If ever there were a steadying presence in a neighborhood, Robert “Mac” McAttee would be it. “This neighborhood — best there is anywhere,” says the 97-year-old, practically a lifelong resident of Maywood. McAttee has considered this Arlington neighborhood of about 350 households his home since his parents bought their house when he was 2 years old in 1915. Neighbors know him as a friendly man who, having outlasted every other resident of his era, embodies the institutional knowledge of the community.
It was McAttee’s old black-and-white photos that were used as the “before” family images for the 2009 photography exhibit marking the 100th anniversary of Maywood’s founding. “I picked out photos of him and his family and then replicated those perspectives with images of a typical Maywood family of 2009,” said award-winning amateur photographer Greg Embree, who lives in adjacent Cherrydale. The photos included residents in such settings as a neighborhood potluck, a Halloween party and a new snowfall. “I had so many more photos than would fit in the photo exhibit, so I made a book,” he said. That book is “Maywood at a Milestone: A Centennial Snapshot, 1909-2009.”
Maywood was developed in 1909 as a trolley-car suburb of Washington. Arlington County designated it as the county’s first neighborhood historic district in 1990, and Maywood was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Approximately 200 of Maywood’s homes were built from 1909 to 1925 and contribute to the historic designations. The remainder of Maywood’s detached houses, and approximately 80 condominiums and apartments, are not considered historic, nor are the shops, the restaurants and the major grocery store that border the neighborhood along Lee Highway.
Residents celebrated Maywood’s centennial in 2009 with several events, including a time-capsule dedication and a party, according to Alex Berger, current president of the community association. “We have a block party every fall. That fall we had a super-duper block party,” Berger said.
To commemorate the centennial year, residents also commissioned bronze house plaques, which read “Maywood, Established 1909” and identify the date of the construction for each house. Fifty-six homes currently display plaques. “The earliest house plaque is dated 1898, but most date from 1910 to 1915,” Berger said.
Maywood’s land has a history dating to Colonial days. The land that was to become the neighborhood was part of a parcel Lord Fairfax granted to Thomas Going in 1708, according to former-resident historians Barbara Warnick Silberman and Gail Baker. In their 1987 history published in the Arlington Historical Magazine, they explain that George Mason inherited the land in 1735 and later passed it to his son John Mason, who lost it in bankruptcy in 1836.
Local lore suggests two possible origins for Maywood’s name. Some residents believe it was named for the area’s abundance of flowering plants called Mayapples. Others believe that the primary developer, Hugh A. Thrift of the Conservative Realty Company, named Maywood after his wife, Mary, who was known as May.