as it exists today.

As We Are is a new book by Robin Stombler, vice-chair of the Four Mile Run Valley Initiative Working Group and a frequent voice of the neighborhood, collecting of photographs from 2015-2019 taken around Green Valley.

The book highlights a neighborhood on the eve of revitalization, Stombler says.

“After thumbing through a couple thousand photographs that I’d taken of Green Valley, I saw a theme emerge that I wanted to share,” Stombler said in an email.

Green Valley was a community founded by freed slaves, who settled there during and just after the Civil War. The area was initially known as Green Valley but at one point in the 1970s county officials began referring to the areas as Nauck, honoring a former Confederate soldier who purchased land there in the 1870s.

Now, the entire Four Mile Run area — which includes Green Valley — is being targeted for broad revitalization. It’s a plan that Stombler helped craft, but has also been openly very critical of.

Green Valley has a smart vision for the revitalization of this community that’s worth a listen,” Stombler said. “As one example, the creation of an arts and industry quarter along Four Mile Run Drive would refresh the area, make it an arts destination in Arlington, yet retain the needed light industry, employment opportunities, and cool vibe.”

Stombler said the neighborhood has always been a close-knit community. As it is revitalized, Stombler says she hopes the family bonds remain intact.

“The community has a vision for how the area may be revitalized,” Stombler said. “In the period these photographs were taken, Green Valley has spoken loudly with one voice about this vision. Slowly, very slowly, we are seeing some of our vision take shape. The photographs hint at this change.”

Barriers, like razor-edge wiring near a park, are prevalent throughout Stombler’s collection. Stombler cited the physical and social barriers as a recurring visual throughout the area and one of the main reasons she compiled the photographs into a book.

Despite some somber themes, Stombler said that the story of Green Valley’s residents is the story of joy, intellect, and perseverance in the face of these obstacles.

The book is scheduled to launch on Sunday, August 25, with a gallery of the photography at a house in Green Valley (2206 S. Monroe Street) from 4-6 p.m. Another exhibit is scheduled for Thursday (Aug. 29) from 7-9 p.m.

The book is available online for $47.

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Astronaut John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. He was also an Arlington resident for about 5 years.

The group Preservation Arlington points out that Glenn’s former home, a mid-century rambler near Williamsburg Middle School, is now for sale with the listing hinting — “the value is in the land,” it says — that it will likely be a tear-down. The property is listed for $1,050,000.

During the lead-up to Glenn’s historic Friendship 7 mission, reporters camped outside the house on N. Harrison Street and Vice President Lyndon Johnson tried to visit, but was rebuffed by Mrs. Glenn. After, Glenn continued working in D.C., and at one point hosted at his home a cookout with special guest Gherman Titov, the Russian who was the first human to orbit the earth, according to an Arlington Public Library history.

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

There’s likely little that could be done to legally prevent the house from being torn down at this point, if that’s what the eventual buyer wants to do. But if you could call the shots regardless, what would you do? Would you allow the owner of the property to do whatever they want with it, or prevent demolition on the basis of the house being historic?

Photo via Washington Fine Properties

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Once upon a time, there was a community in Arlington called Marceytown. In that quiet village of Marceytown, at the outbreak of the Civil War, someone allegedly buried some treasure.

There is little in Arlington today that marks the vast swaths of land owned by the Marcey family — collectively called Marceytown — except Marcey Road and Marcey Park in North Arlington. But the Marcey family was one of the early settlers in the area, tilling the land near the Potomac River towards the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th.

In Calvin Marcey’s history of the family from 1986, he noted that many of the lands they farmed and worked on were owned by the more famous George Mason family. The Marcey family also married into the prominent Ball family — they for whom Ballston is named — from central Arlington. One daughter, Catherine married Horatio Ball in 1815, and her younger sister, Elizabeth, married Horatio when the elder sister died.

But you’re here for the story about the buried treasure.

The primary source for the story about the treasure is local historian Eleanor Lee Templeman’s 1959 book Arlington Heritage. In the book, Templeman said the story was told to her by a woman whose father-in-law, James Marcey Jr., was living in Marceytown during the Civil War.

A frightened Union soldier begged him to keep, until the cessation of hostilities, a large sum of money which he was carrying on his person. He feared that other soldiers would take it from him. Mr. Marcey refused the responsibility of either keeping it or of knowing its exact hiding place, but loaned the man a pick to bury it nearby. He never returned to retrieve it.

Templeman said there were no records afterward of the treasure being recovered.

Local historian Jessica Kaplan, who lives across from the rumored treasure house, said the family was impoverished by the Civil War and received little compensation from the government for the damage caused to their lands by military encampments and defenses.

The family survived by subdividing and selling off swathes of their land, turning more and more of Marceytown into neighborhoods and subdivisions. Eventually, the Marceys were unable to afford to live on the land they once owned, and the family largely moved to the outer suburbs or dispersed across the country.

In 1983, even the family log cabin — built in 1843 — was moved log-by-log out to Vienna by a wealthy lawyer after the land it sat on in Arlington was sold.

Today, the cul-de-sac where James Marcey Jr. lived is a suburban residential street. A new house is currently under construction near where the treasure was allegedly buried. ARLnow reached out to the developer but did not receive an answer on whether or not any Civil War treasure was found.

Kaplan said the story of the buried treasure is likely a folk legend, noting that Templeman’s histories somewhat notoriously litter “buried treasure” throughout the area.

“I highly doubt [it’s true],” Kaplan said. “I think it was a little folk legend to get people interested, but who knows?”

Kaplan said there are several Marcey and unmarked Civil War graves nearby, so if there were buried treasure on a Marcey property, the location in Templeman’s notes at least matches a feasible vicinity.

“It’s a total myth,” Kaplan said. “It would be fun to find, but I wouldn’t spend any free time looking for it.”

But then again, isn’t that what a rival treasure hunter would want you to think?

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Morning Notes

‘Mabel’s Restaurant’ Coming to Arlington Heights — The restaurant coming to the grounds of the Dominion Apartments, at the former Sherwin Williams paint store (3411 5th Street S.), is called “Mabel’s Restaurant.” An outdoor seating area is planned for the restaurant, according to permit filings. [Arlington Economic Development]

Northam Visits Amazon — “In June, we were excited to open our first temporary office space for our Arlington headquarters in Crystal City. Today, we welcomed @GovernorVA to tour our new work space and meet with Amazonians from the Commonwealth.” [Twitter]

Crystal City Conducting Survey — “The area encompassing Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard – Arlington is a dynamic mixed-use urban center and Virginia’s largest walkable downtown… we are embarking on a place branding effort to uncover our neighborhood story and create a striking visual identity.” [Crystal City BID]

History of Heidelberg Bakery — “Heidelberg Bakery is a local landmark in Arlington… In this oral history clip, Carla and Wolfgang Buchler, owners of the Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe, discuss the lack of diversity in breads that Wolfgang found in America when he first came to the U.S. in the 1970’s–and how tastes have changed, partly due to Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe’s delicious treats.” [Arlington Public Library]

Glebe Road Bridge Project — “The Virginia Department of Transportation on Tuesday, Aug. 13 will hold a community forum on its plans to rehabilitate the Route 120 (North Glebe Road) bridge over Pimmit Run to improve safety and extend the bridge’s overall lifespan. The event will be held on from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Williamsburg Middle School, 3600 North Harrison St. in Arlington.” [InsideNova]

‘Drunkard’ Ruling Won’t Be Appealed — “Virginia’s attorney general on Friday said he will not appeal a ruling that struck down a state law allowing police to arrest and jail people designated as ‘habitual drunkards.'” [Associated Press]

Oil in Sink Causes ‘Fatbergs’ — “If you pour used cooking grease down the kitchen sink, you’re not alone — according to a new survey, 44 percent of respondents in the D.C. region pour cooking oil, fat, or grease down the sink at least occasionally. In doing so — rather than dumping it in the trash–you may be contributing to the creation of something truly horrifying — a fatberg.” [DCist]

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(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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