Arlington Historical Society

Arlington Historical Society Our mission is to help strengthen our community through a better understanding of its diverse history. The Arlington Historical Society, founded in 1956, is a non-profit organization.
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We have two museums--the Arlington Historical Museum and the Ball-Sellers House Museum--that are open free to the public. We sponsor monthly programs, publish the annual Arlington Historical Magazine with original research on Arlington and Northern Virginia history, and an annual high school essay contest. We also bring history into the community at events throughout the year.

We have two museums--the Arlington Historical Museum and the Ball-Sellers House Museum--that are open free to the public. We sponsor monthly programs, publish the annual Arlington Historical Magazine with original research on Arlington and Northern Virginia history, and an annual high school essay contest. We also bring history into the community at events throughout the year.

Mission: The Arlington Historical Society supports historical research, collects and preserves Arlington historical artifacts, and promote learning about the history of Arlington County, Virginia

Temporarily closed

On this day in Arlington history, December 26, 1917 The Washington Times reported that a fire in Arlington’s African-Ame...
12/26/2020

On this day in Arlington history, December 26, 1917 The Washington Times reported that a fire in Arlington’s African-American neighborhood of Queen City. The fire killed one child and destroyed three homes. According to the newspaper:

“One child was burned to death, three houses destroyed, and another partly burned by a fire which threatened for a while to wipe the town of Queen City, Virginia off the map shortly before noon today.”

“The fire broke out in the home of Mrs. Lavina Motrie when her granddaughter, Rene Henry thirteen years old was left alone while her grandmother went to work.”

“Only the work of the chemical engine from the Government’s experimental farm near Arlington Cemetery prevented the destruction of the town. Engine Company No. 16 from Washington and the Cherrydale Volunteer fire department arrived after the fire was under control.”

“Damage was estimated at $2,000. Queen City is about two miles south from the Virginia end of the Highway Bridge on the Arlington branch of the Washington and Virginia railway. Coroner Ashton of Ballston is conducting the investigation.”

Queen City otherwise known as East Arlington, was an African-American community in Arlington that grew as Freedman’s Village closed and families left. East Arlington public services lagged far behind white neighborhoods. It had no sidewalks, streetlights, curbs, or gutters. Most homes lacked electricity. Arlington County never ran water or sewer pipes into the area, so the homes all lacked running water and flush toilets. Residents drew well water for washing and had to fetch drinking water from a nearby spring.

Arlington’s first African-American volunteer fire brigade, one that would have been sure to respond to a fire as quickly as possible to a black neighborhood, was still a year away and would be in Hall’s Hill several miles away from East Arlington.

AHS has had a great team of volunteers this year working on our social media, conducting research, suggesting posts, and...
12/25/2020
Winter Fun in Arlington (Virtual Exhibit)

AHS has had a great team of volunteers this year working on our social media, conducting research, suggesting posts, and posting diligently. Besides Facebook, we have a Twitter site (#ArlHist) and Instagram (@ArlingtonHistory) and of course our website: https://arlingtonhistoricalsociety.org/Wint ) In a sense they've brought you tiny gifts of history everyday. They know who they are, but you should get a sense of who we are, too:
Jennifer B.
Zoe B.
Annette B.
Kelly H.
Cathy H.
Tracy H.
Debbie P.
Johnathan T.

Merry Christmas! from AHS

At the end of every year the Arlington Historical Museum has an exhibit that offers a glimpse into how our forebears experienced the holidays, how they cooked, where they shopped, or the toys they …

On this day in Arlington history, December 25, 1915 The Washington Herald proclaimed “Fleet is Flashed Yuletide Message:...
12/25/2020

On this day in Arlington history, December 25, 1915 The Washington Herald proclaimed “Fleet is Flashed Yuletide Message: Arlington Radio Station Sends Christmas Greetings from Daniels to Navy Men.” Imagine the novelty and excitement over being able to send a message worldwide to the entire US Navy. "Christmas Greetings!" from Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy via the Arlington radio towers. Here is how the newspaper described the moment:

“Wireless Christmas greetings to naval officers and crews on ships and on shore were flashed from the Arlington radio station yesterday afternoon. At the same time, Secretary Daniels sent a telegram to the crew of the battleship New York. In port at Brooklyn Navy Yard, congratulating the men for giving a dinner and playing Santa Claus to the poor children of New York.

“The wireless message to the navy was addressed to “all Ships and Shore Stations.” It follows:

‘Voicing the national spirit, I send Christmas greetings to the American navy from the American people. – Josephus Daniels’

“This message was received by the high power and intermediate stations, and the ships at sea within reach of Arlington’s wireless call and was relayed to ships in Mediterranean, Mexican, and Far Eastern waters.”

The radio station was not WARL of yesteryear or WERA of today, it was the Department of the Navy’s high powered radio station. The station was on the heights above Ft. Myer and had three antenna towers, often referred to as the three sisters. Construction was completed in December 1912 and the radio was commissioned in February 1913.

This Christmas message helped launch worldwide voice communications for the military and the world.

12/24/2020

Fun Film Friday folks!
We're taking a holiday break and plan to be back to highlighting videos of Arlington history next month. Until then, feel free to peruse the AHS video collection on our website at: https://arlingtonhistoricalsociety.org

Happy Holidays and stay safe.
--the social media team at AHS

On this day in Arlington history: December 24, 1916, Private Irving T.C. Newman returned to Cherrydale from Signal Corps...
12/24/2020

On this day in Arlington history: December 24, 1916, Private Irving T.C. Newman returned to Cherrydale from Signal Corps service along the Mexican Border as the US Army pursued Pancho Villa. His family was probably thrilled to see him home, just in time for Christmas.

Irving graduated just six months before from McKinley Manual Training School in DC. Ten days later, Irving was getting ready to ship out with the Signal Corps to the Mexican border as a private. Irving joined the Washington D.C. Signal Corps and served in the Punitive Expeditionary Forces to quash Pancho Villa’s activities along the border.

Private Newman’s duties in the Signal Corps may have included keeping communications up and running between the US side of the border and commander General John Pershing’s camps in Mexico. He would almost certainly have seen aircraft used for the first time in military operations.

When Irving returned to D.C. he went to work in January 1917 for the Department of Commerce as a laboratory apprentice for a salary of $540 a year. In April, the US declared war on Germany and entered World War I. Irving didn't wait to be drafted by reenlisted and rejoined the US Army Signal Corps, this time as a pilot in its Aviation Corps.

Second Lieutenant Irving Newman was killed during an aircraft training exercise at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. His death certificate said he died of a fracture of the base of the skull, or a broken neck. Second Lieutenant Irving T. C. Newman died training in his second enlistment after already served his country honorably elsewhere. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

What's It Wednesday folks!We're taking a holiday break and plan to be back to providing you with mystery objects from ou...
12/23/2020

What's It Wednesday folks!
We're taking a holiday break and plan to be back to providing you with mystery objects from our collection next month. Until then, Happy Holidays and stay safe.
--the social media team at AHS

A classic!
12/23/2020

A classic!

On This Day in Arlington History, December 23, 1923, the Alexander Gazette reports that federal prohibition agents raide...
12/23/2020

On This Day in Arlington History, December 23, 1923, the Alexander Gazette reports that federal prohibition agents raided five stills in Arlington County and arrested three men. Nine agents from DC and Richmond had been scouting the area hunting for violations of the Volstead Act—which enacted Prohibition in 1920. The trail led them away from Alexandria City and into rural Arlington County where they made four raids confiscating five stills and arresting three men. Some of the stills were confiscated on property just south of Arlington Junction which was in present day Crystal City between Army-Navy Drive and 12th Street. South and between South Eads Street and US Route 1.

The newspaper reported that three of stills were small and their contents of about fifteen gallons each were brought to the police in Alexandria City. The news item did not speculate on the police forensics work that may have been performed on the contents.

Prohibition began in January 1920. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution banned the manufacture, sale and transportation of “intoxicating beverages.” There were loopholes: you could consume liquor at home that you purchased when it was legal, whiskey was available by prescription, and priests and rabbis could serve wine at religious rituals. Newspapers of the time frequently reported raids on illegal stills like these. The alcohol produced at these stills in what would become Crystal City probably was transported along South Arlington Ridge Road a favorite smuggling route or launched in a boat to cross the Potomac.

Many more stills would be raided. The end of Prohibition was still ten years away.

Santa complete with EIGHT reindeer plus Rudolph!
12/23/2020

Santa complete with EIGHT reindeer plus Rudolph!

On this day in Arlington history, December 22, 1902 the Arlington Brewing Company in Rosslyn advertised in The Washingto...
12/22/2020

On this day in Arlington history, December 22, 1902 the Arlington Brewing Company in Rosslyn advertised in The Washington Times that its porter was a “Brew for the Home.” It was “a thirst quencher” and should be considered a healthy drink because it “also looks after the system.”

Arlington had its own brewery making beer for thirsty residents and businesses. Built in 1896 on the banks of the Potomac where the Rosslyn Marriott now stands, the brewery was originally named the Consumers Brewing Company until 1902 when it was renamed the Arlington Brewing Company.

The brewery dominated the riverfront near the old aqueduct bridge. Local architect Albert Goenner designed the brewery and also designed Arlington County’s courthouse, built just two years after the brewery. The brewery was a large red brick building with turrets at each end, a clock tower in the center, and large smokestack with horse and mule shoes nailed to the top for good luck.

The brewery made light and dark lagers, ale, and porter. It sold mostly to local consumers and legal saloons that dotted Rosslyn and D.C. Also among its customers were many illegal saloons, gambling houses, and brothels that crowded Rosslyn and Jackson City to serve other Washington thirsts. As the idea of Prohibition increased in popularity, the brewery offered to help protect your reputation from your neighbors by advertising free delivery of its products in unmarked wagons in the local area.

By 1902, the brewery was struggling and this ad reflected that. Sold and renamed, it faced the frustration of Arlington residents who were growing tired of the county’s reputation as Washington's “red light” district. Reform-minded Arlingtonians elected Crandall Mackey Commonwealth Attorney because he promised to clean up the local community who made good on his promise by raiding illegal saloons, and smashing bottles of booze.

Prohibition is still more than a decade away, but the company was already trying to counter claims by the Temperance movement that alcohol and its abuse was a leading cause of home wrecking causing domestic violence, poverty, and broken families. The company converted to producing Cherry Smash, a carbonated soda. That effort ended in the 1950s and the building was gone by the late 1950s.

Shopping at Christmas in Clarendon, 1955.enjoy!
12/21/2020

Shopping at Christmas in Clarendon, 1955.
enjoy!

Mystery Monday folks! We're taking a holiday break and plan to be back to providing you with historical Arlington myster...
12/21/2020

Mystery Monday folks!
We're taking a holiday break and plan to be back to providing you with historical Arlington mystery photos next month. Until then, Happy Holidays and stay safe.
--the social media team at AHS

On this day in Arlington history, December 21, 1922, commuters in Arlington were beginning to deal with a relatively new...
12/21/2020

On this day in Arlington history, December 21, 1922, commuters in Arlington were beginning to deal with a relatively new phenomenon, rush hour delay. The Washington Herald reported the following in a page 3 article entitled: “Failure of Draw Span Causes Traffic Delay” Here is what the newspaper said:

“Hundreds of Government employees coming to their offices from homes in Virginia … were prevented from being on time by failure of the draw span on the Highway Bridge to swing into place after it had been opened to permit passage of an oil barge.”

“Electric trains carrying workers from Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Clarendon were held up for twenty-two minutes. A line of automobiles, extending as far back as the eye could see, caused considerable traffic congestion.”

“Police reserves were rushed from the Fourth precinct to preserve order until electricians could repair a broken wire.”

“Hundreds?” just hundreds? Now thousands stream across the Potomac to government and private industry jobs in DC

We wonder when officials decided to end opening draw spans or otherwise cutting off a tributary into DC that would impact rush hour traffic.

Seems that commuters were just as upset about the delay and they are today; police had to be called in to “preserve order.”

SAVE THE HISTORIC FEBREY-LOTHROP-ROUSE ESTATEThe Febrey-Lothrop-Rouse estate has a long and significant history, dating ...
12/20/2020
SAVE THE HISTORIC FEBREY-LOTHROP-ROUSE ESTATE!

SAVE THE HISTORIC FEBREY-LOTHROP-ROUSE ESTATE

The Febrey-Lothrop-Rouse estate has a long and significant history, dating back to the Febrey family farm and house, built in 1855. The Febrey family was one of the most prestigious and well-known in the D.C. area at that time. It was the location of a large encampment for thousands of Union Soldiers during the Civil War, 1861-65. The estate was subsequently owned by Alvin Lothrop, a co-founder/owner of the Woodward-Lothrop Department Store chain. The last owner was Randolph Rouse who was married to Audrey Meadows, a world famous actress in the 1950s and 60s. Arlington should protect and preserve this historic property for public access. This is a once-in-forever opportunity to take a stand for historic preservation in Arlington County.
https://sign.moveon.org/petitions/save-the-historic-febrey-lothrop-rouse-estate?share=fa92971c-70db-4739-9f37-3357c7945d1a&source=email-share-button&utm_medium=&utm_source=email

The Febrey-Lothrop-Rouse estate is a unique, large privately held property in Arlington. It has a long and significant history, dating back to the Febrey family farm and house, built in 1855. The Febrey family was one of the most prestigious and well-known in the D.C. area at that time. It was the l...

On this day in Arlington history December 20, 1924: Arlington Presbyterian Church on Columbia Pike burned to the ground....
12/20/2020

On this day in Arlington history December 20, 1924: Arlington Presbyterian Church on Columbia Pike burned to the ground. The furnace had been fired early on this cold winter Sunday to warm the building for the morning, afternoon, and evening services. Everything was normal during the morning activities and the congregation had dispersed to their Sunday dinners. In mid-afternoon someone saw smoke rising around the church chimney. Volunteers managed to carry out a few pews and small items but it didn't take long for the fire to spread.

Soon it was too dangerous for onlookers to try further salvage efforts. The rescued pews were carried across Columbia Pike to a rising slope and furnished ringside seats for the gathering crowd. The local volunteer fire unit fought the blaze with help from neighboring fire units. A bucket brigade began passing buckets of water from hand to hand when the trucks couldn't bring up enough water from neighboring ponds.

The volunteer firefighters saved the manse, but the church was completely destroyed, along with irreplaceable records and photographs. The lack of water pressure spurred community activists to urge Arlington towards establishing a public water system.

The church was rebuilt but in a different location. This time it was located at the 3507 Columbia Pike. The new stone church was erected in the 1930s and an education wing was built in the late 1950s. The church building survived until the property was sold to make way for affordable housing units.

On this day in Arlington history, December 19, 1837 Hachaliah Bailey bought land at the intersection of Leesburg Pike an...
12/19/2020

On this day in Arlington history, December 19, 1837 Hachaliah Bailey bought land at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Columbia Pike. He named it Bailey's Crossroads it became the winter quarters for his family’s circus. Bailey’s Crossroads isn’t in Arlington, but having this source of entertainment next door must surely have drawn many Arlingtonians to it.

Hachaliah Bailey was born in 1774 in upper New York State where he was a farmer. The story goes that he would drive his herd of cattle into New York City’s Bowery district to market. On one of those trips, after a few drinks at the Bull Head Tavern, he bought an elephant that he named “Old Bet.” She was only the second elephant to be brought into the US. Hachaliah quickly discovered that people would pay money to see her. So he exhibited her and acquired other exotic animals that formed a menagerie.

By 1837, Hachaliah Bailey decided to travel south and bought the Fairfax County land. It became the winter headquarters for this animal menagerie, some of which would do tricks, this became the forerunner of the circus as we know it.

Hachaliah Bailey served as a role model to a young P.T. Barnum, who wrote of meeting him when Bailey visited Barnum's store in Connecticut. He wrote that he admired Bailey’s entrepreneurship and eventually Barnum left retail to establish his circus with its own menagerie of the unusual. P.T. Barnum never partnered with Hachaliah, but he did partner with James Bailey, an adopted son of a Bailey cousin to form the Barnum and Bailey Circus in the late 1880s.

Hachaliah moved back to New York, but deeded the Crossroads to his daughter in Mariah Bailey, wife of his son Louis, in 1843. The Civil War put an end to the circus wintering in Bailey’s Crossroads when the area became a military training ground for Union troops.

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1805 S Arlington Ridge Rd
Arlington, VA
22202-1628

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Sunday 13:00 - 16:00

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(703) 892-4204

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