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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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Who Was Dr. Charles Drew?

By Kalkidan Ausink

You may be familiar with Charles R. Drew Elementary or Community Center, but not the local hero for whom the school is named, a Black physician whose blood transfusion discoveries transformed emergency medicine and surgery. When Dr. Drew started studying blood, it only had a shelf life of a few days, which meant the donor had to almost be co-located with the recipient—an unmanageable situation in times of war, for example. Drew made two remarkable discoveries: 1) he figured out that cells are what determine blood type and that plasma, when separated from cells, could be given to anyone regardless of blood type and 2) he invented a method by which plasma could be dried and reconstituted when needed. 

Dr. Drew was born in 1904 as the eldest son of a carpet layer. He grew up in Washington D.C. and attended Dunbar High School, the first public high school for Black students in the United States. In 1920, Drew’s oldest sister died from tuberculosis and influenza during a city-wide epidemic. Drew’s family blamed the city’s air for her death and moved to Arlington’s Penrose neighborhood that year. 

Drew attended Amherst College on an athletic scholarship, lettering in four sports. He suffered a college football injury and credits the ensuing hospitalization, along with the death of his sister, as inspiring his interest in medicine. After Amherst, Drew earned medical and surgery degrees from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He returned to our area in 1935 as a pathology instructor at Howard University and later earned a Doctor of Medical Science degree from Columbia University, the first African American to do so. 

Drew saved thousands of lives as the medical director for “Blood for Britain,” creating what would eventually be today’s mobile blood bank for British soldiers in World War II. As Drew ramped up plasma stockpiles for America’s entry into the war, the military stipulated that the American Red Cross exclude African Americans from donating, later deciding that they could donate blood, but only for Black troops. Drew, the leading expert in blood banking, was ineligible to participate in the program he helped establish. He resigned in protest. In 1950, at age 45, Drew’s life was tragically cut short by an automobile accident in North Carolina. Drew’s home at 2505 1st Street South is a historical landmark.

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Memories of 1950s Arlington

By Rita O’Brien

I moved to Arlington in 1952 with my sister and parents from Bedminster, New Jersey. While it was a good opportunity for my father’s career, it must have been a bit of a shock for my mother leaving behind a big house with 88 acres that had been General Knox’ headquarters during the Revolution for a two-bedroom apartment in Lee Gardens (now Woodbury Park). My sister and I, however, despite trading fields, a barn and a hayloft for playgrounds, friends, and even storm sewers, found it great fun and loved it from Day 1. Our brother was born in 1953, and my sister and I, at the ages of 9 and 10 were allowed to take him in his stroller to Lee Shopping Center on Pershing Drive at Route 50 to pick up groceries for my mother at Lee Market. My father would stop at Lee Bakery for doughnuts after church on Sundays – and birthday cakes and other celebrations always consisted of baked goods from Lee Bakery. Years later, they catered my wedding. 

We moved to Lyon Park in 1954, which as I remember looked pretty much the same as it does now, with the exception that houses were not being torn down to be replaced. Neighborhoods were tree-lined with sidewalks to ride bikes and skate. There were some businesses in Lyon Park at Pershing Drive and Washington Boulevard – a restaurant that we always called “Eat” due to the sign outside (it’s now Texas Jack’s – and a favorite of ours). I remember my grandfather and uncle coming to visit and telling my mother they’d take my sister and me for an outing. They gave us money for ice cream, but it turned out we spent the whole time waiting for them in the car while they went into “Eat” for beer!

We loved Lyon Park, with its proximity to the shops: in Clarendon – JC Penney’s, Murphy’s, Sears, shoe stores, etc.; Virginia Square shopping center with Kann’s Department Store, where I worked while I was in college, as well as the bus line down Wilson Boulevard where we would catch the bus to go into Washington to shop. Rosslyn, as many people will remember, was mostly pawn shops. My only recollection of Rosslyn as a child is the streetcar, which we would take to meet my father downtown at his office for dinner. Parkington (now Ballston), I remember for more shopping – I worked at McCrory’s while in high school, and of course, Hecht’s, with its huge wall of glass with messages – and probably ads.

I went to St. Charles from second through eighth grade, then to Bishop O’Connell for high school. Schools (at least mine) were racially segregated during the 1950s. I remember our first black classmate in 5th grade. Sister Marion explained ahead of time that this young lady was joining us, and we were expected to treat her with respect. I remember friendship with her was something to which we all aspired. Back in the 1950s during the Cold War, we would have air raid drills fairly often, where we would have to crouch down under our desks with our hands behind our necks. Looking back, I wonder why educators put us through that trauma (and it was, and to some extent remains) as I sincerely doubt that exercise would prevent harm in the case of a nuclear attack.

We rented in Lyon Park, moving to our 4-bedroom house in Ashton Heights in 1960, and I believe my parents paid about $17,000; they sold it around 1970 for about $26,000. My husband and I purchased our first house nearer to Falls Church in 1967 – a 3-bedroom, 1-1/2 bath – for $28,000, and my father was shocked that we paid so much!

We lacked a lot of what kids these days have. Most moms – not all – stayed home; as a rule, families had one car and one television. We did not have structured activities but were free to roam and to play what and with whom we wanted. It was an amazing place to grow up – and for that matter, it’s an amazing place to grow old!

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Professionals Talk About our Local Housing Market

By Natalie Roy (Bicycling Realty Group | KW Metro Center) and John Eric (Compass Real Estate) 

Lyon Park is one of DC’s most desirable areas, as it provides the best of urban/suburban living with its easy access to stores, shops, and restaurants. Not to mention that the commute to many jobs is very easy. Numerous corporations have chosen Arlington to host their corporate headquarters, which will only continue to drive up the desirability of our neighborhood.

Pricing in Lyon Park generally sits on the higher side, and our current market inventory is still bearing that out. Limited inventory always means high prices. The COVID era created a hyperactive sellers-market, with much more demand than inventory. Remote-working professionals wanting to improve their living situation, historically low interest rates and low inventory set the market on fire. For competitively priced homes, multiple offers, waived contingencies, and escalations over list price were the norm. Offers made sight unseen and contracts done in one day were not unusual. Home prices skyrocketed, increasing 20%-30% in just over two years. 

However, we are seeing an easing in the market due to inflation concerns as well as the rise in interest rates. While there is still competition, home inspections and financing contingencies have returned, and if a home is not competitively priced or presented well, it will sit longer on the market. Buyers are becoming pickier because of the cost of the home (price + interest).

Housing inventory continues to be a challenge. In June, active listings in Arlington were down again by 20% from the same time last year. With a decrease in supply, one would expect to see an increase in average prices, and in fact the average sales price in June was up a slight 2% in the past year. Unit sales were down by 21%, pushing Months of Supply up to a moderate 1.5 (this means it would take about 1.5 months for all available inventory in our market to sell). The average days a house sits on the market experienced no change, continuing to hover around three weeks. 

At the end of the day, unless you are an investor, you should worry less about resale value and more about what kind of home you will enjoy living in. If the past is any indicator, this region is very resilient. It has been able to weather many economic downturns and should be able to do so in the future.

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Lyon Park Historic District: Did You Know…

By Elizabeth Sheehy

Lyon Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, #03000437? In 2003, a group of dedicated neighbors put together a successful nomination to create the Lyon Park Historic District through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Our community met National Register criterion A (an event, series of events or activities, or patterns of an area’s development) and Criterion C (A building form, architectural style, engineering technique, or artistic value, based on a stage of physical development, or the use of a material or method of construction that shaped the historic identity of an area). Criterion B, for those who are curious, requires association with an important person, so please let us know if any previous presidents have slept in your home!

Lyon Park is an example of the enormous growth that occurred in and around Washington DC, following the first World War. Architectural styles in the neighborhood reflect community planning and development, with a proliferation of Craftsman Bungalows, American Four Squares, Colonial Revivals, and especially pre-fabricated kit homes (Sears Bungalows) which were perfect for Lyon Park’s modest lots. Even the garden apartments were important contributors, meeting the needs of young professionals flooding to the nation’s capital.

At the time of the review of Lyon Park’s nomination, there were 1,165 structures that positively contributed to our Historic District approval and 329 non-contributing structures. The Lyon Park Community House, built by and for the community in the mid 1920s, was a critical contributing structure. During the 2015 renovation, great care was taken to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. That is why, for example, the framing of the added kitchen and restrooms spaces are smaller than the original building, making it visually clear which part of the building is dominant (original). That is also why the roof material of the sunroom is different from the original part of the building, to better show that it is a later addition to the main hall.

If you’d like to learn more, you can read the Lyon Park nomination form. You can also read the official report at the following link: DHR – Virginia Department of Historic Resources » 000-7820 Lyon Park Historic District. As you walk through the neighborhood, see if you can spot some of the contributing structures in Lyon Park, representing American architectural styles 1891-1953!