Arlington County to Consider Historic Designation for 19th Century Ba

Published on November 05, 2016

  • Graveyard of Ball family, among County's earliest settlers

  • Church that owns site plans major redevelopment

  • Board to consider historic designation, redevelopment proposal concurrently

The Arlington County Board today authorized the advertisement of public hearings on the proposed historic designation of the 19th century Ballston graveyard where members of the Robert S. Ball Sr. family were buried, to be considered concurrent with a proposed redevelopment of the site.

The graveyard, in the heart of the Ballston neighborhood named for the Ball family, is on a site owned by the Central United Methodist Church of Ballston. The request for Local Historic Designation of the graveyard was precipitated by the church's plans to demolish the church and replace it with a new church, apartment complex with affordable housing, daycare center and soup kitchen.

The redevelopment, as currently proposed, would require removal of the graveyard. The church is seeking permit approval this fall from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and an order from the Circuit Court of Arlington County to remove the remains and reinter them in another location. The Board on Saturday received assurances from the church that it will not seek to remove any remains from the graveyard before the County has an opportunity to consider its historic designation.

The Board voted unanimously to authorize advertising hearings on the proposed Local Historic District designation of the graveyard, located at 4201 Fairfax Drive concurrent with the proposed site plan application. To read the staff report, visit the County website. Scroll down to Item No. 38 on the Agenda for the Saturday, Nov. 5 Regular County Board Meeting.

"It makes sense to consider the request for Local Historic Designation for the Ball family graveyard as we consider the church's site plan — probably early in 2017," said Arlington County Chair Libby Garvey.  "I look forward to everyone working together to develop a good design that honors our community's history and supports redevelopment that will benefit current and future residents."

Historic designation in Arlington

Local designation provides protection to historic buildings and sites in Arlington, through a zoning overlay and a design review process meant to protect them from inappropriate alterations and incompatible new construction. Owners are required to receive a Certificate of Appropriateness from the County's Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB), or all proposed exterior changes, new construction or demolition prior to obtaining County building permits. To learn more about historic designation of properties in Arlington, visit the County website.

Ball family burial ground since 1854

Located directly across from the Ballston Metro station, the burial ground is one of the last remnants of Ballston's rural heritage. The extended Ball family remained in what was then Alexandria County (now Arlington) after the Civil War and held prominent positions in local government, politics and civic life well into the 20th century.

The family began burying its members in the graveyard in 1854. Eventually, the property was sold to Central United Methodist Church, which built the current church on part of the land in 1923. The remaining part of the graveyard is bounded by the church parking lot to the north, North Fairfax Drive and a section of the church lawn to the south, North Stafford Street to the east and the church to the west.

HALRB recommended smaller area be preserved

The HALRB held a public hearing on the request for Local Historic Designation on October 19, voting 8-2-2 in favor of the designation after a lengthy public hearing with many participants. The Board recommended that an approximately 325-square-foot area be considered for historic district designation — less than the area proposed in the original staff report. The HALRB noted that the smaller area contains historical and cultural significance and could possibly be more easily integrated into any future development plans.