History of Highview Park & Hall's Hill
History of High View Park & Hall's Hill
High View Park, originally known and still treasured as Hall's Hill, is the oldest enclave in Northern Virginia that was settled shortly after the Civil War by newly freed slaves. The community's origin derived from two distinct names. Halls Hill, initially singled out as the upper section of the community, originated from a portion of the estates of William Marcey and Bazil Hall, who sold most of his land to his freed slaves for about sixty cents an acre and from whom the community takes its name; High View,Park, was referred to as "the bottom of the hill" or lower section of the community, until 1965 when it was renamed to include the entire area because of its spectacular view in the County. High View Park has maintained its identity as one of the few surviving predominately Black communities in Arlington County for over 100 years, and holds the distinction of fostering at least four generations of Black families whose roots date back to the founding of the community.
Vivid memories of the community's development is traced back to the 1800's when the land consisted of sprawling farmland with narrow, unfinished or unopened one-way dirt roads that were slightly graveled without curbs, gutters and sidewalks. The style of early homes were typically wood siding or brick homes with large yards and plentiful gardens; almost everyone had hogs, chickens, turkeys and horses. None of the early homes had running water, but there was a community well where the residents would go to get their supply of water. Everybody had an outhouse too, which interestingly were outdoor toilet facilities that were emptied by a scavenger man who would pick up excess sewage in "honey wagons" from each outhouse in the neighborhood. Residents labored for about fifty cents a day, relying on the nickel trolley to take them into town, (considered Washington, D.C.) to work, shop and/or attend school; otherwise those that could afford to, got around on horses and wagons.
High View Park residents made considerable strides in establishing their own stores, churches and schools. There were many family and Black owned "Ma and Pa" stores throughout the community that originated during the early 1900's, such as Miss Allen's Store; it was regarded as the community's first store, and still is standing at its original location at 1821 North Columbus Street. Other Black-owned family establishments included the Hicks Store, one of several businesses owned by the renowned community entrepreneur, Suzanna Hicks; Henry Taylor's store that sold items like coal, milk and bread; Montrose Jackson's store-on-wheels that sold items like oil and ice; Fred York's ice business and Vance Green's Barber shop. The community even had its own doctor, Dr. Edward Morton, who was known during his fifty years of noteworthy service to go from house to house, with the assistance of Rebecca Williams (Midwife), to take care of the "sick and shut-in" throughout the community.
Many of High View Park's residents also shaped the future direction of the community by taking an active role in civic and community efforts, and today are credited with making tremendous strides in the growth and development of Arlington County. In 1866, Moses Pelham organized the community's first church -Calloway United Methodist. In 1918, community residents organized the County's first fire station (Fire Station #8, highly recog- nized today for its fast and diligent service to the County) which used a small two-wheel cart that took six men to pull over the rough roads and mud paths of those days. In 1924, residents organized a community association, the John M. Langston Citizens Association, which has operated continuously since its inception. Suzanna Hicks organized the first Black-owned bus in Arlington County, and in 1946, Naomi Thompson-Richards edited Arlington's first Black newspaper, "The Virginia Arrow".
Until the 1950's, High View park was separated from adjacent white communities on all three sides by an 8-foot- high wooden fence installed along l7th Road North. Although the community's opportunities and resources were limited, many long-time residents today refer to those times as the "good ole' days"; as children, they created their own fun by making radio's with wire and oatmeal boxes, and making their own telephones by putting baking powder in a metal can, puncturing a hole in the can with a nail, and then extending the cord through the can. Residents still reminisce about the days when there were community-wide church activities, block parties, sledding parties when it snowed, and the community's baseball team, known as the Virginia White Soxs. All these activities made High View Park into the close-knit, family-oriented community it is today. Yet, the back- bone of the community then, was it conglomeration of community-based churches that provided the basis for social, cultural and religious enrichment in High View Park.
A new community awareness became apparent during the 1950's and 1960's that superseded acceptance of the traditional "separate but equal" doctrine; High View Park residents united together to integrate schools, housing, theaters, hospitals, libraries and eating facilities. June I, 1956, epitomizes one of the community's desegregation efforts, when several students and parents filed suit against the Arlington School Board for denying the request of Hoffman-Boston's Black students, who resided in the community, to attend Washington and Lee High School. The community's efforts were successful when in 1959 for the first time in Arlington, Black students were allowed to attend Stratford Junior High School, which ultimately set the precedence for desegregating schools throughout Arlington.
The County began to evaluate the neighborhood's conditions during the 1950's and 1960's. There were several studies conducted in High View Park which ultimately led to High View Park becoming one of the first neighborhoods to adopt a Neighborhood Conservation (NC) Plan on February 13, 1965. The Plan was used as a vehicle for identifying goals, for rectifying issues, encouraging neighborhood improvements and requesting County NC funds for upgrading and developing the community's parks and open space. Neighborhood Conservation construction projects began in 1967 when curbs, gutters and sidewalks were installed from 17th Road North to Lee Highway, as the first of many neighborhood improvements in High View Park.
The 1970's and 1980's was a continuance of community revitalization and beautification efforts as many of the recommendations in the NC Plan were implemented. A new vision of faith, hope and charity were instilled with- in the community, symbolized by three beautiful totem poles that captured the eyes of residents and visitors as they passed High View Park's main entrance at North Lee Highway and North Culpeper Street. Unfortunately, the totem poles were partially destroyed by vandals shortly after they were erected. However, the remains of the poles have never been removed as a reminder of the community's trials and tribulations. Also, in the late 1970's, the Langston-Brown Community Center, named partially after one of the community's leaders, Lillian Brown, opened its doors after tremendous community struggle to keep the Center in High View Park. In February of 1981, the Arlington County Board designated High View Park a Community Development target neighborhood, making it eligible for federal Community Development Block Grant dollars.
While still maintaining an identity as a strong Black community, the 1980's marked a time of increased racial diversity as new residents moved into the neighborhood. Yet, as the neighborhood moves into the 1990's, the hopes and dreams of generations of families are being kept alive by new and long time residents working together to maintain the historical, cultural and aesthetic values of High View Park.