WETA — the Washington Education Television Foundation — is an iconic institution, capturing and broadcasting the news for more than a half-century. Though it covers topics spanning the globe, the channel's roots are in Arlington, where its headquarters are still located.
This empty lot across from the Village at Shirlington would eventually be home to WETA's headquarters. Pictured here in 1988, the building was completed in 1989 and purchased by WETA in 1995.
Campbell Place, as it is known, has been home to WETA ever since. Pictured here in 2021, it is located at 3939 Campbell Avenue. A second WETA building is located nearby at 3620 South 27th Street.
WETA's first broadcast took place on October 2, 1961, after an eight-year effort to bring public television to the National Capital Region. After the FCC reserved television channels for noncommercial use in 1952, local publisher Willard Kiplinger organized and led the Greater Washington Educational Television Association to develop Channel 26, which had been set aside for the area. In 1956, Elizabeth Pfohl Campbell was brought on and began work as president in 1957. Campbell was a notable local educator; the first female School Board member in Virginia; and an activist who had worked to help desegregate Arlington’s schools. Campbell then served at WETA for over 40 years.
WETA originally operated out of Yorktown High School, with business offices located in the Campbells’ home. When Yorktown expanded, WETA later moved operations to American University and then Howard University men's gymnasium in 1965. When Howard began its own broadcasting station in 1972, WETA-TV and WETA-FM operations were scattered at locations throughout the region, including at L’Enfant plaza in the District and at North 19th Road in Arlington.
In 1983, WETA’s board of trustees voted to consolidate operations at the 3620 South Street location. The current WETA headquarters was constructed in 1989 and was purchased by WETA in 1995. It remains the company’s headquarters today.
From WETA's records, one of Elizabeth Campbell's reflections on education and the WETA message follows: "Education opens doors. A life without education can be one of insularity and emptiness. Our schools and universities are vital resources, but it has been my belief for a very long time that television and radio can be powerful educators as well. However, television and radio are simply broadcast tools — it is the programming that counts. That's why public broadcasting is so important."
In 2007, the Arlington County Board renamed what had been 28th Street South to Campbell Avenue in honor of Elizabeth Campbell and her husband, Edmund Campbell, a prominent local attorney and activist who had also worked to desegregate Arlington Public Schools.