Frank Lyon and Arlington (Part I of III)

By Tracy Hopkins

Our Lyon Park website indicates that Lyon Park is named after Frank Lyon, who developed Lyon Park in 1919. It talks about Lyon Park’s development, but not much about Frank Lyon. Lyon descended from a family that was established in Virginia in 1730. His grandfather was a general contractor in Petersburg, Virginia. His father was a lawyer in Petersburg and, later, in Richmond. During the Civil War, his father served in the office of the Advocate General of the Confederacy. He was married to Mary Margaret Springs of Charlotte, North Carolina, and they had four children, including Frank.

Born on December 30, 1867, in Petersburg, Virginia, Lyon attended public schools in Richmond, graduating in 1884. After 18 months at Richmond College, Lyon began working in administration for railroad companies. In 1887, Lyon became the private secretary to Walter Bragg of the newly formed Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). He remained with the ICC until 1899, during which time Lyon also studied law at Georgetown University. He received a Master of Laws in 1890 and began to practice law in Alexandria County (renamed Arlington in 1920). 

Lyon married Georgie Hays Wright in 1890, and they built a small house, which no longer exists, on Lubber Run. They later lived on Kirkwood Road at the current site of the YMCA. The house they built in 1907 was Lyonhurst, now Missionhurst, at 4651 25th St. N. This residence was said to be the first home in the county to have electricity. 

Frank and Georgie Lyon had three children who survived to adulthood, two daughters and a son. The son, Lt. John Lyon, died near the end of World War I in the Argonne offensive in France. The John Lyon Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3150 located at 2116 19th St. N., is named for him.

Lyon became the owner and editor of the Monitor newspaper in the early 1900s and was associated with the paper until its sale in 1928. He and the paper played a significant role in the dissolution of liquor and gambling interests in Rosslyn. He joined the legal crusade against liquor by representing temperance movement leaders. 

Lyon became a law partner of Robert Walton Moore and participated in the development of Moore’s addition to Clarendon. His development firm, Lyon and Fitch, developed Lyon Park in 1919. Later, the depression caused the dissolution of Lyon and Fitch, after which Lyon continued to practice law. He died on November 29, 1955 and is buried in Petersburg, Virginia.
NOTE: This article is derived from Rose, Ruth P., “The Role of Frank Lyon and His Associates in the Early Development of Arlington County,” The Arlington Historical Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 4, 1976. 

Memories of Arlington: Growing up in Halls Hill (now High View Park)

Based on an interview with LaVonia Sweeney

I was born in Washington, DC in 1942 and lived there until my parents moved to Halls Hill about 3 years later. Our house had been given to my parents by my grandfather as a wedding present with the condition that they pay off the $2000 balance. Our home in DC had indoor plumbing but the Halls Hill home only had an outhouse, which my mother found unacceptable. A bathroom with indoor plumbing was added and we moved in. Halls Hill was very rural, with woods all around and houses spread out. 

Halls Hill was an island of Black residences surrounded by houses owned by Whites. Segregation meant that Whites and Blacks did not mix or socialize. One example I recall is that my mother could not give birth to my baby brother (born in 1946) at Virginia Hospital just a few blocks away; my father had to take her to DC. Certain streets were walled off by White residents but, even where it was possible to walk into a White neighborhood, we did not do so because our parents told us not to. The reason was Whites did not want us there. 

I did not visit a public library in Arlington until much later since they were inside White neighborhoods. There were no nearby movie theaters or swimming pools we could use. There was a grocery store and a “5 and Dime” on Lee Highway we could shop at. We could buy ice cream at Giffords in Falls Church but not sit down in the restaurant to eat it. In case of fire, there was a Black firehouse for Black neighborhoods. If assistance was needed, the White fire departments would not send help to a Black neighborhood. But if assistance was needed in the White neighborhood, the Black firemen would help. 

We loved having parties with friends and family; it was our main entertainment. For school, I went to kindergarten at a lady’s house up the street and then attended grade school at Langston Elementary. In 7th grade I went to Hoffman-Boston, the only Black high school in Arlington. On Sundays, we attended the Black Catholic church in South Arlington called Our Lady Queen of Peace, which still exists. 

During 7th grade my family moved back to DC. I eventually went to a school in Powhatan, VA, near Richmond (formally named St. Francis de Sales High School for Colored and Indian Girls). My mother worked as a dental assistant and cut hair on the side. She said her tips sent me to boarding school. My father worked for the Army postal service in the Pentagon. He was not promoted for a long time but when he finally was, a White man quit his job there rather than work for a Black man.

In DC we could go to movies and swimming pools, but some places were still segregated, such as National Theater, where Black ticketholders could only sit in the balcony section. Now those are considered choice seats!   I never encountered the Ku Klux Klan in DC or Virginia but did when I worked in a Southern Maryland school. One day a Klansmen came to the school to distribute pamphlets—not for any specific event but to let everyone know the Klan was there.  

A highlight of my years in DC was attending Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I attended with my friends, so we were socializing during the event. We could hear him in the distance speaking for a long time, so we tried our best to pay attention!  Eventually I married a corpsman who became a warrant officer in the Navy, had two children, and moved around the east coast. I returned to my childhood home in Arlington in 2014, and I remember marveling at how I could go anywhere and do anything in the neighborhood. I walked up all the streets I couldn’t have walked before, and I have lived here since. Today, my daughter lives in southern Maryland and my son in Hawaii.

Urban Heat Islands

By Elaine Simmons

As Arlington County increases its density of buildings and residents, more people can access our many benefits. However, growth also increases the possibility of the phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect: cities experience higher air temperatures than non-urban areas.

On average, cities tend to be 1–7°F warmer than non-urban areas around them during the daytime and 

as much as 5°F warmer at night. On a summer day, the sun can heat buildings, roofs, and cars to temperatures 50 degrees higher than the surrounding air. Urban air quality also suffers since more pollutants are pumped into the air in densely populated areas, and stagnant air conditions during heat waves can trap pollutants near the ground. 

Natural surfaces like trees and plants have cooling effects from shade and “evaporative cooling,” whereby evaporating water from vegetation absorbs heat (much like sweat cools the human body). Artificial surfaces such as roads and buildings that replace vegetation typically lack those cooling effects and instead absorb and re-emit more heat, which makes their surroundings warmer too. 

As the planet warms, urban heat islands will only intensify higher temperatures. To cope with higher temperatures, cars and buildings consume more energy for cooling—frequently via fossil fuels—which worsens air pollution and contributes to climate change. 

An important way to fight the urban heat island effect is to reintroduce vegetation. This includes planting trees, expanding parkland, and installing “green roofs” designed to support plants. Building cool roofs and  pavements—which have bright coatings that reflect more sunlight and, therefore, absorb less heat—also   can reduce the urban heat island effect. A model by the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub estimated that, if widely implemented, cool pavements could reduce the frequency of heatwaves by 41% across all US urban areas.

As residents, a key thing we can do is plant and properly care for tough native shade trees (like oaks, sycamores, hickories, tulip trees). Those of us with shady yards know that tree cover makes a HUGE difference in how hot it feels. A friend in McLean with lots of shade trees has measured a 10-degree difference in his yard compared to nearby exposed areas. Next time you venture out, notice how much better streets and sidewalks with tall tree overhang feel and look compared to those that are sun-beaten. To get a free tree, including installation, contact the Tree Canopy Fund established by Ecoaction Arlington. You may also register for a free tree on Arlington County’s Urban Forestry Dept web page. Or visit your local garden center.

North Arlington Segregation Walls

By John Ausink

If you’ve ever gone to the Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe you’ve been in North Arlington’s High View Park area —formerly known as Hall’s Hill, an historically Black neighborhood outlined in red on the map. If you travel south on nearby N Culpepper St. and look down 17th Rd N. when you get to the bottom of the hill, you’ll notice an imposing cinderblock wall, shown behind me in the photo. What’s going on?

The four thick blue lines on the map show the locations of various walls, erected in the 1930s, that at one time enclosed portions of Hall’s Hill to physically separate it from White neighborhoods. If I had tried to ride down N. Culpeper St. before the mid-1960s I would have been blocked at 17th Rd N. by the wall:  the only way to drive through Hall’s Hill from Lee Highway (now Langston Blvd) was via N. Edison to the west. 

Some claim that Hall’s Hill was once entirely enclosed by walls of various materials, but the only segments I can document from county records and “eyewitness” accounts are the four in blue on the map. When Langston Elementary School was closed in the mid-1960s and Hall’s Hill students were assigned to a new school south of 17th Rd N., a group of Black and White citizens asked the county to open a section of the wall so students wouldn’t have to walk all the way to N. Edison and back again (14 blocks, some say) to get to school. One source says the county bought and demolished two houses and their adjacent section of segregation wall to create an opening. 

If you have not visited the segregation wall, it is important to do so—and take your kids, since they don’t learn about this local injustice in school. You can easily ride your bike from Lyon Park. It’s worth noting that, while the county changed its zoning to permit the segregation walls, the walls themselves were built and paid for by White homeowners.

Business Spotlight: Interview with Sue Pyatt, Co-Owner, Kinder Haus Toys in Clarendon

How long have you been in business?

My store came into being in 1982. We opened in the Lee Heights Shops in a tiny space of only 650 ft2. When we started the business, my husband and I had two little girls, ages 9 and 11. But there was a bit of a complication as I was expecting my third child! I figured if I waited for the perfect time, it would never come, so the store opened in April and a baby boy, Jeffrey, came in June.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a small business in Arlington?

The greatest advantage is our Arlington customers, who want quality toys, books, sporting goods, and clothes for their children and are very appreciative of our store. Because we had great customer support, we grew and are now a big 5,000 ft2 store. The only disadvantage is that parking can be a problem sometimes.  

How did COVID change your business?

We took a tip from the neighborhood restaurants and swung into action with curb service. We advertised on Facebook that customers could call in, see pictures, and charge on the phone. It worked!

How do you know what will be big sellers vs. duds?  

We never know for sure, and a few duds do happen. But I’ve learned which catalogs of toys are popular with our customers. I also see a few trusted reps and attend toy fairs. Reading trade magazines and the Wall Street Journal can be helpful. Listening to customers is very important, as is being flexible. Most toys in our store are winners.

What kinds of things still surprise you after so many years in business?

After 40 years, people still tell us they love our store, and it is a favorite. We never ever get tired of hearing this.

What else do you as an owner feel is important?

When you surround yourself with good people, they will make you look good. I am grateful for Everett, Laura, Dylan, and Angela and I appreciate the fine high school students who have worked for us from Lyon Park and Ashton Heights.

If You Want Gorgeous Pansies in the Spring, Plant Them Now!

By Elaine Simmons

Riotous spring pansies are well served by planning ahead.  If you have outdoor window boxes or winter proof pots, plant your pansies in these containers now with fresh potting soil (not topsoil).  They will look good this fall, now that the weather has cooled.  They will likely “wilt” a bit (and look rather sorry) in the colder months of winter but, unless we have truly bitter cold, these same pansies will normally spring back to life in March or April, earlier and with more vigor than if you plant them in the spring.  In this way you get two seasons of enjoyment out of the same plants.

Pansies disdain heat, so the short seasons of fall and early spring are when they flourish in this area.  When the pansies get leggy and spent in May or June, you can replace them with annuals that tolerate summer heat.  Right now, the nearby garden centers are well stocked with these plants.  Brighter solid colors like yellow, orange, or white will “pop” against your house, or try a combo of contrasting colors like purple, yellow, and white.  Pinch off spent blooms at the base of the stems to stimulate new flowers.

And don’t throw away the old potting soil!  I keep big pots of it in the garage to use in making compost, combining it with vegetable scraps, coffee grounds/filters, tea bags, and dryer lint.  After six weeks or so in bin, the depleted old soil is transformed into rich loam.


Lots of education research confirms that children who read below grade level in the 3rd grade have a very hard time ever catching up. And if children can’t read well, they really struggle in school. If they don’t enjoy reading, they tend not to spend the time to learn to read better. Many even drop out of school early and rarely pursue post-secondary education. 

Even though Arlington is a highly educated community overall, we have lots of children in Arlington elementary schools whose reading skills fall behind. The impact may be most significant in families where there are few books at home, where the native language isn’t English, and where parents have little time to read with their children due to job schedules. COVID has obviously exacerbated this challenge.

In the spring of 2022, a few volunteers began a pilot program in partnership with Hoffman-Boston Elementary School.  That pilot was very successful and gave us an opportunity to fine tune the logistics. We’re now planning for the 2022-23 school year and expanding to Drew and Long Branch, in addition to continuing at Hoffman-Boston.

The minimum commitment is 45 minutes one day per week, between 4and 6 PM, simply reading with a student one on one and chatting about the book(s) (and anything else the child wants to discuss!).  There is a formal process for approving volunteers and a short online training class on Safe Schools. School staff provides books and coordinates the schedule for each volunteer.If you’d like more information or just want to sign up, please contact Dan Dixon (202-262-8338 or