Back before the blossoming Japanese cherry trees lined the Tidal Basin -- indeed, probably before there was a Tidal Basin -- where would a Washingtonian or an Arlingtonian go to see a fantastic display of cherry blossoms?

Think hard, now! It was Cherrydale, originally a small settlement in a rural area and now a gracefully aging and redeveloping neighborhood of urbanized North Arlington.

Originally, the area where Lee Highway, Old Dominion Drive, North Quincy Street and Military Road now converge was known as Wunder's X-Roads, named for a physician who farmed nearby.

Eleanor Lee Templeman, in her marvelous 1959 book "Arlington Heritage," recounted Cherrydale's origins.

"Apparently the first mid-Cherrydale settler was Dorsey Donaldson, who built his home just back of the present firehouse" on the south side of Lee Highway, she wrote.

"He planted a large cherry orchard on his farm. His son-in-law, Robert Shreve, also planted 'carnation cherries' along Quincy Street. Hence, Quincy Street's first name was 'Cherry Valley Road.'

"When Mr. Donaldson requested a branch post office at Shreve's store at the northeast corner of Pollard Street and Lee Highway," the present site of a shopping center, "he was asked to suggest a name. The appropriate reply was 'Cherrydale.'

"Little remains now of the glory of spring blossoms," but both private and public beautification efforts have been made, Templeman recounted.

What put Cherrydale on the map was the Great Falls & Old Dominion Railway, a trolley line that ran along Lee Highway. It ran between Rosslyn and Great Falls, through the tiny rural crossroads village of McLean, from 1906 to 1935, and much of its roadbed has since become Old Dominion Drive.

Bridge Burnout

Several weeks ago, when structural deterioration was discovered in the deck of the South Capitol Street bridge, the D.C. Public Works Department turned on an electric detour sign on the Southwest Freeway that read: "Trucks Buses Use 11th Street." A second illuminated sign at the South Capitol Street off-ramp read: "No Trucks."

Each sign is composed of incandescent light bulbs similar to those used in households. Since the signs were first turned on, seemingly half of the bulbs have burned out, leaving perhaps half the lettering unreadable. A motorist driving the Southeast Freeway could not possibly, at a glance, get the signs' messages.

Battle of the Boot

The D.C. City Council is considering legislation, Bill 6-397, that would double the present $25 fee for removal of a boot from any motor vehicle immobilized in the city for failure to pay tickets. That, of course, is in addition to paying off the tickets.

If you want to testify, pro or con, a hearing will be held by the council's Public Works Committee at 10 a.m. next Wednesday. Call 724-8064 by Friday.

Erratum

Oops! My pinky finger slipped by one key on one stroke in writing yesterday's column. And -- wouldn't you know? -- it created the worst possible error in describing plans for reenactment of the first Battle of Manassas this summer: The wrong date. The correct date is Sunday, July 20.