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.
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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

Operating as usual

Register Today's For Tomorrow's County program:Family Programs INTERACTIVE PROGRAMS ON MICROSOFT TEAMSHISTORY HIGHLIGHTS...
09/24/2020
WebTrac Splash

Register Today's For Tomorrow's County program:
Family Programs
INTERACTIVE PROGRAMS ON MICROSOFT TEAMS
HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS: ARLINGTON’S NATIVE PEOPLES
Friday, Sept. 25, 7 - 7:45pm
Families. Long before the arrival of European settlers, the Arlington area was the site of many thriving native American communities. Join park staff for a presentation on the world of Arlington's earliest inhabitants. #612750-Z
Register here:
https://web1.vermontsystems.com/wbwsc/vaarlingtonwt.wsc/splash.html

The county will email you a link to Microsoft Teams before the program start time. Please have your device ready to go prior to the start of the program. Free.

On this day in Arlington history: September 24, 1861: Union General William. F Smith crossed Chain Bridge with a divisio...
09/24/2020

On this day in Arlington history: September 24, 1861: Union General William. F Smith crossed Chain Bridge with a division of troops to begin construction of Fort Ethan Allen in what was Alexandria County and Fort Marcy just outside the Alexandria county line in Fairfax County. Both are finished within weeks to protect Washington from the threat of a Confederate invasion.

The Union Army built both forts shortly after the Army's rout at the First Battle of Bull Run at Manassas in late July of that year. The fortification was a large fort that was located in the County's highlands near the Potomac River.

Before the Army constructed the fort, farmland and forests filled the area. To allow for clear lines of sight toward other fortifications and approaches to Washington, D.C., the Army cut down trees and all other vegetation near the site.

The walls of the fort were constructed to be stronger than most other such Union forts because it protected Chain Bridge, one of the most important approaches to Washington from the south, and a likely way to get into the capital city. The Chain Bridge forts in Virginia--Fort Marcy and Fort Ethan Allen--considerably strengthened the web of fortifications that defended the northern flank of the Arlington Line.

The fort had four main faces, with additional angles built into the north and east faces. It maintained a perimeter of 768 yards with emplacements for 34 guns. Interior structures included two bomb-proofs, ammunition magazines, and other supporting structures.

It was named for Ethan Allen, a Vermont hero of the Revolutionary War and was named in part because Union troops from Vermont built it.

Fort Ethan Allen still has several visible aboveground features. These include large earthworks, one bombproof, gun platforms, and traces of magazines. The fort's south face, centrally located bombproof, and north face can still be seen. An outlier trench can also be seen to the southwest of the fort.[

Neither Fort Ethan Allen nor Fort Marcy saw any military action during the Civil War. The most memorable wartime occurrence at Fort Ethan Allen was a visit by President Abraham Lincoln during the fort's construction.

It's "WHAT'S IT WEDNESDAY!when we challenge you (or ask you to help us!) identify a artifact in the AHS collection.We re...
09/23/2020

It's "WHAT'S IT WEDNESDAY!
when we challenge you (or ask you to help us!) identify a artifact in the AHS collection.

We received this is a big donation from Robert Macatee. A few of the things we can't identify and this is one of them. What would this tool have been used for? We honestly don't know! The whole thing is about 8 inches long and the "comb" is iron; the handle is solid wood.

On this day in Arlington history: September 23, 1938 The Sun reported that the Arlington County Board denied a request f...
09/23/2020

On this day in Arlington history: September 23, 1938 The Sun reported that the Arlington County Board denied a request for rezoning to allow row-houses to be built in Arlington. The president of the Arlington County Civic Federation was later quoted as condemning the idea of row-houses by saying “The residents of Arlington came to the county to get away from row houses and be able to have individual homes of their own." He said that if row-houses were permitted in any form whatsoever they would serve as a "cancer" eating its way into residential communities and ruining the county as a home community.

A couple of factors were at play here: Arlington was dealing with a population growth spurt between the two world wars. It was a growing streetcar suburb of DC. In 1930 the county population was 26,615 but in 1940, the population would more than double to 57,040. Much of Arlington’s initial growth was in bungalows, but rowhouses were beginning to catch on and applications to build rowhouses were increasing.

Some Arlingtonians were growing concern that the county was losing its rural nature which had been one of its strongest selling points. Arlington had billed itself as being a place where Washingtonians could escape the city. Real estate ads focused on fresh air, good water, and lots of space along with roomy houses with indoor plumbing and nice lawns on large lots. In contrast, row-houses sparked concerns of crowded cities, the poor, and people of color. NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) existed then as well.

World War II Aircraft Will Fly Over DC On Friday | WAMU
09/22/2020
World War II Aircraft Will Fly Over DC On Friday | WAMU

World War II Aircraft Will Fly Over DC On Friday | WAMU

The event will honor the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. It was originally scheduled for May but had to be postponed due the coronavirus pandemic.

On this day in Arlington history: September 22, 1832, Robert Stinson Lacey was born in Ohio. He became a decorated Union...
09/22/2020

On this day in Arlington history: September 22, 1832, Robert Stinson Lacey was born in Ohio. He became a decorated Union Captain during the Civil War and settled in what will become Arlington County to build Broadview, a house that earned historic district designation in 2014.

In 1861 Captain Lacey commanded a company that participated in the battle for Cincinnati and campaigns in Kentucky. In 1864, he was commissioned as the Assistant Quartermaster. That same year, he bought property in what is now Arlington that was owned by brothers Augustus and Jacob Schneider. They ran a very profitable iron foundry in the DC area and owned this Virginia property as a farm or investment property.

Soon afterwards, Lacey was appointed a superintendent in the Bureau of Refugees, Freedman, and Abandoned Lands in Lynchburg. Congress established this bureau near the end of the war to distribute confiscated Confederate lands, provide clothing, food, and fuel to former slaves, and later to provide education and settle labor disputes.

After he was mustered out of the military in 1866, Lacey eventually settled in DC and joined his brother’s law firm. In the 1870s, he purchased more land adjacent to the old Schneider property. But he continued to live in DC until 1881 probably using the property as an absentee farmer or a weekend getaway. It was easily accessible by railroad.

In 1881 he built his house at 5151 14th Street, North in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood and he named it Broadview where he lived until his death. Several generations of Lacey relatives lived there until 1977. The land was gradually subdivided. The remaining lot with the house was sold to the current owners in 2011 who have served as stewards of the historic house. They applied successfully to the county and the house is now listed as an historic district thus preserving it for future generations.

Robert Lacey died in 1915 in Ballston and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Lacey Woods Park is named after him. His house stands to remind of us of an earlier time and his part in building Arlington. It also reminds us that current preservation efforts can and do work

It's Mystery Monday!When we challenge you to identify a photo from our collection (and help add any details we don't kno...
09/21/2020

It's Mystery Monday!
When we challenge you to identify a photo from our collection (and help add any details we don't know!)

Here's a photo from around WW2. Our main question is: what is so historically significant about the Arlington house in the background of this photo and where is/was it? If you can also identify the woman or the cars, we'd love any historic details you can provide! Right now we can only tell you why the house is so historically important--which is pretty cool!

On This Day in Arlington History: September 21, 1774, the Fairfax Independent Company of Volunteers was formed. County m...
09/21/2020
The Rise of Virginia's Independent Militia - Journal of the American Revolution

On This Day in Arlington History: September 21, 1774, the Fairfax Independent Company of Volunteers was formed.

County militia had been a regular feature of life under the colonial government. Men from Fairfax County—which included what is now Arlington County since it was organized in 1742—had been with George Washington on expeditions in the 1750s against the French and Indians. But now the need arose for the formation of a volunteer group that was not responsive to the British Crown or the Royal Governor but pledged instead to local authorities. The Fairfax Committee of Safety resolved to create an armed force, locally supported, on the grounds that its existence would prevent the need for levying taxes on Virginians to pay the British for the defense of the colony.

This appears to have been a pretext, because Nicholas Cresswell noted in his diary on November 3, just a few weeks later that the militia held a parade and burned in effigy a figure of Lord North, the British Prime Minister.

Several other colonies--such as Massachusetts--were also forming militias. George Washington accepted command of the Fairfax militia and he mentioned reviewing the men in his diary several times.
https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/09/the-rise-of-virginia-independent-militia/

Like thousands of colonists in British North America, Virginians were alarmed in the summer of 1774 by news of Parliament’s harsh reaction to the...

Local historian Civil War historian Ed Bearss has died at 97. Ed was a friend of AHS and spoke to our audiences several ...
09/21/2020
Ed Bearss, Past Chief Historian Of National Park Service, Dies At 97

Local historian Civil War historian Ed Bearss has died at 97. Ed was a friend of AHS and spoke to our audiences several times and led tours about local Civil War history. His deep knowledge of this area will be sorely missed.

https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2020/09/ed-bearss-past-chief-historian-national-park-service-dies-97

Ed Bearss, a former National Park Service chief historian with a penchant for Civil War history, has passed away at the age of 97.

09/20/2020

Genealogy 101 (Virtual Program)
Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020
11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Virtual program led by advanced researcher Eileen Bogdanoff. All research levels welcome. Registration # 911400-04.
Register at registration.arlingtonva.us or by calling 703-228-4747, option 3.

Register Today for Tomorrow'sCAMP - SIDE COLORINGMonday, Sept. 21, 10 - 11amAges 4 to 9. Join a Union soldier at Fort C....
09/20/2020
WebTrac Splash

Register Today for Tomorrow's
CAMP - SIDE COLORING
Monday, Sept. 21, 10 - 11am
Ages 4 to 9. Join a Union soldier at Fort C.F. Smith Park's virtual camp site and coloring station for this pop-in program. Each week, we will be coloring pictures that show different parts of Union soldier life in Arlington. When you register, you will receive a scan of that week's coloring sheet. Feel free to print and color by hand, or open the file in a paint application. Free. #612720-N
Register here:
https://web1.vermontsystems.com/wbwsc/vaarlingtonwt.wsc/splash.html

On this day in Arlington history: September 20, 1945, a bus line in Arlington got its first two-way radio installed.  Th...
09/20/2020

On this day in Arlington history: September 20, 1945, a bus line in Arlington got its first two-way radio installed. The press reported that

“A commercial bus line to Washington, DC and Arlington VA opened a new page in transportation history when it equipped one of its buses with two-way radio apparatus. The equipment will permit constant contact with the control terminal and will aid local police in preventing traffic jams.”

Four years, later, the Arlington County ambulance with the fire department got its first two-way radio and Arlington’s emergency medical response began in earnest.

Police cars were the first public service vehicles to have two-way radios installed. Police cars around the country started to have two-way radios in the 1930s.

(Image: example of 1945 2-way radio and on a bus)

On This Day in Arlington History, September 19, 1924, Herman Obermayer was born in Philadelphia.  He owned and published...
09/19/2020

On This Day in Arlington History, September 19, 1924, Herman Obermayer was born in Philadelphia. He owned and published the Northern Virginia Sun from 1963 to 1989. But that was only one chapter in his multifaceted professional and personal life.

As a teen, Herman Obermayer became an Eagle Scout. He graduated cm laude from Dartmouth College in 1946 as an English major studying under the poet Robert Frost. His college years were interrupted by World War II and he served as a sergeant in the European Theatre from 1943-1946. He attended the Nuremberg Trials.

Obermayer purchased the daily newspaper in 1963 and served as editor and publisher until its sale in 1988. The Northern Virginia Sun, which traced its founding to 1935, was the predecessor of today’s Sun Gazette newspaper chain.

Already the owner of a newspaper – the Long Branch Daily Record – in New Jersey, Obermayer looked for a paper in the South and decided that the Northern Vieginia Sun was close enough. The Northern Virginia Sun gained notoriety in the 1960s for taking on the American Nazi Party, which was based in Arlington. While having a limited local membership – maybe 50 to 100 people – the white-supremacist group led by George Lincoln Rockwell was known for its efforts to seek publicity for its agenda of hate. While the Washington Star and Washington Post newspapers had a hands-off policy, refusing to acknowledge the organization, Obermayer went after the neo-Nazis in print, highlighting their activities.

From 1990 to 2002, Herman and and his wife, Betty represented the U.S. Department of State as advisors to newspapers in emerging democracies in the former Communist Bloc after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Mr. Obermayer also was one of the first, if not the first, Jewish members of Washington Golf & Country Club. He died in 2016.

It's Film Friday when we invite you to watch a video about Arlington history that we have posted on the AHS website.  Th...
09/18/2020
Shoot Out at Jackson City (2020)

It's Film Friday when we invite you to watch a video about Arlington history that we have posted on the AHS website. This week, it's "Shoot Out at Jackson City" this is a recording of our June 2020 monthly lecture now that we do them virtually because auditoriums are closed to us due to the pandemic.

George Axiotis, local historian and author discusses the true story of an eager Deputy Sheriff who went to do the right thing but got himself and his posse into the largest shootout in Alexandria County history.

By the 1890’s Alexandria County, across the Potomac River from Washington DC, was a place of some promise and much vice. Jackson City sat in the swamp area at the Virginia end of the famed “Long Bridge”. The area around it was known as Hell’s Bottom, a lawless place of gambling, illegal liquor and vice where saloon owners and gamblers ignored the law, while politicians turned their backs. Armed with tenuous laws, newly elected Sheriff Willian Palmer and his Deputies were set to clean up the county. They busted up gaming and liquor parlors and brought those who worked them before ineffectual county judges only to see them get off lightly.Armed with tenuous laws and the tacit backing of newly elected Sheriff Palmer, on a cold night in February 1896, Deputy Sheriff Edward Deuterman decided to form a posse with a friend and eight local black men to raid a gambling saloon run by the all too well-known John C. Nelson. What was supposed to be a quick raid, instead ended in a hail of gunfire. Deuterman and his friend would come to near death from their wounds, one in his posse would be killed and four others wounded. The raid became the catalyst for a long and drawn out war against vice in Alexandria County which took nearly a dozen years to win.

George Axiotis is retired and now pursues local history stories. His first book, “Two Hills: A Story of Survival Between the Lines” was a fictional account of non-fictional events in what was then “Alexandria County” during the Civil War. “Shoot Out in Jackson City” is his second book and is based on painstaking research.

https://arlingtonhistoricalsociety.org/2020/09/shoot-out-at-jackson-city-2020/

George Axiotis, local historian and author discusses the true story of an eager Deputy Sheriff who went to do the right thing but got himself and his posse into the largest shootout in Alexandria C…

On this day in Arlington history, September 18, 1649: King Charles II, the eldest son of Charles I who was beheaded duri...
09/18/2020

On this day in Arlington history, September 18, 1649: King Charles II, the eldest son of Charles I who was beheaded during the English Civil War, shored up his support among Royalist Cavaliers by giving land deeds or patents to seven supporters totaling 5 million acres in the colony of Virginia. This land included what would become Arlington County.

The colony of Virginia remained loyal to the crown during the English Civil War. Charles finally ascended the throne in 1660. But he appointed position hunters to govern rather than those who were capable. At home in England, he became one of the most popular and beloved kings of England, known as the Merry Monarch who brought normalcy back to England after the tumult of the Civil War.

Soon after Charles II deeded Virginia lands to his supporters, an anonymous pamphlet published in London gave a glowing account of Virginia, describing it as a land where "there is nothing wanting." This was intended to induce home seekers to migrate to Virginia. Amongst those who migrated were the ancestors of George Washington, James Madison, James Monroe, John Marshall, and of many others of the First Families of Virginia.

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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

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