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Arlington View:
A Sense of History

By Louie Estrada
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 5, 1993

To an outsider, Arlington View may seem like any other collection of houses in Northern Virginia. But to those who live there, a past that stretches back more than 250 years provides the foundation for today's strong sense of community.

"This is definitely home," said Arthur McLaurie, who moved there 40 years ago. "I was a little disturbed when people starting selling their homesówhich were few and far betweenóbut we've gotten some very nice people in here. It's a very stable community."

His next-door neighbor, Kenneth Whitehead, agreed. Two years ago, he jumped at the chance to buy the ranch-style house where he now lives, believing the location would keep its property value high.

Arlington View, known as Johnson's Hill in the early 1700s, was a farm that was divided into four partsóthree of which were sold to former slaves in the late 1800s. The northwest corner parcel was bought by the Gray family, descendants of whom live in the community today. On the land Harry Gray built the first brick town home in Arlington, which still stands. What grew around it was a predominately black, middle-class neighborhood.

Arlington View is a neatly enclosed 62-acre area in the shadow of the District, bounded by Columbia Pike and Washington Boulevard on the north, Shirley Highway on the east, Army-Navy Country Club on the south and Rolfe Street on the west.

According to a history of the community, the condition of Arlington View had deteriorated by the 1950s, leading some residents to form a neighborhood group, which cleaned up the area. For its efforts, the group qualified for grants to repave streets and rebuild curbing and sidewalks under the Arlington Neighborhood Conservation Plan. Benches and children's play equipment were placed in a small community park.

While Arlington View has no historical markers, there are visible links to the past. Mount Olive Baptist Church, which attracts a large gathering of worshipers every Sunday, was first established in 1879 and moved to Arlington View in 1932.

The Hoffman-Boston School, while no longer an active elementary school, was established in Arlington View in 1916. The building is the site for educational programs that include continuing education for adults and a Head Start program for children.

The community civic association maintains its goal to preserve Arlington View's residential status, which is home to about 1,500 residents.

Single-family homes make up a majority of the housing, but the area also includes cooperatives and the Arlington View Terrace Apartments.

The houses vary, from federal-style colonial town homes, small brick homes built in the 1940s, tract homes constructed in the 1950s and wooden bungalows. The value of the homes ranges from about $90,000 to $300,000.

After buying a three-story house in Arlington View four years ago, Tom Barlow and Mike Wasylczuk began a restoration and remodeling project of the 58-year-old structure, hoping to recapture a bit of its past as well as adding some modern amenities, such as a hot tub and a backyard fish pond.

"To have such tranquillity while being this close to the city is almost unheard-of around here," Wasylczuk said.

"In a matter of minutes I can be just about any part of the city. And the crime?" Wasylczuk answered his own question by forming a zero with his right hand.

But residents are concerned that a homeless shelter and detoxification center being built by the county government near Arlington View's main entranceway might disrupt the neighborhood's tranquillity.

"The problem is nobody wants it in their neighborhood. The facility will be isolated between two major highways and I've been given every assurance that it will be maintained properly. What many of the residents here object to is what they think might happen," Hubbard said.

While location has its benefits it also can have its distractions. High on the association's agenda is keeping affordable housing in the area.

"At the rate it's going now, many of the residents living here won't be able to do so in the years ahead," Hubbard said.

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