A $10,000 state tourism grant will revamp how Arlington promotes its Black history to tourists.
Currently, the county’s tourism webpage outlines some of the important historic moments and existing landmarks. The landing page links to blog posts featuring Black businesses and artwork celebrating Arlington’s Black culture and history.
Travelers who want more can download a 68-page online tour guide last updated in 2016.
Arlington Convention and Visitors Service — the tourism division of Arlington Economic Development — wants to give the branding for these resources a facelift. And on Saturday, the Arlington County Board accepted a $10,000 grant from the Virginia Tourism Corporation to fund these upgrades.
“The Black Arlington experience is an incredibly representative one of American history and we are really excited to welcome in more tourists to learn about those landmarks and narratives,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said during the Saturday meeting.
The changes would make it easier to plan a trip engaging with Arlington’s Black history and support its Black-owned businesses.
“One idea is to create a customized map that highlights sites and experiences that honor and commemorate Arlington’s Black history across the County as well as showcase Black-owned business locations,” said ACVS director Emily Cassell. “We’re also considering adding suggested itineraries for visitors.”
The grant will pay for fresh photos, a professional video of major sights and digital assets for social media.
How Arlington celebrates its Black history has changed since the last reprinting of the tour guide.
Nauck — a historically Black neighborhood named for a Confederate soldier — was renamed Green Valley in 2020. The Nauck Town Square was dubbed the John Robinson Jr. Town Square and construction there on a new plaza and sculpture wrapped up this spring.
Last summer, Lee Highway was renamed Langston Blvd and Arlington Public Schools unveiled panels at Dorothy Hamm Middle School honoring the four students who integrated the building — formerly Stratford Junior High School — six decades ago.
Eventually, visitors will be able to see more historical reminders of Arlington’s Jim Crow era. The new Fire Station No. 8 (4845 Langston Blvd) will pay tribute to the Hall’s Hill Volunteer Fire Department, which served the historically Black neighborhood, and the forthcoming restaurant in the former Green Valley Pharmacy space will pay homage to the only lunch counter and pharmacy that served Black people during segregation.
Information like this is expected to migrate to a new tourism website that will go live next year.
“We are well into plans for a new website launching in 2023, and are actively working on improved and expanded tourism content across the board,” Cassell said. “We are very pleased that this new [funding] will help us enhance visitor experiences and better tell the story of Arlington’s African American heritage. We’re also thrilled with today’s ribbon cutting at The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington and look forward to our continued partnership.”
The grant will facilitate collaboration with other groups, too, including Arlington’s business improvement districts, neighborhood groups, libraries, the county’s Historic Preservation Program, Walk Arlington and Bike Arlington, according to the county report.
ACVS applied for the grant early this year as part of an effort to conduct strategic tourism planning as travel recovers from the pandemic, according to a county report. From February through May, ACVS heard from nearly 40 “local hospitality stakeholders” on ideas they thought could boost local tourism.
“Of numerous ideas considered, participants expressed enthusiasm for promoting visitor sites and experiences that showcase Arlington’s African American heritage,” the report said.
Other ideas for improving tourism, discussed in the report, include a more up-to-date calendar of events, more live music venues, and water taxi routes to Reagan National Airport, the Pentagon and Rosslyn.
The two Pike-centric organizations will host a joint grand opening celebration on Sept. 16 from 4- 6 p.m., on the first floor of the Ethiopian Community Development Council building at 3045B Columbia Pike. Local officials are expected to attend and the public is welcome to attend with an RSVP.
“The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington is excited about the grand re-opening of our museum in a new space!” the museum’s president Scott Taylor said in a statement. “We are so thankful to so many of you, who have been with us every step of the way so that this day would finally come again for us to display information and be a voice to many unsung Arlington heroes who have certainly a hand in making Arlington the great county/city it is today.”
We reported in May that the museum and the Columbia Pike Partnership (CPP) had found a new home a few blocks from their former one at 2611 Columbia Pike. Both were forced to vacate — along with all of the businesses at the Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center — due to the impending demolition and redevelopment of the shopping center.
It took about four months to settle into the space, CPP’s deputy director Amy McWilliams told ARLnow, but now they are ready to start welcoming the public. Their new home was originally intended as retail, not an office space, but with a majority of employees still working from home often the reconfiguration isn’t a big deal, said McWilliams.
Part of the office will be taken up by a display of photos from the Columbia Pike Documentary Project.
The Black Heritage Museum will be taking up a large chunk of space for its displays, exhibits, and artifacts. Museum president Scott Taylor said this allows the museum to display a few new artifacts and a couple of newer displays, including vintage items from an old drug store as well as photos of Arlington-raised singer Roberta Flack.
“A new space and change is always good,” Taylor wrote ARLnow in an email. “We still have some of this same items that we’ve always had in which is okay because there are still a lot of people who have not experienced us yet.”
Taylor told ARLnow in May that the museum was still hoping for its own space. With the county acquiring 3108 Columbia Pike, there remains a possibility the museum could go back to the building it occupied several years ago.
For now, the museum is once again sharing space with CPP and taking advantage of what they do have.
“Unfortunately we still don’t have as much space as we would like to have but we are making the best of what we do have and I can’t wait for everyone to see!” said Taylor.
The two local organizations are set to move by the end of the month into the first floor of the Ethiopian Community Development Council building at 3045 Columbia Pike, only a five minute walk from its current home at 2611 Columbia Pike. Among their new neighbors is a Subway sandwich shop.
They are moving because the shopping center is set for demolition and redevelopment. In March, the Arlington County Board officially greenlit turning the aging retail strip into “The Elliot.” The new building will feature 247 market-rate apartments above a grocery store (maybe an Amazon Fresh), a renovated CVS, and a relocated Burritos Bros.
What it won’t include is a number of the current tenants, including the partnership and the museum.
“When the news came that we would need to move, our Board of Directors decided it was important for the organization to have a presence on the Pike — people need to find us, and we need to stay in touch with the community as well,” CPP’s Amy McWilliams tells ARLnow. “After a long hunt, we found the space at 3045B Columbia Pike, and realized it could house the Columbia Pike Partnership as well as the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, continuing our collective partnership.”
Last year, the Black Heritage Museum moved into the offices of the partnership, then called the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. Sharing the space was supposed to be temporary as the museum looked for a permanent home.
That’s still the plan for this new space, says the museum’s president Scott Taylor, as the museum continues to search for a new location — possibly in its old home.
“We have just recently signed a two year contract with our new landlord. We will continue to strive for a permanent location,” says Taylor. “There is even some talk about us going back to 3108 Columbia Pike as the county has acquired that property and may allow us some room there when they complete the new project there.”
CPP and the museum hope to have the space open to the public by June 18.
With all businesses needing to vacate the shopping center by May 31, several others have closed or announced their next moves in recent months.
H&R Block closed earlier this year while CVS will move into a trailer during construction and, then, back into the new building when completed. Atilla’s, a Turkish restaurant and grocer that’s been there since the 1970s, is closing next weekend and is in search of a new location.
Legend Kicks, which re-opened in its current location in 2018, is also set to close and possible move, but it’s unclear where.
ARLnow reached out to the business and its owner, who also owns the still-yet-to-open Eska just down Columbia Pike in the former location of the Purple Lounge, but has not heard back as of publication time.
New Organ Debuts Tomorrow — “The new organ [at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Virginia Square] cost $1.2 million… Opus 28 arrived in Arlington on Oct. 3, 2021. For three weeks, Pasi put together the 500,000 parts that constitute it. He spent the next two months ‘voicing’ the organ: doing the painstaking adjustments necessary to make everything sound just right.” [Washington Post]
Reminder: Pizza Boxes Can Be Composted — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “There’s No ‘I’ in Food Scraps: Arlington viewers of ‘The Big Game’ can give 110% and go all in in the green curbside cart: pizza crusts and boxes, wing bones and greasy napkins. You won’t be denied.” [Twitter]
County Helping With Museum Renovations — “As efforts begin to renovate its museum, the Arlington Historical Society is working to embrace close collaboration where possible with the Arlington County government. Whether that will turn into a financial partnership remains to be seen, but county staff will be providing their knowledge to help the renovation move ahead.” [Sun Gazette]
Public Defender Pay Bill Fails — “A measure to equalize pay between staff of Virginia prosecutors and those working in public-defender’s offices died in a House of Delegates subcommittee. The measure, patroned by Del. Alfsono Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax), would have required localities that supplement the compensation of staff in its office of commonwealth’s attorney beyond state minimums to do the same for staff of a public defender’s office, if a locality has one.” [Sun Gazette]
Nearby: Scammers Impersonating Police — “Officers have received reports from community members who stated that callers contact them claiming to be members of a police department or sheriff’s department. The law enforcement impersonator may… tell the community member they missed a court appearance or jury duty [and] state they need to send money or a warrant will be issued for their arrest or they may turn themselves in to jail.” [City of Falls Church]
Snow Possible This Weekend — “Light to moderate snow could fall in the D.C. area on Super Bowl Sunday. But it’s still not clear whether it will snow hard enough or be cold enough for it to amount to much and have serious effects on the region.” [Capital Weather Gang]
It’s Thursday — Sunny, with a high near 55 today, and wind gusts as high as 21 mph. Sunrise at 7:04 a.m. and sunset at 5:40 p.m. Sunny again tomorrow, with a high near 57 and wind gusts as high as 22 mph. [Weather.gov]
New Restaurant Coming to Arlington Ridge — “Chef Seng Luangrath, the Laotian chef who has been recognized by Michelin and the James Beard Foundation, plans to open a new restaurant at a grocery-anchored retail center in South Arlington. Luangrath, whose restaurants include Thip Khao in Columbia Heights, has signed a lease with Edens for a roughly 3,500-square-foot space at the Arlington Ridge shopping center, according to marketing material and a source familiar with the situation.” [Washington Business Journal]
De Ferranti Looks Back at 2021 — “[Arlington County Board Chair Matt] de Ferranti’s year as chair began in early January 2021, and the surprises started early. ‘I did not expect to need to impose a curfew on my second full day as chair due to the rioting and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6,’ he noted. But addressing COVID and its myriad implications was the issue that was at the top of the to-do list for much of the year.” [Sun Gazette]
Metro Temporarily Reducing Bus Service — “Metro’s Pandemic Taskforce is taking swift actions to protect the health and safety of its customers and employees against the recent surge in COVID-19 variants. Due to growing absenteeism rates across service areas related to COVID illness and exposures, Metro is reducing service schedules and implementing new workforce actions effective Monday, January 10.” [WMATA, Twitter]
Ebbin, Favola Unscathed from Redistricting — “Forget hand-knitted sweaters, gift cards or stale fruit-based confections: Two state senators whose districts include Arlington may have gotten the best holiday gifts of them all. State Sens. Barbara Favola and Adam Ebbin have emerged from the redistricting sausage-making process with districts that they likely are pleased with.” [Sun Gazette]
ART Bus Changes Today — “On Wednesday, January 5, ART will operate *Severe* service on *Saturday* schedules due to unsafe road conditions. Routes 41, 45, 51, 55, 77, and 87 will operate with detours and possible delays. Route 87 will terminate at Pentagon City Metro, not at Pentagon. All other ART routes, including 42, will not operate. In addition to the ‘Severe’ detour, there will be no 77 service between Walter Reed/Columbia Pike and S. Courthouse/2nd St S due to unsafe road conditions.” [Arlington Transit]
Hope for History Museum Boosters — “The new year will not bring the beginning of the end of renovation of the Arlington Historical Museum. It won’t even bring the end of the beginning. But, Arlington Historical Society leaders fervently hope, 2022 will go down as the beginning of the beginning. Historical Society officials for the past year have been taking a two-pronged approach to renovating and possibly expanding the museum, located in the former Hume School in Arlington Ridge.” [Sun Gazette]
It’s Wednesday — Today there is a chance of rain or freezing rain before 8 a.m., then a chance of rain between 8-11 a.m. Mostly cloudy otherwise, with a high near 44 and a low of 26. South wind 8 to 11 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Sunrise at 7:27 a.m. and sunset at 5 p.m. Tomorrow will be partly sunny, with a high near 41 and a low of 30. Snow developing Thursday night into Friday. [Weather.gov]
Photo courtesy Niranjan Konduri
Storm Damage Closes Covid Testing Booth — From Arlington County: “The Curative testing kiosk at Virginia Highlands will be closed today and tomorrow (Sept. 20 & 21) as it repairs storm damage. Visit our other kiosks at Arlington Mill Community Center and Court House Plaza.” [Twitter]
Frank O’Leary Pushing for Museum Funding — “Now, in retirement, the former Arlington treasurer is equally unfiltered, when it comes to issues dear to his heart. And few, at the moment, are more dear to O’Leary than the effort to obtain the county government’s participation in funding renovation and expansion of the Arlington Historical Society’s Hume School museum. ‘It is time for our local government to step forward. Every local government in Northern Virginia – except Arlington – has fully funded one or more local museums,’ he said.” [Sun Gazette]
Inner Ear’s Visual Art — “Don Zientara is known for his ears. I wanted to hear about his eyes. ‘Right here is a painting by Jay Stuckey, who was a punk rocker in D.C.,’ says Zientara, showing me around the control room at his famed Inner Ear Recording Studios in Arlington… After more than 30 years in this former Hair Cuttery training center, Inner Ear is closing, making way for redevelopment.” [Washington Post]
Arlington GOP Comms Director Quoted — “Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has called Republicans hypocritical for greenlighting trillions in spending under former President Donald Trump only to turn around and object under President Biden. Matthew Hurtt, who became active in politics during the tea party’s rise and is communications director for the Arlington County Republican Committee in Virginia, said Mr. Schumer ‘has got a good point… our tribal politics means frequently people don’t hold their own side accountable.'” [Wall Street Journal]
Flickr pool photo by C Buoscio
Another Rosslyn Redevelopment Planned — “Rosslyn’s aging Xerox Building could soon be replaced with a massive new apartment complex, as the neighborhood’s older properties continue to steadily redevelop. The investment advisory firm TIAA, which owns the building, and its real estate arm, Nuveen, filed plans in Arlington County last month calling for the full overhaul of the property at 1616 Fort Myer Drive. In its place, the companies hope to build a 691-unit apartment building reaching up to 30 stories tall.” [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington History Museum Reopens — “Having reopened its museum to the public on the nation’s 245th birthday, leaders of the Arlington Historical Society are now looking ahead to completing a top-to-bottom renovation and reimagining of the facility in time for the nation’s 250th… The museum is located in the 19th-century Hume School, located on Arlington Ridge Road. It came into the society’s possession 60 years ago, and is showing its age.” [Sun Gazette]
Last Week’s Tornado, As Seen from D.C. — “Lightning softly flickered inside the body of the storm. The shelf cloud, a smoothed and rounded arc fanning outward just above the ground, was lit from below as it tumbled over the urban glow of Ballston, Clarendon and Rosslyn… I began fixating on a ringed, collar-shaped cloud above the curtains of rain. Shortly before 9 p.m., the lowest portion of the cloud appeared to be curling inward, deviating from the storm’s heading.” [Capital Weather Gang]
Local Swim Club Update — “The Overlee Flying Fish defeated the Donaldson Run Thunderbolts in a rare all-Arlington matchup in the Northern Virginia Swimming League. Overlee won, 236-184, on July 3, keeping the Flying Fish tied for first with the Tuckahoe Tigers at 3-0 in Division 1. Donaldson Run fell to 0-3.” [Sun Gazette]
Nearby: Alexandria Removes SROs — The Alexandria City Council has voted to remove School Resource Officers from city schools, despite opposition to the move from the School Board. Last month the Arlington School Board voted to move SROs off school grounds. [ALXnow]
(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) A new exhibit at Arlington National Cemetery honors the contributions of servicewomen of color to the United States.
The exhibit, called “The Color of Freedom: Honoring the Diversity of America’s Servicewomen,” opened over the weekend at the Military Women’s Memorial, located at the end of Memorial Avenue near the cemetery’s main entrance.
Arlington resident Rita Paul, who joined the military as a single mother and spent nine years in the U.S. Army, welcomed the news of the exhibit.
“Right now, it is hard to see what is going on in our country surrounding people of color, specifically women,” Paul said. “As a servicewoman, there has always been a sense of honor and pride, and I think now, more than ever, if we can highlight the importance of positive representation, it will help make a difference.”
After retiring from the military, she started working for Comcast, which is sponsoring the exhibit.
“Women veterans of color have and will continue to play an integral role in our nation’s military and service institutions,” said Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Carol Eggert, Senior Vice President of Military & Veteran Affairs at Comcast NBCUniversal, in a statement. “We’re proud to elevate their voices and stories of service to our nation’s defense.”
Visitors to The Color of Freedom will also have access to an educational program for students, a speaker forum and a digital exhibit.
“This exhibit is a perfect example of the extraordinary, yet untold story of the thousands of women of color who for decades upon decades have made remarkable contributions to our military and to America,” said Phyllis Wilson, President at the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation.
The Military Women’s Memorial recently announced the National Registration campaign to preserve the stories of the three million women who have served in the military.
Those planning a visit can reserve timed tickets for free.
Photo via Military Women’s Memorial/Facebook
(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) There was one question that ran through the mind of Zeb Armstrong, a newlywed from South Carolina recently drafted for service in the Vietnam War.
“Will I return?”
It was a question Armstrong etched onto his bunk in a magic marker, alongside hundreds of other messages and images from countless young men taking a journey many wouldn’t return from. The 18-21 day trip from the West Coast to Vietnam aboard the USNS General Nelson Walker left a lot of time for soldiers to get homesick or anxious about the journey ahead. Though against regulations, drawing on the canvas beds became a widespread past-time.
Yesterday (Tuesday), a traveling exhibit called the Vietnam Graffiti Project stopped at CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization in Clarendon that works on improving efficiency and effectiveness of military operations. For one day, canvases covered with years of doodling from soldiers covered the walls of the offices, and co-founder Art Beltrone spoke with CNA personnel about their stories.
The ship started its service in the final days of WWII then ferried troops to and from the Korean War and the Vietnam War. After Vietnam, the ship was put into the James River Reserve fleet — the Ghost Fleet — to be reactivated in case of an emergency. It sat there virtually untouched until Beltrone visited the ship with Jack Fisk — a production designer doing research for The Thin Red Line — and stumbled on rooms littered with relics from the war sitting exactly as they’d been left when the last soldiers disembarked.
When he found out the ship was scheduled to be scrapped, Beltrone said he and his wife asked the military if they could recover the canvases and other items to preserve the memory of the soldiers who traveled on the ship. The ship was taken apart in Texas in 2005, but Beltrone had recovered the graffiti from inside the ships.
“We did not want to see that material lost and those men forgotten,” Beltrone said. “It’s not just an artifact. It’s someone talking back to us through time.”
Then the work began on telling those stories. Many of them signed their work and left messages about their hometowns or loved ones, which made looking them up easier. Beltrone said he still gets emotional when they read the little notes drawn on the canvas about insecurities and homesickness — only to find that the person who wrote them was ultimately killed in Vietnam.
It’s probably not something on most local tourism agendas, but if you wanted to check out the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum and Visitors Center, you’d better do it soon.
The museum, at 700 Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City, will be closing for over a year as part of a headquarters-wide renovation.
Clarion Partners, the landlord for the DEA headquarters, received an $11.5 million incentive grant from the Arlington County Board in April to keep the DEA in Pentagon City. Clarion Partners agreed to invest $82 million into a full renovation of the headquarters and to secure temporary space in Crystal City.
The final day for the museum is scheduled for Saturday, July 20. The museum is planning to reopen in fall 2020.
Admission to the DEA Museum is free. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. All guests older than 18 must present I.D.
Photo via DEA/Facebook
The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington is hosting a talk with local civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland.
On Tuesday, April 30, the Museum will hold a talk with Mulholland, who hails from Arlington and who will share her experiences as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
“She is known for taking part in sit-ins, being the first white to integrate Tougaloo College in Jackson Mississippi, joining the Delta Sigma Theta, joining Freedom Rides, and being held on death row in Parchman Penitentiary,” the museum said in a press release about the upcoming event.
Mulholland’s stories were previously chronicled in the 2013 documentary, “An Ordinary Hero.”
The event is free and will start at 7 p.m. in the Reinsch Library Auditorium at Marymount University (2807 N. Glebe Road).
Image courtesy of Black Heritage Museum