Arlington Historical Society

Arlington Historical Society Our mission is to help strengthen our community through a better understanding of its history.
The Arlington Historical Society, founded in 1956, is a non-profit organization. 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.
(29)

The Arlington Historical Society's goal is to help strengthen our community through a better understanding of our history. We do that in many ways: a key one is to promote awareness of Arlington history through two museums, monthly public presentations, and community outreach. The Arlington Historical Museum is located at 1805 South Arlington Ridge Road at the former Hume School. Built in 1891, it is the oldest school building in Arlington. You can walk through Arlington history on a self-guided tour from Native Americans through 9/11. Free. The museum is open to every Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 pm and every FIRST and THIRD Wednesdays of every month, also 1-4 pm. The Ball Sellers House Museum is at 5620 3rd Street South in Arlington. You can step back through time to see how middle-class farmers lived in the Colonial era. Knowledgeable docents provide interactive free tours to the public. It is open Saturdays 1:00-4:00 from April through October and Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. Built in the 1740s, this is Arlington's oldest building. We welcome group tours at both our museums during regular hours or at your convenience and can tailor the experience to your interests. Please contact us for more information.

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

If you love history and love what you see here, please help AHS do more in the community by becoming a member starting a...
05/08/2020

If you love history and love what you see here, please help AHS do more in the community by becoming a member starting at $35. Click here for more information about membership benefits. Your membership will be good until June 30, 2021.

https://arlingtonhistoricalsociety.org/membership

It's Fun Film Friday. when we invite you to enjoy one of the many history videos we have on the AHS website.  This week ...
05/08/2020
Arlington Oral History: Living Legends of Fire Station 8 (2016)

It's Fun Film Friday. when we invite you to enjoy one of the many history videos we have on the AHS website. This week we honor some of Arlington's first responders. In this case they were also trailblazers.

Jerome D. Smith, retired Battalion Chief with the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) moderated a panel of distinguished members of Fire Station 8 who are part of the legacy of the African-American Firehouse in Arlington.

Two of the original firefighters for Fire Station 8 who were the first to be paid by Arlington County in 1951:

— HARTMAN REED, retired Captain and first African-American Station Commander in the ACFD

— CARL COOPER, retired firefighter

The last First Station 8 Volunteer firefighter who served alongside the 14 men and father of the moderator, JEROME SMITH.
https://arlingtonhistoricalsociety.org/2020/02/oral-history-living-legends-of-fire-station-8-2016/

Jerome D. Smith, retired Battalion Chief with the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) moderated a panel of distinguished members of Fire Station 8 who are part of the legacy of the African-Amer…

On this day in Arlington history: May 8, 1920 the Washington Times advertises buying new bungalows in Alcova.  Key selli...
05/08/2020
History

On this day in Arlington history: May 8, 1920 the Washington Times advertises buying new bungalows in Alcova. Key selling points: High, dry, fertile, convenient and healthy! The newspaper advertised not just the houses but the neighborhood: “Alcova Heights is the Ideal Suburb. Two car lines, 20 minutes service [by rail], and two splendid highways to the city. One concrete boulevard now building.

“Alcova Heights is half a mile west of the wireless towers fronting the Columbia Turnpike and the Glebe road, almost on a level with the top of the Washington Monument and in sight of the Capital Building, 3½ miles from the White House. This property is now being sold for LESS THAT ITS REAL VALUE AND LOWER THAN ANY OTHER PROPERTY AROUND WASHINGTON. In addition to this important fact it is the best appearing property in Virginia and has more advantages. Four 60-foot avenues, 200 Arborvita lawn trees on each side of the avenue, 15 houses and bungalows built and contracted for over 100 home sites already sold. ALCOVA HEIGHTS combines the convenience of the city with the luxuries of the country.”
The Alcova Heights Citizens Association has more about its history on its website: http://alcovaheights.com/about-alcova-heights/history/

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 Compan…

On this day in Arlington history: May 7, 1864 Harper’s Weekly published a widely circulated engraving of Freedman’s Vill...
05/07/2020

On this day in Arlington history: May 7, 1864 Harper’s Weekly published a widely circulated engraving of Freedman’s Village in Arlington, Virginia. The Harper’s Weekly engraving is regarded as an authoritative image of Freedman’s Village after it was established in May of the previous year as a haven for former slaves who had escaped from slavery in the confederate states during the Civil War.

Harper’s Weekly was the most widely read journal the United States during the Civil War. This image now serves as the logo for the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington. The site of Freedman’s Village is now covered by Arlington National Cemetery, but is commemorated by historical markers nearby in a small county park at Southgate Road and South Oak Street.

It's What's It Wednesday when we ask you: What is it? This artifact was donated to AHS in 1968.  It is iron and measures...
05/06/2020

It's What's It Wednesday when we ask you: What is it? This artifact was donated to AHS in 1968. It is iron and measures 9 X 6 inches. The donor, Stuart Thomson, believed it was from about 1863. We think we know based on what the donor told AHS. What do YOU think it is?

On this day in Arlington history, May 6, 2013: Preservation Arlington debuted as an online forum dedicated to protecting...
05/06/2020
Puzzles by PreservationArlington - National Register of Historic Places, Arlington, Virginia - jigsaw puzzle album

On this day in Arlington history, May 6, 2013: Preservation Arlington debuted as an online forum dedicated to protecting and improving the quality of Arlington’s distinct architectural heritage.

The organization has just listed scores of online puzzles of Arlington Historic locations that are on the National Register of historic places. You can also learn about Arlington's endangered buildings Check it all out at their website http://www.preservationarlington.org/

This can keep you busy for weeks! Search for your favorite historic location and set the difficultly level for yourself. Fun for everyone and learning about historic preservation, too!
https://www.jigsawplanet.com/PreservationArlington/national-register-of-historic-places-arlington-virginia
http://www.preservationarlington.org/

Free online jigsaw puzzle game

AHS Makes Decades of Local History Articles Available Free to the Public!Contents of 61 years of original local history ...
05/05/2020

AHS Makes Decades of Local History Articles Available Free to the Public!

Contents of 61 years of original local history articles are now available on the AHS website free to everyone. Every article from our flagship publication, "The Arlington Historical Magazine" from 1957-2018 is now available to you!

These are hundreds of unique local history articles encompassing original research by local historians, past and present. We are proud of our publication and even prouder to offer all these fascinating local history stories to the public, free of charge.

A team of fabulous volunteers lead by former AHS President Karl VanNewkirk, made this possible. They scanned each article into pdf format, proofread, checked, and loaded each onto the AHS website. Thank you AHS volunteers!

Scan the table of contents for the last 60+ years and click on anything that tickles your fancy or excites your curiosity at
https://arlingtonhistoricalsociety.org/arlington-historical-magazine-contents/

We will continue to add articles from current issues as the next edition becomes available.

Enjoy!

On this day in Arlington history: May 5, 1863, Lieutenant Colonel Elias M. Greene, chief quartermaster of the Department...
05/05/2020
Freedman's Village - Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial (U.S. National Park Service)

On this day in Arlington history: May 5, 1863, Lieutenant Colonel Elias M. Greene, chief quartermaster of the Department of Washington, and Danforth B. Nichols of the American Missionary Association officially select the Arlington Estate as the site for Freedmen’s Village, which they intended to be a model community for freed persons.

Within a few weeks, 100 former slaves settled on the chosen site, located about one half mile to the south of the Arlington mansion. (The National Park Service for Arlington House tells the story best.)
http://www.nps.gov/arho/learn/historyculture/emancipation.htm

On April 16, 1862, Congress passed legislation freeing all slaves in the District of Columbia. Blacks from Virginia and elsewhere flocked to the city in search of work and shelter. Already struggling to meet the needs of their impoverished residents by the fall of 1862, the modest freedmen’s camps...

It's Mystery Monday! when we ask you to identify a photo from our files.This photo was taken in COLOR, a rarity in our f...
05/04/2020

It's Mystery Monday! when we ask you to identify a photo from our files.

This photo was taken in COLOR, a rarity in our files. According to our records it was taken in 1971. It was labeled as "W&OD RR Right of Way" when it was given to us. The only other tidbit we have about it is that it may have been near W-L HS. Tell us where you think it is and anythign else about it.

On this day in Arlington history, May 4, 1918: Arlington residents learn that they have purchased $71,600 in Liberty Bon...
05/04/2020

On this day in Arlington history, May 4, 1918: Arlington residents learn that they have purchased $71,600 in Liberty Bonds in the second Liberty Loan campaign to help finance world War I, well over the county quota of $20,000. The county is awarded an “Honor Flag” to mark the campaign’s success. On the next day, April 5, the Third Liberty Loan campaign will begin. Arlington is divided into three zones and a committee for each zones goes door-to-door selling the bonds. Arlington County was then called Alexandria County and residents took particular pride in the fact that they sold MANY more Liberty Bonds than the much more populated Alexandria City.

Liberty Bonds were created and sold by the U.S. government during World War I to help fund the American war effort. The bonds were a way for Americans to support the war, especially if they were unable to take part in combat. The bonds were issued five times between 1917 and 1919. Communities often vied with each other to sell more bonds. From press reports, it seems Arlington (then Alexandria County) compared its record closely with Alexandria City, which although it had many more people, often lagged behind Arlington’s more impressive military support results.

On this day in Arlington history: May 3, 1971 Police clash with antiwar protesters who called themselves “the Mayday Tri...
05/03/2020
May 3, 1971 | Mayday Tribe Holds Antiwar Demonstration

On this day in Arlington history: May 3, 1971 Police clash with antiwar protesters who called themselves “the Mayday Tribe” who were staging three days of demonstrations in Washington aimed at shutting down the nation’s capital. Vietnam Veterans Against the War, staged protests, held marches to Arlington Cemetery in this culmination of weeks of antiwar activity in Washington.
http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/03/may-3-1971-mayday-tribe-holds-anti-war-demonstration-in-washington/?_r=0

On May 3, 1971, police clashed with anti-war protesters who called themselves “the Mayday Tribe,” and had staged three days of demonstrations in Washington, D.C., aimed at shutting down the nation’s capital.

On this day in Arlington history, May 2, 1717: Moses Ball is born in Stafford County. In 1746, he will move north into w...
05/02/2020
Moses Ball, Sr (1717-1792) - Find A Grave...

On this day in Arlington history, May 2, 1717: Moses Ball is born in Stafford County. In 1746, he will move north into what is the new Fairfax County (and will eventually become Arlington) to settle land just south of his brother, John. Moses will build a house on property that is now the Virginia Hospital Center Urgent Care facility on Carlin Springs Road in Glencarlyn.

Moses and his wife, Ann, will have 6 sons--who will carry on the family name--and 2 daughters. Moses’s progeny gave Ballston its name (Ballston, Ball’s Crossing) but the house of his brother John (at 5620 Third St, S.) is the only property of that era that remains standing. It serves as a legacy of this colonial family.

Like his older brother, Moses also received a land grant from Lord Fairfax 6 years after his brother, John, did and he built his house about a half mile from where his older brother built his house. Moses' property remained in the Ball family until 1818Moses helped George Washington survey his adjoining property in 1785 on Four Mile Run in the Carlin Springs area. You can learn more about this survey trip on Saturday, May 11 when AHS hosts the George Washington Forest History Walk starting at 1:30 the Ball-Sellers House (5620 3rd Street, South) (see AHS events)

Moses died on September 3, 1792. You can see memorial stones for both pioneers of Arlington County at the Ball-Carlin Cemetery in Glencarlyn in Arlington. Moses
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=36788166

Arlington County Pioneer (previously known as Fairfax County, District of Columbia & Alexandria County) Land patent, 1748: 91 acres between John Ball (brother) on the north and Simon Pearson & George Washington on the south on Four Mile Run. It included current site of Nova Community Hospital. Some....

Fun at home!  Make Your Own Quill and Ink! Learn the art of old-fashioned writing by making your own quill and ink. All ...
05/01/2020

Fun at home! Make Your Own Quill and Ink!

Learn the art of old-fashioned writing by making your own quill and ink. All you need are a few items from the kitchen:

Berries
Vinegar
Straw
Bowl
Scissors

1. Crush 1/4 cup of berries and combine with 1/4 teaspoon of vinegar to create your ink.

2. To make your quill, take a thin straw and snip the end at an angle to make a point.

3. Dip your quill point into the ink, and see if you can write something.

(Super Secret Fun! If you want your message to be a secret--like George Washington wanted to during the Revolutionary War, replace the berry ink with lemon juice. Any message you write won’t appear on the paper unless you hold it near a flame or lightbulb.)

Thanks to Arlington Parks and Recreation for this fun activity!

On this day in Arlington history: May 1, 1881 Harry W. Gray and his family move into their house. It took years for him ...
05/01/2020

On this day in Arlington history: May 1, 1881 Harry W. Gray and his family move into their house. It took years for him to build and it is the only one of its kind for miles.

Harry W. Gray, born a slave in about 1851 on the Custis-Lee estate at Arlington, built his own house in 1881. He was a skilled mason and built the high masonry wall that surrounds what is now Arlington National Cemetery. His daughter, Martha Gray Gillem, said in an interview that during the Civil War, Harry was taught to read and write by the men of the Northern New York Volunteers. Having a trade and being literate would serve him very well after emancipation, when he became a leader in Arlington County. For 40 years, he worked as a clerk and messenger at the Department of the Interior. He also worked at the Blink West Brickyard and tended his own 10-acre farm. By working 3 jobs, Harry was able to fulfill his lifelong dream of building an elegant brick townhouse for his wife and children. Unlike stone, which was easy to find and inexpensive, fired clay brick was scarce and very expensive, making it a symbol of a family’s prosperity.

In a 1963 interview, Martha Gray Gillem (pictured) said that her “Papa” bought bricks from the Blick-West Brickyard when he could afford them and over many years, bit by bit, he built the two-story row house on his farm. For posterity’s sake, Harry carved his name and the date into the last brick before putting it in place near the rear doorway. All told, the house cost about $1,800 to build, more than twice the amount he paid for the land it sat on. When the Gray family finally moved into the house on May 1, 1881, it was the only one of its kind for miles.

The house also boasted an elaborately designed landscape. Besides the house, the ten-acre property included an outhouse, a buggy shed, a barn, a pig house, a well, and a brick patio. Surrounding the house were apple, peach, pear, and cherry orchards, a cornfield, and a grazing field for livestock. Between all of these were flower gardens that must have splashed vibrant colors across the property. Plat maps even show a croquet field.

Above all his accomplishments, Harry took greatest pride in his family. He and his wife, Martha, a former slave once owned by former president James Madison, had 4 children: Thorton, Julia, Sara, and Martha. Harry taught his children that knowledge could open the doors of opportunity that racial inequities had otherwise closed to African Americans. Before he died, Harry saw Thornton become an attorney and all three daughters, teachers.

Gray built his house in the Italianate style of fashionable townhouses he had seen in the District. The house remains a sturdy structure, its longevity a testament to Gray’s workmanship. The architecture of the Harry W. Gray house was a statement about how far freed slaves had come since the Emancipation Proclamation. “The dwelling represents the monumental shift from slaves to freedmen for African Americans in the years following the Civil War,” a National Park Service document states. The house sits at present-day 1005 South Quinn Street, near Columbia Pike and adjacent to what was once a thriving Freedman’s Village.

Let's have some fun!
04/30/2020
Arlington History At Home

Let's have some fun!

Calling on Arlingtonians past and present, we challenge you to look around your home for an object related to Arlington that has historical meaning for you and/or your family. Take a picture of it …

04/30/2020

On this day in Arlington history: April 30, 1865 Anxious to defend their new freedom, a delegation of African-American residents of Alexandria (county and city) meets with President Andrew Johnson and presents him with a set of resolutions designed to protect them from “certain state laws . . . which the [Virginia] Legislature had not repealed.”
Virginia and other former Confederate states sought to keep various “black codes” in place after the Civil War, which would prevent blacks from voting, holding office, testifying in court against whites, possessing firearms, and many other restrictive policies.

It's "What's It Wednesday," so tell us what you think this is. This artifact was given to the Arlington Historical Socie...
04/29/2020

It's "What's It Wednesday," so tell us what you think this is. This artifact was given to the Arlington Historical Society in 1965.

The tip is brass and the whole thing measures 2.5 inches X 4.5 inches. It has a US Army Ordnance insignia. The donor. Mr. G.W. Pearce, said he believed it was made in 1850 and was probably used in the Civil War. The blue part is squeezable and fits in the palm of a hand.

On this day in Arlington history: April 29, 1925, B.F. Keith’s Showgirls show a lot of leg at Arlington Beach.The B.F. K...
04/29/2020

On this day in Arlington history: April 29, 1925, B.F. Keith’s Showgirls show a lot of leg at Arlington Beach.
The B.F. Keith Theater opened in 1913 and hosted vaudeville variety acts. In 1928 the chain had begun to show moving pictures. These girls were sure to draw customers from Virginia to see such entertainers as Will Rogers, Eddie Cantor, Rudy Vallée, and Laurel and Hardy.
Arlington Beach and Amusement Park opened in 1923 on the Potomac River near what is now the 14th Street Bridge. In addition to a sandy beach, there were bath houses, a dance pavilion, merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, and many other amusement park features. The beach flourished until 1929 when it was bought by the Washington Airport Corporation to provide additional landing space for Hoover Airfield.
A check on the weather that day says the high temperature was in the mid-high 50s: a little chilly!
(Sources: “Unboxed: A Day at the Beach” on the Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History webpage and Ghosts of DC; photo courtesy Shorpy.com).

Address

1805 S Arlington Ridge Rd
Arlington, VA
22202-1628

Opening Hours

Saturday 13:00 - 16:00
Sunday 13:00 - 16:00

Telephone

(703) 892-4204

Alerts

Be the first to know and let us send you an email when Arlington Historical Society posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Contact The Museum

Send a message to Arlington Historical Society:

Videos

Our Story

Nearby museums