Did you know that Arlington was once home to one of the country’s most popular sodas?
A one-gallon Cherry Smash syrup jug, from the Rosslyn bottling location (left). A Cherry Smash logo, noting the Rosslyn location (right). Images courtesy of Washington, D.C., Area Beer and Soda Bottles collector, Chosi.
Cherry Smash soda was founded in 1901 by John E. Fowler in Richmond, Virginia. The company produced a cherry-flavored syrup that could be added to carbonated water or ice cream, and the drink gained early popularity amidst the rise of the soda fountain, earning the nickname of “Our nation’s beverage.” Throughout the early 1900s, there was even a Cherry Smash-sponsored amateur baseball team in the Richmond League.
The soda came to Arlington right around the time Prohibition went into effect. With a plan to move the company’s headquarters from Richmond to Arlington, Fowler purchased the Arlington Brewery in 1920 for $125,000 and converted it into a Cherry Smash plant (also referred to as the “Fowler Building”).
Arlington Brewing Company, which became known as the Fowler Brewery after purchase by John Fowler (left). Dated between 1910 and 1926. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. Fowler Brewery Letterhead, date unknown (right).
The site was initially known as the Consumer Brewery and was built in 1896 by Albert Goenner, a local architect who also oversaw the construction of the original County courthouse. Located near what was the old Aqueduct Bridge, it was a major purveyor of alcohol in the region during a time when Rosslyn was known for being a hotbed of criminality. From the 1880s to the early 1900s, people from the District and the greater Capital region would come over Arlington’s bridges to gamble and drink, most notably in Rosslyn’s saloons.
In 1904, however, nearly 50 of the saloons, bordellos, and gambling houses were shut down by Virginia Commonwealth Attorney Crandall Mackey, and Rosslyn’s salacious reputation began to wane. The same year, the Consumer Brewery reorganized and was renamed the Arlington Brewing Company and continued to produce beer for out-of-state sale until production was banned in 1918.
View from Georgetown of the Rosslyn area across the Aqueduct Bridge, circa 1900. The then-Consumer Brewery can be seen at the top right corner.
When the Cherry Smash company set up shop in Arlington in 1920, the soda was one of the largest soda brands in the country, second only to Coca-Cola. As Cherry Smash ingratiated itself into the Arlington landscape, Fowler also became a prominent member of Arlington’s business community, advocating for business development in Rosslyn in the 1920s and serving as chairman of the Arlington Trust Company Bank from 1925 until his death in 1960.
Cherry Smash continued to be manufactured and bottled at the Rosslyn site until around the 1950s. Numerous other operations also took place on or adjacent to the Cherry Smash property, including a lithographing company, a laundry facility, a hardware warehouse, a millwork facility, and a tree surgery company. In 1943, part of the Cherry Smash plant was used to manufacture and bottle wine, connecting the location back to its pre-Prohibition roots.
In 1940, J. Willard Marriott opened a Hot Shoppe next to the Cherry Smash facilities, which had become a highly successful local restaurant chain since the first location debuted in D.C. in 1927. In 1958, Marriott demolished the soda plant to construct a “Hot Shoppe’s Motel,” which in 1959 debuted as the “Marriott Motor Hotel,” and was later called the Key Bridge Marriot.
In the 1950s, Washington A-list investor C. Wyatt Dickerson purchased the company, and Robert Pond (who later founded the still-existing Pond Roofing) served as president during this era. Cherry Smash continued to be manufactured in Arlington into the 1960s at a new location at 601 North Randolph Street in the Ballston area, where it was bottled and sold in gallon form.
View of the old Marriott Hotel near the Key Bridge, on the site of what was formerly the Cherry Smash factory. Photo was taken in December 1962.
To learn more about Arlington's history, visit the Center for Local History on the first floor of the Central Library.
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