The first outdoor recreation area in Arlington was developed at Arlington Spring on the banks of the Potomac near Arlington House.
George Washington Parke Custis, the father-in-law of Robert E. Lee, was a hospitable man who kept many artifacts in Arlington House and dedicated his life to the preservation of the memory of his step- grandfather and adoptive father, George Washington.
Arlington Spring was initially used as a place to entertain family and friends, but in 1824 Custis opened it to the public in for a Fourth of July celebration. Arlington Spring contained a kitchen, dining hall and dancing pavilion, and up to 200 visitors a day came by boats, canal boats and later steam excursion boats to attend sheep shearing contests, political speeches or for recreation. Field tents used by George Washington during the Revolution were used on special occasions such as the Revolutionary war hero Marquis de Lafayette’s visit to Arlington in October 1824. It was reported that 2,000 people attended the Fourth of July celebration at Arlington Spring in 1848.
This Arlington Spring illustration is from an 1853 drawing in Harper’s magazine by Benson Lossing.
What About You?
Do you have memories of favorite outdoor recreations in Arlington and on the Potomac? Please let us know!