Do We or Don’t We Recycle?

By elaine simmons

National Geographic, The Atlantic, and NPR recently ran stories that claimed only 5% of plastic is actually recycled in the US. How does this comport with Arlington’s much-touted recycling program?

In my skeptic mode, I called the county’s expert, Adam Riedel, and peppered him with questions. He was adamant that Arlington does collect plastic marked 1–7 (marked in a triangle) and sells it in bundles for processing in states like Alabama. He acknowledged that plastic marked 1, 2, and 5 may be the only types ultimately getting recycled (3/4/6/7 likely go to the landfill or are incinerated) but the 1/2/5 designations account for most of the plastic collected. 

Adam also mentioned things that people put in blue recycling bins that don’t belong there:

“Paper” coffee cups (they are plastic lined) and plastic tops from coffee shops: put in trash 

Plastic bags and Amazon bubble wrap envelopes:  can be recycled at grocery stores that collect plastic bags (e.g., Giant near Virginia Square and Hyde Park Harris Teeter near Ballston Common)

While it’s good to hear what Arlington is doing with recycling, for many reasons, we should still cut down on plastic, especially single use plastic, such as water bottles, cutlery, take-out containers, and plastic bags. An easy way to reduce is to get reusable cups/bottles for coffee and water and reusable or paper bags for groceries.

Zitkála-Šá to Be Featured on a Quarter

By Toby McIntosh

Zitkála-Šá’s face will be on a quarter, the U.S. Mint recently announced, one of the five 2024 honorees for the American Women Quarters Program. It’s just a part of the continuing attention being given to the Native-American writer, musician and activist who lived in Lyon Park.

Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, a Yankton Sioux, lived on Barton Street in Lyon Park from 1926 until her death in 1938. She used the Lakota name Zitkála-Šá (pronounced: Zit-kah-la-sha). In 2020, Arlington County renamed the park at the corner of 7th and N. Highland streets in her honor.

In Minnesota, an opera about her was produced in 2022, an appropriate tribute, since she co-composed an opera in 1913 considered to be the first Native-American opera. “We are showing that Zitkála-Šá’s story is not a frozen moment in time—that she has continued to shape and inspire and evolve current society, specifically [that of] Indigenous peoples in North America, to this day,” said one composer. Recently, her music was the inspiration for a collection of 13 pieces by Pulitzer Prize winning composer Raven Chacon.

Native News Online included her on a list created for Native American Heritage Month, Five More Native Americans Who Shaped Culture, calling her “one of the most influential prominent Native activists of the 20th century.”

If you’d like to learn more about Zitkála-Šá, there’s a PBS show on her from 2020. The Arlington Public Library has several of her books, and a number about her, including one for younger children (“Red Bird Sings”).

Frank Lyon and Racist Covenants in Lyon Park (Part II)

By John Ausink

Frank Lyon, our namesake, considered by some to be a suburban visionary, encouraged residents to become engaged in neighborhood affairs by donating land for our private park and contributing to the construction of the community center. But “Lyon’s Legacy,” a 2021 advocacy piece for Missing Middle initiatives published by Arlington Now says:

Frank Lyon, by pen and by brick, would succeed where [Robert E] Lee by sword had failed. The developers and planners of Lyon’s day embedded white supremacy so deeply in the foundation of our county that it has not yet today been driven out. 

Part of this claim is based on the existence of racially restrictive covenants for the sale of homes, but this and other sources reference the same 1976 article that cited one county deed with Frank Lyon’s name on it as the seller in a tract called Moore’s Addition. As a long-time resident of Lyon Park with an interest in local history, I decided to see if there were more such deeds from other parts of Lyon Park.

First some background:  Lyon’s ancestors came to Virginia in the 1730s. His grandfather was a general contractor in Petersburg who enslaved Black workers. Lyon’s father was a “distinguished and scholarly lawyer” who raised a company at Petersburg for the Confederate army. Lyon had three children who survived to adulthood; his son John was killed in WWI. While working as a stenographer Lyon attended Georgetown Law School’s night sessions, receiving a Master of Laws degree in 1890. In about 1902 he started practicing law in Alexandria (now Arlington) County, and became a partner with R. W. Moore, who was making real estate investments near Clarendon. 

We’ll focus now on Lyon’s covenants in land deeds. The map below marks the current boundaries of Lyon Park with a black dotted line to orient you to the numbered areas discussed below. 

Lyon was involved in real estate as early as 1904. In a “deed of dedication” from that year, in which Lyon proposes to subdivide an area he called Lyon’s Addition to Clarendon (the triangle labeled number 1 in the map), the parties agree that:

Liquor shall never be sold or dispensed from any building built on the property

The property won’t be used for any business that constitutes a nuisance to others (I was amused that he mentions a soap factory as an example)

There is nothing in this deed that mentions race. However, things get ugly after that. 

Lyon, Moore and others purchased a large tract of land that became known as Moore’s Addition to Clarendon. Section 2 of Moore’s addition, labeled 2 and bounded by red in the map, was subdivided in 1910. The subdivision deed makes no mention of race; however, when Lyon sold a lot in Moore’s Addition in 1919, the deed includes the liquor and soap factory restrictions above, but also adds:

…neither said property nor any part thereof nor any interest therein shall be sold or leased to any one not of the Caucasian race

Nor shall any house costing less than $2,000, other than an outbuilding, be erected thereon.

This is the deed cited by so many, but I wanted to see if there are more. I started with a home on N. Edgewood St. in Lyon Park Section 7 (labeled 7 in the map). The 1922 deed includes the racist covenant. It also states that no dwelling of value less than $4,000 can be built—but this restriction expires in 1930. I don’t know if the financial constraint was added to exclude lower-income Whites or was an additional barrier to Blacks. 

Next, I looked across Washington Blvd in the area labeled 5 on the map (section 5 of Moore’s Addition), where a 1922 deed for a plot on N. Cleveland St. disallows liquor, requires $4,000 buildings, includes the racist restriction, but adds that no two-family houses or apartments shall be erected prior to 1930.

Finally, I checked our own home on 2nd St N. in Lyon Park Section 6. A 1926 deed for the property includes the racist restriction but for some reason limits it, “for a period of 99 years from September 1, 1923.” This deed also forbids two-family houses or apartments but does not include the alcohol exclusion—for which we are grateful.

At this point I wondered if Ashton C. Jones, who created Ashton Heights in 1921, also barred Black residents. The 1921 deed of dedication for the sub-division does not include any restrictions, but a 1923 deed for land for a house on N. Kenmore St. includes the racist covenant without the 99-year expiration and makes it explicit that violation of this restriction will immediately result in a reversion of the property to Ashton’s company. 

When it comes to racist covenants, then, Frank Lyon was not alone in Arlington. I found it puzzling, though, that the Lyon’s Addition deed of 1904 did not include the racial covenant, so I did more research. I learned that there were many racist attempts to block Black residents, not just via housing deeds.

In 1912 the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation permitting all cities and towns to adopt residential segregation ordinances. However, in 1917 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (based on a Kentucky case) that such residential segregation ordinances were unconstitutional. I haven’t found documentation, but I assume Lyon’s 1904 deed didn’t have the racial exclusion clause because he could legally exclude Blacks via other means. After 1917, since local government could not designate a neighborhood as Whites-only, an exclusionary clause for an individual plot could serve the same purpose. 

In 1924 Virginia passed the Racial Integrity Act, which prohibited interracial marriage, and in 1929, the city of Richmond used the Act to prohibit a person from living in a neighborhood where he or she was not permitted to marry any member of the majority population—thus excluding Blacks from White neighborhoods. In a short time, however, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found the ordinance unconstitutional.

It wasn’t until 1948 that the U.S. Supreme court in Shelley v. Kraemer (a case from Missouri) ruled unanimously that restrictive covenants couldn’t be legally enforced by state or federal courts because of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. However, this ruling applied only to government enforcement of these covenants, and as private agreements such covenants could still be used. Thus, restrictive covenants would continue to be broadly used across the U.S. until they were outlawed with the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. This is reflected in the 1944 and 1960 deeds for our house, which include the phrase, “This conveyance is made subject to the restrictive covenants included in the chain of title to this property.” 

As a land developer, Frank Lyon exploited the racist housing restrictions of his time, incorporating the exclusionary covenants allowed in Virginia and other states, which constrained where Black citizens could live, go to school, and build wealth. How should we react to this history?

 

A Grove of New Native Trees Planted Along Route 50

By Heidi Ananthakrishnan

In November, I coordinated with Arlington County to plant 130 native Virginian trees along the medians lining Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) at N. Fillmore Street. The county is keen on restoring our tree canopy, which has been declining at an alarming rate due to new construction. Because trees not only offer cooling shade but help lessen the effects of flooding, our stormwater taxes funded these trees. 

The effect of the new trees on the landscape is astonishing. They give texture and depth to the bare road and grass. For those who live along Route 50, they will screen homes from traffic and lessen pollution and noise. The trees were planted in groves with a mixture of both large and small sizes. This was intended to create a natural forest look rather than a colonnade. The variety of trees, which include oak, bald cypress, American holly, Eastern redcedar, Eastern redbud, American beech, and the showy white fringe tree, present a welcome sight to passersby.

We know from long-time residents that Route 50 has been treeless since at least the 1930s, when it was still a dirt road. It’s exciting that trees grace this strip of land again for the first time in possibly a hundred years or more. Given the county’s eagerness to increase the tree canopy, the county welcomes suggestions from Arlington residents for the planting of trees in areas that can accommodate them.


You too can get more trees planted! Here is the link on the county website to put in a request: Tree Planting Program

The 2023 Bunny Hop Race is on Saturday, April 15!

What is the Bunny Hop race and who does it benefit? 

The Bunny Hop is a 5K fun run/walk through Lyon Park and Ashton Heights. Our beneficiary is Bridges to Independence, which operates a family shelter in Lyon Park. 

How many people typically sign up and how much money does the race generate for charity? 

Typically, 600 runners sign up; last year, including sponsorship, we gave $21,000 to Bridges. Including this year, the 6th running of the race, we should hit $100,000 for our combined gifts since inception. 

What are the hardest things about putting on such a race? 

Getting sponsorships, getting 100+ volunteers, and getting police support (which is understaffed) for the race.

What do you need volunteers to do? 

The race is hosted by Clarendon Methodist Church, but we need a lot of volunteers from the community to do things like distribute flyers weeks before the race, serve as course marshals at intersections on race day, and help with the block party afterwards.  

Tell us more about the block party

The post-race block party is free and open to all. It will feature two live bands, a bag piper to kick off the race, bounce houses, face painting, and snacks.  

How do people sign up to run the race and/or to volunteer?Register/volunteer at our website:  ArlingtonBunnyHop.org. The race will start at 8:00 a.m. at N. 6th and Irving Streets on April 15th.

Lyon Park Trees say Mulchas Gracias!

By  Bill Anhut

Lyon Park’s Annual Mulch Spreading Event is Saturday, April 22, 2023, from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Volunteers are needed to load curbside piles of mulch into wheelbarrows and spread it around the base of the park’s 60 trees. The mulch gives the park a tidy appearance and provides many essential benefits.

Since Lyon Park is privately owned by the community we rely on volunteers for maintenance of its grounds and trees. Volunteers save the community over $2,000 by spreading the mulch instead of hiring a landscape firm. The event is also a great family activity, including for teens who need service hours. Please bring a bottle of water, work gloves, and, if you have them, a wheelbarrow, pitchfork, or hard rake.

Questions? Contact Bill Anhut, billanhut@yahoo.com or 301–908–8204.

Use Your Beige Kitchen Caddy to Compost All Food Scraps!

By Elaine Simmons

Composting is nature’s way of recycling. Non-composted food waste, rotting in landfills, is a major source of methane—a greenhouse gas even more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. Happily, our county has a terrific composting program that accepts a wide range of food and food-soiled paper (see graphic on the next page). Just put all your food waste into your beige plastic kitchen caddy and transfer the contents to your green yard waste bin (not the black trash bin). You should never have to use your garbage disposal again to chew up food, since all food can now be composted.  

It’s best to use a liner (compostable or paper bag) in your beige caddy. I prefer Biobags from MOM’s Organic Market and Amazon but the 3-gallon compostable bags that fit the 2 gallon size caddy are in many stores. DO NOT use plastic bags since they do not biodegrade. Silicone spatulas work great in scraping every speck of food off your plates, platters, pans, etc., but you should drain excess liquid from food scraps before placing them in the caddy. You can wash the caddy in the dishwasher or by hand. 

Yes, I’m a bit OCD and like my rotting food wrapped in a tidy bundle but you don’t have to use a bag. Food waste can go directly into your green bin. But, bag or no bag, I would first place newspaper, a pizza box, and/or yard trimmings (leaves, twigs) at the bottom of the green bin as a first layer to absorb moisture to avoid food waste sticking to your bin. And, having experienced the joy of a compost bag full of decaying food breaking all over my kitchen floor during transit to the bin (compost bags are not as strong as plastic), I now carry the caddy to the green yard waste bin and lift out the bag over the bin. You can rinse your green bin with a hose and mild soap as needed. 

I have never noticed any rodents in my green bin, but if you don’t want to risk it (or want to avoid odors in the summer heat), you can freeze scraps (like meat, poultry, and fish) until collection day. In the next issue of the Bulletin, we will discuss where the county sends the food waste, what happens to it, and how you can get the resulting rich compost for your yard.

The Birth of the American Nazi Party in Arlington

By Kalkidan Ausink and Elaine Simmons

The establishment of the American Nazi Party in Arlington in 1958 raised the same questions we face today about the right of free speech vs. an intolerance of offensive, hate speech. Also at issue is how aggressive local and state government should be in trying to banish a group engaging in a range of loathsome and illegal activities, such as trailing and heckling civil rights Freedom Fighters, making a bomb threat where Jews congregated, and assaulting a 13-year-old boy. 

The founder of the Nazi party, George Lincoln Rockwell, was the son of vaudeville comedians who knew Jack Benny and Groucho Marx. He served in World War II and the Korean War before stumbling across Hitler’s Mein Kampf, after which he became obsessed with Aryanism and the threat of communism. Rockwell had once fought against fascism only to convince others that it would save America.

Rockwell’s Nazi Party operated from several swastika-bedecked locations in Arlington, including what is now Upton Hill Park (then nicknamed “Hatemonger Hill”), 928 N. Randolph St in Ballston, and 2507 North Franklin Rd in Clarendon, which is now Sweet Science coffee house.

Rockwell’s party attracted few members, and he relied on financial support from his mother all his life, but he found enough benefactors to support his activities–at least minimally, since there were reports of many unpaid bills. He received over 6,000 votes for Virginia governor in 1965. 

However, governments and citizens did push back. Rockwell and his supporters were arrested 36 times in a 3-year period in the 1960s. In 1961, residents formed a group called Citizens Concerned and lobbied the state to revoke the Nazi Party’s charter. In 1962, the Virginia General Assembly declared Rockwell’s group an enemy of the state. In 1964, the IRS denied access to the Randolph St. headquarters after Rockwell failed to pay $7,000 in taxes. 

The 49-year-old Rockwell was assassinated by a former deputy in 1967 while at a laundromat on Wilson Boulevard. He was found dead in the parking lot – ironically, with his box of Ivory Snow laundry detergent. Though weakened, the party carried on in Arlington, marching with a swastika-adorned drum corps in Arlington’s Bicentennial parade in 1976. It also celebrated “White Pride Day” with members of the Maryland Ku Klux Klan at Yorktown High School in 1983, where the only arrests made were of anti-Nazi protestors who were booked for trespassing. Shortly before the 1983 event the party announced it was moving to Wisconsin, citing a lack of local support for its mission.


NOTE:  This article draws heavily from The Assassination of an American Nazi by Charles S. Clark, ArlingtonHistoricalSociety.org. We highly recommend reading this fascinating article.

Who is the “Langston” of Langston Boulevard?

By Lauren Farrell Gardiner

Contrary to popular belief, Arlington’s Langston Boulevard is not named for the poet Langston Hughes. Rather, the former Lee Highway is named for Langston Hughes’ great uncle John Mercer Langston, an abolitionist, lawyer, and the first Black man to represent Virginia in Congress.

John Mercer Langston was born in Louisa, Virginia in 1829 to Lucy Langston, a Native American and former enslaved woman. His father was Ralph Quarles, a celebrated Revolutionary soldier, wealthy landowner, and Lucy’s enslaver, with whom Lucy had four children. Quarles emancipated Lucy and their first child in 1806, then Lucy left him and had 3 children with another man. She later returned to Quarles, lived with him as his common law wife (since interracial marriage was illegal), and they had three more children together, the youngest of whom was John Langston. 

Langston’s parents died in 1834, when he was only four years old. At the time, he moved to Ohio, where he was raised by family friends, and later, his older brothers. While living in Ohio, Langston was exposed to the strong anti-slavery rhetoric of the North. Langston graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio and married fellow abolitionist Caroline Wall. Langston hoped to become a lawyer, but in the early 1850s, only three Black men nationwide had been admitted to law school. After two law school rejections, Langston studied under local abolitionists in Ohio and was only admitted to the Ohio bar in 1854 after a bar committee deemed him “nearer white than black.” He thus became the first Black lawyer in Ohio.

He and Caroline moved to Brownhelm, Ohio, where he won election to the post of Town Clerk. Some sources speculate that he was the first African American elected to public office in the United States. About a decade later, Langston served as Inspector General of the Freedmen’s Bureau, touring the postwar South, and encouraging freedmen to seek educational opportunities. In 1868, Langston went to Washington, DC, where he established the law department at Howard University and later served as dean of the University. He also served as Minister to Haiti. 
In 1889, after moving back to Virginia, Langston became the first Black person in Virginia to serve in the US House of Representatives. He had run as a Republican and lost to his Democratic opponent but contested the results of the election because of voter intimidation and fraud. After 18 months, the Congressional elections committee declared Langston the winner, and he took his seat in the U.S. Congress for the remaining six months of the term. He lost his bid for reelection because conservative White Democrats had regained political control of Virginia. It would be over a century before Virginia sent another Black representative to Congress. Following his time in Congress, Langston exited the political arena and wrote his autobiography, From the Virginia Plantation to the National Capitol.

The Life and Times of the Lyon Park Community House

By elizabeth Sheehy

With the Lyon Park Community Center centennial approaching, it’s time to look back at the building’s history, focusing this month on its recent renovation.

From its start in 1924, the LPCH has been owned and operated by the community, independent of Arlington County governance. Funds to build the center were raised by the local neighborhood, and eighty years later, facing an aging infrastructure, the community came together to research, design, and fund a renovation worthy of another century of community gathering. 

The renovation’s initial focus was making the bathrooms wheelchair accessible, and to repair chronic plumbing problems. A comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan was compiled, outlining issues facing both the building and the park, including structural concerns and needed safety upgrades, in addition to ensuring Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility compliance. 

There was vigorous debate—at times, contentious—over the next few years on how best to resolve these issues. In 2009, the Renovation Steering Committee was formed, representing a broad cross-section of the community, to manage the process of developing new plans through consensus, and with maximum community input. For the next six months, a group of volunteers met every Monday, forming sub-committees to research building usage, repair needs, historic characteristics, and other information needed to enlighten the decision-making. In July, the BOG facilitated a Community Pre-Design Workshop to solicit ideas, and in October held a well-attended Community Design Workshop, supporting hands-on community participation in partnership with the architects, Laboratory for Architecture and Building.

The final price tag was $1 million, a daunting figure. Keeping most historic features from the original 1925 building intact, the renovated building has modern ADA bathrooms, an upgraded kitchen, and a sunroom, which beautifully integrates the Community House and park, while increasing the building’s capacity by 50 percent. Fundraising occupied the next few years, and the building renovation was completed in 2015. 

In September 2019, the loan on the Community House was paid off, thanks to the hard work of the fundraising team. This proved fortuitous, as rental operations came to a halt in March 2020, stressing the operating budget. Now that we are back to “normal,” it is easy to ignore our own responsibility, as residents of Lyon Park, for the care and upkeep of the Community House and its surrounding park. If we want future generations to enjoy these unique assets, we must embrace our responsibility to support the LPCH.

Please join your neighbors at the first (in a long time) Lyon Park Community Center meeting for more information about the past, present, and future of Lyon Park.