Arlington's Newest Historic District: Cambridge Courts

Published on January 28, 2016


  • Designation protects World War II-era garden apartments in Lyon Park

  • Rentals built to house Arlington's booming war-era population

  • One of  10 County rental housing complexes  built during war

  • Excellent example of traditional Colonial Revival architecture


The Arlington County Board today designated Cambridge Courts, a garden apartment complex built from rationed materials to house defense workers during World War II, as the 37th Arlington Historic District.

"Cambridge Courts reflects a time when Arlington began to come into its own," Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said. "The war changed Arlington forever, and it is important to preserve this piece of our past — both the buildings, and the open areas and trees that are part of the complex."

Cambridge Courts, built in 1943 and originally named Leehigh Apartments, is an excellent example of how the government provided multi-family housing on a massive scale as it expanded to face the challenge of fighting World War II. The complex consists of 20 buildings, housing 159 one-and-two-bedroom units that were converted to condominiums in 1984.

The designation ensures that Cambridge Courts can only be substantially renovated according to the specific Design Guidelines that come with a local historic designation, and cannot be torn down or redeveloped. The local historic district protects the property through a zoning overlay that requires a design review process and approval from the County's Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) for exterior changes within the boundaries of the historic district.

The Board voted unanimously as part of the consent agenda to designate the complex a local historic district.

To read the Staff Report on this item, visit the County website. Scroll down to Item #22 on the Agenda for the Jan. 28 Carryover County Board Meeting.

Background


Between 1940 and 1944, Arlington's population ballooned from 57,000 residents to 120,000. Many of the new residents were war-time workers, and the federal government built large-scale, low-cost projects to house them. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), instituted under President Franklin Roosevelt, built Cambridge Courts close to both the Pentagon and Fort Myer. One of only 10 wartime rental housing complexes built in the County, it is the only complex built under that FHA program that the County has named a local historic district.

Even with the use of rationed materials, the complex is an excellent example of garden apartment design, with its use of traditional Colonial (Georgian) Revival architecture, as well as its ample green space and trees, and internal network of walkways that give the property a natural park-like setting. The complex was designed by local architecture firm Corning & Moore.

Cambridge Courts abuts Arlington Boulevard at N. Fillmore Street in the Lyon Park neighborhood. Long Branch Elementary School (originally named Fillmore Public School) was built directly north of the complex in 1953.

Cambridge Courts is the third garden apartment complex designated as a local historic district in Arlington County, joining Colonial Village (built in 1934) and Buckingham Village (built between 1937 and 1953). Colonial Village and Buckingham Village are larger complexes than Cambridge Courts, with different design elements, and were built under a different federal program.

The Cambridge Courts Association Board of Directors requested the local historic district designation in September 2014. The HALRB voted unanimously in favor of the designation at an Oct. 21, 2015 public hearing. The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the designation and design guidelines on Jan. 13, 2016 and voted unanimously to support

About the Historic Preservation Program


The County's Historic Preservation Program helps identify, preserve, and protect Arlington's historic resources. Working with the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB), program staff researches sites for historic designation, surveys buildings and neighborhoods, and promotes preservation efforts and Arlington's heritage throughout the community.

Learn more about Arlington County's  efforts.