A new bridge to Arlington’s past
On Sept. 10, 2015, Arlington officials will formally dedicate “Freedmans Village Bridge,” the replacement overpass for Washington Boulevard at Columbia Pike.
The naming honor for the 19th century Arlington community of former slaves was approved by the state after a 2008 request from the County Board. Washington Boulevard is officially a state route.
The new bridge incorporates medallion images of the village, which was established as a model community by federal military officials on the captured property of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Custis-Lee estate in 1863. The village, which included housing, schools, a hospital and vocational facilities, was intended to be a temporary stopping point for the former slaves to establish themselves before moving on. Yet the community lasted and even thrived until 1900 when, after decades of trying, the government closed the village, persuading residents to accept payment to leave. Many found homes in other Arlington neighborhoods such as Hall’s Hill and Nauck.
Arlington TV spoke with Dr. Talmadge Williams in 2009 to explore the history and legacy of Freedman’s Village. Williams, an Arlington historian, educator and civil rights leader, died last year.
Although “Freedman’s Village” is now commonly spelled with the apostrophe, County preservation staff recommended that the bridge name not include the punctuation as a more accurate rendition of the name from when the community existed.
More than 28,000 residents of Freedman’s Village are buried in Section 27 of Arlington National Cemetery.