Category Archives: History

VDOT releases 1949 footage of US 29 in Arlington

us29_va_old_tinyThe Virginia Department of Transportation found footage of US 29 (Lee Highway) from Key Bridge to Cherrydale filmed in 1949. VDOT recreated the same drive and combined that and the 1949 footage into one video and posted it on youtube:

us211_va_old_tinyThe 1949 footage isn’t perfect, but still gives an idea of post-WWII Arlington County. Streetcars are visible and along with the billboards that faced Georgetown at the Virginia end of Key Bridge. It’s also noteworthy that there are two US 29 signs visible, but not US 211 which was officially multiplexed with US 29 until 1980 according to the Virginia Highways Project when it was officially truncated at Warrenton. I had previously heard 1984, but I suspect that the completion of Interstate 66 outside the Beltway hastened the demise of US 211 since it was no longer than only continuous route number from the Shenandoah Valley to Washington, D.C. This video suggests that the predecessor agency of VDOT and/or Arlington County was disinterested in the US 211 designation near Washington in that designation long before it was technically removed.

In the last frame, beyond the intersection of Kirkwood Road, is a trestle for the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad. That right-of-way would later be used for Interstate 66, completed in 1982 and the Custis Trail, BeltwayLand’s most challenging bicycle path. Starting that year, the intersection with Kirkwood Road was also the northern terminus of the George Washington Memorial Parkway according to Steve Anderson’s dcroads.net. Since 1959, that part of the GW Parkway has been a spur called Spout Run Parkway.

Highway markers from Shields Up!

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29 Tastee Diner, circa 1995

Fairfax’s 29 Diner saved

After I initially became aware of the closure of the 29 Diner (nee 29 Tastee Diner, my photo above is circa 1995), I CC’ed a couple of loval Post columnists about the demise. Both indicated that 29 Diner would return. The Post still hasn’t reported anything, but yesterday I found that Northern Virginia Magazine has details:

New owner and Fairfax native, John Wood hopes to reopen the doors of this iconic establishment in late July. “We just signed the lease,” says Wood. “As soon as we get all of our marching orders from the Virginia Board of Historical Resources we will reopen. It is going to be the same classic diner that it has been for the last 67 years.”

From Iconic 29 Diner in Fairfax Plans to Reopen in Late July Under New Ownership

UPDATED 6.19.2014: John Kelly has a column in today’s PostFairfax City’s 29 Diner is getting a makeover; fans of late night eggs and grits rejoice

As a much-needed renovation progresses over the summer, the diner’s parking lot will host events, including food truck visits and car shows. They hope the diner itself will reopen by Labor Day.

And when it reopens? There will be diner food, yes, John and Billy said, but also artisanal food served by a rotating cast of acclaimed chefs. There’s likely to be a barbecue component, too. Ambitious.

John said the plan is to work with groups that help veterans and the homeless. He said the Lord inspires him to give back.

There were several comments on Facebook about the closing of the diner. I’ll admit to some nostalgia and will probably take a visit there sometime now. My wife’s never been and I think my six year old may enjoy it too. Adding barbecue makes me want to go back more. And artisanal food, why not? Though I’d just be happy if it’s less greasy than before.

By the way, Wikipedia mentions that the diner has been featured in a few Zippy the Pinhead comic strips over the years, including this one from 2003.

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29 Diner by Lou Corsaro, used with permission

Fairfax’s 29 Tastee Diner is closed, but for how long?

29 Diner in Fairfax Has Closed; It Opened in 1947Burke Patch

UPDATED 7:42 PM

Via my brother, I learned that the 29 Tastee Diner in the city of Fairfax closed in May. The classic diner had been just west of the intersection of VA 123 on US 29 there for 67 years, hence the name though the road scholar in me feels obligated to note that US 50 is also along that stretch and US 211 was as well before being decommissioned east of Warrenton. Here’s a excerpt from the web site:

The Tastes 29 Diner is architecturally significant as one of very few diners left in the United States exhibiting exceptional streamline Moderns design and construction characteristics.

This particular model would have appeared unique in its day and especially unusual in the then rural back drop of the Virginia countryside. Through the 1940a and 1950s, the Mountain View Diner Company custom fit its diners to the level demanded by customers: they manufactured high-quality diners that were “built to last a lifetime.” The Tastes 29 Diner is now surrounded by intense commercial development.

Was it “Tastes” all along? I remembered it as Tastee. Also, Mountain View Diner Company built hundreds of diners and was based in New Jersey (naturally), not far from where my dad grew up.

When I was a teenager working at the Oakton Friendly’s (long-gone too) that was where we’d congregate after work regularly for a late night dinner. It was a time warp to when Fairfax wasn’t part of a major metropolis; just a sleepy county seat of a largely rural Northern Virginia.

The food was greasy; I couldn’t handle it now. The cook smoked while working. There was a neon sign advertising air conditioning. It was the setting of one of the local car dealers commercials (AND A FREE LOH-NAH CAH). There was a sign that said YCJCYADFTJB – Your curiosity just cost you a dime for the juke box.

I had not eaten there since the late 1990s, but I always figured if it made that long, it’d be there forever. I hope diner gets re-opened/re-used somehow either at its present location or elsewhere. It’d be a shame to see that vintage building be destroyed.

Photo by Lou Corsaro, used with permission

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BeltwayLand beer: History, more on Nats Park beer

It’s time again for my monthly-ish round-up of BeltwayLand and beyond beer news.

WETA has a brief feature on brewing in the D.C. area with Garrett Peck, author of Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C. (I need to get it) which gives the broad history of beer in the area. Fun fact – Robert Portner developed air conditioning to make lager beer year round at his Alexandria brewery. Two of his great-granddaughters are going to open Portner Brewhouse in Alexandria, details TBD. They are also mentioned in Washingtonian‘s Women in Washington’s Craft Beer Scene. Now, on with our feature presentation:

The beer map! The Annual Nationals Park Beer Guide is up on The Nationals Review. Service blogging!

Beergraphs.com also visited Nationals Park recently and gave it an 86 (B).

Devil's Backbone Vienna Lager

Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager won The Post’s Beer Madness, a regional beer tournament (that’s a big region). I’m a fan and have been since I tried it at the behest of Slow States. Once I found it. It’s now my go-to during my now infrequent trips to the Vienna Inn, but I can’t seem to find it in stores of late. Harris Teeter shaved off $2 from the price of a six-pack, so that may be part of the reason. Overall, it seems harder to find local/regional beers in grocery stores of late, is anybody else noticing that?

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The-Beatles-in-Washington-D-C-the-beatles-16976631-717-486

50 years ago tonight, The Beatles played their first U.S. concert in D.C.

Fifty years ago tonight, the Beatles played their first public concert in the United States in the District, the day after an eight inch snowstorm no less. The lads had a snowball fight that afternoon before the show at Washington Colosseum — if you’ve ever taken a train north out of Union Station, you’ve passed it. I think it’s a parking garage now and under disrepair in general.

There is quite a bit of coverage about the anniversary, so I won’t spend much time writing about a concert that happened before I was born. I will say that I need to get the photo above (or one like it) and put it up some day.

DOCUMENTARY ON THE CONCERT

HOW THE CONCERT SOUNDED
lots of screaming girls, some music

1983 DC101 INTERVIEW
WWDC DJ Carroll James interviewed by WWDC/DC101′s Young Dave Brown and Ernie Kaye on December 17, 1983. YDB!

MORE COVERAGE

Beatles Fans Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Historic D.C. ConcertWAMU 88.5 – American University Radio

Photos of The Beatles in Washington, D.C.Ghosts of DC

The Beatles' First Concert in the U.S. (1964)Ghosts of DC

50th anniversary concert reenacts Beatles’ first U.S. show at the Washington ColiseumThe Post

The Beatles would play D.C. again in November of that year (more video or at least still photos with the music over them) and D.C. Stadium in 1966 on their last tour (Ghosts of DC).

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I-95: 50 years ago, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway and Delaware Turnpike opened

 

On this day in 1963, a significant section of Interstate 95 was opened at the Maryland-Delaware border amid pageantry and 10,000 people that included President John F. Kennedy in one of his last public appearances. The Maryland portion, the Northeast Expressway, was 42 miles long from Baltimore County to the Mason-Dixon Line. Across the border, the Delaware Turnpike traveled another 11 miles. Both states now honor the fallen president; the Northeast Expressway name was replaced in 1964 while Delaware merely added an additional name.

Here is report from the Delaware Department of Transportation which includes part of President Kennedy’s remarks

The transcript of the president’s speech is available from The News Journal or from DelDOT as a PDF.

Though only 53 miles were opened that day, it was a pivotal stretch, filling in the gap between the New Jersey Turnpike and the Harbor Tunnel Thruway. All of those three roads, combined with the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, formed a limited access connection between Washington, D.C. and New York City for the first time — it was already possible to travel from Boston to New York without a single traffic light. The JFK/Del. Tpk. was the last major piece of what Steve Anderson of dcroads.net calls the “eastern turnpike complex”

The first piece of the “complex” was completed in 1940 with the opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, followed in 1947 with the opening of the Maine Turnpike. This would be followed with the completion of controlled-access toll expressways in New Hampshire by 1950; Ohio by 1955; in New York and Indiana by 1956; in Massachusetts by 1957; in Connecticut and Illinois by 1958; and in Delaware and Maryland by 1963. By that year, motorists could travel from Maine south to Virginia, or west to Illinois, without stopping at a traffic light. Much of the “eastern turnpike complex” was ultimately absorbed into the Interstate highway system.

The road was tolled in order to get it built quicker:

…funding for other Interstate highways such as the Baltimore (I-695) and Capital (I-495) beltways, as well as urban freeways in those two metropolitan areas, took precedence over the Northeast Expressway. The state highway development program scheduled construction of the Northeast Expressway between 1966 and 1970, long after the aforementioned projects were to be scheduled for completion.

ON THE FAST TRACK TO CONSTRUCTION: In order to expedite construction of I-95, the Maryland State Roads Commission decided to finance construction and maintenance of the expressway with bonds backed by toll revenue. The state, which floated a $73 million bond issue to finance construction of the Northeast Expressway, did not violate Federal highway law because state funds were used to finance construction. However, the highway was to be built to Interstate standards.

The rest of I-95 in Delaware would not be completed until 1968 and the section through Wilmington was controversial. The connector between the Delaware Turnpike and the New Jersey Turnpike is I-295. In Maryland, I-95 would not be completed through Baltimore until 1985 with the opening of the Ft. McHenry Tunnel, though the Harbor Tunnel Thruway (now I-895) provided limited access through Baltimore. I-95 would not be completed as intended in Maryland with the portion inside the Capital Beltway cancelled, causing the number to be reassigned to the eastern portion of the Capital Beltway.

There is still a gap in New Jersey for I-95, but that is being addressed by the Pennsylvania Turnpike and New Jersey Turnpike. Finally.

I am not sure if Maryland is doing anything to acknowledge the 50th Anniversary, but Delaware has an toll booth on display in the Delaware Service Area near Newark.

I have taken countless trips up the JFK/Del. Tpk. over the years, mostly to New Jersey to see family, friends or visit the Shore. While I don’t do that as often anymore, I still know the road and landmarks quite well and have a fondness for it, if not the Delaware Turnpike toll. It can be pretty in the fall and northeast of the Susquehanna River is the most rural portion of I-95 between Northern Virginia and New Hampshire. In Delaware, I enjoy the anticipation of trying to be the first to see the Delaware Memorial Bridge as well as the significance of the split that sends I-95 to Philadelphia and I-295 to New Jersey, it’s Turnpike, it’s Shore and New York.

ADDITIONAL READING

Delaware Turnpike – phillyroads.com
John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway – dcroads.net

After 50 years, I-95 still East Coast’s common thread and economic backbone | GalleryThe Sun

I-95 in Delaware linked East Coast, divided city of Wilmington | Over five decades, as tolls rise civility falls | TIMELINE: I-95 HISTORYThe News Journal

PRESS RELEASE: Original Delaware Turnpike Celebrates 50th Anniversary on November 14, 2013

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Movie: Dawn Strikes the Capitol Dome, 1936

“An impressionistic study of Washington, D.C., on a typical depression day. Includes shots of the Capitol Building, National Archives, Union Station, Arlington Cemetery, statues, British Embassy, Supreme Court, Lincoln Memorial, White House, downtown streets, and typical groups of people (shoppers, government employees, picnickers, tramps, etc.).”

I saw this on Old Time D.C.’s Facebook group the other day and thought I’d share what our nation’s capital looked like prior to World War II.

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DC Brau brings back Heurich Lager

DC Brau, the first brewery in Washington, D.C. to open after Christian Heurich Brewing Company closed in 1956, is bringing back Heurich’s lager. From the DC Brau release – RECREATION OF HEURICH’S LAGER TO LAUNCH IN AUGUST:

Just as most DC residents are closely acquainted with DC Brau today, there was a time in recent history when many Washingtonians knew of Christian Heurich, his successful Foggy Bottom brewery, and his iconic mansion below Dupont Circle. The last time anyone tasted a Heurich beer was 1956, the year his brewery closed and made way for the Kennedy Center. The Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. had been the District’s last production brewery, and no others existed in the city until DC Brau opened in 2011. Heurich’s legacy survives at his former mansion, the Heurich House Museum, which today displays the Heurich family’s original furnishings and decorations, as well as the home’s original state-of-the-art technology.

There is a $150 a ticket launch party (less than 100 remain) at the Heurich House on August 12.

The current celebration of Heurich is a stark contrast to 2006 when Gary Heurich, grandson of brewery founder Christian Heurich, closed his Olde Heurich Brewing Co. From 2006: Foggy Bottom Ale: Olde Heurich Brewing Company closing.

A lack of hometown spirit was one of the things he mentioned at the time. Back then the Heurich House, also known as Brewmaster’s Castle, was in trouble too.

I don’t know if Gary Heurich is involved in this project, so whether the Foggy Bottom or Senate beers which were brewed under contract in Utica, N.Y. for 20 years, will return is unknown. In the short time since his bitter departure, his dream of a brewery in the District has been realized several times, albeit by others.

h/t @BallWonk & @GhostsofDC

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R.I.P. Mayo Stuntz

This Was Vienna, Virginia by Mayo & Connie StuntzThe Town of Vienna, Va.’s preeminent historian Mayo Sturdevant Stuntz, aged 97 years, has died. Stuntz was a lifelong resident and co-author of the book “This Was Vienna, Virginia” that was published in the late 1980s. He visited my social studies class and shared with us his memories of the town.

My brother Christopher, who provided a photograph of the book included here added “the town of Vienna will owe him a debt of gratitude for generations to come.”

FROM VIENNA PATCH

Remembering Vienna’s ‘Unofficial Historian’

Obituaries: Mayo Sturdevant Stuntz, Sr., 97

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