In 1888, John Walter Clark, originally of New Jersey, bought a plot of land in the Clarendon area on what is now Lee Highway.
On it, he built the Fort Strong Villa, near the remnants of Fort Strong, a 21-room mansion that was one of the biggest homes in Arlington County. Clark owned the White House, a well-known gambling house in Rosslyn, and made loans to local merchants and land owners; eventually, large portions of Rosslyn, then known as the bad part of town, ended up in his hands.
Situated at 2627 Lee Highway, Clark used his fortune to make his home truly grand. Annoyed by the dust and dirt of what was then called the Georgetown and Fairfax Turnpike, he lined the road from Rosslyn to his driveway with crushed oyster shells, an early form of paving. Clark frequently held large banquets at his home (with the help of a dumbwaiter installed in the house) and had a separate building on the current Cleveland Street for his retinue of servants.
John Walter Clark died in 1914, and his widow sold Fort Strong Villa to another family in 1921. The property eventually became a fancy guest house for people looking to escape downtown Washington during the summer. However, the property was demolished in 1968. The Virginia Room, however, holds several photographs of Fort Strong Villa and you can read more about it in Eleanor Templeman’s book “Arlington Heritage.”
What About You?
What do you remember about Fort Strong Villa, or Rosslyn before 1960? Let us know what you remember!