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.

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.

Neighbor Profile:  Doorways for Women and Families

Community members who were concerned that there was no safe space in Arlington for families in crisis founded Doorways in 1978. The organization aims to address the interconnectedness among the cycles of sexual assault, domestic violence, and homelessness, and help survivors avoid having to choose between staying with abusers or facing homelessness.

What began as a single shelter to support families in crisis has since grown into a wide range of programs and pathways for people of all ages and genders. Doorways envisions a community where all people live free from violence and have safe and stable housing. Every year, the organization provides shelter and housing for more than 200 people and helps them achieve safety and stability. Doorways also supports hundreds more adults, youth, and children through their 24-hour domestic and sexual violence hotline ([703] 237-0881), mobile advocacy services, court advocacy, hospital accompaniment, individual and group counseling, and prevention programming.

  • 94% of Doorways Safehouse households did not return to abusive living situations.
  • 74% of family home households obtained permanent housing post-shelter.
  • 99% of children with social-emotional issues received services and counseling.

Services like these have been essential throughout the COVID pandemic, with many families experiencing financial and emotional strain, loss of employment, and eviction. The Doorways Family Home team in our neighborhood has supported families throughout this period to ensure that members of our community receive shelter, housing, and comprehensive support.

Doorways is a non-profit organization supported by donations from neighbors (including United Way and Combined Campaigns), matching corporate gifts, gifts, and in-kind giving. To learn more about Doorways, including ways to volunteer and help, visit www.doorwaysva.org

Civil Rights Icon from Arlington

By Elaine Simmons

It took a visit to the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, NC to learn about a hometown hero. Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, a civil rights activist and a Freedom Rider, attended Nottingham Elementary and spent much of her adult life in the Barcraft neighborhood. 

Joan Trumpauer’s mother was a segregationist from Georgia who sent Joan to Duke University, which, in 1960, was segregated and seeped in southern culture. But early on Joan rebelled against white supremacy. She joined the lunch counter sit-ins in 1961 (first started in 1960 in the Greensboro Woolworth by four Black men from North Carolina A&T University) and then dropped out of Duke after being pressured to stop her activism. She was the first white woman to enroll at Tougaloo College, a historically black college in Mississippi, graduating in 1964. 

Joan returned to this area and worked with activists like Stokely Carmichael on the Freedom Rides, in which Black and white activists traveled together to challenge the segregated buses and bus stations of the South. She also participated in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march. 

To end segregation in Arlington, Joan joined Howard University students in trying to integrate the lunch counter of the Drug Fair drugstore in Cherrydale, at Peoples Drug at the corner of Lee Highway and Old Dominion Drive, and at a Woolworth’s in Shirlington. 

Joan and her fellow protestors faced violent white mobs and incarceration for their peaceful efforts to end systemic racism. An iconic photograph shows enraged whites reacting to Joan and other protesters (including one of Joan’s professors from Tougaloo) while the protestors sat calmly at a lunch counter. According to one account, the protesters were “doused in food, cut with broken glass, hit with brass knuckles, and burned with cigarettes. The police stood by while men were kicked and punched, and women were yanked from the counter by their hair.” 

In connection with the Freedom Riders, Joan and others were arrested and incarcerated for two months in cells previously occupied by Death Row inmates at the notorious Parchman Farm at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. In Arlington, she and fellow protestors were shot at by angry mobs and were counterpicketed by local Nazis wearing swastikas. She and her fellow protestors were hunted by the Ku Klux Klan and at one point, Joan was deemed mentally ill for trying to eliminate white supremacy. Joan eventually worked and raised five sons on Taylor Street in the Barcroft area. She has been the subject of many documentaries and articles, but perhaps this local hero deserves more recognition from the governments of Arlington County and the Commonwealth.