Virginia Landmarks
December 2, 1998
          
Fairlington Historic District
Historic Designation
          
National Register
March 29, 1999
Historic Designation Seal
Homes in Historic Fairlington
Homes in Historic Fairlington
Historic Designation Seal


Fairlington Village Seeking Historic Designation:
"Flowers, Grassy Areas and Winding Paths
Add to the Charm of the Fairlington Community"

(Prepared June 9, 1999)

by Kyle Z. Bell
Alexandria Gazette Packet
June 25, l998

The recurring theme one finds when talking to the people who live, work and play in what is known as the Fairlington area of Alexandria is a sense of community and cooperation. Although the major portion of the residential Fairlington Villages is located in Arlington County, a small part of the historic area lies within the limits of the City of Alexandria. The residents of Fairlington Villages have rallied behind Lorraine Drolet, Chair, Fairlington Historical Designation Committee, in working to achieve historical designation for the buildings constructed as garden apartments to house defense workers and their families during World War II. On a recent rainy Saturday, residents could be seen balancing clipboards under umbrellas as they performed the building survey required by the state for an area to considered for historic designation.

Living in Fairlington is not a requirement for becoming involved with Fairlington. Gail Baker, an editor by profession with a degree in historic preservation, is now employed by the complex as coordinator of the volunteers working on the building surveys. An Arlington, she became involved with the project through her acquaintance with Drolet.

But living there does seem to spark a deep affection for the area along with a call to community involvement. Resident Catherine D. Fellows took it upon herself to author Fairlington at 50: May 1943-May 1993, a hundred page quality paperback that furnishes the reader with a comprehensive history of the neighborhood. On yet another rainy afternoon, resident and owner of Creative Copywriters, Judith Grieg, graciously gave a personal, "chauffeur driven" tour of the complex, pointing out the architectural variations within the general Williamsburg style of construction, supplying copies of articles written about the area and sharing personal anecdotes about her village such as the fact that a courtyard grill had been purchased to be used for get togethers in the common grassy areas behind the structures.

Harold L. Reem bought his condo in August 1987 when he was still on active duty with the Air Force. His wife, Norma, joined him after their marriage. The couple so liked the house and the small town atmosphere of the neighborhood that they kept their condo even during overseas postings. Now that he has retired, the couple has settled in. The sense of community continues across Quaker Lane in the shopping area known as Fairlington Centre, a post-World War II style shopping district bounded by North Quarker, Fern Street, Kenwood Street and Centre Plaza.

The main structure is dominated by the restaurant Ramparts. Ernie's Crab House sits diagonally across the street. Ernie's current owner, Sung Jin Kim, smilingly indicated the brown paper cover tables. Crabs are still served the old-fashioned way at Ernie's, dumped from a tray onto the paper. Approval of outdoor seating is expected soon.

Bill McKechnie is the owner of the Great Harvest Bread Company on Centre Plaza. He spoke warmly of the relationships between the residents and the merchants of Fairlington. A former resident himself, he and his wife moved to a larger living space to accommodate their growing family. Their feeling for their former residence has not diminished, however, and McKechnie said that the residents are very supportive of his family and of the shop.

When asked if he lived in Fairlington, Tom Sutton, owner of Foxglove Flowers on North Quaker Lane replied, "I wish I did." He has been in the florist business for 18 years and at his present location in Fairlington Centre for 21 months. He chose the spot for his shop because of the neighborhood orientation of the Centre, its size and appearance. What he found was that the other Centre merchants were friendly and eager for a florist to join them and that the customers, like the shops in the Centre and the residents of the area, are a good mix. Sutton noted the convenience of parking at the Centre, making the surprising point that there is usually a space open in front of Foxglove Flowers. He added that the shop's location on North Quaker Lane affords a nice amount of drop-in-traffic and business. He also noted a fact that can be understood after only a few minutes of observing the foot traffic at Fairlington Center. Even on a Monday afternoon, people were seen strolling in and out of the shops and each person behind the counter of the businesses at the Centre spoke of the "regulars" they have come to know and expect to see, the folks who stop by every day just to look and pass the time of day. Invariably, each shop owner mentioned at least one other and recommended stopping in at the florist or the bird store or the bread shop.

The variety of shops in this small area is impressive, as well. There are four restaurants (American, Pizza, Chinese and Seafood) and an ice cream store, the Great Harvest Bread Company and the Fern Street Gourmet. The bicycle store can be inspiring to either work up an appetite or work off the extra calories. A pharmacy is located on one of the corners. Two banks are conveniently located across from the shops and near the two car dealerships. There seems to be a movement lately away from the huge suburban malls and back to small shopping and village centers, places where the stores are few but are just what's needed within walking distance of the house, places where neighbors can meet and shop owners are often neighbors. Fairlington and its Centre are right on target.