History

Old Dominion is a North Arlington neighborhood centered around Lee Highway, Old Dominion Drive and Glebe Road.

The Earliest Inhabitants

Arlington, Virginia's earliest inhabitants were Indians. Materials found at the Marcey Creek and Donaldson Run sites have been dated to the Transitional (2000-500 B.C.) and Early Woodland (500 B.C.-950 A.D.) periods. While no Indian village sites have been documented in the Old Dominion area, our community is situated between the sites of several Indian villages, so it seems likely that Indians passed through the area. One Old Dominion member recalls that she and her siblings dug old arrowheads from their family's yard when they were children.

Land Grants

The Old Dominion area was included in a 338-acre land grant to James Robertson in 1731. Robertson previously obtained several other land grants nearby, totaling more than 2,000 acres. Robertson's daughter married one of the Birches, another family settling in the area.

The existence of Glebe Road has been documented as early as the 1750s. This road, from Alexandria city to the falls, was known then as the "Road to the Falls." It linked Christ Church in Alexandria with the Glebe lands (a glebe is a rectory with farm for a minister's residence and maintenance, in this case for the ministers of two churches: the Falls Church, completed in 1768, and the Christ Church, completed in 1773).

In the mid-1850s, Dr. Henry Wunder and his son George Ott Wunder came to the area from Pennsylvania and bought a parcel of land near the intersection of what is now Glebe Road and Lee Highway. This area was long known as Wunder's Crossroads and is the site of the only historical marker in the Old Dominion area. The Wunders were farmers and leading citizens of the area. Dr. Wunder was a Justice of the Alexandria County Court and Commissioner of Elections in 1862. George Ott Wunder was on a commission chartered in 1896 to find a location for the new courthouse (to serve what was then known as the country part of Alexandria and is now Arlington County) to replace the courthouse located in the city of Alexandria.

Public Schools

The Virginia Constitution of 1869 provided for a mandatory system of public schools in the state. In 1870, Alexandria County was divided into three magisterial districts. A 1920 map shows Livingstone Heights in the Washington magisterial district. The first superintendent of public schools in Arlington, Richard L. Carne, was successful in getting schools established in the other two magisterial districts, but the Washington district was resistant. George Ott Wunder, among others, organized a successful campaign involving a vote on school taxes to get schools in the district.

The first school built in the Washington magisterial district was the Carne school on the site of what is now Saint Mark's church at the intersection of Glebe Road and North 25th Street. Samuel Stalcup was the school's first teacher of approximately 90 students of all ages. Clark Bates, who grew up in a house on 24th Road (then Barton Avenue) and attended the Carne school, tells a wonderful story of students putting a heifer in the belfry of the school as a prank. Students of the Carne school frequented a store nearby, run by Mr. Meadows, to buy gingerbread, horse cakes and pencils. The store was shown as the Sam L. Gross store in an 1878 map of the county; it was later run by the Puglisi family and then the Cohens and Prusses. The store, then known as the Country Club Market, finally closed around 1970. The one-room Carne school was supplemented by a larger frame building in 1885, and was replaced by the John Marshall school directly across the street in 1926. The John Marshall building now houses medical offices. Saint Mark's church (originally Evangelical United Brethren) was built on the Carne school site in the 1940s.

Farmland Makes Way for a Growing Community

The Old Dominion area was mostly farmland at the turn of the century. A 1900 map by the Virginia Title Company showed the major landholders to be Annie Wunder (65.627 acres), Henry Simpson with a 5-acre tract in the center of the Wunder land, John J. McAuliffe (12.237 acres), and George G. Boteler (40 acres). The Boteler house stood until the Summer of 1997; it was the brick Victorian set back off of Glebe Road at 25th Street. The house originally was clapboard and was bricked over later.

The period between 1900 and 1910 was one of substantial growth in Alexandria County, which was separated from the city of Alexandria and renamed Arlington County in 1920. Glebe Road was an important cross-county route during this period. A 1907 map of Arlington (copyright by G.G. Boteler, interestingly) shows the Livingstone Heights subdivision, which comprised what is now the Old Dominion area. Many homes were built in Livingstone Heights with the arrival of the railroad. The Great Falls and Old Dominion steam railroad ran from Rosslyn through Livingstone Heights to Great Falls beginning in 1906. In 1907, Frank Lyon built "Lyonhurst," which later became the first home in the county to use electricity (tapped from the trolley line). The Lyons sold the home to Dr. Sutton in 1922, and for a time the Spanish-style home was known as the Sutton Place. In 1946, the Sutton Place became Missionhurst.

In 1911, the Great Falls and Old Dominion Company was reorganized into the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) railroad and the line was converted to electricity. Officers of the railway included Colin H. Livingstone, Senator Steven B. Elkins, and the Hon. John R. McLean. The line to Great Falls was operated until 1934.

A Washington and Virginia Real Estate Company brochure advertised Livingstone Heights as "the highest land around Washington." Comparisons given were:

  • Capitol Hill: 90 feet above Washington
  • Soldiers Home: 320 feet
  • Chevy Chase: 350 feet
  • Cleveland Park: 400 feet
  • Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant: 200 feet
  • Congress Heights: 160 feet
  • Livingstone Heights: 465 feet

The brochure also advertised "homes for cultured and refined people desiring cool, healthful and artistic surroundings." Other sales points were cars every ten minutes at two stations on Livingstone Heights, pure water, cool breezes, attractive surroundings, electric lights, and telephone. The two stations in Livingstone Heights were Lyonhurst, at what is now Old Dominion Drive and 25th Street (then Cortelyou Avenue), and Livingstone Heights, at what is now Old Dominion Drive and 24th Street (then Livingstone Ave.). The officials of the Washington and Virginia Real Estate Company were Colin H. Livingstone (President), R.H. Lynn, and T.C. Smith.

The Livingstone Heights subdivision, comprising 90 acres of land, was named after Colin H. Livingstone, who had been the secretary of Senator Elkins from West Virginia, as well as the secretary of the Interstate Commerce Committee of the U.S. Senate. Livingstone Heights was later divided into Marshall Heights and part of Lee Heights on the east side of Glebe Road and Livingstone Heights and part of Lee Heights on the west side of Glebe Road.

In the 1920s and 1930s, many improvements were made to the Livingstone Heights area. County water and sewer lines were provided in the late 1920s. In 1934, the side streets, which had been dirt covered with coal cinders, were paved with black top. A 1932 map shows the original street names in the Old Dominion area. In 1935, the street names were changed in anticipation of local mail service and a stop light was added at the intersection of Glebe Road and Lee Highway.

Mail service from an Arlington post office began in 1937; previously all mail had come from Washington. Admiral Rixey, owner of Rixey mansion (now the main house at Marymount University) helped to organize the Saint Mary's Episcopal Church and gave land for its building. The first services were held in the old Carne school in 1925. Ground-breaking for the church building took place on June 5, 1926, and the first services were held in the new building on April 1, 1927. Many lots were subdivided and new houses were built in the late 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

Today, the Old Dominion area has an interesting mix of houses. A number of large farmhouses and Queen Anne style houses built in the early part of the century have been renovated by their owners. There are several catalog, or kit, houses in the area, including a number of Sears houses and at least one Montgomery Wards house and one Lewis house. Sears catalog house models include an Avalon, a Walton, a Sunbeam, a Hathaway, a Saratoga, and a Kilbourne. Until 1997, there was a Lustron enamel-coated steel house in the neighborhood. Brick colonials and cape cods built in the 1940s and 1950s are very common.

Historic Preservation

The County-wide Historic Resources survey took place in the Old Dominion Neighborhood during 2002. This reconnaissance survey identifies all buildings over 50 years of age and makes recommendations that could warrant further research and designation. The possible results from this initial survey could include such future actions as: National Register nominations for either individual buildings or a collection of buildings, the need for information on State and Federal Tax Credits to property owners wishing to substantially rehabilitate their property, identification of sites for historic markers, and the need to develop design guidelines for in-fill construction. Old Dominion looks forward to receiving the results of the Historic Resources survey.