The Park Between the States

Ethan Allen Park gets a historic face lift as its use as a Civil War fort is recognized.

By Robby Osborne

Photo courtesy of Arlington County.

Virginia is so replete with history that what seems today like a simple dog park was once an integral defense against an assault on Washington.

Fort Ethan Allen Park celebrates its heritage on March 23 with a reenactment and new additions to the park that highlight  its role in the Civil War. 

Fort Ethan Allen was an earth-worked fortress was built in 1861 to repel Confederate forces from advancing on Washington D.C. Vermont soldiers played a large part in creating the 736-yard perimeter, 39 gun emplacements and named the fort after the Vermont Revolutionary War hero. Fort Ethan Allen saw no battles during the Civil War, and it boasts the most remaining features of any fort in Arlington. 

This Sunday the park will open its gates to a more historic crowd, celebrating its heritage as a Union fort. The Old Glebe Civic Association, working in conjunction with many different county and historical staff members, has turned Fort Ethan Allen Park into more than just a popular dog park.

“Fort Ethan Allen has been a historic district since October 1978,” said Old Glebe Civic Association President Burt Bostwick. “Nothing had been done since that time to interpret the area or to make it a useful resource for students, neighbors, and those interested in Civil War history. The Old Glebe Civic Association thought this would be an excellent opportunity to showcase the fort’s history and educate the greater community.”

Courtesy of Arlington County

There will be a celebration to unveil the new additions to the park. The new features being added to the park, which began design in fall of 2013, are a 2’8; by 2’4′ scale model of the original Fort Ethan Allen cast in bronze. There will be three viewing areas that include nine interpretive signs, which cover an overview of the fort, and historical descriptions of everything in the fort.

Starting at 10 a.m., there will be a presentation about the fort, music from the New-Old Time String Band and two tours of the fort–where visitors will be able to see the surviving rampart, a reproduction cannon display and the memorial with the magazine and guard house. The day concludes with a group hike to Fort Marcy at 2 p.m.

Throughout the day, there will be Civil War reenactments, but due to the historic lack of combat, these will be reenactments of living history. The Vermont Civil War Hemlocks have come down from their home state to be in attendance.

“That is when reenactors set up displays for the purpose of educating the public on the life of soldiers and the history and purpose of the fort,” said Katie Pyzyk, media relations manager. “There will be both infantry and artillery reenactors.”

Fort Ethan Allen Park
3829 N. Stafford Street
March 23, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; Free