High View Park, originally know and still known as Hall’s Hill, is the oldest enclave in Northern Virginia settled by newly freed slaves shortly after the Civil War. The community’s origin includes two distinct names; Halls Hill and High View Park. The area known as Hall’s Hill initially identified the upper section of the community. This area was originally a portion of the estates of William Marcey and Basil Hall, who sold most of his land to his freed slaves for about sixty cents an acre. 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 it spectacular view of the County.
The community’s development can be traced back to the 1800’s when the land consisted of sprawling farmland with narrow, unfinished one-way dirt roads that were slightly graveled without curbs, gutters or sidewalks. The styles 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 water supply. All homes had an outhouse too, which was emptied by a “scavenger man” who would pick up the excess sewage in “honey wagons” from each outhouse in the neighborhood.
Hall’s Hill and High View Park residents typically labored for about fifty cents a day. Residents also relied on the nickel trolley to take them into town, (considered Washington, D.C.) to work, shop and/or attend school. 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. Miss Allen’s Store was located at 1821 North Columbus Street and is regarded as the community’s first store. Other black-owned family establishments included the Hicks Store, one of several businesses owned by renowned community entrepreneur, Suzanna Hicks. Henry Taylor’s store sold items like coal, milk and bread. Other community businesses included 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. During his fifty years of noteworthy service, he went 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 took an active role in civic and community efforts, and made making tremendous strides in growing and developing 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, recognized for its fast and diligent service to the County). 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 three sides by an 8-foot-high wooden fence. Although the community’s opportunities and resources were limited, the community had a rich resource of community-based churches that provided the basis for social, cultural and religious enrichment. Older residents 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 Socks. These community activities made High View Park into close, family-oriented neighborhood.
A new awareness during the 1950’s and 1960’s 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 1, 1956 epitomizes one of the community’s largest desegregation efforts, when several students and parents filed suit against the Arlington School Board for denying the black students, who resided in the community, to attend Washington Lee High School. These efforts were successful in 1959, when, for the first time in Arlington’s history, black students were allowed to attend Stratford Junior High School. This ultimately set the precedence for desegregating schools throughout Arlington.
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 a tremendous community struggle to keep the Center in High View Park.
While still maintaining an identity as a strong black community, the High View Park is a neighborhood is better represented by more racial diversity as new residents moved into the neighborhood. These new and long term residents still work together to maintain the historical, cultural and aesthetic values of the High View Park Neighborhood.