Histories of Arlington Neighborhoods and Civic Organizations
From the Web pages of CivFed members
The histories below appear on neighborhood or civic organization Web sites. For a history of Arlington, the
Arlington Historical Society has a pamphlet called Historic Arlington that you can access chapter by chapter from the linked page.
Alcova Heights is the neighborhood between Glebe Road, George Mason Drive, Arlington Boulevard and Columbia Pike.
Alcova Heights was given its name by real estate developer J. Cloyd Byars. "Alcova" stands for Alexandria County, Virginia. In 1921, Byars bought 142 acres from the Columbia Land Company and sold the lots for five cents a square foot. Byars laid out many streets, naming them Azalea Street (Quincy Street), Marconi Avenue (8th Street), Deepwood Avenue (9th Street), Springhill Street (Lincoln Street), Virginia Street (Monroe Street), and Linden Avenue (Oakland Street).
Byars� home, which he also called Alcova, is the oldest in this community. It was built before the Civil War as a tenant farmhouse on the estate of William Young, who had bought the property in 1850. During the Civil War, Alcova, also known as "Spring Hill Farm" and "Columbia Place", was occupied by Union soldiers and many buildings were destroyed. For "military purposes" all the fences were taken down, the animals confiscated and the main house burned. In 1878, the Young family received $3,198 in compensation for these losses. The Alcova house has undergone many changes over the years, and is now a County landmark.
By the time that Mr. Byars began developing the neighborhood, the population of the whole County was rapidly increasing and Alcova Heights became a popular spot to live. The trolley line was less than a mile from "Hunter�s Crossroads", the intersection of Columbia Pike and Glebe Road. Telephone service had reached the community, and after 1928 water and sewer services were available.
Alcova Heights in 1921 was regarded as a very accessible community. It was bordered by two surfaced highways, Columbia Pike and Glebe Road. Trolley service to Washington, Rosslyn, and Alexandria was available less than a mile down Columbia Pike, at the intersection with what is now Walter Reed Drive.
Transportation was further improved when Bob May and his wife started a bus service - consisting of one bus and one driver, Mr. May - operating between their home in Barcroft and Washington. It was known as the Columbia Pike Bus Line, and the first Barcroft-to-Washington trip was made June 21, 1921. In 1924 service from Washington to Alexandria was added and the line became the AB&W Rapid Transit Company.
The nearest elementary school in the early 1920s was Columbia, located on Columbia Pike at Walter Reed Drive. For "higher education," students traveled to Washington, until the opening of Thomas Jefferson Junior High School and Washington-Lee Senior High School in 1925.
Arlington Hall, now the site of the State Department Arlington Hall, was built in the 1920s as a select school for girls, Swidells Junior College. It went bankrupt in 1930, but managed to keep going until the Army took over the rural campus in the 1940s. The first headquarters of the Defense Intelligence Agency was in this installation. Many of the homes of Alcova Heights are built on the former grounds of this old institution.
Most of the single family homes in Alcova Heights were built between 1921 and 1950. There are least two Sears houses among them. Over the past 50 years, a number of additional single family homes have been added through infill development. The Dundree Knolls townhouse condominium along Columbia Pike was constructed in the mid-1980�s.
On January 21, 1966, the Alcova Heights Citizens Association was organized. Until this time, Alcova Heights had been included in the territory of the Columbia Pike Citizens Association. There were 80 Charter members and Dr. Mosely served as the first President.
Throughout its history, Alcova Heights has been a popular place to live, because of its relatively inexpensive homes, large lots, easy access and recreational amenities such as Alcova Heights Park. These same factors are at work today ensuring that it remains so.
The neighborhood lying on both sides of Arlington Boulevard where Lubber Run and Park Drive cross.
Most of the 850 homes in Arlington Forest were built by Meadowbrook, Inc., Monroe Warren, President. The architect for the initial homes was Robert O. Scholz.
In 1939, ground was broken for the first homes on Lee Boulevard (now called Arlington Boulevard) and South Park Drive in the Southside section.
In 1940, Meadowbrook Company started building homes in the Northside section (north of Lee Boulevard and east of Lubber Run).
In 1941, Meadowbrook Company started building homes in the Greenbrier section (north of Arlington Boulevard and west of Lubber Run).
Historical Note: Much of this land had been part of the Henderson estate. Henderson was a U.S. Senator from Missouri who is remembered for introducing the thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution and voting against the impeachment of President Johnson.
Early Forest history says that the Lubber Run Recreation Center is located on the site of the Henderson mansion.
The shopping center was also constructed in 1941. The first business opened was the Forest Delicatessen, Jack and Pauline Cohen, Proprietors.
Beginning in 1949, M. T. Broyhill added other homes between North Granada Street and Carlin Spring Road. These homes became part of the Greenbrier section.
During more recent history, the homes south of Arlington Boulevard on South Edison Street were added to the Southside section. Homes on North 1st Place off Carlin Springs Road were added to the Greenbrier section. And the homes on North Second Street near North Henderson Road were assimilated into the Northside section.
Many of our homes, throughout Arlington Forest, have been renovated, remodeled and expanded. Our more modern families favor bigger and better designed kitchens; additional space in the living area and adding a bedroom or two. A bathroom on the first floor--or in the basement--has also made many Foresters happy. Our "need" to do something to our homes has kept a number of contractors fully employed for the entire history Arlington Forest--and we aren't finished yet.
1980 CENSUS NEIGHBORHOOD 29
Twenty years ago Arlington Forest was included in the Census "Arlington's Neighborhood 29." In that census we learned some interesting statistics about ourselves. The following data are extracted from The Forester for December 1983.
2,257 people lived in the Forest, 1.5 percent of Arlington's total population.
Our median age was 34.8 years, the whole county's median age was 32.7 years.
Of the 679 family households in the Forest, 86 percent were maintained by married couples.
Our melting pot: English ancestry = 261; German ancestry = 164; Irish ancestry = 141;
7.7 percent of us were first generation immigrants.
Of 654 young persons: 75 were in nursery school; 322 in K-8 grades; 121 in high school; 136 in college.
Of persons over 25 years: 92.7 percent had completed high school; 41.4 had completed 4 or more years of college.
Some 47.1 percent of Foresters reported themselves as veterans.
Transportation: 53.3 percent of 1980 Foresters drove alone to work, 18.2 in car pools and only 20.4 in public transportation.
The Forest's unemployment rate was only 1.9 percent; 63.4 percent of our population was in the workforce, including 55.7 percent of females.
In 1979, the median income for Forest households was $32,511, for family households it was $36.375.
Of 837 occupied housing units 81.1 were owner occupied, 18.9 by renters, 13 units were vacant-all rental units.
Median value of Forest houses was $87,700, compared to $92,900 for the entire county.
Foresters were a stable group: 60.5 percent of householders had lived in their units for 10 years or more.
The United States is working on its 2000 Census. We can look forward to new data against which to compare the above 20 year-old statistics. It's sure to be interesting.
Founded in 1981, AGLA has grown to a membership of more than 300 members. AGLA began as the Arlington chapter of the Virginia Gay Alliance, an organization formed to address gay rights issues from a local and state perspective. Within a few years, the organization became the Northern Virginia Gay Alliance. After the Virginia Gay Alliance was discontinued, group was renamed as the Arlington Gay Alliance. In the late 1980s, we changed our name to the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance.
Our early goals focused on the very basics of visibility and equal rights. Our first accomplishment was securing the support of then Arlington County Board Chairman Ellen Bozman to appoint openly gay men and lesbians to county advisory boards and commissions. At the time, around 1982, this generated some controversy.
Another area of focus during the 1980s was the organization of candidates� forums. In the early years of the candidates� forums, few people running for office would agree to speak to an openly gay audience and virtually all that did speak represented the Democratic Party. During this time, AGLA also worked on education efforts with the Arlington County Police in response to the arrests of gay men in sting operations at county public restrooms.
The Arlington County Board�s passage of the Arlington Human Rights Ordinance in 1990 galvanized AGLA and propelled it toward the mission it fulfills today. The County Board at that time believed it could not include sexual orientation as a protected category in the ordinance because the state �Dillion Rule� limits the county�s powers to those permitted by the state. Instead, the county included a non-enforceable form of sexual orientation protection in the ordinance and told AGLA that, if the organization could come up with a legal means, the board would add enforceable protections later.
AGLA sought help from the Lambda Legal Defense organization in drafting a legal opinion and then, in 1991, established the cornerstones on which the organization stands today. AGLA defined itself as a social, nonpartisan political, and community service organization and began performing and publicizing our community service work.
We specifically decided to perform regular community service projects in conjunction with straight, community-based organizations as a means of familiarizing the community with AGLA and educating straight Arlingtonians about gays and lesbians. Our work included joining the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and exhibiting positive images at the family-oriented Arlington County Fair. Additionally, AGLA used our community service approach to build political support among elected officials.
By November 1992, AGLA had become highly visible, had built public and political support, and had received a legal opinion that the county could provide enforceable human rights protections. As more than 100 gay men and lesbians cheered, the county board decreed that discrimination against gay men and lesbians in Arlington is illegal. So far, the legal opinion has never been challenged in court and the Human Rights Commission has investigated and won cases for gay men and lesbians who have been discriminated against.
Meanwhile, we continued our social and political activities, generating greater attendance and participation at candidates forums. With the initial county board election campaign by openly gay AGLA member Jay Fisette, Arlington gays and lesbians became even more visible. Although Fisette lost that election, the visibility propelled AGLA to greater political power.
By the mid 1990s, the organization began to focus on generating partner benefits for gay and lesbian county employees. Working with county board members, and securing another legal opinion, AGLA was successful in 1997 in securing this landmark benefit in Virginia. The community service approach, that had served AGLA well during the Human Rights Ordinance quest, also continued to build community support in the face of some citizen objection to the partner benefits.
During these years, the organization also placed greater emphasis on increasing membership and participation among women and minorities. We have achieved success that continues to build. In 1997, Arlington gays and lesbians took pride in the election of Jay Fisette as the county�s first openly gay board member. AGLA itself, however, remained non-partisan as an organization during the election.
Today, AGLA thrives as an organization that offers an enormous variety of activities to bring together gay men and lesbians in a positive, supportive, and fun environment. We host regular social events attended by scores of people, hold well attended candidates forums at which candidates from all parties seek gay and lesbian votes, and remain highly active in our community service program.
The Arlington Heritage Alliance is the only private, nonprofit organization in Arlington County devoted to the protection and promotion of Arlington's historic and natural resources. It was established in 1989 by local citizens who believe that as Arlington moves forward, the County must not lose the very resources and qualities that are among its greatest assets.
Arlington Village residences consist of one, two, and three bedroom townhouses situated on approximately forty-two acres of rolling topography in south Arlington. Contractor Gustave Ring and architect Harvey Warwick originally developed the property between 1938 and 1941 with funding from tile Federal Housing Administration, Arlington Village was operated as a rental community until 1980 when the Holladay Corporation began conversion of 595 townhouses into Arlington Village Townhouse Condominium. This is wily Arlington Village is termed a conversion condominium. The renovation was done in phases and completed in 1985, during which many long time residents purchased their units.
The Barcroft community traces its history to the time of George Washington, who surveyed the land and may have built a gristmill here. George Washington Parke Custis later built the Arlington Mill on Four Mile Run near Columbia Pike. Custis' mill was destroyed during the Civil War.
Barcroft neighborhood owes its name to Dr. John Wolverton Barcroft, who built and operated a mill after the Civil War on the foundations of the Arlington Mill. It was said to have the largest mill wheel on the east coast.
Dr. Barcroft, a physician and inventor, had also owned a mill further west on Columbia Pike beyond Baileys Crossroads, for which Lake Barcroft is named. Thanks to one of his descendents we have some geneological data on him.
The earliest homes in the neighborhood were built near Columbia Pike beginning about 1892 as the subdivision of Corbett. This area was resubdivided under the "Barcroft" name in 1903. The community grew to the north and east, and homes gradually filled in the area of the current Barcroft neighborhood. From 1918 through the 1950's, builder Walter O'Hara and his son Robert built several hundred Barcroft homes in a variety of styles. The neighborhood also has at least one Sears home and one Lustron enameled steel home. Today the central part of Barcroft has a mix of homes built between the 1880's and the 1980's, most of them more than 30 years old. Beginning in the 1960's, townhouses and apartment buildings were built on the edges of the neighborhood along Columbia Pike, South George Mason Drive and Arlington Boulevard.
The neighborhood's first retail establishment was a country store built about 1885 and owned by Oscar Haring. It was located on Columbia Pike at Four Mile Run.
Oscar Haring's store gave way to the Barcroft Shopping Center in 1949, and other retail establishments now line Columbia Pike.
In the early years of the twentieth century, many Barcroft families commuted to Washington on the railroad along Four Mile Run now known as the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD). The first rail line was built in 1850, with the stop at Columbia Pike handling passengers, grain for the mill and live animals.
The rail connection was important until paved roads offered more convenience for motorized vehicles. A bus service began in 1919, and gradually the rail service was withdrawn, ending in 1968. Although the Barcroft Station was demolished in 1974, most of Barcroft's workers still commute to employment in the District of Columbia by automobile, bus, metrorail and bicycle.
Barcroft's neighborhood civic association, originally known as the Barcroft Citizens Association, has been in continuous operation since 1908. The name was changed that same year to The Barcroft School and Civic League (BSCL) when the Barcroft School moved into the newly constructed Barcroft Community House at 8th Street South and South Buchanan Street. The school moved to its present location on South Wakefield Street in 1925. The Barcroft Community House has now been designated as a local Historic District, and is the neighborhood's most important landmark.
The community's first newspaper, a tiny but well written neighborhood newsletter, was published for a time in 1903. Publication resumed in later years, and the Barcroft News still chronicles neighborhood events.
Throughout its history as a neighborhood, Barcroft has been a quiet residential area whose residents prize its tranquility, ease of access to the District of Columbia, and friendly neighbors.
Bellevue Forest is a quiet neighborhood of single-family homes in the northern reaches of Arlington County. It nestles between Military Road and the George Washington Memorial Parkway (overlooking the Potomac River) on the west and east, and Gulf Branch and Donaldson Run and Potomac Overlook Regional Park on its north and south. Approximately 415 families make their home on large, wooded parcels of land.
From an historical perspective, our neighborhood began its march toward its present configuration nearly 2 billion years ago, and the events of the Paleozoic, pre-Cambrian Age, as well as the Mesozoic's Triassic and Jurassic periods had a dramatic effect on the development of our land into modern times. It certainly distinguished our development from that of our more southerly neighbors in Arlington and Alexandria.
It was during the pre-Cambrian time when molten rock from beneath the earth's crust, began to cool. Granite bedrock in the area is found from 300 feet above sea level in northern and western Arlington to 700 feet below sea level in the Potomac River to the south and east. The result, in a nutshell, was the formation of the "fall line," the broad, irregular zone where the Piedmont and Coastal Plain meet, where abrupt changes in stream gradients are marked by falls and rapids. The Palisades, steep embankments along the Potomac River between Rosslyn and Chain Bridge, testify to our geological history.
Continued tilting, folding, and faulting ultimately gave rise to the earliest swamps and first signs of life in Arlington, estimated at 100,000,000 years ago (Cretaceous). Gravel, sand, and clay were washed into our area during the Mesozoic era and the Tertiary periods of the Cenozoic era as well as during the late-Tertiary and Quaternary periods (55,000,000 years ago).
The animals, contemporary residents as well as cougar and undoubtedly a few black bear, and before them the dinosaurs, wandered the hills of Bellevue Forest and surrounding areas. Trees and early ancestors of our smaller plants took root in the soil for millions of years before humans arrived.
Much is known of the Necostin Indians, the Native Americans who first met Captain John Smith in the early 1600's. However, Bellevue Forest, because of its close proximity to the Potomac, Gulf Branch and Donaldson Run, was also home, however migratory, to the earliest known populations. Evidence around Bellevue Forest has been found to document the presence of nomadic hunters during the Paleo-Indian Period (10,000 - 7,000 B.C.); during the Archaic Period (8,000 - 2,000 B.C.), when major climatic changes occurred and food gathering was added to hunting as a means of sustenance; during the Transitional Period (2,000 - 500 B.C.), when hunting and gathering was supplemented with fowling, fishing, and oystering, and during the Early Woodland (500 B.C. - 950 A.D.) when agriculture began and when small dispersed villages appeared. During the Late Woodland (950 A.D. - 1600 A.D.), agriculture became more widely practiced and villages were established. Settlements moved from the highest grounds to areas along streams and the Potomac River (but still out of reach of flooding). The Indians began to grow tobacco, mostly for ceremonial purposes, and to weave fabric. C.B. Rose's book, Arlington County, Virginia has a map clearly showing an Indian village site between Gulf Branch and Donaldson Run, today's Bellevue Forest. It was Native Americans from the Powhatan Confederacy who greeted Captain John Smith in 1608. Just seventy years later, there were no Indians residing in Arlington although the Iroquois' practice of raiding continued to be a deterrent to development until at least 1719.
Just as Smith was stopped by the falls during his first visit to the area in 1608, so, too, was development much slower to reach North Arlington than the communities to the east and south. Arlington, unlike Alexandria, had no natural ports. There were no easy routes to the west; the topography was hilly, punctuated by soaring cliffs and steep ravines. Development was slow, and the area of North Arlington remained relatively quiet and truly "country" during the earliest periods of our country's settlement.
The history of Bellevue Forest that most closely parallels the emergence of the American colonies begins with King Charles II who granted land to his loyal followers. (See Appendix I for a complete chronology). In 1690, this grant was further defined as that land "between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers to their first heads or springs" and was consolidated under one proprietor, Thomas, Fifth Lord Fairfax.
Thomas Lee, proprietary agent for the Northern Neck, patented lands (1719) immediately to Bellevue Forest's north, from Gulf Branch, including the mouth of Pimmit Run, to control the riverbank. Five years later, Colonel George Mason received a grant for two hundred fifty acres two miles below the Little Falls (1724). The following year, Richard Taylor received an inland grant for 280 acres adjoining the Mason patent (1725). Moving forward to 1767, Colonel George Mason's grant of 250 acres was regranted to his son, George Mason of Gunston Hall. In 1778, Richard Arrell received a grant for 15 unclaimed acres south of Gulf Branch between the Lee and Mason grants. Arrell's tract was regranted (presumably from colonial authorities -1796) as 12.5 acres to the heirs of Lewis Hipkins, who had died in 1794. Modern-day Bellevue Forest was carved from and is part of the land history of the Taylor, Mason and Hipkins Grants. (See Appendix II for the title chain for Bellevue Forest and Appendix III for the street breakdown of current homes.)
While development continued apace in the southern part of Arlington County during the 1700's and early 1800's, the land that is now Bellevue Forest remained virtually unchanged. By the mid-1800's, because Bellevue Forest stems from three historical tracts of land, the history gets somewhat complicated.
The river portion of the Mason Tract had been purchased by the Simmons family, "the first known residents of the area". Their home was located "about 100 feet northeast" of a holly tree, perhaps the oldest tree in Northern Virginia, on what was the Horatio Reid home on Roberts Lane. The Simmons' daughter Mary and her husband George Reid subsequently built a barn and storage shed for his strawberry business. At its peak, 120 crates of strawberries were taken daily to Washington wholesalers for shipment.
In 1851, the land abutting what is now Military Road was acquired by Gilbert Vanderwerken to pasture a herd of horses that he used for his omnibuses from Aqueduct Bridge to the Navy Yard. Many gardeners of the 21st century have noted how fertile our soil seems! One notable physical alteration was made to the landscape during the Civil War, when, in the fall of 1861, Military Road was built to connect Fort Ethan Allen with Lee Highway and forts further down the river. "This road, about three miles long, was laid out mainly through a broken and densely wooded country. In part, it is the Military Road of today, and it was built in three days.
Shortly after the Civil War, a home that would figure prominently in the development of Bellevue Forest was built on Glebe Road. "Bellevue", at 3311 North Glebe Road, was built, in part, of timbers used in the construction of Fort Ethan Allen. The estate extended to the palisades "through a wilderness". The story of the home, which came to be known as Grunwell's Bellevue, is a story best told in the words of its source, Eleanor Lee Templeman:
Just after the Civil War, Lieutenant Alfred Grunwell was stationed at a camp on Minor Hill to the west. One day he became lost in the woods of the Vanderwerken farm while attempting a short cut to Chain Bridge. He emerged from the forest to find himself on the lawn of a house. On the veranda a pretty young lady was reading. With cap in hand, he inquired the way, but added a few caustic remarks concerning the worthlessness of the country through which he had been floundering. It happened that the criticized area belonged to her father, and she promptly took exception to his uncomplimentary remarks. However, her mettle must have been amused and interested the young officer, for he henceforth formed a habit of getting lost at every opportunity. By the time the troops were demobilized, he had acquired an advancement to captaincy and a bride (Jane Vanderwerken). Their children were Charles Grunwell�and John Grunwell�.
It was Charles and John who would one day develop Bellevue Forest. (Charles Grunwell, as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and a member of the site selection Commission for the new courthouse, pleaded to have the courthouse built in its current location rather than in the more populated southern part of the county.)
Captain Grunwell took Jane to Florida where he was stationed during the difficult reconstruction period. His fairness and popularity in "alien territory" are proven by his subsequent election to public offices in Florida, first as county clerk and then as judge. They returned to Arlington at the time of the death of Mrs. Grunwell's brother Charles Vanderwerken, who had been manager of the family's quarry business. The elder Mr. Vanderwerken asked Judge Grunwell to take over the management, and as an additional inducement provided the home, Bellevue.
At around the same time that "Bellevue" was built, part of Bellevue Forest was surveyed in July of 1866 by Oliver Cox, pastor of Mount Olivet Church. The Reid farm was the object of the survey, in anticipation of a sale of part of the land to the Gardiner family who purchased a ten-acre plot that "included the mouth of Donaldson Run and property up over the crest of the palisades." In 1876, this plot was mortgaged to George W. Linville who in turn foreclosed in 1893.
During the 1880's, Horatio Reid, the son of Mary Ellen Simmons and George Reid, built a home "on the crest of the gentle rise west of the homestead". It was constructed of sturdy dovetailed timbers on a dry-wall stone foundation two feet thick. (The Reid home burned down before 1900, but its basic structure is that of the Rathbone (Wyatt) house built in 1946.)
The 1900's arrived, and still the lands of Bellevue Forest remained primarily farm and forest. In the early part of the century, only one change appears to have occurred. In or around 1906, William Florian Roberts purchased the ten-acre Linville tract and later the 31 acre Reid farm. On this land he built a summer home, designed by his friend and noted architect Appleton P. Clark. The home was located at the brink of a cliff with a wonderful view from the front porch. Stone for the structure was quarried from the palisades, and the stone mantel was "donkey-hauled" up the cliffs. The trees on the property were cut for the log walls. "Glenmore", the name of the estate, was reached primarily by boat from Fletcher's Boat House. Guests enjoyed horseback riding, parties and oyster roasts.
Elsewhere in Arlington, towns were developing, commerce was progressing. Abingdon, Barcroft, Virginia Highlands, Nauck, Bon Air, High View Park, Hall's Hill, Cherrydale, Clarendon, Ballston, Fort Myers Heights, Rosslyn and other "neighborhoods" were all establishing identities. There were still few "cross county" roads in Arlington, with the "Road to the Falls" (Glebe Road) being the most important. Most homes had no indoor plumbing. Sanitation was achieved through privies; water came from wells, often several blocks away from most homes. Refrigeration was rare, and most lamps still burned kerosene.
Many of the modern conveniences enjoyed by most Arlingtonians today came during the first three decades of the 20th century. The "Clean-Up" campaign (a campaign to clean up the politics and some of the more nefarious doings of the area) succeeded by 1903. The first volunteer fire department was established that year. The first road (a portion of Wilson Boulevard) was paved in 1909. Zoning ordinances came into effect in 1914, and the first Boy Scout Troop, the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, and the Civic Federation were created in 1916 (some documents suggest 1914). The first motorized fire fighting equipment was introduced in 1918, and an Office of Public Health was established in 1919. By 1920, Arlington had been given its official name and the beginnings of its legislative identity. The 1920's and 1930's saw the completion of Arlington National Cemetery, the completion of Key Bridge (1923), the first plumbing ordinance (1925), hook-up to a water source (1926), the completion of Memorial Bridge (1932), the installation of a sewerage system and sewerage treatment plant (1936), completed plans for Arlington Hospital (1938), and the opening of Madison School (1939).
Bellevue Forest was finally ready to emerge from its woodland setting. On December 23, 1938, the Grunwell brothers filed the first section of a plat for the 120-acre subdivision named Bellevue Forest after their family home. John Grunwell played a leading role in the development, bringing to bare his skills as an architect and surveyor.
Bellevue Forest was platted in eighteen sections over a period of twenty years. Similar to many post-Depression, pre-World War II subdivisions, it was planned with broad, curvilinear streets. T-intersections and cul-de-sacs were carefully planned. Lot sizes were also large, generally between one-third and one-half acre at a time when most construction was built on 5,000 square foot lots. It was designed around its natural setting, with irregularly shaped lots and relatively few sidewalks. Large, mature trees were left standing to insure the feel of "a suburban haven set amidst peaceful natural surroundings".
As was common in Virginia during at least the late 1930's onward, covenants were put in place to "protect" and insure "homogeneity" for the first platted section. There were twenty-one in all (See Appendix IV), and although clear reproductions can no longer be made, they included some of the following prohibitions. There were to be no "use of any temporary structure as a habitation, �lot-line fences, �noxious things, �nuisance to the neighborhood, �farm animals, �signs and �disturbing noise". There were other restrictions against "businesses and manufacturing establishments, public entertainment, schools, dance halls, resorts, and other public facilities." Two covenants prohibited apartments. Another sought to control the appearance of the streetscape. 'No structure shall be built upon or moved onto any lot unless it shall conform to and be in harmony with existing structures in the immediate locality.' The construction or alteration of any structure was likewise regulated:
No building shall be constructed or erected on the above described land and no alteration of any building shall be made unless the specification and plans therefore and the lot plan showing the proposed location of the dwelling and driveways shall be first submitted to the owners of the subdivision aforesaid and approved by them, and no changes shall be made by them without the written consent of said owners, and copies of said lot plan and plans and specifications shall have been lodged permanently with them.
The seventh and 15th covenants set minimum lot sizes, initially of 6,000 square feet and later of 8,000 square feet. The approval of other property owners was required before a lot could be subdivided.
Final mention goes to a covenant typical of the time period, one that "followed national convention by reinforcing racial and ethnic homogeneity and�clearly set aside Bellevue Forest for mainstream, middle-class families:"
No lot or lots hereby conveyed, or any interest in it or them, shall ever be used, occupied by, sold, demised, transferred, conveyed unto, or in trust for, leased, rented, or given, to negros [sic], or any person or persons of Negro blood or extraction, or to any person of the semetic [sic] race, blood, or origin, which racial description shall be deemed to include Armenians, Jews, Hebrews, Persians and Syrians, except that, this paragraph shall not be held to exclude occupancy of the premises by domestic servants of the owner or owners of said lot or lots, his or their heirs or assigns.
Part of our history, part of our past, the covenants on the original section of Bellevue Forest expired in 1965.
It is thought that the Grunwells made it a policy to file an additional section of the plat only after the majority of lots in the previous section sold. Two more sections were filed close on the heels of the first; Section Two was filed in 1940 and Section Three in 1941. Altogether, these comprised the first 146 lots in Bellevue Forest. A total of 28 houses were completed before the shortages brought by World War II ground residential construction to a halt.
After the war, the Grunwells formed Bellevue Forest Corporation and hired real estate broker George Mason Green, "a very prominent older gentleman and very well received and liked", as corporation president and exclusive agent. Post-war construction grew gradually. One house was built in 1946; three in 1947; eight in 1948; nine in 1949; nineteen in 1950. Construction accelerated rapidly in the 1950's, with 70 houses being built between 1951 and 1953. The plats for Section Four were filed in 1947 and for Section Five, in 1951 for a total of 199 lots. Covenants for those and all other sections platted after the war were amended to allow "Armenians, Jews, Persians and Syrians" to purchase land. Bellevue Forest Corporation was given decision-making powers previously granted property owners.
The earliest homes built in Bellevue Forest reflected a number of the styles that enjoyed national popularity at that time: English Tudor, English Cottage and Colonial Revival. Also incorporated into the neighborhood was the relatively rare International Style. The Art Moderne home of 1940 is another of the interesting styles in Bellevue Forest.
The majority of the homes erected in Bellevue Forest before the war were either story and a-half Minimal Traditional, as shown in this 1940 home, [photos on the Belleview site] or Basic or Middle Ranch houses. This Contemporary style Ranch Rambler drew influence from the International style.
Beginning in 1954, development patterns changed in Bellevue Forest. Trees were stripped from the lots, and houses with similar facades and plans were built side by side. Nearly 150 of these houses were built between 1954 and 1958. Although they were similar in appearance, they offered the luxuries of the time. Mr. Gene May was the principal builder of many of the homes in Bellevue Forest during the 1950's. It was during this period that Bellevue Forest experienced one of the few documented inconveniences during its development -- the blasting of the area between it and the Potomac River to make way for the completion of the George Washington Parkway.
Not all, however, were of the same style. Both high-style Contemporary or Split-level plans were incorporated into Bellevue Forest.
By 1958, little open land remained in Bellevue Forest. Thirteen houses were constructed between 1959 and 1993. Few vacant lots remain.
Bellevue Forest has changed little over the years. Houses have been enlarged. Homes have been passed down from generation to generation. New families have arrived. A few new styles have been added to the rich architectural panorama. Efforts to depart from single-family homes or to reduce lot size requirements have met with fierce resistance.
In 2001, Bellevue Forest is rich in history and takes great pride and thrives on its natural setting. In many respects, Bellevue Forest has changed little over the millions of years since its natural foundation was laid. It is still hilly, with steep ravines into meandering streams. It is still a forest, and in most cases, houses seem to have been carefully planted among the trees. While many residents of Arlington report seeing deer, foxes, raccoons, opossums, pileated woodpeckers, mice, snakes, and other wildlife during their walks in our county parks, Bellevue Forest residents routinely see all of these in their own backyards.
It is a neighborhood in which people truly seem to enjoy living.
[Bluemont collects stories of days gone by on their Web page]
A Bluemont neighbor writes about growing up in central Arlington in the 50's and 60's: Kids were much more free to roam then, so I have hundreds of little stories about day to day life and about how Arlington looked then. I'll tell you one:
There used to be a large empty field, half the size of a football field, where the Emerson Street cul de sac is at 10th St. The field extended out into the area that is now Rt.66. The wild grass would get to be about a eighteen inches high. There was a long windy path that went from Fairfax Dr. to 10th Street diagonally across the field. It was called the snake path. You could always encounter rabbits, birds and other wild critters, but you also could occasionally see a snake. There were lots of them but they hid from humans going across the snake path. So finding a snake was really exciting.
Once a year there was a very important event that took place in that field. There were a lot of kids in this neighborhood then. All the kids from blocks around would come to watch. The owners of that field would set the field on fire!! This was an easy alternative to mowing, and it was controlled and carefully watched. But the best part for us kids was that dozens and dozens of snakes would come slithering out from all sides of the field........ out into the hands of young snake collectors rather than stay and get fried.
We always returned them once the novelty of having an unlimited collection of snakes wore off and after the field cooled down. There was lots of local wild life, many more creeks with water creatures, an old farm with big animals where the Fairfax Dr.ramp to 66 is. I still see an occasional rat snake here and there around the neighborhood, but you have to kind of know how to spot them.
There was a haunted house where the fire station is now. Fields Park and that section of George Mason Dr behind the school was an orchard and a small woods. A slow train came through there twice a day. One of the guys in the engine would get out and stop traffic on Wilson so the train could creep on down to Bluemont.
Boulevard Manor: Our Community Heritage From Land Grant to Subdivision
Boulevard Manor lies between Arlington Boulevard, Wilson Boulevard, Four Mile Run on the east and
the County line on the west (Seven Corners) side.
Our neighborhood has been occupied for 200 years. Native American presence is known by artifacts from the Powhatan Springs area, although no evidence has been found of permanent Indian settlement
Although much of our community was developed from land owned by the Reeves family, it originated as part of two land grants from the colonial era: one to Thomas Pearson in 1707 of 660 acres and the other to John Ball in 1742 of 166 acres. Most of our community lies within the Pearson grant which ran from what is now Arlington Blvd and N Manchester St to Four Mile Run, northwest to Patrick Henry Drive and I-66, and south through Upton Hill Regional Park to Arlington Blvd. Any land on the east side of the line between N Manchester St and Four Mile Run lay in the John Ball grant which included Glencarlyn.
Thomas Pearson died before 1730 and left his grant to his son, Simon, who in turn left it to his son, Thomas. No one lived on the land until 1740 and 1741 when Thomas Pearson leased the land for the purpose of getting it seated, cleared, and cultivated. Thomas' son, Simon, inherited the tract, and on his death in 1797 willed his dwelling, plantation and furniture to the son of the woman he had been living with for a number of years and to whom he gave his own name. The rest of his estate was willed to a brother, Thomas.
Meanwhile, it is believed John Ball built a log cabin soon after he received his grant in 1742. This log house is part of the Ball-Sellers house at 5620 Third St S, now owned by the Arlington Historical Society. Mr Ball raised corn, wheat and tobacco. After his death, the 166 acre tract was sold to William Carlin, a tailor from Alexandria.
William Carlin died at the age of 88 in 1820, and his widow died in 1835 before his estate could be settled. He had stipulated in his will that the land was to be divided into lots and sold, the proceeds to be divided between his wife and seven living children. It was difficult to find buyers for the small lots and his will was not settled until twenty-eight years after his death. John L Bladen and his wife bought the last lot, part of which included the section of Boulevard Manor. In 1856 the Bladens sold to W.D. Walloch and his wife, who in turn sold to Ira Lain in 1857.
In the 1840s and 1850s northern farmers were moving south to buy land which had been depleted of fertility by the tobacco crops. One such person was Timothy Bishop Munson who moved with his family from New York to Fairfax County in 1851. Munson started a nursery and raised sheep on the land which took his name, Munson's Hill, most of which was part of the Pearson tract. Many of the large trees in Washington came from this nursery. Munson's Hill extended into present day Arlington and included the greater portion of Boulevard Manor, most of Spy Hill, and Stone Ridge. Spy Hill received its name from the scouting activities in the area during the Civil War.
The Civil War also brought some new players to the scene. On his way home after the war a young Confederate soldier, William A. Torreyson, stopped off at Bailey's Cross Roads to visit his sister. While visiting he met his future wife, they married, and in Feb 1866 he purchased from Ira Lain the tract of land which had been a part of the Carlin estate. Mr Torreyson and his wife set up housekeeping in a log house which was located at about First and S Madison Sts and established a dairy farm. In 1869 Mr Torreyson purchased from the heirs of Timothy B. Munson 94 acres which included that portion of Munson's Hill extending into what is now Arlington County. The Torreysons soon built a lovely home, Chestnut Grove, near what is now the intersection of First and N Manchester Sts.
Mr and Mrs Torreyson had three children, Duke, Lucy, and Ruth. Miss Lucy fell in love with George Reeves from southern Maryland, who left Maryland and established a farm in Benton, MO.
Mr Torreyson's health began to fail him and he asked Mr and Mrs Reeves to return to Virginia to assist with the dairy farm, which they did in 1898. In 1902 Mr Torreyson deeded to his daughter, Lucy Torreyson Reeves 77.5 acres on which Mr Reeves established his own dairy farm. This tract included the Carlin tract and the land north of Second St N to Wilson Blvd.
In 1910, one month before his death, Mr Torreyson deeded to his other daughter, Mrs Ruth Torreyson Hupman, the remaining 80 acres of the farm, all of which had come from the Munson's Hill tract. Mrs Hupman sold the farm to Frank Hummer in 1927 who in turn sold it to Leroy Eakin in 1930.
Mr Eakin plotted 23 lots in the area on the north side of Arlington Blvd and named it Boulevard Manor. The streets were not named except for Montague Rd which was a designated county road, and Montague Circle. A clause in the deeds of these lots stated that no dwelling costing less than $5000 would be erected on the property. Only three lots were sold and only one house was built during that era. Lot 16 was purchased in March 1932 by Amie Henry who built the Spanish style house located at 110 N Montague. Amie Henry and her husband sold their home when he retired in 1968. The front portion of the lot was divided into three lots on which the homes at 202, 204 and 206 Montague St N were built.
Munson H. Lane, Sr bought lot 23 and later sold part to the Courembis Contruction Co to be included in the development of Boulevard Manor as plotted in the 1950s and part to Mr Lebowitz to be included in the development of Spy Hill.
It was not until 1946 that Mr Eakin sold the third lot, lot 15, to John Van Strien. Mr Van Strien sold to Mr and Mrs P.R. Rupert in 1948 who in turn subdivided the lot into three. These lots were sold and resubdivided several times. In the 1950s six houses were built on what had been lot 15 in a wedge between Montague and Nottingham Sts.
It is not known when the Reeves' home, 400 N Manchester St, was built, but it was referred to as the tenant house when Mr and Mrs Reeves moved into it in 1898. It has had two additions since that date. The Reeves had three children, Torreyson, Ruth, and Nelson. The house at 506 N Montana St was built in 1923 when Torreyson was married. He and his wife lived there for a year or so. Nelson and his wife, Louise, lived in this house until Mr and Mrs George Reeves died in 1948. They then moved to the home place which became known as Reevesland.
Ruth Reeves married Munson H. Lane, Sr in 1923, and they moved into a house located at 400 N Lombardy St. This piece of property had been owned by William McElhinny and his wife who used it on weekends. In 1919 they sold it to Mr George Reeves who in turn deeded it to his daughter in 1924. Upon the death of Ruth Reeves Lane, this property was purchased by Mr Driscoll who developed Stone Ridge.
In 1885, John J. McElhinney, a professor at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, and his wife purchased 94 acres from J. Thomas Miller in two transactions. This 94 acres, a section of the Thomas Pearson land grant, extended from Wilson Blvd south along the property line of Upton Hill Regional Park to Arlington Blvd, east to the intersection of Federal Hill on the east side and Arlington Blvd, north in almost a straight line to the intersection of 5th Rd and N Montague St, east on 5th Rd to N Manchester St, north to 8th Rd N and west to Wilson Blvd.
Mr McElhinney died in the mid-1890s, and there began to appear transactions of deeds between his widow and their sons, Rogers J., R.A. and William E.
In 1897 Mrs McElhinney sold land to Mrs Susan K. Uber which included land north from what is now Montgomery Ward to 6th St N. The Ubers built a very nice home near the intersection of Madison and Longfellow Sts. They sold to George Offutt who gave the land to his son, Olin. The house burned, was replace by a smaller one, and was eventually torn down in the 1940s. A county road passed through this area from Wilson Blvd to Leesburg Pike and was known as Uber Rd later to be known as N Ohio St. A section of N Livingston St which runs along Upton Hill Regional Park is all that remains of the road.
In 1904 Mrs McElhinney sold to George Reeves land which is the section between N Montague St and N Littleton St.
Rogers McElhinney, who never married, was a truck farmer living at 501 N Lombardy St in what was then a three room house. He sold off parts of his land, an acre or two at a time, whenever he was in need of money. Of the ten transactions he made between 1901 and 1910 one was to Augusta B. Porte. About 9 deed transactions later this land was sold to Dominion Hills Recreation Assoc in 1955. Previous to this time this property had been known as Powhatan Springs. It is not known when the present house was built, but William Martin owned it from 1931 to 1938 and rented it. Misses Elizabeth Ford and Raw Holley rented it and served meals to guests. When the owner wanted to raise the rent from $100 per month to $150, they moved as they couldn't afford the increase. The next tenant used it for a dance hall.
Rogers McElhinney also owned property where the Ashlawn School is located. He divided this land into two sections and sold one to George Reeves and the other to Ed E Ardinger in 1905. Mr Ardinger's house stood on the corner of what is now 8th Rd and N Manchester. These two lots were obtained by the county in 1955 for Ashlawn School.
Rogers McElhinney's last transaction was to sell his house and 9/10 of an acre to Munson H. Lane, Sr in 1932. Being elderly and in poor health Mr McElhinney went to live in a nursing home. This property, 501 N Lombardy St, is now the home of Mrs Munson H. (Anna Belle) Lane, Jr.
George Offutt who had bought the Uber property bought the remaining McElhinney property. In 1939 he sold to W.R. Kelly. Courembis Construction Company bought from the heirs of Mr Kelly to build the section of Boulevard Manor from the 501 N Lombardy St property to 6th St and over to Livingston St.
Courembis Construction Co. bought land from J.R. Eakin and the Lucy Torreyson Reeves estate in 1952 and began the construction of houses in Boulevard Manor as replotted at this time from the original Eakin plot of Boulevard Manor.
The Church of the Brethren held Easter sunrise services in April 1955 after acquiring the land from the Lucy Torreyson Reeves estate. The church broke ground on Jan 20, 1957 and held its first service in the new church on Dec 22, 1957. To settle the estate of Torreyson Reeves, the land which was owned jointly by him and his brother and sister was sold in Mar 75 as part of the development of Spy Hill.
Nelson Reeves stopped shipping milk in July 1955 and the last cow left in Dec 1955. The next spring "they broke the barn down". Hurricane Hazel in Oct 1954 with winds up to 95 mph had already taken down one of the silos. Nelson Reeves still lives in the home place at 400 Manchester St N, and celebrated his 98th birthday there Aug 29, 1998.
(Courtesy Anna Belle Lane and The Arlington Historical Magazine, Vol 8, No 3, October 1987) Rev. Sept 98
Cherrydale is between Lee Highway and I-66, Spout Run
and up the hill past Quincy Street.
Cherrydale has one of Arlington's most interesting neighborhood history books, but we don't have it in Web form.
A north Arlington neighborhood including residences between Courthouse Road, 10th Street, Fairfax Drive, and Wilson Boulevard.
Located between Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive, Four Mile Run and Jefferson Street.
The history section of the Columbia Heights Nieghborhood Conservation Plan is the longest history here, and some sections are expanded to almost the scope of a history of Arlington County. For that reason we have not posted the graphics here. For the full treatment with maps and photos, you can see it in this 3.2mb .pdf format file.
A North Arlington neighborhood along the Potomac.
Early Inhabitants (10,000 BC to 1860 AD) Over ten thousand years ago when the first human beings passed through our neighborhood, it was cold and tundra-like. These hunters of large game were descendents of the Asian people who crossed the Bering land bridge. A spear point typical of these people was found during the excavation of the Donaldson Run swimming pool. As the climate slowly grew warmer the cultures of the inhabitants in our area evolved.
Pottery and other artifacts from both the Archaic (8000 to 1300 BC) and Woodland Cultures (1000 BC to 1608 AD) have been found near Donaldson Run. In the 1850s Robert Donaldson, the farmer from whom our neighborhood derives its name, found a soapstone bowl, which he used to hold chicken feed. This artifact of the Woodland Culture is now in the University of Pennsylvania museum and is dated to the late Archaic Period (2500-1300 BC).
Although Captain John Smith may have reached the mouth of Donaldson Run when he sailed up the Potomac in 1608, there was no permanent settlement in our neighborhood until after 1800. The first house in our neighborhood was that of Caleb Birch. He built his first log cabin early in the century and the farm was still in the family in 1850. On their 110 acres the Birches grew wheat, rye, corn and Irish potatoes and also had a market garden. They owned four horses, eight cows and 31 swine. The ruin of Caleb Birch�s house was restored as a residence and greatly remodeled in 1939. A number of the original chestnut logs were incorporated in the restored structure, which is located at 4576 North 26th Street. A historical marker has been placed at the site.
In the early decades of the 19th century the inhabitants of our neighborhood lived on scattered and modest farms. Even though our area was then part of the original 10-mile square Federal District, the only roads serving our farmers were little more than cart tracks, along what is now Lee Highway and Glebe Road. Our farm families included the Marcys and the Donaldsons. Andrew Donaldson was also Superintendent of the Glebe, which belonged to Christ Church in Alexandria. It was Donaldson�s duty to prevent the theft of timber by trespassers and to deliver every fourth load to Christ Church. Our county, then part of Alexandria County, was returned to Virginia in 1846. Around 1850 the Aqueduct Bridge across the Potomac at Georgetown was completed and in 1852 a plank toll road was built along what is now Lee Highway through Falls Church to Fairfax, then called Providence.
The Civil War and Following Decades (1860-1890) The Civil War brought severe hardship to the farms along Donaldson Run and extreme damage to the natural environment. As soon as Virginia joined the Confederacy in the spring of 1861, our neighborhood became part of an armed camp, occupied by the Union Army. Forts were built above Chain Bridge, and Military Road was built by the Union Army to connect them with the fortifications to the south protecting the Capital.
Military Road reportedly was built in three days through what was described as broken and densely wooded country. An etching of the Civil War period shows Military Road as a muddy rutted swath. Most of the trees in the area were cut down to give a clear line of sight to the defenders and to remove cover for attacking enemies. Much topsoil washed away and erosion gullies soon formed. The origin of Military Road is noted on the historical marker in front of the Cherrydale Library.
As the war dragged on, the encamped soldiers destroyed woods, barns, furniture and homes for firewood. The end of the war left the inhabitants exhausted and impoverished. Although many of the locals had supported the South, some of the Yankee soldiers stayed and married local women.
In the next decade newcomers trickled into the area and civilization slowly took hold.
A little community grew up on the periphery of our neighborhood where Glebe Road crossed
what is now Lee Highway. The first public school that served our neighborhood�s children
was built in 1871 on Glebe Road. It was a one-room school, with one schoolmaster and about
ninety pupils of assorted ages. It was replaced by a larger building with several teachers
in 1885. A general store was located next door to the school.
Gentry, Trolley Lines and the Beginning of a Commuter Community (1890-1929)
After the war, the Commonwealth and local government were weak and
unable to confront the gambling and criminal element which operated
along the riverfront. Rosslyn was such a rough area that Donaldson Run
area farmers returning from market in Georgetown often traveled through
it in armed convoys. The election of a reform government in 1902 brought
better public order and encouraged wealthy Washingtonians, in search of
cooler locations for summer homes, to consider our area. Among these was
Dr. Presley M. Rixey, the personal physician of President William McKinley,
who was with McKinley when he was shot in 1901. Rixey later became Surgeon
General and a member of Theodore Roosevelt�s inner circle. Rixey bought
the property on the periphery of our neighborhood now occupied by Marymount
University and the Washington Golf and Country Club. When the Washington
and Old Dominion Railway (trolley) line was built along what is now Old
Dominion Drive, Rixey built a whistle stop for his family and guests.
It was �the flossiest on the line� with a sign in foot high brass letters
that said �Rixey Station.� Roosevelt was a frequent guest and often went
riding in the surrounding woods.
Rixey had an African-American valet named Richard Wallace, who had been
a chauffeur for the Roosevelt family. Wallace discovered the abandoned
Birch cabin (now at the intersection of North 26th and North Wakefield
Streets) and asked Rixey if he could fix it up and use it as his cottage.
Rixey agreed. In 1908, Rixey sold 75 acres to the Washington Golf and
Country Club, one of the earliest golf clubs in the Washington area.
When the new golf course was being laid out, Richard Wallace, who was
assisting the surveyors, realized that one of the greens was to be
located at his cottage. Wallace moved the markers so that his cottage
would be spared. Rixey realized what Wallace had done but did not move
the markers back. Rixey later deeded that portion of the estate to Wallace.
Had Wallace not moved the marker, a chunk of our neighborhood would now be
part of the golf course. The gnarled apple trees in front of the now
remodeled cabin are said to have been planted by Wallace.
Development of the electric trolley lines, which ran from Rosslyn through
Cherrydale and out to Great Falls, brought other touches of upscale
urbanization to North Arlington. Frank Lyon, a newspaper publisher
who later developed Lyon Park and Lyon Village, built a handsome
residence in 1907 at what is now 4651 North 25th Street. This residence,
called Lyonhurst, was the first home in the County to use electricity,
which was tapped from the trolley line which ran along what is now Old
Dominion Drive. Since 1946, when the Lyonhurst property became the
headquarters of the Immaculate Heart Mission Fathers, it has been known
as Missionhurst. The Joseph Tabor Johnson House at 4014 Lorcom Lane
dates from 1907. Dr. Johnson named his residence Lorcom Farm, a combination
of the names of his two sons Loren and Bascom, for whom he also built
homes nearby. One of these later became the site of a Washington YWCA
summer camp. The H-B Woodlawn School now occupies that site. The street
name Vacation Lane has come down from the days of the summer camp.
Growth of the Federal City during the First World War brought more
newcomers. Better roads and the advent of private automobiles soon
began to shape North Arlington. The scattering of rural communities
and summer residences was on its way to becoming a place of suburban
neighborhoods whose residents lived in Arlington year round and
commuted across the river to work. A public school opened in Cherrydale
in 1916. A significant milestone was the inauguration in 1925 of
Washington-Lee High School, built about half a mile south of our
neighborhood. Before then, County students wishing to attend public
high schools commuted to the District of Columbia. Despite the
urbanization on its periphery, our immediate neighborhood still
retained its rural character. Except for Military Road and Lorcom
Lane few roads cut across our neighborhood. Yet change was coming.
In 1927, a public water supply connecting Arlington with the District
of Columbia water system was turned on. Prior to that Arlington�s
water had come from springs and wells. Among those who campaigned
most avidly for the water bond were real estate developers who were
buying farms and properties in our neighborhood. The Depression and
World War II (1929-1946) The Great Depression caused a dramatic fall
in real estate values and the postponement of the subdivision
developments envisioned for our neighborhood. The Washington Golf
and Country Club lost members, operated in the red and came very
close to bankruptcy and closure
In 1932 the County Board began the rationalization of street names.
Prior to the renaming of the streets, each neighborhood named its
own streets. As a result there were eleven Washington Streets,
ten Arlington Streets and five Lee Streets scattered about the
County. The committee undertaking the task divided the streets
into a north and a south area divided by Arlington Boulevard.
Streets paralleling the Boulevard were numbered from the Boulevard.
Perpendicular streets were named alphabetically starting in the east,
beginning with a one- syllable, then a two-syllable, and finally a
three-syllable name. This rational system would result in strange
anomalies when it was applied in the 1950s to the winding streets
of our neighborhood�s new subdivisions. A zoning ordinance, the
County�s first, was adopted in 1930, which would greatly influence
the development of Donaldson Run. The plan was part of a larger
effort to guide the growth of the Washington metropolitan region
that was championed by the National Capital Park and Planning
Commission. Adopting the ideas of landscape architects like
Frederick Law Olmstead, it encouraged residential subdivision
planning which would plat streets to natural topography rather
than to a grid. While a few earlier subdivisions in Arlington,
such as Lyon Village, include some curvilinear roads with the
development, their reliance on topography to guide street layout
is minimal. Donaldson Run�s street layout takes full advantage of
the hilly terrain, unusual for an Arlington subdivision at that time.
Although the subdivision was now platted, new house construction
was very slow throughout the 1930s. An exception was the complex
of a dozen houses on winding streets and wooded lots called
Beechwood Hills, developed in the mid- 1930s. A stand of
native beech trees there has been preserved. Beechwood Hills
is the oldest subdivision in the neighborhood. It is an example
of garden city urban design concepts that were popular during the
1930s. During World War II home building came to a standstill.
1946 to the Present After the war, our neighborhood as we know
it today developed swiftly. Housing starts burgeoned and the
hillsides soon were covered by one-family suburban homes. The
principal builder was Marvin T. Broyhill and Sons. Although the
Broyhills built a wide variety of houses, the typical Broyhill
house was a three- bedroom rambler which sold for about twenty
thousand dollars. Most of the houses in the neighborhood today
are ramblers built in the 1950s. The biggest problem confronted
by Broyhill builders was our extremely hilly terrain. Moving the
earth around cost more than the construction of the houses. The
Broyhill houses had the reputation of being well constructed and
were often purchased sight unseen. Most featured all electric GE
kitchens, with the latest appliances including dishwashers.
About 1950 the Broyhill Forest subdivision was completed and North
26th Street, which came down from Glebe Road, and North 31st Street
which came up from Military Road were joined, creating 26th/31st
Street, one of North Arlington�s strangest street name anomalies
(and is even listed in Ripley�s "Believe it or Not" according to
The Washington Post) and providing a cut-through from Glebe to
Military Road. The homeowners along the two streets were not
happy when they were connected. Some had been told when they
bought their homes that the streets would never be connected.
The line of trees along the golf course on North 26th Street
recalls the time when this was a quiet country lane. New families
moving into the neighborhood at the height of the baby boom also
required newer, larger schools. In 1954 Taylor Elementary School
opened on Stuart Street and the smaller, older Marshall School on
Glebe Road was closed. The polling place for the Marshall precinct
was also shifted to Taylor School. In 1958 the Donaldson Run
Recreation Association swimming pool opened. It was one of the
first community swimming pools in Virginia. The struggle to raise
money and establish the pool helped strengthen the sense of community.
The pool and Taylor Elementary School are the two institutions that
today give the area a greater sense of neighborhood.
New residents also organized two new churches and erected attractive
church buildings. In 1951 St. Andrew�s Episcopal Church was built at
the corner of Lorcom Lane and Military Road. To accommodate the growing
congregation, a larger edifice was built in 1961, incorporating the
first building as a chapel. A Korean congregation, with membership
from around the County and beyond, was organized at St. Andrew�s in
1984. In 1958 the Church of the Covenant Presbyterian Church was
organized. Members met for Sunday services at Taylor School until
the new church was completed in late 1962. The building, at 2666
Military Road, is on the site of the old Marcy farmhouse, which had
included some of the timbers of the original Marcy log cabin. The old
timbers were used once more in the building of Evans Farm Inn in McLean.
The Arlington County Master Plan of 1961 included road construction
projects that today seem undesirable. It included an extension of
Yorktown Boulevard which would have paved over upper Donaldson Run
and left it as a storm sewer. However, public opinion was shifting
away from highway building and the green and rocky banks of the Run
became the center of efforts to preserve trees and neighborhoods.
Many old trees were felled as Military Road and Lorcom Lane were
widened, but the extension of Yorktown Boulevard did not happen.
The establishment of Potomac Overlook Regional Park in 1966 preserved
the last significant undeveloped area on the periphery of our neighborhood.
A nature center was opened in 1974. We who now live in the most urbanized
county in Virginia are fortunate that this green, natural area with its
diverse wildlife and native trees was saved. Today upper Donaldson Run,
bordered by a bike path, flows through the Zachary Taylor Park and
provides a green area in the heart of our neighborhood. Remnants of the
1961 Master Plan are the peculiar entrance to Yorktown Boulevard off
North 26th Street, and the fireplugs along the bike trail. Although the
Nature Area is no haven for native plants, it is a pleasant place to jog,
ride a bike, or walk. There are big tulip poplars, oaks, and beech, but
most of the under-story has been overrun by English ivy, Japanese
honeysuckle, bamboo, garlic mustard and other alien species which are
crowding out the remnant of native plants. If there is a pause in the
noise from the planes departing Reagan National Airport, the song of
a wood thrush may still be heard on summer evenings. Unfortunately,
the water of the Run is too acidic to support a healthy variety of
aquatic life. The stream absorbs heavy fertilizer runoff from neighborhood
lawns and the golf course. Another problem has been the leaf mulch pile
which receives the fallen leaves of the entire County. It is located near
the headwaters of the Run. As the mulch pile grew, the brown acidic runoff
entered the Run and became a significant pollutant point for the Chesapeake
Bay. Several years ago the County built a cement floor beneath the mulch
pile to deter the runoff. The clarity of the water is now improved and
neighborhood children know where to find a few crayfish. Eels have entered
the Run every year since the time of the Indians. In 1997 there was a large
"die off" of eels. The cause of the "die off" is not known, but too much
fertilizer in the storm sewer runoff was among the suspected causes.
Bounded by Glebe Road, Columbia Pike, Four Mile Run Drive and Walter Reed Drive. Includes Barcroft Apartments.
The New Arlington-Douglas Park community is the compilation of two separate housing developments: New Arlington and Douglas Park. The neighborhood development of Douglas Park, also spelled as Douglass Park, first began to appear on historic maps of Arlington County in 1927. This area was historically associated with Sewell B. Corbett, who owned vast acres of property throughout Arlington County in 1907.
The newly developed community was bounded to the south by Fort Barnard, Four Mile Run and the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad; Fort Berry and Washington Avenue to the north and northwest, and the Washington-Virginia Electric Railway line and the community of Nauck to the east.
About half of the original Douglas Park subdivision, the area southeast of what is now Walter Reed Drive, is now contained within the area of Nauck. The name Douglas Park may derive from the Douglas family, prominent residents of the county. William W. Douglas served as Supervisor for Arlington County between 1904 and 1907.
Similarly, New Arlington had been laid out by 1927. Larger in size, although less densely subdivided in the early years of development, the community was located to the north of Douglas Park, south of Columbia Pike. The land had previously been associated with Edward Denterman, William H. Palmer and Sewell B. Corbett. By 1938, as indicated by historic maps, the two communities began to overlap, blending their streets, utilities and neighborhood activities.
Later tracts encompassed in the area now known as New Arlington-Douglas Park community included John Travers' Addition, the Joel Whitehead estate, C.B. Munson's Second and Third Additions, the A.E. Dye Plan and the R.R. Dye Plan Subdivision.
Many of the older buildings, predominately located along South Monroe Street, date from the latter part of the 19th century to the early 20th century. Constructed prior to the establishment of the community in 1927, the Queen Anne-style buildings are larger in scale and plan than the more modest Bungalow and Colonial Revival-style dwellings dating from the 1920s through to the 1940s.
The construction of these grander dwellings in the Late Victorian period within the rural farm land was prompted by the establishment of the Washington, Arlington, and Falls Church Electric Railway lines, extending as early as 1900 from the District to Rosslyn to Nauck. This streetcar line not only greatly impacted the development of New Arlington-Douglas Park, but spurred residential construction in Central Arlington, Nauck, and Columbia Heights.
Documented on Sanborn maps, the community of New Arlington-Douglas Park developed sporadically during the 1920s-1930s period of planned growth on narrow rectangular lots improved by single-family freestanding dwellings. The streets and alleys were laid in a grid-like pattern between the previously established crossroads and major transportation routes such as South Glebe Road, Columbia Pike, and the Arlington County and Fairfax Railway that originally marked the county. The great influx of military and federal personnel during the years of World War II prompted the construction of housing and commercial amenities, thereby establishing New Arlington-Douglas Park as a densely populated residential neighborhood.
Spurred by the vast development by the middle part of the 20th century, apartment buildings and commercial structures developed along the historic routes, depleting the area of many of its mid- to late-19th-century resources. The development of the 1930-1940s, however, remained largely intact to provide a contained residential community, circumscribed by this later growth. The 125 properties recorded tended to exhibit the modest bungalow form with small concentrations of late Victorian Queen Anne-style dwellings. Infill dating from the 1950s, generally in the form of a "Cape Cod," are interspersed throughout the large community, although they were not included in the survey.
The neighborhood of townhouses located astride I-395 at Shirlington. Their history is covered in Q and A format.
- Did you know that much of the land now known as Fairlington Villages belonged to
Colonel John Carlyle, a prominent citizen in 18th Century Alexandria, owner of the
celebrated Carlyle House and friend of George Washington?
Around 1770, Carlyle established a plantation where a large white frame house known as
"Morven" was constructed. Its site is in North Fairlington at the end of 31st
Street just before Route 7.
- Did you know that in 1774, George Washington purchased a land grant that included a
small parcel of land in North Fairlingon near Abingdon School and South 28th Street?
In 1792, Carlyle Whiting, the owner of Morven and a descendant of Colonel Carlyle, wrote
Washington warning him that trespassers were stealing wood from their property.
- Did you know that Fairlington was directly affected by the 1788 ratification of the
U.S. Constitution authorizing Congress to accept 10 square miles of territory from the
states to be the seat of the newly formed federal government?
All of South and North Fairlington north of Columbus Street lies within that original set
aside. Markers were set along the entire border of the newly established federal enclave
in both Maryland and Virginia. One such marker survives today
and can be seen on the southern boundary of South Fairlington on Route 7, near the South
Wakefield Street Intersection across from the Fairlington Presbyterian Church.
- Did you know that the Fairlington area was the site of two Civil War Union
Fort Reynolds was built in 1861 next door to the present site of North Fairlington and was
constructed to safeguard the City of Washington from being overrun by Confederate armies
who had been victorious in the first Battle of Bull Run. To protect Fort Reynolds from
Confederate attack from positions on Seminary Ridge, Battery Garesche, a smaller artillery
fortification was built in 1863 at today's intersection of South Abingdon Street and 30th
Road. Historic markers show the locations and Civil War significance of these two forts.
- Did you know that Fairlington was constructed as a garden apartment complex to house
defense workers and their families during World War II?
Fairlington is a nationally significant example of large-scale, publicly financed defense
housing and by far the largest project financed by the Defense Homes Corporation (DHC).
Designed by Kenneth Franzheim and associate architect, Alan Mills, the project was
intended to remain a permanent part of the community after the war's end. Because of good
planning in site selection and project design, this goal was realized.
- Did you know that Franzheim and Mills were nationally known and recognized for their
Franzheim designed the New York Trust Company building in New York and the Gulf Building
and the City Auditorium in Houston, as well as a number of other buildings and airports.
He received the American Institute of Architects Award of Merit in Commercial Architecture
for Foley's Department Store in Houston. Notable among Alan B. Mills' achievements are the
designs of the east and west wings of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and its
Museum of American History. Both Franzheim and Mills collaborated on two other DHC
apartment projects -- McLean Gardens and Naylor Gardens -- both completed in 1943 and
located in Washington, DC.
- Did you know that it cost $35 million to build Fairlingon and that its 1996 assessed
value is $424,701,600?
Thompson-Starrett, the builder of Fairlington Villages, managed to obtain quality
materials, despite the government's management of scarce wartime resources. Construction
of Fairlington began in 1942, and in May 1943, the first 387 families moved in and by
year's end, 2,415 apartments were available for occupancy. When the last of the 3,439
apartments were completed in August 1944, the project was 100 percent occupied and
remained that way for years to come. DHC managed Fairlington until its sale to private
owners in 1947. Fairlington remained a rental community until 1972-77, when the units were
renovated and sold as condominiums.
- Did you know that Fairlington is mentioned in David Brinkley's book "Washington
Goes to War"?
In his chapter on the "Strains of the New," Brinkley in writing about DHC points
to Fairlington as one of DHC's most ambitious developments and describes what life was
like in the summer of 1943 for Fairlington residents, including their problems, such as
lack of public transportation, poor roads and no shopping facilities. Brinkley ends with
the statement, "Fairlington at least had sturdy, well-designed housing (most of it
still standing today and now expensive townhouses and condominiums)."
- Did you know that Fairlington's first community newsletter was published in September
1943 and was called the "Fairlington Neighbor"?
For over a half century of Fairlington's existence as a community, residents have shown a
keen interest in documenting Fairlington's history and in reporting community information
on a range of civic and recreational activities. Today, Fairlington has several monthly
newsletters (The All-Fairlington Bulletin, the North Fairlington News and monthly
newsletters published by the individual South Fairlington Villages.).
Glencarlyn is located in South Arlington between Four Mile Run and Carlin Springs Road, Arlington Boulevard and Long Branch.
Their neighborhood history book is titled Glencarlyn Remembered: The First 100 Years. Here are two excerpts.
The Ball-Sellers House - This house is believed to be the oldest house standing in Arlington. Built about the year 1750 by John Ball, the original house consisted of one room with a loft and a lean-to room. In 1880, an addition was attached to make the complete structure that we see today. The Ball-Sellers House is owned by the Arlington Historical Society and is on the Virginia Landmarks Register as well as the National Register of Historic Places. It is currently occupied by Jack Foster, historian extraordinaire.
Carlin Hall - The hall was built in 1892 and has served the community as social center, church, school and public library. Church services were held here until the construction of St. John's Chapel in 1910. In the early 1920's the village began using it as a community meeting place. In 1923, residents authorized transfer of the Hall to the School Board for use as a public school, but was deeded back to the community in 1953 after construction of a new school (now Kenmore Middle School). It was, once again, tranferred to the County in 1962 for use as a recreation center, but, finally, returned to the community in 1977 in the face of County budget shortages.
A North Arlington neighborhood encompassing 34 blocks north of I-66 between N. McKinley Rd. and N. Quantico St. The northern boundary is N. 22nd St., between N. Quantico St. and Lexington St.
When The Washington and Ohio Company bought and rebuilt the Alexandria, Loudoun and Hampshire railroad, daily passenger service was instituted in 1870. At the turn of the century The Fostoria Land and Development Company began to build homes near the Fostoria station. Houses were built to buyers' specifications. On the 1907 County map, Fostoria was named Highland Park.
The Febrey family's farms were situated north of Highland Park. Another development, Overlee Knolls, was started on farmland but, like Highland Park, it grew slowly until the advent of the mass-produced automobile. Memorial Drive (now Washington Boulevard) was constructed through Febrey properties and opened the area to development in the early 1920's.
Civic Associations in the early years provided basic services: water, firefighting, etc. to their communities. Both associations became one. As Highland Park-Overlee Knolls, it petitioned the School Board for an elementary school in 1936. Highland Park-Overlee Knolls selected the present site of Walter Reed School, on Febrey farmland, the School Board approved the site and the four-classroom school opened in September 1938. Parkhurst, a development behind Reed's grounds was built in 1939 within Highland Park-Overlee Knolls boundaries.
Westover branch library was moved from an apartment on Longfellow Street to its present site which became available in 1962.
The section below is taken from the Highland Park- Overlee Knolls Neighborhood Conservation Plan with additions uncovered by more recent research.
Land records for the area go back as far as 1730 but the oldest visible link with the present can be credited to Henry Febrey, son of Nicholas Febrey who grew up in the Robert E. Lee household. who before the Civil War settled on acreage extending from Lee Highway southwards toward Four Mile Run. His home, Maple Shade, still stands on Powhatan Street. Maps from the year 1891 and following show Febrey descendants owning six tracts, south of 22nd Street, that ranged in size from 13.5 to 21 acres. Walter Reed Elementary School was built on Febrey farmland between 1936-38. Swanson Middle School was also built on Febrey farmland in 1939.
Between the Febrey tracts and Four Mile Run , bounded by what is now 18th Street, the same maps show the first subdivision in the area "Fostoria," designed to take advantage of the steam and later electric railways that were built along Four Mile Run. Frame houses and cottages built from 1900 to early 1920s still stand on 14th and 15th streets, McKinley Road and Nicholas
Street, recalling the days of trolleys, horse and buggy, kerosene lamps, well-water and dirt roads. Road access to and from Fostoria was by way of Lubber Lane(now the Lexington street-16 street collector road).
In 1907, when a map and pamphlet describing the county was published, the
Fostoria area bore a new name Highland Park. Following World
War I, and with wider use of the automobile, a hard surfaced road, the present
Washington Boulevard, was constructed through former Febrey properties.
With easier access by car, in the mid 1920s a new subdivision Overlee
Knolls which stopped short of 22nd Street was constructed. In that
decade and succeeding ones the growth of Highland Park - Overlee Knolls
mirrored Arlingtons general increase in population: 5.2% annually
in 1920s; 7.9% in 1930s; 8.9% in 1940s and 1.9% in 1950s.
Parkhurst, which was built in 1939 to help accommodate the
influx of young families prior to World War II, is particularly attractive
because the builder constructed his reasonably priced houses around a central
park area which he donated to the community. In rapid succession Reed and
Swanson schools, the Westover shopping area and apartments were under construction.
A cohesive, friendly community was forged - the schools, overcrowded in
the 1950s, and shops were thriving. It was a village where people walked
- to schools, to shops, to churches and to visit each other. A one-car family
was the norm.
(Arthur Vogel did the early research and wrote this section and others in
the HP-OK Neighborhood Conservation Plan, 1982) We hope to update the history
in a new edition of the Plan. If you have historical information, please
contact Sophie Vogel, fax or phone: 703-538-2496 - we dont want to
miss any piece of our fascinating history.
FOSTORIA (Highland Park)
1820 - A tract of land which lies between the meanders of Four Mile
Run on the south and at the intersection of 19th and Lexington on
the north was bought by John Sommers.
1853-1859 - The Alexandria, Loudoun and Hampshire Railway was built on the
south border along Four Mile Run (where I-66 now is located). During the
Civil War military troops were transported on this railroad.
1870 - The Washington and Ohio Company bought and rebuilt the railroad and
instituted daily passenger service.
1890 - The original borders of the Sommers tract defined a community built
by the Fostoria Land and Development Company.
1907 - On the County map Fostoria was designated as Highland Park,
OVERLEE - KNOLLS
1830s - Nicholas Febrey purchased land north of Willston Blvd. and west
of Four Mile Run.
1851 - Henry Febrey built a farmhouse on what is now Powhatan Street. It
still stands and is known as Maple Shade.
1920s - Memorial Drive (now Washington Blvd.) was constructed through former
Febrey properties bringing through traffic to new a development on the north
side of the drive.
This first development was Overlee Knolls.
HIGHLAND PARK - OVERLEE KNOLLS CIVIC ASSOCIATION (HP-OK)
c1930 - Both areas, combining their names, joined to form a single civic
association - Highland Park-Overlee Knolls.
1936 - The Highland Park-Overlee Knolls C.A. petitioned the School Board
to build an elementary school in the neighborhood.
1938 - Walter Reed - a 4 room school- was opened in September 1938.
1939 - Parkhurst, a community of reasonably priced houses , constructed
around a central park (Horseshoe Park) was built behind Reed Schools
1940s - During World War II many military and federal governmel personnel
moved into the area causing a population explosion.
1946, 1950, 1962, 1967 - Increased enrollment propmped additions to be built
to Reed School.
1963 - Westover branch library moved into its new building on Lexington
& McKinley Road.
1962 - Lee School (now the Lee Center) merged with Reed School.
1963 - Langston students integrated into Reed School adding 1/3 of Reeds
enrollment - a total of over 800 students.
1969 - Extended Day program begins at Reed School.
1979 - HP-OK reactivated after being dormant for a few years. Leeway C.A.
suggests a merger with HP-OK. Vote taken at joint meeting in Jan. HP-OK
votes to remain in tact and be the sole representative of its boundaries.
Leeway Leader includes HP-OK boundaries. Does not heed our request to remove
HP-OK from their Newsletter.
1979-1983 - HP-OK officers met frequently with V. Dept. of Highways &
Transportation re sound walls, traffic patterns & landscaping of I-66.
1982 - HP-OK Neighborhood Conservation Plan was adopted by the County Board.
1982 - School Board voted to close Reed School while its enrollment was
increasing. Students were needed to fill neighboring schools which were
losing enrollments. Reed School was designated by the School Superintendent
as being the most marketable. Parents sued to keep Reed School open/
1984 - Suit was lost - Reed School was closed. It was used in other capcities.
Now houses County programs, ACAP, Childrens School, a day care center
for School and County employees, and one pre-school APS program for 28 children.
1991 - Addition to HP-OK Neighborhood Conservation Plan to improve landscaping
and playground equipment in Parkhurst.
1995 - Reed was the temporary home of Long Branch school while Longbranch
was being renovated. With neighboring civic associations helped the School
Board reduce the number of mobile classeooms from 8 to 2 which would have
been placed in the ball field .
1998 - Bond Issue to renovate, enlarge of rebuild Westover branch library
1999 - County Board proposes multi-use facility be built on Reed School
Resistance from community - civic association besides HP-OK.
2000 - Westover branch library problem chief concern. Shirlington branch
library which was on the same issue for $8 million is planned by the County
to be built in an expanded Shirlington shopping center with office buildings,
parking garages, high rise with the Signature Theater on the floor above
the library. HP-OK spearheads a committee, members from 5 neighboring associations
to review plans proposed for Westover library.
2000 - April: HP-OK Civic Association sponsors public forum at Reed School
with Arlington County Board Member Chris Zimmerman and School Board Member
Libby Garvey, to discuss future of library and school.
2001 - Reed School is on the historic buildings list that is being compiled
for the County. It meets all the criteria. Swanson Middle School is also
on the historic buildings list.
2001 - HP-OK Civic Association appointed to Task Force reviewing location
of future library.
2002: HP-OK residents appointed to new Task Force developing Master Plan
for new school and library.
2002 - Highland Park-Overlee Knolls will be the subject of the Arlington
Reunion Program in February.
Lyon Village is located between Rosslyn and Kirkwood Road, and between Lee Highway and Wilson Boulevard.
The Lyon Village Citizens' Association covers the area bounded by Wilson Boulevard, North Veitch Street, Lee Highway, and Kirkwood Road. Most of Lyon Village was originally part of Robert Cruit's estate, which was purchased in 1846 and 1847 as a weekend and holiday retreat and later used as a dairy farm. The property was purchased by Frank Lyon in 1923 and divided into lots for real estate development. Approximately thirty-seven percent of the existing homes in Lyon Village were built in the 1920's, another thirty-six percent in the 1930's, and the remainder since 1940.
The Lyon Village Citizens' Association was formally established on February 24, 1926 in the real estate office of Lyon & Fitch. The first meeting was called to order by Herbert E. Plymale, President of the Arlington County Civic Federation, at which time Monroe H. Stockett was unanimously elected Chairman of the fledgling Lyon Village Citizens' Association.
From the minutes maintained during the first year of its existence, it is evident that the Lyon Village Citizens' Association faced many of the same problems with which it is concerned today: speeding through the Village, inadequate street lighting, and zoning and development issues. Membership started at 35 and grew to 130 during the first year. There was a great deal of citizen participation in lawn fetes, minstrel shows, carnivals, and the association's monthly meetings.
The first Lyon Village Neighborhood Conservation Committee was formed in 1970. It drafted a fifty page plan which outlined the neighborhood's needs in the areas of traffic control, sidewalks, curbs, and gutters. However, the Committee's ideas concerning neighborhood conservation were several years before their time. Repeated efforts by Lyon Villagers finally resulted in the approval of a comprehensive neighborhood conservation plan for Lyon Village by the Arlington County Board in 1978.
Today the Lyon Village Citizens' Association is an active organization that maintains many of the goals stated when it was organized. It, along with neighboring civic associations, has been very active in the development of the sector plan for the Court House, Clarendon, and Virginia Square Metro station areas. It is hoped that these sector plans will provide an exciting framework for development that will be compatible with established neighborhoods such as Lyon Village.
A North Arlington neighborhood
located near to Arlington's western tip, it is bounded by McKinley Road, Rt. 66 and the Four Mile Run and the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD)/Four Mile Run multi-purpose trail, Roosevelt Street, and the Arlington County line.
The neighborhood takes its name from a subdivision that was begun during World War II and grew steadily over the next three decades. The mix of architectural styles mirrors the history of Arlington's post-World War II real estate boom: walking through the neighborhood from east to west, one first encounters brick colonials and Cape Cods, then split-levels with garages, and finally airy wooden contemporaries with car ports, balconies and sliding glass doors. A small enclave of town homes built during the 1970s and known as Sycamore Ridge completes the neighborhood.
A North Arlington neighborhood centered around Lee Highway, Old Dominion Drive and Glebe Road.
The earliest inhabitants of what is now Arlington were Indians. Materials found at the Marcey Creek and Donaldson Run sites have been dated to the Transitional (2000-500 B.C.) and Early Woodland (500 B.C.-950 A.D.) periods. While no Indian village sites have been documented in the Old Dominion area, our community is situated between the sites of several Indian villages [see Exhibit 1], so it seems likely that Indians passed through the area. One Old Dominion member recalls that she and her siblings dug old arrowheads from their family's yard when they were children.
The Old Dominion area was included in a 338-acre land grant to James Robertson in 1731. Robertson previously obtained several other land grants nearby, totaling more than 2,000 acres. Robertson's daughter married one of the Birches, another family settling in the area.
The existence of Glebe Road has been documented as early as the 1750s. This road, from Alexandria city to the falls, was known then as the "Road to the Falls." It linked Christ Church in Alexandria with the Glebe lands (a glebe is a rectory with farm for a minister's residence and maintenance, in this case for the ministers of two churches: the Falls Church, completed in 1768, and the Christ Church, completed in 1773).
In the mid 1850s, Dr. Henry Wunder and his son George Ott Wunder came to the area from Pennsylvania and bought a parcel of land near the intersection of what is now Glebe Road and Lee Highway. This area was long known as Wunder's Crossroads and is the site of the only historical marker in the Old Dominion area. The Wunders were farmers and leading citizens of the area. Dr. Wunder was a Justice of the Alexandria County Court and Commissioner of Elections in 1862. George Ott Wunder was on a commission chartered in 1896 to find a location for the new courthouse (to serve what was then known as the country part of Alexandria and is now Arlington County) to replace the courthouse located in the city of Alexandria.
The Virginia constitution of 1869 provided for a mandatory system of public schools in the state. In 1870, Alexandria County was divided into three magisterial districts. A 1920 map [see Exhibit 2] shows Livingstone Heights in the Washington magisterial district. The first superintendent of public schools in Arlington, Richard L. Carne, was successful in getting schools established in the other two magisterial districts, but the Washington district was resistant. George Ott Wunder, among others, organized a successful campaign involving a vote on school taxes to get schools in the district. The first school built in the Washington magisterial district was the Carne school on the site of what is now Saint Mark's church at the intersection of Glebe Road and North 25th Street [see Exhibit 3]. Samuel Stalcup was the school's first teacher of approximately 90 students of all ages. Clark Bates, who grew up in a house on 24th Road (then Barton Avenue) and attended the Carne school, tells a wonderful story of students putting a heifer in the belfry of the school as a prank. Students of the Carne school frequented a store nearby, run by Mr. Meadows, to buy gingerbread, horse cakes and pencils. The store was shown as the Sam L. Gross store in an 1878 map of the county; it was later run by the Puglisi family and then the Cohens and Prusses. The store, then known as the Country Club Market, finally closed around 1970. The one-room Carne school was supplemented by a larger frame building in 1885, and was replaced by the John Marshall school directly across the street in 1926. The John Marshall building now houses medical offices. Saint Mark's church (originally Evangelical United Brethren) was built on the Carne school site in the 1940s.
The Old Dominion area was mostly farmland at the turn of the century. A 1900 map by the Virginia Title Company showed the major landholders to be Annie Wunder (65.627 acres), Henry Simpson with a 5-acre tract in the center of the Wunder land, Jno J. McAuliffe (12.237 acres), and George G. Boteler (40 acres). The Boteler house stood until the Summer of 1997; it was the brick Victorian set back off of Glebe Road at 25th Street [see Exhibit 4]. The house originally was clapboard and was bricked over later.
The period between 1900 and 1910 was one of substantial growth in Alexandria County, which was separated from the city of Alexandria and renamed Arlington County in 1920. Glebe Road was an important cross-county route during this period. A 1907 map of Arlington (copyright by G.G. Boteler, interestingly) shows the Livingstone Heights subdivision, which comprised what is now the Old Dominion area. Many homes were built in Livingstone Heights with the arrival of the railroad. The Great Falls and Old Dominion steam railroad ran from Rosslyn through Livingstone Heights to Great Falls beginning in 1906. In 1907, Frank Lyon built "Lyonhurst," which later became the first home in the county to use electricity (tapped from the trolley line). The Lyons sold the home to Dr. Sutton in 1922, and for a time the Spanish-style home was known as the Sutton Place. In 1946, the Sutton Place became Missionhurst.
In 1911, the Great Falls and Old Dominion Company was reorganized into the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) railroad and the line was converted to electricity. Officers of the railway included Colin H. Livingstone, Senator Steven B. Elkins, and the Hon. John R. McLean. The line to Great Falls was operated until 1934.
A Washington and Virginia Real Estate Company brochure advertised Livingstone Heights as "the highest land around Washington." Comparisons given were:
Capitol Hill, 90 feet above Washington
Soldiers Home, 320 feet
Chevy Chase, 350 feet
Cleveland Park, 400 feet
Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant, 200 feet
Congress Heights, 160 feet
Livingstone Heights, 465 feet
The brochure also advertised "homes for cultured and refined people desiring cool, healthful and artistic surroundings." Other sales points were cars every ten minutes at two stations on Livingstone Heights, pure water, cool breezes, attractive surroundings, electric lights, and telephone. The two stations in Livingstone Heights were Lyonhurst, at what is now Old Dominion Drive and 25th Street (then Cortelyou Avenue), and Livingstone Heights, at what is now Old Dominion Drive and 24th Street (then Livingstone Ave.). The officials of the Washington and Virginia Real Estate Company were Colin H. Livingstone (President), R.H. Lynn, and T.C. Smith. The Livingstone Heights subdivision, comprising 90 acres of land, was named after Colin H. Livingstone, who had been the secretary of Senator Elkins from West Virginia, as well as the secretary of the Interstate Commerce Committee of the U.S. Senate. Livingstone Heights was later divided into Marshall Heights and part of Lee Heights on the east side of Glebe Road and Livingstone Heights and part of Lee Heights on the west side of Glebe Road.
In the 1920s and 1930s, many improvements were made to the Livingstone Heights area. County water and sewer lines were provided in the late 1920s. In 1934, the side streets, which had been dirt covered with coal cinders, were paved with black top. A 1932 map [see Exhibit 5] shows the original street names in the Old Dominion area. In 1935, the street names were changed in anticipation of local mail service and a stop light was added at the intersection of Glebe Road and Lee Highway. Mail service from an Arlington post office began in 1937; previously all mail had come from Washington. Admiral Rixey, owner of Rixey mansion (now the main house at Marymount University) helped to organize the Saint Mary's Episcopal Church and gave land for its building. The first services were held in the old Carne school in 1925. Ground-breaking for the church building took place on June 5, 1926, and the first services were held in the new building on April 1, 1927.
Many lots were subdivided and new houses were built in the late 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Today, the Old Dominion area has an interesting mix of houses. A number of large farmhouses and Queen Anne style houses [see example in Exhibit 6] built in the early part of the century have been renovated by their owners. There are several catalog, or kit, houses in the area, including a number of Sears houses and at least one Montgomery Wards house and one Lewis house. Sears catalog house models include an Avalon, a Walton, a Sunbeam, a Hathaway, a Saratoga, and a Kilbourne. Until 1997, there was a Lustron enamel-coated steel house in the neighborhood. Brick colonials and cape cods built in the 1940s and 1950s are very common.
The County-wide Historic Resources survey (now 65% completed) will be taking place in the Old Dominion Neighborhood during 2002. This reconnaissance survey identifies all buildings over 50 years of age and makes recommendations that could warrant further research and designation. The possible results from this initial survey could include such future actions as: National Register nominations for either individual buildings or a collection of buildings, the need for information on State and Federal Tax Credits to property owners wishing to substantially rehabilitate their property, identification of sites for historic markers, and the need to develop design guidelines for in-fill construction. Old Dominion looks forward to receiving the results of the Historic Resources survey.
Penrose is the South Arlington neighborhood bounded by Arlington Boulevard on the north, Walter Reed Drive on the west, Columbia Pike on the south and Washington Boulevard on the east. The material below is from their Neighborhood Conservation Plan, but is text only. The Plan has many very interesting photos and graphics, including early streetcars, and is worth looking at in <"http://on-the-pike.com/penrose/penrose_ncp.pdf">its .pdf format.
Penrose, located approximately three miles from Washington, DC, is a residential neighborhood in central Arlington County. It is bounded by Arlington Boulevard to the
north, Columbia Pike to the south, Washington Boulevard to the east, and South Fillmore
Street/South Walter Reed Drive to the west. Penrose was first platted and subdivided in 1882
by William H. Butler and Henry Louis Holmes, prominent leaders in the African American
community. Because of its close proximity to Freedman�s Village and the lack of restrictive
covenants, Penrose was initially home to a vast number of African Americans including
renowned medical researcher Dr. Charles Drew. Penrose, also once known as Central
Arlington, experienced significant growth after the turn of the 20th century with the arrival of
the commuter railways, the advent of the automobile and the need for housing to support the
burgeoning population flocking to the nation�s capital. This population surge overwhelmed
the largely rural neighborhood of Penrose, altering the demographic make-up and
transforming it into a commuting suburb of Washington, D.C.
Early Local History
Arlington history begins with Native American Indian history and may date back as far as
13,500 years. Various nomadic clans established villages, raised crops and quarried stone
along Four Mile Run. More than a dozen village sites have been found within the boundaries
of Arlington County; eight along the shore of the Potomac River and three in the upper valley
of Four Mile Run. In July 1608, Captain John Smith and fourteen other Englishmen sailed up
the Potomac River from James Fort to where the present day railroad bridge and the spans for
US Route 1 and Interstate 395 touch Virginia soil. There, just one mile east of Penrose�s
southeast boundary of Washington Boulevard and Columbia Pike, they found a Native
American village of long houses made of grass mats.
In 1649, England�s King Charles II, exiled in Scotland, granted 5,282,000 acres of Virginia
land to Thomas, Lord Culpeper. This charter was confirmed after the Restoration, and when
Culpeper died in 1689, his daughter Catherine inherited five-sixths of the property. In 1690
Catherine married Thomas, 5th Lord Fairfax. In 1724, Lord Fairfax granted 432 acres to
James Robertson. According to a landgrant map of 1669 to 1796, this parcel of land spanned
from North Arlington to South 6th Street in Penrose. In 1730, an additional 629 acres was
granted to Robertson. This parcel began at South 6th Street and led south through Penrose to
south of Columbia Pike.
It is difficult to decipher who owned the various parcels within Penrose once Robertson sold
the land. An 1878 map shows land holdings by Ellen Crocker, Maggie Crocker (both sides of
Wayne Street), S.E. Corbett, J. Bartlett, Truman Hall (between Walter Reed Drive and South
Wayne Street, and William Reed and Henry Austin (east of South Courthouse Road).
Proximity to the District of Columbia
In 1791, President George Washington determined that the ten-mile-square to become the
new Federal District should begin at Jones Point, south of Alexandria, and proceed
northwestward toward the Falls Church. While the District of Columbia was not organized
until 1801, the part of Fairfax County ceded by Virginia to federal jurisdiction was organized
as Alexandria County, including Alexandria City. All of present-day Arlington County,
including Penrose, was included in the original proposed Ten Mile Square of the District of
The Columbia Turnpike
In 1808, the merchants of Washington commissioned the construction of the Long Bridge in
the present location of the railroad bridge over the Potomac River. From the Long Bridge, the
District of Columbia Turnpike (now Columbia Pike Route 244) was built westward to
intercept the Leesburg Turnpike (Route 7) and the Little River Turnpike (Route 236). The
Penrose portion of the Columbia Turnpike was completed in 1812 and allowed local farmers
to transport their produce to Washington.
In 1802 George Washington Parke Custis began construction of a mansion on the high land
located directly east of Penrose. Only a natural dividing line created by Long Branch Creek,
which today weaves alongside Washington Boulevard, separated the Custis lands and
Penrose. The 1,100-acre site, which he had inherited from his father, overlooked the Potomac
River and the city of Washington. When the mansion was completed in 1817 it was named
Mount Washington, though it was later renamed Arlington House, after the original Custis
estate in Northhampton County, Virginia. Arlington County derives its name from the
mansion Custis built on this estate.
Arlington�s first house of worship was located just east of Penrose�s boundaries at Columbia
Pike and South Orme Street. It was built around 1825 by Custis for his family, neighbors and
servants. Services were conducted by students from the Episcopal Theological Seminary in
By the time Alexandria County was retroceded to Virginia in 1846 by the U.S. Congress
because of jurisdictional and payment issues for the Alexandria Canal, the Columbia
Turnpike corridor showed signs of increasing development. In 1850, the Columbia
Schoolhouse, a one-story wood frame building, was constructed on the corner of South
Wayne Street and Columbia Turnpike in Penrose as a private schoolhouse. In 1871, the
school was chartered as the first public school (PS 1) in the Arlington School District. The
schoolhouse also served as a place of worship for the congregation of Hunter Chapel (later
Arlington United Methodist Church on Glebe Road), which was destroyed during the Civil
Photo: The 1850 Columbia Schoolhouse, at the corner of South Wayne Street and Columbia Turnpike - modern day site of Trinity Episcopal Church. (Photo from Images of America:
Arlington, reprinted with permission of the Arlington Historical Society.)
The Civil War
In May 1861, Arlington was occupied by federal troops and the Arlington Heights were
seized. The troops immediately began the construction of what came to be known as the
Arlington Line - comprising Fort Runyon, Fort Corcoran, Fort Albany and Fort Scott. In July
1861, after a federal loss at Bull Run, work was also begun on Fort Ethan Allen, Fort
Richardson, and a line of breastworks and lunettes. In August 1861, Fort Craig was
constructed at the current Penrose location of South Courthouse Road and South 4th Street
and became a part of the Arlington Line. It had a perimeter of 324 yards and emplacements
for 11 guns. While the Arlington Line was never attacked, it supported a garrison of troops
numbering 10,000 (compared to the local residential population of 1,400).
Forests, fields, produce and buildings were confiscated by the troops. By the end of the civil
war, timber and wood had become scarce. The Arlington area had lost almost all of its
woodland of elms, chestnut, walnut, birch, maple and oak trees. Farms had lost all their
animal stock and many barns and outbuildings had been burned or destroyed for military
uses. The grounds near the Arlington Mansion became a burial ground for soldiers - the start
of Arlington Cemetery. Today, Penrose is separated from Arlington Cemetery only by Fort
Arlington Chapel, also known as the Chapel of Ease, was burned by Union soldiers at the
start of the war. The congregation was reestablished after the war when it met in abandoned
Federal barracks in this vicinity (perhaps on the grounds of the Navy Annex). Trinity
Episcopal Church, now located at South Wayne Street and Columbia Pike in Penrose, is the
successor congregation to Arlington Chapel.
In the1860s, the United States Congress and the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and
Abandoned Lands began to establish settlements to ease the transitions from servitude to
freedom and from wartime to peace. Beyond the provision of assistance to African
Americans, the Bureau maintained a number of settlements throughout the South and
bordering states to provide freed people with housing and opportunities for work, training
and education. These settlements began under the wartime supervision of the Union Army
and were managed by the Quartermaster�s Department.
In May 1863, a settlement site was selected just south of the Custis Arlington Estate. There,
Freedman�s Village was built and formally dedicated on December 4, 1863. It would become
the most famous of all the settlements. There were over 10 frame houses, 50 two-story
duplex houses, two chapels, a school with five teachers, a meeting hall, a hospital and a home
for the aged and infirm. At one time the population exceeded 1,000. Though intended to be
temporary, Freedman�s Village remained functioning until the 1890�s after which time its
residents moved to other areas of Arlington County; most notably to the Butler Holmes
Subdivision (now Penrose), Nauck, Hall�s Hill, Johnson�s Hill, East Arlington, Queen City
and South Washington.
Evolution of a Name: Butler Holmes Becomes Central Arlington Becomes Penrose
The Butler Holmes Subdivision
In 1879, two farmers and laborers who were community leaders in Freedman�s Village,
William H. Butler and Henry Louis Holmes, purchased parcels of land west of Fort Myer in
what is today Penrose. They built their own homes here, relocating with their families around
1879, and improved the area with substantial construction of freestanding dwellings. In 1882,
the neighborhood was ultimately platted as the Butler-Holmes subdivision. This was the first
impetus for growth in Penrose from its rural farming setting.
Today�s Arlington Boulevard Route 50 bound the Butler Holmes subdivision to the north,
Wise Street to the east, South Second Street to the south and South Fillmore Street to the
west. Because of its proximity to Freedman�s Village and the lack of restrictive covenants,
the Butler Holmes subdivision became home to many African Americans. The most famous
resident was Dr. Charles Drew, an African American who gained international acclaim for
his scientific advances in the field of blood plasma transfusion research. He was the first
African American to receive a Doctor of Science in Medicine and he became Head of the
Surgery Department at Howard University. His 1910 era home, where he resided until 1939,
is located at 2505 South 1st Street. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark and
remains occupied by the Drew family today.
Photo: The Charles Drew house in 1920 and in 1977. An old family photo shows that the Drew family raised chickens at their home in Arlington in the 1920s.
Both Butler and Holmes held public office in Arlington County prior to their real estate
development ventures. William Butler served as Commissioner of Roads in 1879 and later as
Surveyor of Roads throughout the 1880s, as well as Superintendent of the Poor. In 1879,
Butler constructed a wood frame Queen-Anne style home at 2407 South 2nd Street that is still
owned by the Butler family. Henry Holmes served as commissioner of Revenue between
1876 and 1903 and was one of the first officers of St. John�s Baptist church, located at the
intersection of Columbia Pike and South Scott Street. An annex to the now demolished
Arlington County courthouse was named in his honor. Holmes passed away in 1905 and his
widow occupied the second Holmes family house at 2803 S. 2nd St. until her death in the
Photo: The Butler family home (left) and the Holmes house (right) in 2003.
Arlington County named a public park for Butler and Holmes in recognition of their
community services. The park is located within the original subdivision at 101 South Barton
Street. The Butler Holmes subdivision was the first of several subdivisions that would
together become modern-day Penrose and many descendants of original residents still live
Maps from 1900 show 15 parcels of land, together referred to as The Arlington Heights,
roughly located between the Butler Holmes subdivision and Columbia Pike. Occupants
included Bertha Bradley (28.94 acres), Emma and Truman Hall (23.17 acres), Sam Potter,
Julia Smith (B.M. Smith), P.P. Lewis, J.P. Lewis, Emma McConville, and Emma Cothern
(10.36 acres). In the 1960s the Arlington Heights subdivision and the Butler Holmes
subdivision were merged to form a neighborhood called Central Arlington.
Penrose and the Commuter Rail System
From the 1890s into the first part of the 20th century, this neighborhood saw a substantial
population increase as a result of the introduction of the Fort Meyer Branch of the
Washington-Alexandria and Falls Church commuter railway that connected the community
to Rosslyn, Georgetown and the District of Columbia. The neighborhood grew into a
working-class community with laborers and workers who supported North Arlington and
Washington, D.C. Trolley cars cut through Penrose along South Fillmore Street and South
Second Street and connected with the Washington-Virginia line at Hunter Station (still
standing as a private residence) near the intersection of South 2nd Street and South Wayne
Street within the Butler Holmes subdivision. This particular station, which gave residents a
direct connection to Washington, D.C., was located just south of where the Washington,
Arlington and Fairfax Electric Railway lines intersected with the trolley line.
Photo: This private residence was formerly the Hunter Station, with an adjacent General Store.
The Columbia Station located at Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive was also located in
modern day Penrose. Penrose Station was one of the stops on the Nauck Line between
Hunter and Columbia. Street name and grid changes, as well as inconclusive maps, have
made it difficult to pinpoint the exact location of the stop. It was somewhere within the
modern day quadrant of South 2nd Street, South 6th Street, South Barton Street, and South
Photo: A Washington-Virginia Railway Company trolley on the Nauck Line (circa 1909).
Illustration: Interior view of a typical Penrose trolley car.
(Trolley photos from Old Dominion Trolley Too: A History of the Mount Vernon Line,
by John E. Merriken, used with permission of the National Capital Trolley Museum.)
In 1995, a citizens� initiative spearheaded the neighborhood name change from Central
Arlington to Penrose to both distinguish the community from an oblivious reference on a
map and to recall the neighborhood�s great history. The name Penrose is derived from one of
the historical trolley stops on the old Georgetown-Nauck line. Since the name change, the
trolley has become our neighborhood symbol and can be found on our neighborhood
identification signs at four gateway locations. As this effort proves, citizen initiative,
neighborliness and a sense of history all remain strong in Penrose.
Early Telecommunications Born in Penrose
In 1913, three towers were erected by the U.S. Navy on South Courthouse Road and South
8th Street in Penrose as part of an effort to establish a worldwide communication network.
The official name of the facility was the Arlington Radio Station, introducing the use of the
word �radio� to describe the new wireless communication. The three towers, also known as
the three sisters, stood on a site with an elevation of 300 feet and were constructed at heights
of 600 feet and 450 feet. In 1915, engineers from American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T)
used the Arlington radio towers to complete the first successful trans-oceanic voice
communication. They used 300 vacuum tubes to generate and modify the high frequency
current in a wireless transmission spanning three thousand miles from Penrose, Arlington to
the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.
During the same tests, a voice message was carried all the way to Pearl Harbor, in the
Hawaiian Islands for a distance of almost five thousand miles. The U.S. public once set its
clocks by the Arlington Radio time signal and listened for its broadcast weather reports. The
towers were dismantled in 1941 because they were considered a menace to aircraft
approaching the new Washington National Airport. An AT&T Central Office is still located
nearby at Walter Reed Drive and South 9th Street. The Defense Information Systems Agency
(DISA) currently occupies the Penrose site where the towers stood.
Photo: Radio Station Arlington, in 1913, on South Courthouse Road and South 8th Street. (Photo from Images of America: Arlington, used with permission of the Arlington Historical Society.)
Mid-20th Century Growth
In 1926, there were approximately 70 houses in Penrose. Following the opening of Arlington
Boulevard Route 50 in the 1930s and the growth of federal government agencies in
Washington and nearby military establishments, the neighborhood grew to 175 buildings and
several churches. During the early part of the community�s development, homes included a
number of vernacular, Queen Anne and Italianate-style dwellings constructed primarily of
wood frame. During the 1910s and 1920s, homes consisted of mainly wood-frame bungalows
and vernacular dwellings. A common practice at this time in Arlington County was the kit
house or mail-order house. The rail line facilitated the building of many kit homes in Penrose
since it allowed for easy shipping of materials.
With the birth of the Pentagon in the 1940s, expansion of local housing became a primary
concern. Several garden style apartment communities were built to accommodate the influx
of federal workers. Fillmore Gardens and Fort Craig Apartments (now the Executive Suites
Hotel) are primary examples. Fillmore Gardens, which received an award for architectural
merit in 1943 from the Washington Board of Trade, was built on a twenty-acre tract of land,
but also led to the demolition of the Sewell Corbett/Bradbury House and the Arlington M.E.
Many commercial buildings lie along the southern edge of the neighborhood along or just
north of Columbia Pike. These were primarily constructed during the mid-to-late 20th
century, fueled by the increased population growth between the wars. The main commercial
corridor stretches along the southern boundary and beyond and includes restaurants, grocery
stores and other retail establishments that serve Penrose and automobile traffic along
Columbia Pike. Several of the original storefront buildings remain standing today, including
the building historically associated with Fillmore Garden on the north side of Columbia Pike
at South Walter Reed Drive.
Between the 1950s and 1990s vacant residential lots were sold and developed with singlefamily
homes or townhomes throughout the neighborhood. The large apartment complexes of
Dorchester Towers and Dorchester Gardens were built by the Reinsch family in 1960 and are
still owned and operated by the family. The lands of Julia and B.M. Smith have been
developed into single-family homes, apartment buildings along Columbia Pike, shopping
centers (Adams Square) and smaller retail buildings along South 9th Street. The Adams Court
townhomes on South 9th Street and South Adams Street were built on land belonging to the
Today, the community of Penrose includes an amalgamation of historic residential enclaves
that became united by their shared transportation-related growth patterns and boundaries. It is
unfortunate that increased property values have caused older Penrose homes with historic
merit to be bought and razed to make room for much larger residences or multi-family
residences. (See photos of typical Penrose homes in Chapter 6, Land Use and Zoning.)
- Recommendation 1: To protect historic Penrose properties, we
recommend that the preliminary information request application
recommending the designation of Penrose neighborhood as a National
Historic District (drafted by the Arlington County Historic Preservation
Office) be expanded to include a more extensive list of homes 50 years
or older and information regarding the Arlington Radio Towers.
- Recommendation 2: Existing historic site markers for the Arlington
Radio Towers and Fort Craig are very difficult to see. We would like
new, double-sided, site markers positioned so that they may be read
from both a sidewalk approach and a drive-by approach. Also, given the
historic merit of the Penrose neighborhood, we would like to
recommend the placement of several addition historic markers.
Candidate sites include the following:
- Residence of Dr. Charles E. Drew (existing small plaque is only
visible when standing on the front porch of the home)
- Residences of William H. Butler and Henry Louis Holmes
- Hunter streetcar station at South 2nd Street and South Wayne Street
- Columbia streetcar station at South Walter Reed and Columbia
- Columbia Schoolhouse site at South Wayne Street and Columbia
- Location of the first Arlington Post Office as noted on 1860s maps
of the Virginia Room of Arlington Central Library (exact site still
to be determined)
- Recommendation 3: Penrose is in favor of the creation of an Arlington
County database (compiled of texts/articles/books) on the historic
architectural styles of the bungalow and other period style or kit homes.
This would include information and photographs of renovations of
similar homes elsewhere and would be a valuable resource to those
interested in restoring or preserving historic properties.
- Recommendation 4: Because Penrose encapsules so much local,
national and international history, it deserves special note in any
historical venture that Arlington County may undertake. Therefore, we
request that Penrose receive display space within the planned Arlington
County History Museum or at least in a community museum (see
chapter 5 recommendation 32 for Penrose Community Center).
Preserving Penrose History for Future Generations
Finally, Penrose would like to request the support and cooperation of Arlington County on a
whole new level. Based upon the historical significance of Penrose, we believe that our
neighborhood is an ideal location for the County to introduce a public history showcase
program, which could later be expanded to other neighborhoods.
Dr. Margaret Mulrooney, Public Historian, Associate Professor at Arlington�s Marymount
University and a Penrose resident, has encouraged us to work toward the creation of public
art projects within our neighborhood. In doing so, we would follow the examples of Urban
Chapter 1: Penrose History Page 1-13
Historian Dr. Dolores Hayden�s The Power of Place studies. We would aim to combine
public history and public art to commemorate and to help evoke what she refers to as a
"community spirit of claiming a place�"
Based upon her conversations with Angela Adams of the County�s Cultural Affairs Office,
Dr. Mulrooney has informed us that Arlington County plans a public art master plan
including an artist in residence who will be responsible for the overall look and design of the
re-developed Columbia Pike. We understand that guidelines for community issued projects
will be forthcoming, but in the meantime we would like to begin realizing our vision for
We suggest that, if supported by Arlington County, a Penrose Public History Showcase could
be achieved with matching funds from private grant foundations. Dr. Mulrooney has pledged
her time and effort pro bono to make this idea a reality for Penrose. She suggests the
establishment of an advisory board made up of Arlington County officials, historians and
representatives of the Neighborhood Association. This board would create a synopsis of the
symbolic pieces of local history for which a competition could be launched to solicit design
Ideally, the Penrose Public History Showcase would consist of a multi-tiered public art
project anchored by a gateway piece preferably located at the new Penrose Square along the
re-developed Columbia Pike. This location is ideal to introduce a general history of our
neighborhood to a significant number of individuals. For example, a mural depicting a trolley
from the Georgetown-Nauck line would tie in perfectly with our both our neighborhood�s
symbol and the history of Arlington (see recommendation #48 for creation of Penrose
We would also encourage additional smaller pieces such as sculptures, benches or panels to
be placed elsewhere in the community, most likely in our public parks. Ideas include a
sculpture to commemorate The Three Towers or panels to showcase the lives and
contributions of William H. Butler and Henry Louis Holmes or Dr. Charles Drew.
According to Dr. Hayden, "Every American city and town contains traces of historic
landscapes intertwined with its current spatial configuration. These parts of older landscapes
can be interpreted to strengthen people�s understanding of how their city has developed over
time. The power of place to nurture social memory - to encompass shared time in the form of
shared territory - remains untapped for most working people�s neighborhoods in most
American cities. The sense of civic identity that shared history can convey is lost or
repressed. New public art or open space designs might be possible to commemorate the sites�
- Recommendation 5: We request the full support of Arlington County in
the creation of a Penrose Public History Showcase to highlight history
made in Penrose that is of local, national and international interest. This
could be a pilot project to be expanded upon throughout Arlington.
Sources used to compile this chapter:
- The Arlington Historical Society website
- Images of America, Arlington, by the Arlington Historical Society, 2000
- The Preliminary Information Form: Penrose, Arlington County, Virginia as
submitted by the Arlington County Office of Historic Preservation and prepared by
Jennifer Bunting of E.H.T. Traceries, Inc.
- The Defense Intelligence Systems Agency website
- The Bluemont Neighborhood Conservation Plan
- The Virginia Room at Arlington Central Library
- Dolores Hayden�s The Power of Place published in The Journal of Urban History, Volume 20, Number 4, 4 August 1994, pages 466-485
Waverly Hills is the North Arlington neighborhood between Glebe Road and N. Utah Street and between I-66 and Lee Highway. Waverly Hills is not a member of the Civic Federation.
Early Land Grants
Throughout most of the 17th century all of Northern Virginia remained Indian territory until the restoration of King Charles II to the English throne in 1660. The majority of Waverly
Hills was included in a land grant to James Brechin, rector of St. Peter's Parish in New Kent County in 1716. Brechin never lived on his Arlington holding and upon his death in 1721,
Daniel Jennings, the surveyor of Fairfax County (in which Arlington was then included), purchased the land. A small portion in the northwest corner of the Waverly Hills area, was
part of a grant in 1731 to James Robertson, a large landholder in what is present-day Arlington.
The Glebe House
Colonial Virginia law required each parish to have a glebe (a farm or plantation) to provide
the rector a living. In 1770, Fairfax Parish, which contained Christ Church in Alexandria, the
Falls Church, and all of present-day Arlington, purchased 517 acres from Daniel Jennings for
its glebe. The land lay midway between Christ Church and the Falls Church, making it a
convenient location for the rector, who served both churches. The vestry of Fairfax Parish
directed a house to be built on the glebe and the Reverend Townshend Dale was the first to
occupy the house from 1775-1778. Dale was succeeded by the Reverend Bryan Fairfax, later
the 8th Lord Fairfax. In the early 1800s the Christ Church vestry sold the glebe to Walter
Jones, an eminent Washington attorney and John Mason, a younger son of George Mason of
Gunston Hall. Mason took the half of the land that adjoined property he owned along the
Potomac, while Jones took the half with the ruined Glebe House which had burned in 1808.
He rebuilt the house about 1820, but lost the property by default in 1829. It was purchased
by Washington Mayor John Peter VanNess. Mason sold his portion of the former Glebe
property to VanNess in 1836 and the Glebe lands were reunited. VanNess used the Glebe
House as a summer retreat and hunting lodge before selling the property in 1846.
John Brown owned the Glebe House during the 1850s. He rebuilt the house after a fire and
probably added the octagonal wing. In 1870 General Caleb Cushing purchased the Glebe
House and accompanying land, which had now dwindled to about 100 acres. Cushing had
been a member of Congress, a soldier in the Mexican War, and attorney general under
President Franklin Pierce. Cushing sold the Glebe in 1879. In 1893, John P. Willett, the
postmaster of Washington, bought the Glebe House and its 100 acres. Following Willett's
death in 1899, his widow Laura lived in the house for almost 20 years.
By 1801 Virginia had ceded the present area of Arlington County and the town of Alexandria
to the federal government, to be combined with land from Maryland to form the capital city
of Washington. The Maryland portion was known as the County of Washington; the Virginia
portion, which had been part of Fairfax County, was designated Alexandria County. With the
creation of the capital city, dissatisfaction grew among residents of Alexandria County who
felt their area was not being used for the purposes of the capital and was not likely to be. In
1846, following an act of Congress which provided for a referendum by the inhabitants and a
vote for retrocession, President Polk issued a proclamation of retrocession and the returned
area was divided between Alexandria City and Alexandria County. Confusion between a city
and county with the same name resulted in the name change to Arlington County in 1920.
Although located just across the river from the nation's capital, Arlington remained rural
countryside in 1900. Development was hindered by poor transportation and the absence of
paved roads. The arrival of electric railroads, or trolleys, occurred during the last years of the
19th Century and the early years of the 20th. The Great Falls and Washington Railroad, later
the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD), started in Rosslyn, passed north of Waverly
Hills, and finally ended at Great Falls. Today, Old Dominion Drive follows the right of way
west of Glebe Road. Interstate 66 follows the right of way of another line that cut through
the southern part of Waverly Hills.
With the railroads came early signs of development. Villages grew up at Rosslyn, Clarendon,
Cherrydale, and Ballston. But Waverly Hills remained countryside relatively free of
development. The Glebe House remained the major landmark of the area. Another landmark
was Mt. Olivet Methodist Church. The first Mt. Olivet church was built in the late 1850s; the
present neo-colonial church is the fourth building on the site and dates from 1948.
Laura Willett began the subdivision of the Glebe property that developed into the Waverly
Hills neighborhood. In May 1915, Mrs. Willett sold 79 acres of land and the Glebe House.
Part of that property was laid off in lots titled Willette Heights, a subdivision that included
the area bounded by Glebe Road, Utah Street, 15th Street, and the south side of 18th Street.
In 1926, Frank and Marie Ball purchased a lot containing two acres and the Glebe House--the
largest single unit in Willette Heights. Frank Ball was the former county commonwealth's
attorney and served in the Virginia Senate from 1924 to 1932. Senator and Mrs. Ball made
the Glebe House renowned for gracious hospitality. They also had a keen interest in Arlington history, and hosted the meeting at the Glebe House in 1956 which established the
Arlington Historical Society. The Glebe House remained the Ball home until Mrs. Ball's
death in 1980.
Willette Heights began a series of subdivisions during the 1920s and 1930s. These included
Clarenford, bounded by Washington Boulevard, Glebe Road, and 15th and Utah Streets;
Waverly Hills Section 2, between 15th and 18th Streets, Utah Street, and the east side of
Taylor Street (an area now outside Waverly Hills); and Waverly Hills Section 3, between the
north side of 18th Street and 19th Street and Glebe Road and Utah Street.
A 1929 map labels the area Waverly Hills, but no indication has been found for the origin of
the name. With the subdivisions had come many new streets, some with duplicate names.
Arlington adopted a new system for street names in 1934 when the County was divided into
north and south designations by what would eventually become Arlington Boulevard. Also
included was provision for systematic house numbering. Although there was little traffic, the
county installed a traffic light at the Glebe and Lee intersection in 1935. It was the only light
on Lee Highway between Rosslyn and Falls Church. A grocery opened on Glebe Road at Lee
Highway in 1936, and other stores soon followed. By 1940, all four corners had stores and
World War II interrupted the building in Waverly Hills, as it did throughout Arlington. But
the end of the war brought renewed development to meet the demand for housing in the
growing Washington area. M.T. Broyhill & Sons, which developed much of postwar
Arlington, built Broyhill's Addition to Waverly Hills, bounded by 19th Road, 20th Street, and
Woodstock and Vermont Streets in 1949. Other developments nearby were already in
progress or followed rapidly thereafter. These included: Hines Addition, bounded by Upton,
Utah, and 20th Streets and 19th Road; Waverly Village East, bounded by Vermont, Upland,
and 20th Streets and 19th Road; and Wundoria, bounded by Woodstock and Woodrow
Streets and Glebe and 20th Roads.
A 1952 map of Arlington shows Waverly Hills in essentially its current state. All the new
development lots had houses. The Parkland Gardens Apartments on Glebe Road opposite
21st Street had been constructed, as had the Lorcom Apartments on the west side of
Woodstock at 20th Road (but not the apartments on the east side of Woodstock).
The 1950s and 1960s saw Lee Highway become largely commercial, as businesses and small
apartments replaced homes. The construction of Interstate 66 in the mid-1970s cut off the
lower portion of Waverly Hills, which was then incorporated into the Ballston-Virginia
Square Civic Association. The 1970s and 1980s witnessed construction of townhouses along
both the upper part of the Glebe boundary and Lee Highway. During the 1990s, a number of
large lots have been divided and new houses in-filled.
Map #3 Subdivision 1920�s � 1930�s
Following Mrs. Ball's death in 1980, the Ball family sold the Glebe House and its two acres
to Arlington developer Preston Caruthers. The Glebe House was donated to the National
Genealogical Society for its headquarters while the gardens behind the house were replaced
with the Glebe House Mews townhouses, despite neighborhood opposition.
Source: "The Waverly Hills Neighborhood" by Willard J. Webb, historian and Waverly Hills resident. The full
text was previously published in the Arlington Historical Magazine of October 1997.
A North Arlington neighborhood bounded roughly by Glebe Road, George Mason Drive, I-66 and 17th St. N.
The Waycroft-Woodlawn Neighborhood lies in Northern Arlington county, Virginia in the area bounded by Glebe Road, George Mason Drive, Interstate 66 (Custis Memorial Parkway), 17th Street North.. Waycroft-Woodlawn is a well established neighborhood of approximately 1200 residents in over 500 single-family homes. Most houses are of brick or stone construction and over thirty years old; many are over fifty years old. The neighborhood is known for its tree-lined streets and flowering shrubs and azaleas in the spring, yet its history is relatively
recent. Just over seventy years ago it was an area of farms, fields, and woodlands, undistinguished from the rest of a largely rural Arlington County, Virginia.
The original version of the following historical sketch was written by Willard J. Webb for the Waycroft-Woodlawn Neighborhood Conservation Plan approved in February of 1984. It has been updated to cover the period from 1984 to 1998.
THE COLONIAL YEARS (1608-1800)
The story actually begins much earlier when Captain John Smith sailed up the Potomac on an exploratory trip in 1608. He landed at a Necostin Indian village on the Virginia shore near the end of the present railroad bridge and was the first white man to set foot in Arlington. For the next sixty years, however, the Arlington area remained Indian territory with only occasional white hunters and trappers visiting the area. By the latter part of the seventeenth century, grants began to be issued for land in the area that is now Arlington. The first grant was made to Robert Howson in 1669 for 6,000 acres. Initial grants were, of course, for accessible lands along the Potomac River. Waycroft-Woodlawn was included in a 1,246 - acre grant to John Colville in 1739. The Colville land extended approximately from Four Mile Run to Minor's Hill (the intersection of Little Falls Road, Williamsburg Boulevard, and Sycamore Street).
During the colonial period, the Arlington area underwent a number of juris dictional changes. It was included in Northumberland County in 1642, in West- moreland County in 1653, in Stafford County in 1664, in Prince William County in 1730, and , finally, in Fairfax County in 1742. Following the Revolution, Virginia and Maryland jointly ceded a ten-square-mile block of land that straddled both sides of the Potomac for the new United States capital, the District of Columbia. The Virginia portion was taken from Fairfax County and included the town of Alexandria and what is today Arlington.
PRE-CIVIL WAR (1800-1850)
The portion of the ten square miles given by Virginia for the District of Columbia was retroceded to the state in 1846 following a referendum among the inhabitants and was organized into Alexandria County. Arlington remained sparsely settled throughout the colonial period and in 1800 had a population of only 978, including 297 slaves. Throughout the nineteenth century, Arlington was rural and agricultural. Like the County, the area that was to become Waycroft-Woodlawn consisted of farms, scattered houses, and woods during the 1800's. It was bounded to the east by the "road from the Falls" (sub- sequently renamed Glebe Road), which extended from the town of Alexandria to Chain Bridge. Across this road from Waycroft-Woodlawn lay the lands of the old Fairfax Glebe, a 500 acre farm given to the rector of the parish in colonial days. The original house, just off Glebe Road, was built in 1775, burned in 1808, was rebuilt in 1820, and was enlarged in 1850. The Glebe House remains today one of Arlington's landmarks. The Waycroft-Woodlawn area was bisected by Brown's Bend Road (now 16th Street), which ran from Glebe Road westward to Falls Church. To the north was the Georgetown-Fairfax Road (now Lee Highway) and to the south the road (now Wilson Boulevard) that led from tile ferry at Rosslyn to Falls Church.
In the 1850's, two Waycroft-Woodlawn residents, William Marcey and John Brown, had a dispute over a parcel of land at the intersection of Glebe and Brown's Bend Roads. To resolve the matter, they both gave up their claims and the land was donated for a church site. Subsequently, Mt. Olivet Methodist Church was built there in the years 1855-1860 (The present church structure built in 1948 is the fourth building on the same site.)
CIVIL WAR TO WWI
The Civil War saw Union troops marching up and down Glebe Road to and from various of the twenty two forts of the Arlington Line, part of the defenses built around Washington. Mt. Olivet Church served as a hospital for wounded Union soldiers following the first battle of Manassas in July 1861. Later, the Church was a military commissary and stable and, during the winter of 1861-1863, the wooden structure was completely demolished by soldiers and used for firewood. Also, during the War, a brief skirmish occurred just north of the Waycroft-Woodlawn area at Hall's Hill (Lee Highway and Edison Street) in August 1861 when Union cavalry drove back a band of Confederates.
Following the Civil War, a Union officer, Major RS. Lacey of Ohio, who had been attracted by Northern Virginia, bought a farm in the southern part of the Waycroft-Woodlawn area and built a house, Broadview. This house survives today at 14th and Evergreen Streets. In the same period, a black community, High View Park-Hall's Hill, grew up to the north of Waycroft-Woodlawn, It was started by former slaves who purchased land from their old master Basil Hall. In the last years of the nineteenth Century and the early years of the twentieth century, the construction of first trolley lines and then railroads brought growth to Arlington, and small commuter villages grew in Clarendon, Ballston, Cherrydale, Bon Air, Glencarlyn, and Barcroft. Ballston lay just to the southeast of the Waycroft-Woodlawn area, and the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad crossed the southeast corner of the area (where Interstate 66 now cuts under Glebe and Washington Boulevard). The Lacey Station (near the present intersection of Glebe Road and Fairfax Drive) was the closest stop to Waycroft-Woodlawn. Meanwhile, in 1870, the town of Alexandria became an independent city while the Arlington area continued as Alexandria County.
By 1900, Arlington had a population of 6,450, but it remained rural. In Waycroft-Woodlawn at the time of World War I, most of the land to the north of Brown's Bend Road belonged to the Marcey and Sealock farms. Mr. Sealock's barn stood approximately where the old portion of Arlington Hospital is today and the Glebe School is now on the Marcey farm site. The Lacey farm occupied most of the land in the area south of Brown's Bend Road, and there were woods along Glebe Road between Mt. Olivet Church and Garrison Road (now Washington Boulevard). Area boys played ball in the Lacey cow pasture just north of Garrison Road and swam in a favorite hole in Lubber Run (a portion of the stream now completely covered over) on the other side of Garrison Road. In 1920, a name change from Alexandria County to Arlington County was enacted to avoid confusion with Alexandria city. Arlington, while exhibiting most characteristics of a mid-size suburban city, remains a county to this day. There are no cities within its boundaries.
THE WAR YEARS (WWI-WWII) AND BIRTH OF WWCA
World War I and the advent of the automobile brought great changes to Arlington, and the 1920's and 1930's saw the County transformed from a rural area into a surburban community. This growth reached Waycroft-Woodlawn in the latter half of the 1930's. State Senator Frank L. Ball, who was born, grew up, and lived all his life in Arlington, described this period of change in the Waycroft-Woodlawn area as follows in his history of Mt. Olivet Church:
The neighborhood near the Church changed face. The Glebe farm east of the Church was completely built up with single family dwellings. The old woods, known as Lacey's woods, changed into the excellent residential community of C1arenford. To the South, North, and West, Keith Brunback [Brumback] erected scores of Cape Cod cottages. No farm land was left and all about us there was anew hustle and bustle. People came from all corners of the world.
The Brumback firm, headed by T. J. Brumback, together with his sons Keith, who was the actual builder, and Clyde, built Woodlawn Village in the years 1934-1939. The Brumbacks first constructed houses along Abingdon Street from Washington Boulevard to 16th Street and then in the area bounded by Edison, Abingdon, I6th, and 17th Streets. Between 16th Street and Washington Boulevard and to the west of Abingdon Street, the area named Waycroft, lots were sold and individual houses built rather than the entire development being built by one builder as was the case in Woodlawn Village. The realty office for Waycroft stood at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Buchanan Street.
With this growth came the accoutrements of an urban community. Streets and sidewalks were laid out; sewer, telephone, and power lines installed; the Waycroft-Woodlawn Civic Association (WWCA) was formed in the fall of 1937; and the Woodlawn elementary school was built and opened in 1940. The Sealock farm was purchased for a hospital site in 1935 and the building constructed during World War II with the first patients admitted on March 15, 1944.
POST- WWII YEARS
In the years following World War II, the remaining vacant lots in Waycroft-Woodlawn were built up with individual dwellings. The trees, planted during the 1930's, matured and arched over the streets. In the late 1950's, Interstate Highway 66 was planned through Arlington and its path cut through the southeast corner of Waycroft-Woodlawn. Long-delayed and controversial, the construction was completed in 1982. A new consolidated elementary school, the Glebe School, was built in 1970-1971 on the Marcey farm site to replace several neighborhood schools, and the Woodlawn Elementary School closed. The old Woodlawn building housed the County's alternative high school 1971-1978 and then was transformed into the Hospice of Northern Virginia. A new wing to Arlington Hospital was completed in 1973. By 1970, a new generation of homeowners had moved into the area, and the Waycroft-Woodlawn Civic Association, which had become moribund during the 1960`s, reemerged as a potent force in the area.
As younger famillies begin to inhabit WWCA, they bring with them the next generation of children who will grow up here. These families are attracted by the convenient location, forested and flowered landscape, Woodlawn park and the friendly, relaxed neighborly atmosphere of Waycroft-Woodlawn. The civic pride and spirit that typified the beginning of the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood over sixty years ago remain alive and active today.
A North Arlington neighborhood bounded by 18th Street North, North Longfellow Street, North Jefferson Street, Interstate I-66 and McKinley Road.
Westover is a peaceful, friendly neighborhood located on the western side of Arlington County. Westover community was primarily farmland prior to its development in 1940 and has approximately 1,100 households. The majority of our community is made up of single-family colonial style homes, as well as semi-detached homes and surrounding garden style apartments.
The neighborhood is also home to Westover Shopping Center, Claude A. Swanson Middle School, Walter Reed Elementary School, Westover Library, Westover Park and bicycle trails. The two convenient metro stations are East Falls Church Metro, located at Washington Boulevard and Sycamore Street and Ballston Metro located at Wilson Boulevard.
Williamsburg is in Arlington's northwest corner, centered around the area where Williamsburg Boulevard meets Sycamore, Great Falls Road and N. Powhatan St. It includes Minor Hill Park and Nottingham Elementary School.
The Williamsburg area was inhabited by Native Americans of the Powhatan chiefdom for hundreds of years until they moved south in the 1600's due to intertribal warfare. In the 1730's European immigrants came to the area as farmers, probably attracted by the plentiful water supply from numerous natural springs. One of these settlers was George Minor, head of a prominent family of large landowners, who gave his name to Minor Hill, the highest point in what is now Arlington County. The area was sparsely inhabited and was occupied by half a dozen heavily wooded farms where tobacco, wheat, corn and oats were grown. The Revolutionary War had little impact on the area, although a French army, marching to reinforce Americans at Yorktown, did pass by and take on water at Minor Hill. During the War of 1812 several settlers from the area participated in the defense of Washington and Baltimore.
THE CIVIL WAR
Union forces occupied the Williamsburg area during most of the Civil War. Minor Hill was a strategic location for observation and signaling, and Federal troops were quartered along its flanks. Some of the first casualties of the war occurred when Union forces dislodged an encampment of Confederates dug in on Minor Hill. The Federals built an observation fort and signal tower on the summit of the hill, and it was also one of the sites where watch fires were used to warn of the approach of Confederate troops. It was this line of signal fires around Washington, DC, which inspired a line in Julia Ward Howe's Battle Hymn of the Republic, "I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps."
THE POST-WAR PERIOD
As a result of extensive damage to the area's property and infrastructure during the Civil War, Williamsburg entered a period of economic decline from which the area did not recover for decades. Residents gradually turned to truck farming as Washington's population increased and the railroads arrived. While prosperity did not result, residents were able to repair and rebuild homes and buildings damaged during the Civil War. Although the influenza epidemic killed 17 people, the area was otherwise unaffected by World War I. The Great Depression once again brought difficult times to Williamsburg. Money was scarce, and even truck farming suffered the effects of the downturn. Area residents regularly donated substantial amounts of vegetables from their gardens and fields to soup kitchens in Alexandria and Washington during these lean years.
WORLD WAR II
Williamsburg was greatly impacted by World War II. Many people in the community worked on wartime activities, and housing became scarce. As many women went to work and household income surged, more money was available for amenities, and more than 150 houses were built in the area. Many of the local roads were paved during World War II, and Arlington County officials began planning for a housing and population boom in Williamsburg, one of the last tracts in Arlington to be developed.
SINCE THE WAR
Large scale housing construction began in Williamsburg soon after V-J Day and within five years transformed the area from open farm land into a community of nearly 600 single-family homes. With this rapid development came the threat of runaway commercial development, and in 1951 the Williamsburg Civic Association was organized to retain "the desirable residential community."
Over the years the civic association was successful in opposing the construction of five gasoline stations on Minor Hill and in the surrounding community. The Association led the campaign to eradicate Japanese beetles, which were a serious problem in the 1950's. In the Sixties, the civic association campaigned to transform the weed-strewn median in the middle of the traffic circle into an attractively landscaped area. In the Seventies the Association was instrumental in having a leaf storage site on Minor Hill removed and persuaded the new Peoples Drug Store to build a brick retaining wall along the boundary of its parking lot. More recently, the civic association supported the effort to landscape the area at the base of Minor Hill, which was planted with many beautiful azaleas and other flowers as a memorial to the late Emily L. Sharp
It has been quite a few years since horses grazed on the north side of 31st Street and families with young children were moving into new homes. The toddlers of 1951 have grown up, married, and in many cases are now raising their own families in the area. Whatever the changes, the Williamsburg Civic Association strives to maintain the neighborhood as a desirable residential area.
This page was last revised on: February 12, 2005.