Hidden NoVA

With the prestige of Northern Virginia’s location (there are more spies per capita than any other region) and the history in the books, there are always places, events and tid-bits lurking in the shadows of the community.

With the prestige of Northern Virginia’s location (there are more spies per capita than any other region) and the history in the books, there are always places, events and tid-bits lurking in the shadows of the community.

By Matt Basheda, Lorin Drinkard, Natalie Kaar, Lindsey Leake, Lynn Norusis, Lexie Ramage & Clara Ritger

 

A Pentagon You’ve Never Heard of

THE NET
68,000 miles of internal phone lines

THE OIL
The Pentagon consumes more oil per day than all but 35 countries.

THE PLAN
Brigadier General Brehon Somervell designed the layout in less than four days.

TIMELINE
The building was only meant to be temporary.

THE PHONE
Hollywood’s famous “red phone moments” at the White House should take place at the Pentagon, for that is where the red phone is housed.

THE EXPANSE
There are 17.5 miles of corridors.

 

A Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Courtesy of Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS

Oh That Mean Brother
Author of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, Jeff Kinney touched a nerve with many tweens in the past decade, and even had Hollywood calling. He grew up in the Maryland suburbs, but he’s become something of an honorary Northern Virginia resident since his brother, Scott Kinney, opened up Shamrock Music Shoppe in Purcellville. Jeff has appeared in Purcellville more than once to meet with fans and sign books. Most recently, he visited Blue Ridge Middle School upon the release of his sixth book, “Cabin Fever,” with a surprise appearance by the stars of the “Wimpy Kid” movie series, Zachary Gordon and Robert Capron. He took the time to autograph books, which can be purchased at Shamrock. —MB

 

Huntley Meadows
Now known as one of the area’s very best birding spots (over 200 species), there were once plans for what is now Fairfax County’s 1,425-acre Huntley Meadows Park to become the first international airport for the area. George Washington Air Junction was envisioned to be the largest transatlantic commercial airport in the world. Henry Woodhouse started buying land for the project in 1920, but the land was eventually sold to the federal government in 1941, to pay for back taxes and foreclosures. ¶ In colonial times, the land was part of George Mason IV’s plantation holdings. 3701 Lockheed Blvd., Alexandria; www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks —NK

 

Get Your Music On, For Free
Saturday evenings Memorial Day weekend through August, Netherlands Carillon, at the northern edge of Arlington National Cemetery, has free concerts, representing various genres. The bells were a gift from the Dutch people in honor of American World War II aid. Arlington National Cemetery, by the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial; www.nps.gov/gwmp/nethcarillon —NK

 

Charter Away in Occoquan
It’s not just Alexandria that gets to take all the credit for cruising up and down local waterways. It’s a beautiful time of year to cruise along the Occoquan River aboard the Miss Rivershore, a 50-foot commercial pontoon boat that offers public and private specialty charters. In addition to four-hour swim parties, fishing and bird-watching tours, weddings and bridal showers, the Miss Rivershore offers rides to popular waterfront restaurants along the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers. The heated and air-conditioned vessel also provides travel to and from the semiannual Occoquan Craft Show. www.missrivershorecharters.com —LL

 

Music
Shamrock Music Shoppe
holds live music shows for local bands and consigns used instruments. Many of the store’s new guitars are made by a local luthier. The store is owned by Scott Kinney, brother of Jeff Kinney (See page 48). You can often find autographed copies of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. 108 N. 21st St., Purcellville; www.shamrockmusicshop.com —LR

Action Music
If you a re a dye-hard guitarist, or simply a collector, Action Music is the place to go for hard-to-find used, vintage and NOS (new-old) instruments and accessories. The independent store also makes repairs and offers guitar lessons. 212-B N. West St., Falls Church; www.actionguitar.com —LR

 

POWs in Fairfax
After World War II ended, much of Fairfax County was rural land. In order to move forward with labor while some American soldiers were still overseas, the government set up POW camps along Route 29, where the county government center now resides, to work on the lands throughout the area. Farmers rented the POWs, paying $0.43 an hour to the government, who would in turn pay the POWs $0.80 a day. After six months, 200 POWs were sent back to Europe from Fairfax in November 1945. —LN

 

Food
Del Rio is a Mexican restaurant known for their Saturday night comedy club, which is associated with the Riot Act comedy theater in the District. Nationally known comedians like Patrick O’Donnell, Lamont King and Lucas Bohn perform in this eatery on the side of Route 7 in Leesburg. Whether it’s the margarita or the comedy, you’re sure to have many laughs here. 701 E. Market St., Leesburg; www.delriocomedy.com –LR

Arlington’s Weenie Beenie hot dog stand’s claim to fame is that it was the title of the Foo Fighters’ song “Weenie Beenie” from their debut album. Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl grew up in the area and must have felt the former chain deserved a nod. Weenie Beenie was founded by pool hustler William “Weenie Beenie” Station, who died in 2006, and is now reduced to this one and only location. 2680 S. Shirlington Road, Arlington –LR

Don’t let the orange umbrellas and picnic benches fool you—the Döner Bistro in the Mighty Midget Kitchen serves authentic German food. Although the kitchen was fashioned from the fuselage of a WWII Bomber, it’s a great place to eat, and they really know how to cook Bratwurst, wienerschnitzel and their famous Döner sandwich. 202 Harrison St. SE, Leesburg; www.doener-usa.com –LR

 

The Lone Rt. 50 Flyer
Ever wonder about the lone Cessna 150 that faces U.S. 50 in South Riding? The space was the area’s original airfield, but the story behind the original owner is Hollywood fodder. In the late 1920s, when Lenah resident Delmas “Bill” Glascock was just 16, he proclaimed he had plowed his last field. He set off on his motorcycle to get more out of life. Along the way he came across a baby bear, which, remarkably, helped fund his dream of owning his own airfield. That landing strip, called Glascock Airport, still sits at the corner of U.S. 50 and Route 659—with one plane tied down, facing the passing traffic.

After traveling the country on the rails and working odd jobs along the way, Glascock headed back home in 1932. He found a baby bear in New Jersey, wrapped the bear in a blanket, nestled it in the motorcycle side car and headed back to the place he once called home—only to be stopped en route from New Jersey to Virginia by police who questioned him about the stolen Lindbergh baby.

Back in Lenah, Glascock set up a hot dog stand and drew business by allowing people to bottle feed the bear. The money he made allowed him to move forward with all his endeavors—owning a gas station and restaurant in Arcola, restaurants in Fairfax (including The 29 Diner), becoming a bondsman, holding a real estate brokers license, and dabbling in gambling (owning slot machines) and the moonshine business.

At its high point, the airport was base to 12 to 15 airplanes. Passengers could take tours, pilots put on shows, and Glascock would fly out of the airport for work. “I would fly with my dad when he was a bondsman, and he would handcuff [the bail jumper] to me so he wouldn’t get away,” Glascock’s son Johnny recalled. —LN

 

The Man Behind Mr. Washington
Mason Locke Weems is not a name that comes up often, if at all, when discussing George Washington; however, the stories this bookstore owner told sure did catch on. Weems, of the Weems-Botts Musuem in Dumfries, is the man behind many of Washington’s famous tales—“I cannot tell a lie” and Washington being able to throw a silver dollar across the Rappahannock. Weems’ book telling the tales was the second best-selling book at the time, with the first being the “Holy Bible.” Another interesting thing to note about Weems’ old store is that it is thought to be haunted by the Merchant family, who eventually purchased the building. —LN

 

Historic Haunts On the Water
Experience the spooky side of Occoquan on a historic, walking ghost tour hosted by the Occoquan Merchants Association. Tours are given seasonally on Fridays and Saturdays from late April through October. Mayor Earnie Porta cites the Rockledge Mansion, where the ghost of a Confederate soldier is said to lurk, as one of the tour’s key landmarks. While paranormal investigators have confirmed the presence of a spirit on the premises, Rockledge Owner Lance Houghton reassures visitors that the mansion’s ghost is a friendly one. www.occoquanmerchantsassociation.com/ghost_tours —LL

 

The Skinny On the Area’s Spiteful Houses
Neighbors have spats all the time. “Spite House,” a seven-foot-wide, 325-square-foot two-story townhouse on Queen Street in Old Town, was built in 1830 by the owner of one of the adjacent houses, John Hollensbury—determined to keep horse-drawn carriages out of his alley. Arlington also has a skinny house, due to an argument over zoning variances, a 12-foot wide, four-floor, 2,880-square foot attraction, or eyesore, on North Barton Street. —NK

 

Creative Minds Do Not Think Alike
Tucked away in the Madison Building in Alexandria, home to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is the National Inventors Hall of Fame, where patrons can experience the entrepreneurial spirit through displays and interactive kiosks showcasing inventions such as Dr. Kelloggs’ vibrating chair, Lydia Pinkham’s vegetable compound (which is still available in drug stores today), President Calvin Coolidge’s electric horse (Zander’s trotting machine), and eavesdrop on a panel discussion with Edison, Madison, Jefferson and more as they discuss their take on inventions today. The exhibits rotate on a yearly basis. 600 Dulany St., Alexandria; www.invent.org —LN

 

Rocket Man
John Glenn’s home was in Arlington when he became the first American to orbit Earth. He lived on North Harrison Street, and his two children both attended Williamsburg Middle School. —MB

 

Cemeteries
We all know NoVA is rich in history, but, because of that, some fascinating anecdotes get overlooked.

Church Road Cemetery This crumbling, seldom-noticed cemetery sits across Church Road from the current Sterling Cemetery. Some stones are so mossy you can hardly read them. Many date to the 19th century. –MB

Hoffman Mausoleum Just off Telegraph Road near the Eisenhower Holiday Inn in Alexandria, there sits a large, ornately designed mausoleum. Real estate mogul Hubert “Dutch” Hoffman Sr., who saw great potential in the formerly swampy 71 acres he purchased back in 1958, is buried there, along with his older sister Mildred. –LD

Ashburn Shopping Center Cemeteries There’s a headstone at the intersection of Shellhorn Road and Ashburn Village Boulevard, in the Chipotle parking lot. The stone’s latest date is 1933, when the area was still a town called Ryan. A small plot also lies at the edge of Ashburn’s CVS parking lot off Farmwell Road. The site even has an unmarked grave. Dates go back to the 1800s. –MB

Ball’s Bluff Cemetery Union casualties from the Civil War’s Battle of Ball’s Bluff are buried here. All 53 soldiers buried are unknown but one: a man named James Allen. There is another, separate cemetery in the park, one that holds the grave of Confederate soldier Clinton Hatcher. –MB

 

Pat Monk, Atom Bomb Physicist & Sculptor
For the past 70 years, Gaines “Pat” Monk has used metal, wood, concrete, marble and steel to create intricate, one-of-a-kind sculptures. Monk, who graduated with MS and BA degrees in physics, math and art, also worked on the atom bomb project during World War II. “I was a young physicist working on the separation of the uranium isotopes used to make the Hiroshima bomb,” says Monk. After sculpting part-time while working as a physics consultant in 1970, Monk transitioned into full-time sculptor at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in 1974, where he’s worked ever since. In addition to his 37 years of creations in studio 33, Monk has an ever-growing sculpture garden in his Hollin Hills yard, which he notes is “always open and free” to visit. —LD

 

Bailey’s Crossroads
The area is named after Hachaliah Bailey, who purchased land at the intersection in 1837. His son, Lewis Bailey, owned a circus, and was the first to use canvas circus tents. Lewis’s circus eventually became the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. —MB

 

George Fitch, Warrenton Mayor & “Cool Runnings” Team Founder
Familiar with the inspirational Disney film “Cool Runnings?” Meet the man behind the real-life Jamaican bobsled team: Warrenton Mayor George Fitch. While working as a trade consultant for the U.S. Embassy on the island, Fitch and American businessman William Maloney had the idea to form a team to compete in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. “I knew that if I could recruit good athletes, we could beat a few teams,” says Fitch, who has served as Warrenton’s mayor for the past 13 years. With out-of-pocket funding and four willing athletes, Fitch’s team did just that—beating 10 teams and proving that the world should never underestimate the underdogs. —LD

 

Internationally-Renowned Glass Harpist Delights Alexandria
Head to Old Town Alexandria’s waterfront on a nice day, and often times you’ll hear the sweet, ringing sounds of water harpist Jamey Turner. Growing up in a musical family in Montana, Turner’s musical foundation was set at a young age. “Watching everyone play the stemmed water glasses, from chord to chord, I found my sound,” says Turner, who has worked on mastering the water harp for the past 34 years. From creating an original layout chart for his 60 water glasses and performing original, never-before-played double concertos to guest appearing on “The Tonight Show,” at The Kennedy Center and around the world, Turner is one of just a few-dozen professional glass harpists worldwide. “It took me one year and 28 glasses to learn a Mozart piece,” admits Turner, whose musical repertoire ranges from classical to “Star Wars.” Since recent YouTube uploads from the waterfront performances have created an overwhelming demand, Turner will be re-releasing his music on CD Baby this year. “It’s been really marvelous … so many of the people are from all over the world,” say Turner. “I’m reaching people I wouldn’t otherwise, and He [God] gets all the glory.” —LD

 

Stephen’s City Drive-in Theater
As NoVA’s only remaining drive-in theater, located an hour west of Fairfax, the Stephen’s City Drive-in offers bargain family entertainment April through October; tickets ($4-$8), many times include two new release showings. 5890 Valley Pike, Stephen’s City; www.thefamilydriveintheatre.com —NK

 

No Freedom at Freedom House
One could not even conceive of it from its size, but this slender rowhouse on Duke Street had more slaves sold during the slave trade than all the slave traders put together.

Isaac Franklin and John Armfield, owners of Franklin, Armfield & Co. (1828-1836), operated the most successful slave trade business in America, using the home and adjacent property to set up shop. The men sent more than 1,000 slaves a year from 1315 Duke Street. Franklin and Armfield, who also owned their own fleet of slave ships, would march slaves to New Orleans in the summers (1,100 miles in six to eight weeks) or ship them by boat in the winters (20-30 days, two times a month)—fetching more than $100,000 in profits annually, selling 1,200 slaves.

The home later became the business grounds for four other slave traders—Kephart & Co (1836-1845), Bruin & Hill (1845-1852), Millan & Grigsby (1852-1858) and Price, Birch & Co. (1858-1861).

One man who made his way through the home was Rev. Lewis Henry Bailey, who was born into slavery in Drainesville; taken from his mother; marched to New Orleans; and in 1863 walked back to Alexandria looking for his family. Rev. Bailey later went on to found Ebenezer Baptist Church in Occoquan, Little Zion Baptist Church in Burke, Mount Pleasant Church in Floris, Prosperity Church in Coklin, Summit School (the first black school) in Occoquan and others in Neabsco, and spearhead the Northern Virginia Baptist Minister’s Association.

In 1878, the building was Alexandria Hospital, the first civilian hospital in Northern Virginia. Currently, the building is home to the headquarters of the National Urban League. 1315 Duke St., Alexandria; www.freedomhousemuseum.org —LN

 

Watch What You Say!
Hollywood pales in comparison to the government tell-alls that we have living in our neighborhoods. Who can forget Linda Tripp’s involvement in Clinton’s affairs with Monica Lewinsky? While she can no longer be found in the center of government scandal, she can be caught at the Christmas Sleigh in Middleburg, a year-round Christmas boutique she owns.

Since his announcement of being Deep Throat, Mark Felt has since passed. But what does remain of the biggest government scandal is a marker in a North Nash Street parking garage in Arlington, of the place where Felt would hand over information to Bob Woodward that led to former President Richard Nixon’s resignation. —LN

 

Scandalous Shopping
Speaking of the Tripp/Lewinsky showdown, the location that got the ball rolling on the impeachment process of former-President Bill Clinton is also the same mall as Marv Alberts’ 1997 biting escapade that drew nationwide media attention. Pentagon City Mall shoppers, beware of men in dark suits! —LN

 

Miss Deaf Virginia Pageant
Sponsored biennially by the Virginia Association of the Deaf, this pageant gives deaf and hard-of-hearing women from Virginia the opportunity to showcase their talent, self-confidence, intelligence and personality. The contest’s ultimate mission is to promote success and encourage young deaf women to become leaders of tomorrow. Contestants must be between the ages of 17 and 27, and are judged based on a private interview, platform presentation, talent show, evening wear and on-stage interview. The current Miss Deaf Virginia, Rosa Herrera, graduated from Massaponax High School in Fredericksburg and now attends the University of Mary Washington. www.vad.org/mdvp —LL

 

Virginia Academy of Fencing

Springfield is home to this 13,000-square-foot facility, which is the largest fencing school in the world based on student enrollment. The academy is also one of the only schools in America that teaches historical swordsmanship in addition to the modern sabre, foil and epee. Since its inception in 1991, the Virginia Academy of Fencing (VAF) has produced nationally and internationally ranked athletes. VAF offers classes for fencers of all ages and experience levels. www.vafinc.com —LL

 

The Exchange
In addition to selling antiques, The Exchange also sells entire estates. Trade silver, gold, jewelry, coins or other types of antiques for anything in the store. 111 E. Market St., Leesburg; www.exchangeva.com

 

Freedman’s Village
In 1863, about 100 former slaves gathered together and took up residence in Arlington, as the government-sanctioned freedman’s camps in Washington, D.C., were overcrowded, poorly conditioned. The Arlington Estate, located on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, was chosen as the new site for the Freedman’s Village, and housed several thousand freedmen who lived on the property over the years. The Village, which eventually included a schoolhouse, mess hall and a hospital, was in use until the government closed it in 1900. www.nps.gov/arho/historyculture/emancipation —LD

 

Meade’s Pyramid

In 1898, the Confederate Memorial Literary Society erected a 23-foot-high stone pyramid as a memorial for where they believed Stonewall Jackson’s Civil War headquarters were formerly located. According to historian Donald Pfanz, though, the marker actually reflects the area where Union General George Meade and his troops came through, hence the unofficial name of “Meade’s Pyramid.” —LD

 

Vestal’s Gap Road
Vestal’s Gap Road began as a game trail for Indians and the animals they hunted as many as 11,000 years ago. General Braddock used the road during the French and Indian War, and President George Washington frequented the road throughout his life. Now there’s a park for Vestal’s Gap Road in Dulles Town Center’s parking lot. —MB

 

Bluemont Vineyards
Have high expectations for a memorable local winery visit? Head to Loudoun County’s Bluemont Vineyards, tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains, for a truly elevated experience (elevation: 951 feet) with clear views to Tysons. 18755 Foggy Bottom Road, Bluemont; www.bluemontvineyard.com —NK

 

First Martyrs of the Civil War
Alexandria’s Hotel Monaco is on the site of the Marshall House Inn, where at the beginning of the Civil War, the North and South lost the lives of the first martyrs for their opposing causes. The bloodshed occurred when, upon Union invasion of the city immediately after Virginia’s secession from the Union, Union Col. Elmer Ellsworth snatched the Confederate flag from the roof of the Marshall House. As he came down the stairs, rebel innkeeper James W. Jackson shot and killed Ellsworth just before being fatally shot himself. This fulfilled Jackson’s promise that the flag would be removed “over my dead body.” —CR

 

Giant Watering Can
Staunton’s Willie Ferguson, who crafted that city’s famous watering can and flower pot sculptures at U.S. 250 and U.S. 11, is also responsible for the giant watering can and flower pot at Alexandria’s Holly, Woods and Vines. Vanessa Wheeler, co-owner of the garden center, says the store approached Ferguson to craft a similar sculpture set, one that actually pours water. One half of Holly, Woods & Vines’ pot recycles water; the other has soil. Holly, Woods and Vines, 8453 Richmond Highway, Alexandria; www.hollywoodsandvines.com —NK

 

Deadly Protector
Fort Marcy, off the George Washington Parkway in McLean, is one of 68 forts built around D.C. during the Civil War and one of the few to survive. Its mission was to protect the Chain Bridge, which was one of the only bridges from Virginia into D.C. at the time. More recently, it was where former deputy White House counsel during the Clinton administration Vince Foster’s body was found following his suicide in 1993. www.nps.gov/gwmp/fort-marcy —LR

 

Hidden Park
Fort Ethan Allen was the companion fort for Fort Marcy during the Civil War. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and currently serves as a park. 3829 N. Stafford St.; Arlington; www.arlingtonva.us —LR

 

Fisher’s Oasis
Beaverdam Creek Reservoir, a 350-acre water supply impoundment just west of Brambleton, is operated by Fairfax City, providing drinking water for Fairfax City and eastern Loudoun County residents. Locals in the know consider it a great place to cast reels—with cappies, largemouth bass and more—hike, canoe and kayak. Reservoir Road, Ashburn; www.fairfaxva.gov/utilities/BeaverdamDirection —NK

 

Pardon Us
While its name suggests otherwise, for over a decade the Thanksgiving turkeys granted presidential pardons were sent to Frying Pan Park in Herndon to live on in peace. 2709 West Ox Road, Herndon; www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/fpp —NK

 

Exile Mansion Gone Exquisite
Built in 1799, the Belmont Manor House was a sanctuary to President Madison during the War of 1812 and to the exiled government of the Philippines in World War II. In the early 1900s the mansion was owned by the McLean family, who also owned the Hope Diamond, which they kept in the house. Now it’s Belmont Country Club’s clubhouse. —MB

 

Card Collector’s Mecca
Whether you’re looking for baseball cards or Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, Collector’s Corner on Route 7 has them. The store has even had a Lou Gehrig autographed jersey card in its inventory. 47024 Harry Byrd Highway, Suite 106, Sterling; www.collectorscornerva.com —LR

 

Standing Up For Their Rights, First Sit-in Happens In Alexandria
On August 21, 1939, Barrett Branch Library was more than a library; it was the place of America’s first civil rights sit-in.

On that day Samuel Wilbert Tucker walked into the library and asked to apply for a library card. After he was denied, he simply picked up a book, sat down and started to read. Minutes later another man walked in and went through the same motions, which ended with with him sitting and reading. This continued five more times. Police came and arrested the seven silent protesters.

Lawsuits were filed, and the protesters were left with a compromise of a separate but equal library facility.

Tucker refused to apply for a library card at the “new” library, which is now part of the Alexandria Black History Museum, and went on to fight for civil rights, being the lead lawyer for the NAACP and appearing before the U.S. Supreme Court four times. —LN

 

GMU’s EDGE
Energize. Develop. Grow. Excel. This is the mission of George Mason University’s 15-acre challenge course on their Prince William campus that educates, empowers and inspires people to better understand themselves and others in a dynamic group setting. GMU ceased its operations at Hemlock Overlook, a Northern Virginia Regional Park (NVRP), in 2009, which held similar teambuilding practices. Hemlock Overlook has since been taken over by NVRP and Adventure Links. www.edgeatmason.com —LL

 

Honoring Deadly Innovation
Lt. Thomas Selfridge, one of the three original Army aviators, crashed while flying with Orville Wright at Ft. Myer on Sept. 17, 1909. The gate located near the site of the crash was renamed after Selfridge, the first person killed in a powered airplane crash. —LD

 

Women in Wartime
Known for honoring those who have served, Arlington Cemetery also holds, at the enterance to hallowed grounds, a space dedicated to the trials women face on the warfront. Listen to their journeys and read the first-person stories that kept them fighting—The Lucky 13 who survived a night in Korea; 1st Lt. Diane Lindsey who restrained a crazed solider; and Corp. Jessica A. Ellis’ letters giving just a hint into the mindset of an Iraqi War solider who later died in combat. www.womensmemorial.org —LN

 

(April 2012)

 

 

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