The following letter to the editor was submitted by Joan K. Lawrence, Chair of the Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Board.
The recently posted “Peter’s Take” commentary calling for the rejection of historic designation for the Stratford School is both premature and uninformed. Arlington does not create local historic districts lightly. There are many public hearings involving the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB), the Planning Commission and the County Board, as well as the School Board, when the property in question is a school. This process is still in progress.
The designation process was started by a request from Arlingtonians and included one of the four African-American students who made national headlines on February 2, 1959. On that day, in the face of the massive resistance movement in Virginia, four students, escorted by police, walked from Old Dominion Drive and entered Stratford through a door in the back of the building to begin the integration of Virginia’s public schools. This door and the adjacent central portion of the building remain part of Stratford and are clearly visible. It is still possible today to experience the site and enter the building as those courageous students did over 56 years ago. Children and adults can actually put themselves into the picture of what happened that day because the façade of the school has not been altered.
Capacity can be added to the current Stratford building without covering over the central portion of the rear of the building. This has been demonstrated over and over at public meetings. We just need the will to maintain the visual link with our past.
Stratford’s significance in our history was recognized over a decade ago when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. We owe this designation to these four brave students and to the current and future generations of students and citizens of Arlington.
Joan K. Lawrence
Chair, Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Board
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The 20-page booklet, “African American History in Arlington, Virginia: A Guide to the Historic Sites of a Long and Proud Heritage,” was first published in 2001. It was a joint project between the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service, the Chamber of Commerce and the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington.
The funding for the booklet comes from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, in the form of a $3,000 grant that was accepted by the County Board.
Print copies of the guide ran out several years ago, but the booklet is still available online in a PDF.
According to a press release, the booklet was popular among Arlington residents and visitors who wanted to explore memorials such as Arlington House, the historic neighborhoods of Nauck, Hall’s Hill and Butler Holmes and various celebrated churches and historical homes.
Cynthia Liccese-Torres, Arlington County historic preservation planner, said that her office has found “quite a bit of new additional research” that will enhance the guide.
The still-operating Green Valley Pharmacy in Nauck will be featured in the new edition. It was opened in 1952 and served African Americans who were refused service in Arlington’s segregated drug stores.
Also included will be dozens of graves previously considered “lost” that have been identified in the cemetery at Calloway United Methodist Church.
Liccese-Torres estimates that the guide will be completed and ready for distribution in spring 2016.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe has dedicated the bridge that takes Washington Blvd over Columbia Pike as Freedman’s Village Bridge, in honor of settlement for freed slaves started in Arlington during the Civil War.
McAuliffe was joined by transportation officials, Arlington County Board members and descendants of Freedman’s Village residents as he unveiled one of the two plaques on the bridge this morning.
“I am pleased to be here today, on behalf of all the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia to fully, right now, dedicate our new bridge as the Freedman’s Village Bridge,” McAuliffe said.
The new bridge recognizes the importance of Freedman’s Village, the government settlement that housed freed slaves in Arlington. The village transformed from the government settlement to a thriving neighborhood with schools, a hospital and housing for the residents until its close in 1900.
Henderson Hall, the Marine Corps installation, now sits where Freedman’s Village was built, said Craig Syphax, a descendant from Freedman’s Village residents and the president of the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington.
“This bridge is very instrumental in keeping the black history alive,” Syphax said.
Many of the descendants of Freedman’s Village residents attended the bridge unveiling in honor of their ancestors. After the village was closed down, many of the residents moved to what is now known as Nauck and High View Park (formerly Green Valley and Hall’s Hill, respectively).
“I think the black residents of South Arlington are going to embrace this structure because of its expansiveness and its name that has been chiseled onto it and because it represents freedom,” Syphax said.
The bridge is the result of teamwork between Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Transportation. Community input, meanwhile, was influential in naming the bridge, McAuliffe said.
The bridge has a two-fold purpose, said County Board Vice Chair Walter Tejada during the dedication ceremony. Beyond replacing an existing bridge that was structurally unsound, the bridge serves as a way to recognize Arlington’s history.
“This new structure is not only steady completion and reflexive of the rich history of the area but will provide excellent accommodation to pedestrians and bicyclists, and those of you who are familiar with Arlington, know we are big about pedestrian circulation and bicyclists here in Arlington,” Tejada said.
The four-lane bridge handles about 80,000 vehicles per day and is wider and taller than the previous bridge, allowing roomier sidewalks and, originally, the potential of a streetcar running underneath. According to Virginia law, bridges can only be named in memory of a deceased person or to recognize an area with historical significance.
“Today we memorialize the residents of Freedman’s village who paved the way for all future generations of African Americans with a bridge dedicated in their honor,” Syphax said.
Arlington Native Murdered in California — Christopher Wrenn, an Arlington native, was shot to death in a San Jose, California office park last week. The motive for the shooting remains a mystery, but two of the three suspects have since been shot and killed by police. Wrenn, a Washington-Lee High School graduate and Marine Corps veteran, was noted for having a big personality and always having a story to tell — like how he was baby-sat by actress Sandra Bullock as a kid. [San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, CBS Bay Area]
Arlington Little League Memories — The local little league used to keep statistics on each player, and “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark recently dug up some of those records. Among the batting averages of some notable Arlingtonians are .172 for CNBC managing editor and anchor Tyler Mathisen, .212 for Italian Store owner Bobby Tramonte and .290 for Clark himself. [Falls Church News-Press]
Renovations at Nam Viet — Long-time Clarendon restaurant Nam Viet is undergoing some renovations this week. A sign in the window says the eatery at 1127 N. Hudson Street will reopen Monday, Aug. 24.
Hat tip to Benjamin M. Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi.
“The Beast of Barcroft,” set to be released as an e-book in November, is based on a series of actual animal attacks in Barcroft during 1974.
“Something for weeks in 1974 was scaring the residents of Arlington,” Schweigart said.
At least 23 pets near the Four Mile Run Trail were killed by an animal nicknamed “The Beast of Barcroft,” according to 1974 newspaper reports. Residents could hear a fearsome screeching a night, made even more terrifying by the fact that for a time no one knew what kind of a creature was making it.
“What is it that screams so, down there in the dark hollow of Four Mile Run?” read one contemporary newspaper article. “What is it that howls and kills and goes crash in the Arlington night; that tears the eyes from cats; that strips the hides from rabbits; that raises the hackles on the backs of terrified dogs and cats?”
Eventually the National Zoo was called in to capture the “beast,” which turned out to be a civet.
When Schweigart came across the story, he said it was the “lightning bolt that struck.”
Schweigart’s story takes plenty of artistic liberty with the actual history, he said, but he does reference it in his story. For instance, he includes a character who is a zoologist at the National Zoo.
“My bad guy is considerably more dangerous than what was caught in 1974,” he said.
“The Beast of Barcroft” is the first in a series featuring characters living in Arlington, he said. The second is already finished and set to be released in February 2016.
“Arlington is where I live and where I make my stand, and that’s where my characters are making their stands,” Schweigart said.
The book is a supernatural thriller and for adults only, he said, adding that he won’t let his own daughter read it.
“It would make me a very bad parent letting her read that book,” he said.
“The Beast of Barcroft” is Schweigart’s second book. His first, “Slipping the Cable,” is a thriller about a Coast Guard junior officer.
Schweigart started writing while at the Coast Guard Academy, he said. He wrote a story as part of assignment that ended up placing in a writing competition.
“That’s when I caught the bug,” he said.
Schweigart eventually wants to start writing as a full time profession, but for now, he writes in the morning before going to work, he said.
“If all the lovely readers would buy 100 copies of the book that would certainly help me in a huge way,” he joked.
“The Beast of Barcroft” is currently available for pre-order and will be released in November. The book’s plot summary, after the jump.
Memorial Bridge Repairs Starting Soon — Temporary repairs to the Arlington Memorial Bridge are expected to begin later this month. The repairs are expected to take six months and will allow the closed lanes on the bridge to reopen. [Washington Post]
Stratford School Historic Designation Meetings — The Arlington School Board held a work session last night and is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Thursday regarding a possible historic designation for the Stratford Junior High School building. The building currently houses the H-B Woodlawn secondary program, but is slated to be renovated back into a community middle school. Superintendent Patrick Murphy is recommending the School Board defer action on a historic designation until later. [Preservation Arlington, InsideNova]
Big Test Score Jump at Elementary School — Good news about Carlin Springs Elementary, which has a largely Hispanic and low-income student body and has struggled with standardized tests in the past: “Some grades… had double-digit increases in their state test passage rates after a concerted effort to prepare disadvantaged students for the exams and closely track student performance on practice tests.” [Washington Post]
Marine Corps Marathon Security — The 40th Marine Corps Marathon is two and a half months away, but local police departments are already gearing up for it. The event requires tight coordination among law enforcement agencies, including the Arlington County Police Department. [ESPN]
Deal With Hospital Expected — Arlington County is expected to hold a public meeting next month to discuss a land deal with Virginia Hospital Center. The county is reportedly ready to sign a memorandum of understanding with the hospital for a five-acre, county-owned parcel of land adjacent to it, which would then allow the hospital to expand. Details of the deal were not yet available. [Washington Business Journal]
County History Survey — To help county leaders understand which aspects of local history are especially important to residents, Arlington is conducting an online survey, asking for “ideas on collecting, preserving, sharing our history.” An Arlington Historical Task Force will take the survey into account when presenting recommendations for historic preservation priorities later this year. [Arlington County, Preservation Arlington]
When the KKK Marched Through Arlington — In 1922 about 400 members of the Ku Klux Klan, including some prominent local citizens, marched through Arlington neighborhoods like Clarendon, Ballston, Cherrydale and Rosslyn. At the time, the Klan was a powerful organization that claimed 60,000 members in Northern Virginia, sponsored youth baseball teams and owned a field for cross burnings on what is now Ballston Common Mall. The Klan’s message was that of racism and intolerance, but it also advocated for law and order and against corruption in government and vices like drinking. [Falls Church News-Press, Our Redneck Past]
Theodore Roosevelt Island Profiled — USA Today has published a profile of Theodore Roosevelt Island, near Rosslyn. Included in the profile are notable facts about the island, including the fact that what now appears to be a natural forest was “clear-cut, trampled and even bombed by 1931.” [USA Today]
Historic Affairs Board: Preserve Stratford — Arlington’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board has voted unanimously to recommend designating Stratford Junior High School, the current home of the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, a local historic district. The School Board will now decide whether or not to go along with the historic designation, which could delay plans to build a new middle school on the site by 2019. [InsideNova]
Three Arrests at Bar Crawl — There were only three arrests made at the All-American Bar Crawl in Clarendon on Saturday. Arlington County police were out in force, keeping the peace among the thousands of revelers who participated in the rain-drenched event, which the department again live-tweeted. Among the arrests were one for being drunk in public and another for failure to pay, according to a police spokesman. [Twitter]
Man With Knife Arrested at McDonald’s — A man was arrested at the McDonald’s on the 3000 block of Columbia Pike on Saturday afternoon. Police responded to the restaurant for a report of a fight in progress and encountered a man who was brandishing a knife. The suspect was arrested but was acting disorderly and spitting on officers while in custody, according to a police spokesman. It was later determined that the man was wanted for a probation violation in Loudoun County.
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Arlington County is considering a local historic designation for the former Stratford Junior High School on Vacation Lane, causing some parents to worry that preservation efforts may mean more school overcrowding.
With the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program set to move from the Stratford building to a new building in Rosslyn, Arlington Public Schools is planning a $29.2 million renovation of Stratford that would allow it to house a new 1,000-seat neighborhood middle school. Both schools are set to open in 2019.
Tomorrow night, however, the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board will hold the first of six public hearings on whether to recommend designating Stratford, which was built in 1950, a local historic district. It’s already on the National Register of Historic Places as a result of its role in the civil rights movement: in 1959 Stratford became the first public secondary school in Virginia to be racially integrated.
“A local historic designation will provide a framework for preserving and telling the important story of this building and site while allowing plans for a separate new school to be designed and built,” the group Preservation Arlington said in support of the designation. “Stratford Junior High School is an incredible part of Arlington’s history… as well as an excellent example of International Style school architecture.”
Parents worry that a historic designation could push back the opening of the new middle school beyond 2019.
The Jamestown Elementary PTA, which last year decried APS delaying a decision on a new middle school, says a middle school at Stratford is key to alleviating overcrowding at Williamsburg and Swanson middle schools. The PTA asked parents to make their voice heard at meetings this week.
“Right now the Arlington County Board is considering turning Stratford into a historical property, which would likely delay the opening of Stratford as a neighborhood middle school,” the PTA said in an email to parents. “That delay will impact all of the surrounding middle schools leaving the overcrowding issue as one that will remain for much longer.”
At a meeting at Williamsburg Middle School last night, parents were told that the school may need up to 28 relocatable classroom trailers by 2018. The trailers could ultimately hold the school’s entire 6th grade class, school administrators said.
Another APS meeting on middle school capacity issues will be held Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. at Swanson Middle School. The historical review board will meet at the County Board room (2100 Clarendon Blvd) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Preservation Arlington, a group dedicated to protecting Arlington’s historic buildings, communities and landscapes, has released its “Most Endangered Historic Places” for 2015.
The annual list is used to promote awareness and advocacy of the historic sites and the preservation they need, according to the group’s website. Preservation Arlington also created a watch list for the 2015, which includes sites that are on the “verge of disappearing.”
The 2015 list, with excerpts from Preservation Arlington’s description of each:
- Dive bars — “Preservation Arlington raises a toast to our remaining dive bars, such as Forest Inn and Cowboy Cafe, and hope they continue to thrive. Preservation is also about the role that place plays in our community and not just the building or its architecture.”
- Garden Apartments in Westover — “While some garden apartments in Westover are listed in the National Register, these and others in fact have no long term protection from redevelopment.”
- Columbia Pike Commercial Buildings — “The unique small-scale retail buildings in the commercial nodes, as identified in the Pike’s unique zoning, will not be preserved without more focus on historic building style and design.”
- Lyon Village National Register Historic District — “Many of the changes [to Lyon Village] have not respected the historic character of the community and have dramatically altered many of the components that qualified the community for designation [on the National Register of Historic Places] in the first place.”
- Reevesland Farmhouse and Property — “The county hasn’t done anything to keep up this property in 15 years, letting the property deteriorate and the story of Arlington’s dairy farming history slowly and gradually disappear. Selling the property will permanently remove from public access and use a tangible connection to Arlington’s rural past and a fantastic opportunity to provide educational opportunities to current and future Arlington students and residents.”
The 2015 Watch list, with excerpts from Preservation Arlington’s description of each:
- Wilson School — “While not designated as a local historic district in 2015, the opportunity still exists for the Building Level Planning Committee of Arlington Public Schools to incorporate substantial portions of the building facade and/or materials in the modernist building being planned for the site.”
- Arlington Presbyterian Church — “While denied listing as a local historic district in 2014, the opportunity still exists for the story of the existing building and congregation to be incorporated into the planned future development.”
- Webb Building — “An excellent example of our quickly disappearing mid-century modernist building stock, the Webb Building is not protected.”
- Key Boulevard Apartments — “One of Arlington’s best preserved garden apartments, which has already had its density move to an adjacent luxury condo, this complex was under threat in 2014.”
The 2014 list included the Wilson School, Arlington Presbyterian Church, family graveyards and mid-century Arlington architecture.
Parents Located After Boy Found Wandering — A social media post helped Arlington County Police located the parents of a boy found wandering along on 4th Street N. Saturday afternoon. The parents said they both assumed the boy was with the other parent. [WJLA]
Whipple Endorses Schneider — Former County Board member and state senator Mary Margaret Whipple has endorsed Andrew Schneider in the Democratic County Board primary. [InsideNova]
History Center Profiled — Interested in Arlington history? Not too surprisingly, the place for you is the Center for Local History at Arlington Central Library. The center has books, photographs, oral histories, permit records and other local historical resources. [Washington Post]
Three years after unsuccessfully seeking proposals for use of the historic, county-owned Reeves Farmhouse, the Arlington County Board tonight will consider a proposal to sell it.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan is recommending that the Board approve putting the house and a portion of the surrounding property, adjacent to Bluemont Park, on the market for sale to a private buyer. The proposal was added to today’s County Board agenda on Monday.
Even after being sold to a private party, the house — which dates back to 1899 — would remain a local historic district and would be protected from changes that would hurt its historical integrity.
The Reevesland property was the last operating dairy farm in Arlington County. The county purchased the house and its 2.5 acres of land from the Reeves family in 2001 for $1.8 million.
The county has been struggling to find an entity with a viable proposal for an “adaptive reuse” of the farmhouse. Cost has been a factor. In 2012 it was said that the house needed more than $1 million in work. Now, the county says it would cost $2.5 million to bring the house “up to code for public use,” not including ongoing maintenance costs.
County officials have been in touch with the Reevesland Learning Center, a group interested in using the farmhouse for educational purposes, but staff says the group doesn’t have the money needed to restore the house.
“The County has attempted several different ways to seek a partner for the adaptive reuse of the Reeves Farmhouse, but have not received responses from partners with the necessary financial resources to bridge the $2 – $2.5 million gap,” according to the staff report.
Under Donnellan’s proposal, the land around the farmhouse will be subdivided and the county will retain ownership of much of the property, including portions currently being used by the Reevesland Learning Center.
“The County will continue to own the rest of Reevesland, including the much-loved sledding slope and the historic milking shed, and will continue to maintain the recently expanded raised planting beds there,” according to a press release.
Taste of Arlington Winners — The judges at Sunday’s Taste of Arlington event in Ballston selected four winners among the dozens of restaurants that participated. Il Forno won for Best Appetizers, Liberty Tavern won for Best Fast Casual, Water and Wall won for Best Fine Dining and Northside Social won for Best Dessert.
Real Estate Prices Rise — Real estate prices in Arlington continue to rise. The median home sale in Arlington between January and April was $545,000. That’s up 9 percent year-over-year. [InsideNova]
Clarendon Real Estate Was a Bargain in 1900 — Clarendon is full of nice restaurants, luxury condos and million dollar homes now, but in 1900 it was an emerging suburban community with vacant land for sale. How much were plots of land going for? Between $90 and $140. [Ghosts of DC]
Presidential Candidate in Arlington Today — Mark Everson, a former IRS commissioner and a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, will speak and greet supporters at a $100-a-head reception in Courthouse today. The event is being held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Courthaus Social, 2300 Clarendon Blvd. [Mark Everson for President]
APS Educator Named Top Hispanic Teacher — Arlington Traditional School art teacher Veronica Perez has received the Victoria D. de Sanchez Northern Virginia Hispanic Teacher of the Year Award. [InsideNova]
TargetExpress Coming to Rosslyn — A new 23,000-square-foot TargetExpress store is coming to Rosslyn. Located at 1500 Wilson Blvd, the store will have an in-house Starbucks, a pharmacy, a technology and mobile phone section and will carry clothing, groceries and prepared foods. Also coming to 1500 Wilson Blvd: a District Taco restaurant and a Wells Fargo bank branch. [Washington Post, Washington Business Journal]
Little Saigon Remembered — A master’s student at Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia campus recounts Clarendon’s former identity as “Little Saigon,” thanks to the immigration of Vietnamese refugees following the end of the Vietnam War. As a project, the student has created a self-guided walking tour of Clarendon in connection with the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. [Preservation Arlington]
Victory for Yorktown Coding Team — The Yorktown High School Coding Club celebrated a big win at the Microsoft Imagine Cup U.S. National Finals in San Francisco last month. The team placed first in the competition’s “World Citizenship” category. [Arlington Connection]
Photo courtesy Peter Rof / Alt Globo MediaWorks LLC
Today is the 70th anniversary of the German army’s surrender to Allied forces in World War II, and to commemorate the occasion, there will be massive formations of war-era planes flying over the Potomac River.
At 12:10 p.m., dozens of planes of different models that were used during World War II will pass over the Lincoln Memorial, then fly over Independence Avenue before turning back up the Potomac River and leaving the area.
The planes — which have come to the area from all over the country — take off from airports in Culpeper and Manassas, Va., join together outside Leesburg and fly almost 50 miles toward D.C. While they’re flying, they will make formations from signature moments of the War, including the Doolittle Raid, Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway.
The planes were brought together by a nonprofit called the Arsenal of Democracy, backed by the Commemorative Air Force. Among the different models flying will be the North American B-25 Mitchell (pictured), P-40 Warhawk, P-63 Kingcobra, P-38 Lightning, P-51 Mustang and P-47 Thunderbolt.
Also included: the only B-29 Superfortress still flying, the same type of plane that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. Overall, the flyover organizers said more than two dozen different types of planes will participate.
“Never before has such a collection of WWII aircraft been assembled at one location, to honor the large assemblage of veterans gathered at the WWII Memorial for a ceremony,” the flyover’s website reads.
The planes will be clearly visible from Arlington, so those hoping to see them arrive from the northwest should be outside, looking up, at just after noon. The flyover is expected to last about an hour, according to the Washington Post, during which time flights from DCA will be grounded.