(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) The exploded Little Free Library in Arlington Forest was mysteriously rebuilt last week, much to the delight of the owners.
It was a cold, overcast, slightly snowy Wednesday morning last week when Sharon Beth Bronheim left her Arlington Forest home to do a quick errand. As it had since November when an unknown assailant blew up the Little Free Library that was once there. As a temporary measure, a plastic box filled with books sat on the wood platform in front of the house.
When Sharon Beth returned only about an hour later, at around 11 a.m., she was met with an unexpected sight.
“When I came back, it was sunny and there was a [new] Little Free Library installed,” she told ARLnow.
Neither Sharon Beth nor her husband Jeremy Bronheim were involved in rebuilding the library nor do they know the identity of the person who did it, replacing the plastic box. They did catch a glimpse of the person from their security camera but not enough to “make out who it was.”
The structure is “incredibly well-crafted,” Sharon Beth noted, with wooden shingles, solid wood on the back, and painted a delightful robin egg blue color.
“We have gratitude for whoever did this. If they want to reach out and tell us it was them, we’d love to thank them,” Jeremy said. “If they don’t, that’s okay too.”
That day, the couple added a few books of their own to the new library. By Friday morning, two days later, the library was brimming with books.
It’s a testament to the community and neighborhood that something like this could happen, they said — that a Little Free Library can get destroyed only for it to come back better than it ever was.
“The community has really embraced that location as being a Little Free Library location.”
In November, a still-unknown suspect or suspects blew up the library at the 100 block of N. Columbus Street, near the intersection with the Arlington Blvd service road. It’s believed the same people set off another small explosion that night at the nearby Lubber Run amphitheater as well.
The FBI, ATF, Virginia State Police, and Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) all were involved in the investigation.
However, several months later, no arrests have been made as of yet.
“There are no updates to provide on this,” ACFD spokesperson Capt. Nate Hiner told ARLnow. “This is still an ongoing investigation. The ATF and FBI are not involved, the Arlington County Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Office is handling the case.”
Sharon Beth said she’d be “more comfortable” if a suspect had been caught, but understands investigations of this nature can take time. She is thankful there have been no incidents since then and that there’s a new, beautifully bright Little Free Library, anonymously built and donated by an apparently book-loving local.
Additionally, Sharon Beth’s father is currently working on a “children’s book annex” that will sit next to the library and hold picture books.
Sharon Beth and Jeremy expect to hold a “grand re-opening” celebration for the library in the spring, when the weather is warmer and the annex is completed. In the meantime, they’ll admire the handiwork, watch books cycle in and out of it, and allow the mysterious builder the chance to come forward. Or not.
“We’re just completely amazed at whoever it was that did this and greatly appreciate it,” Sharon Beth said.
A Little Free Library was blown up in the Arlington Forest neighborhood overnight.
The explosion happened shortly after midnight on the 100 block of N. Columbus Street, near the intersection with the Arlington Blvd service road.
“When crews arrived, they found a small outside fire as well as a damaged privately owned outdoor book collection box,” Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Nate Hiner. “A Fire Marshal was requested to the scene to investigate.”
The suspect or suspects remain at large.
“The incident remains an open investigation and anyone with information pertaining to this incident is encouraged to reach out by emailing [email protected] or calling the Arlington County Police Department’s Tip Line at 703-228-4180,” Hiner said.
A resident tells ARLnow that at least one person who lived nearby ran to help control the fire.
“A neighbor went out with a fire extinguisher to control the resulting fire,” said Michael Thomas. “The Fire Department arrived shortly after to take over and ensure that the fire did not spread to [Lubber Run Park], which could have easily happened with the forest bed and understudy being so dry.”
“The explosion was followed by several others nearby,” including one that blew up another wooden fixture near the Lubber Run amphitheater, Thomas said.
Hiner said the fire department was not aware of additional explosions.
A message sent to a neighborhood listserv suggested that the Little Free Library explosion might have been caused by “a modified firework or mortar.”
Update at 4 p.m. — Fire Marshals and Virginia State Police are now on the scene of the apparent explosion at Lubber Run amphitheater, according to Thomas.
Update on 11/10/22 — The FBI and the ATF is also assisting with the investigation, the Arlington County Fire Department said in a press release.
Next to a park bench, across from Bob & Edith’s Diner on Columbia Pike, there’s a converted newspaper box with the words “Free Blockbuster,” framed by that nostalgic dark yellow movie ticket stub, spray-painted on the front.
Inside, passersby can find free movies, popcorn and candy to enjoy a movie night at home.
The Free Blockbuster box was set up by Ryan Daley, who split his childhood between Arlington and D.C. The Wakefield High School grad said he saw one in Philadelphia filled with movies for locals to take and leave. He quickly decided to set up two here in Arlington and one in D.C.
Daley chose the spot near Bob and Edith’s for the box because, in his words, “I feel like diners and movies go together.” The box has been there since last Monday, July 19.
“I wanted to do something special for the movie lovers in the area, for the ones who enjoy movies as much as I do,” said Daley, who said he is in the early stages of creating an independent movie company. “I went to several thrift stores and pawn shops in the area and hand-picked over 100 movies, all movies I thought were amazing and worth watching.”
Daley also set up a Free Blockbuster in Prospect Hill Park, near Pentagon City, a place he frequently went as a child and has fond memories of. Another is in Lincoln Park in D.C. for the same reason.
Brian Morrison set up the first Free Blockbuster box in 2019. He says there are now over 50 Free Blockbusters across the U.S. and one in Canada. The Los Angeles local and movie buff says the concept is to “take a dead space and make it into a live space.”
Morrison said he wants today’s families to have the experience of going to pick out a movie in person together, an experience he says he enjoyed in his childhood, and one that is rare in the age of streaming services, after the bankruptcy of Blockbuster.
The inspiration for Free Blockbuster came from a trio of observations and experiences, Morrison says. One source was his friend, a fellow movie buff who couldn’t take her large collection of movies with her on a cross-country move and was struggling to figure out what to do with them. At the same time, he noticed a local newspaper, LA Weekly, was cutting down on their print publication, leaving lots of empty newspaper dispensers around the city unused or filled with trash.
He decided to find a use for the receptacles and create a way for people to get and give movies to their neighbors — following the model of Little Free Library, a nonprofit that helps people set up free libraries across the U.S.
Morrison emphasized that the box is for borrowing movies, not taking them, saying, “we generally hope things make their way back.”
And movies are not the only items one might find in a Free Blockbuster. Some can be found filled with candy and popcorn, and sometimes gaming consoles, VCR players and VHS tapes, said Morrison.
“Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to make a Free Blockbuster,” said Morrison.
But Daley decided to use his own supplies to build Arlington’s boxes. He drove around a few different neighborhoods and found some abandoned newspaper stands that he took home to spray-paint.
“I had to laser print the stencil myself,” he said.
Daley dubbed the boxes “Kurt’s Movie Rack,” which he said is an homage to his “favorite human, Kurt Cobain,” the late frontman of ’90s grunge band Nirvana.
Daley has been documenting the creation of his Free Blockbuster boxes and the development of his indie movie company on his Blue Tape Movies Instagram account, which already has more than 10,000 followers.
Hat tip to Chris Slatt
Anyone in the Penrose neighborhood can now pick up a book or fix their bike at a new tiny wooden library.
The “Little Free Library and Bike Repair Station” is at the corner of 8th Street S. and S. Courthouse Road, two blocks from Columbia Pike.
The handcrafted station is open for people to take and donate books at any time. When a reporter stopped by early Wednesday morning, a graphic novel and children’s book joined other paperbacks inside.
It also has a bike pump, metric Allen keys and a crescent wrench for bicyclists to carry out any running repairs on their bikes.
It is not the first Little Free Library to pop up in Arlington, but does appear to be the first to offer bike repairs at the same place.
Transportation Commission member and Penrose resident Chris Slatt was the brains behind the project.
“My friend’s two daughters wanted to build a Little Free Library, but that’s tough for them since they live in an apartment building so they came over and we built it together and installed it at the end of my lawn,” Slatt told ARLnow. “I wanted to add a bike spin to it — the various ‘bike fix stations’ that the County has installed inspired me to add the tools.”
Marine Corps Marathon Wrap-up — Despite a soggy start, spirits were high for the 40th annual Marine Corps Marathon, which wound through Rosslyn, D.C. and Crystal City Sunday morning. The winners were a 22-year-old recent West Point grad, representing the Army team and, on the women’s side, a Costa Rica native who only started running seven years ago. [Run Washington, Stars & Stripes]
Orange Line Delays — Orange Line riders are experiencing delays of up to 25 minutes this morning due to a broken rail in Maryland. [Twitter]
School Bus Camera Tickets May Be Refunded — Arlington County is considering refunding tickets issued by stop arm cameras on public school buses, following a determination by the state Attorney General that the county doesn’t have the legal authority to issue such citations via mail. [Washington Post]
I Like This Park Because — Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation has erected two new chalkboard in Rosslyn Highlands Park, asking park users why they like the park. [Twitter]
Top Bus Lines in Arlington — The county-run transit organization Arlington Transportation Partners has a list of the top five most important bus lines in Arlington. They are: ART 43, ART 45, ART 42, Metrobus 16 series and Metrobus 38B. [Arlington Transportation Partners]
New Little Free Library in Arlington — There’s a new Little Free Library in Arlington. The resident-created library is located at 1723 N. Veitch Street, three blocks north of the Courthouse Metro station. Affordable housing developer AHC, which helped with the library’s creation, is planning a celebratory launch party tomorrow at 4 p.m.
Photo by Jennifer Currier
A Girl Scout troop unveiled a Little Free Library in Bluemont Park last Saturday.
The tiny library, located in Bluemont Park near the tennis court pavilion at 601 N. Manchester Street, holds a smattering of books that can be borrowed under a “take a book, leave a book” policy.
Girl Scout Troop 3661, composed of 12 Ashlawn Elementary School fifth graders, paid for the library by hosting a yard and bake sale earlier in the spring.
For their hard work, the troop earned the Girl Scout Bronze Award, the highest honor for a Girl Scout Junior. The troop also plans to donate more than 800 books to Books for America on May 28.
Photo courtesy of Girl Scout Troop 3661.