Arlington Columnist Finds Much to Like in History Collection
The Falls Church New-Press “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark gives praise to Library’s local history operation.
The Falls Church New-Press “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark gives praise to Library’s local history operation.
The Center for Local History is looking for your help in learning more about this photo, found in the attic of a house on 21st Street South – the Arlington Ridge/Aurora Highlands neighborhood.
In the photo, a football team stands in front of a public school:
Finds like this are fascinating to us, because they pose so many questions… Who are these young men? What school are they from? And when was the photo taken?
The thirteen young men appear to be high-school aged, and they are wearing turn-of-the-century or early-twentieth-century football gear. The two men in suits are presumably coaches. They stand before an arched doorway labeled “Public School.” The back row of young men seem to be standing on miniature chairs. One man holds a football, upon which is painted “04.” The “04” suggests that they were either playing in 1904, or were from the class of 1904. But what other details back up that assumption? How do we know that “04” wasn’t painted onto the ball for some other reason?
Figuring out the date of a photo can be tricky, but fun.
Different historians, archivists, and history buffs have preferred methods. Some like to date pictures by finding the latest-model car in a street scene. Hairstyles and clothing can be good indications, though they can be misleading. In professional sports, uniforms change slightly but noticeably over the years, but these boys aren’t wearing uniforms.
Their gear, however, does present some clues. The minimal padding, sewn into their clothes and not worn separately, suggest that this was from the earliest days of football– “harnessed” leather pads that pulled on over the head began appearing around the turn of the century. Likewise, their boots suggest something from football’s earliest days.
The most interesting detail is the nose guards that several of the men are wearing.
While we have helmets with face masks to protect the mouth and nose today, there were no such protections in the early years of football. Instead, some players wore nose guards like the one seen to the right, which during play strapped around the players’ heads and protected the nose and teeth. At first we thought it resembled this nose guard, patented by Frank Wilcox in 1904, but the strap on Wilcox’s design is a bit lower. We eventually found our nose guard patented by the Morrill Company in 1891, which according to this page from the University of Michigan was for sale in the “Spaulding [sic] catalog” in 1902. Thus, we find support for the 1904 date.
But what team was this, and where were they photographed?
Our first thought was that the nearby Hume School (now the Arlington Historical Society) and other Arlington-area schools from that time period have somewhat similar arched entrances. But none that we are aware of have the stonework “Public School” over them.
More importantly, there was no public high school in the county at that time, so young men of this age would likely be going to school– and perhaps playing football for that school– at high schools in the District.
What clues can you glean from this picture? Do you recognize anyone? Can you identify the archway behind these men? Is there anything in the above post that seems off-base?
What can you tell us about this picture?
From July 11, 2013
The Washington Post writer Margaret Ely explores Arlington Public Library’s newly named Center for Local History and its post-renovation projects.
We’ve received great encouragement regarding the newly named, recently (re)opened Center for Local History at Arlington Public Library (formerly the Virginia Room).
And the Arlington Mercury news blog has captured in video form the direction in which the Center is headed.
We hope you’ll stop by soon or maybe bring us some memories to be digitized.
Your story is our story.
On Monday, June 3, the Center for Local History will hold a community scan-in for the Nauck neighborhood, at the Drew Model Elementary School, from 6:00-7:30 pm.
Community Scan-ins are events where the Center for Local History makes available its scanning equipment for the purpose of gathering local history by digitizing photographs, slides, photo negatives, or even personal documents. We keep a copy for researchers here at the Center for Local History, and give you a digital copy as well. You keep the originals, but the image can be available to researchers, students, and those interested in the collective memory of the community.
So if you have old photographs, slides, or other images that relate to the history of the Green Valley/Nauck area, we would love it if you could come out, show your support, and let us digitize them for you!
Scanned images will be donated to Drew School, to help build a local history archive for students to use.
Last Saturday was the first of what we hope will be many “community scan-ins” at the Green Valley Memorial Day Block Party, held in collaboration with the Nauck Civic Association Community Affairs Committee’s History & Heritage Program:
As this was our first time out, it was a learning experience…
One thing we learned is that weather is the natural enemy of outdoor scan-in events. Last Saturday’s strong winds meant that our new banner couldn’t be put up without becoming a sail and falling over. In addition, our tent was threatening to blow away and had to be taken down. All this meant that, with the day’s bright sun, it was difficult to see the computer monitors to actually do the scanning, which led to the use of an umbrella purchased from Green Valley Pharmacy as a sunshade.
It was an effective, if ridiculous-looking solution:
If you have images of the Nauck neighborhood that you would like to share but you cannot make it Monday, or if you would be interested in having a community scan-in in your neighborhood, please feel free to contact us at the Center for Local History and we will try to help you out!
This year has brought big changes to Central Library, with building-wide renovation and redesign.
The Local History Team has used these renovations as an opportunity to re-evaluate how we present our mission and projects to the public. After much consideration, as of our reopening this week, the “Virginia Room” name is being retired.
We are now the Center for Local History at Arlington Public Library.
Simply put, the name “Virginia Room” was insufficient to convey the scope of the work that we do and the resources we offer.
Our mission has not changed: we are still dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing the history of our community.
Our rich historical collections and range of projects offer the Arlington community the ability to not only learn about and research their history, but also contribute to its telling. We are, and have always been, much more than just a room; now our name will reflect this.
By changing our name to the Center for Local History we hope to provide a better explanation of who we are: our many projects and the mission that links them.
The Center for Local History has three primary components:
Later this summer, we will add another element to our Digital Initiatives program, as the Library’s Digital Projects Lab will become part of the Center for Local History.
The Digital Projects Lab will provide a variety of software and hardware to allow anyone to come in and share their own pieces of Arlington history, through scanning family photographs or recording oral histories, along with providing a space and resources to create digital projects.
The Center for Local History at the Arlington Public Library is located on the first floor of Central Library. We hope you will come and visit us, explore our collections and follow all the exciting new projects coming up this year and beyond.
This blog post represents the first in our new series, Unboxed, where we will give a behind-the-scenes view of new and interesting Center for Local History projects.
We have a lot of exciting projects in the pipeline, and this blog series will be a place where we can let you behind the scenes, show you what we’ve got in the works, and what we’re working on. Hope you follow along and enjoy it!
1015 N. Quincy Street
Arlington, Virginia 22201
Monday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m
Tuesday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Wednesday: 1 p.m. – 9 p.m
Thursday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
This will mean safely removing and storing the Virginia Room’s fragile historic collections to allow for new carpeting, painting and some reconfigurations including a new home for the Library’s Digital Projects Lab.
We apologize for any inconvenience and expect the Virginia Room space to reopen
on Wednesday, May 22 after Memorial Day. Researchers are encouraged to look for updates on the Library’s website, Twitter and Facebook accounts and to call ahead (703-228-5966) when planning to visit in late May and early June.
Once the research room and collections are again available, the Library’s community history program will officially be known as “Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History.” We think it will give potential users a better understanding of the program’s mission and scope.
The Library appreciates the continued support and understanding from its users as the Central renovations project picks up speed.
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At 7 a.m. on Feb. 23, 1997, the shell of the old Arlington County Courthouse came down in an impressive, yet controlled, implosion. Located across the street from the current courthouse and correctional center, the building was opened in 1960 with great fanfare, as it was a vast improvement over the original courthouse from 1898. However, the 1960 building had lots of asbestos and no sprinkler or fire alarm system, and a major fire in 1990 was its death knell. The county completed the current courthouse building in 1995, and the 1960 building was used by the fire department for training exercises until its demolition. The area is now a parking lot.
This series of photographs by County Photographer Deborah Ernst give a dramatic view of the implosion and the rubble it left behind.
Recorded at Central Library, January 12, 2013
101-year-old Martha Ann Miller speaks to the Arlington Branch of the American Association of University Women, sharing her years as a teacher in Arlington and particularly the struggles over desegregation in the 1960′s.
The First Century, and Not Ready for the Rocking Chair Yet by Martha Ann Miller is available in the Virginia Room.
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This document, from June of 1935, represents a unique moment in Arlington history– a time when many Arlingtonians had to re-learn the names of their streets and those of their neighbors.
In 1932, Arlington County had already begun a boom in population that would only continue over the next several decades. Between 1900 and 1930, the population of the once-rural area had grown by over 350%–from 6,430 to 23,278–despite the annexation of sizable portions of land by the city of Alexandria in 1915 and 1929.
New streetcar suburbs began popping up all around Arlington County–between 1900 and 1910 alone, plats for seventy new subdivisions were entered into the County Deed Books.
However, these new developments sprang up with little to no coordination or central planning, and by 1932, this was beginning to create problems. The developments formed what was, in effect, a confusing archipelago of small, unconnected towns, and street names were frequently repeated throughout the county. There were, by one account, as many as twenty-five different roads named “Arlington,” for example, as well as many roads known as “Washington,” “Virginia,” and “Lee.”
Visitors found the county difficult to navigate, neighborhood names had to be attached to mailing addresses to ensure that letters arrived at the right building, and some DC-area businesses even refused to deliver to customers in Arlington. There were also concerns about the Fire Department being dispatched to a house at the same address in the wrong subdivision.
The newly-established “County Board-County Manager” Government of Arlington decided very quickly to try to rectify this situation. One of the primary issues motivating them seems to have been the desire to see a Post Office in Arlington, as mail service to Arlington had been routed through Washington D.C. since 1925, and the Post Office Department had dictated that no Post Office would be allocated to Arlington until its street naming scheme was more coherent and logical. To this end, a Street Naming Committee was established, tasked with rationalizing the county’s street naming scheme.
Initially, the committee considered simply eliminating duplicate street names, leaving one street with each repeated name. The committee quickly decided that this approach was insufficient, and that a more general, systemic plan was necessary. Soliciting feedback from the county’s residents, the committee got a variety of proposals, from continuing DC’s alphabetical/numeric scheme to having the residents of each street vote on a street name.
Eventually, the committee decided on essentially the county’s current street naming scheme:
The Committee’s recommendations were put forward for public comment, and were approved with several small amendments in August of 1934–thirty months after the project began. In 1936, Arlington County was assigned a local Postmaster for the first time in over ten years, and the next year, the Postmaster General of the United States of America was on hand for the dedication of the cornerstone of the new Post Office in Clarendon–the first federal government building in Arlington County.
For people researching Arlington before 1934, the street name change can present challenges. To this end, we have digitized this booklet, as well as creating a searchable PDF, so that researchers can more easily and quickly navigate maps and addresses of the area before the change.
What about you? Did you know the former name of the streets in your neighborhood? How much have they changed? How do you think such a radical change of street names would be handled if it were attempted today? Let us know what you think.
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