Rouse Estate Wants to Build a Housing Project on Civil War Ground

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, February 23, 2020.

Here are excerpts from Suzanne Sundburg’s comments on historic designation for the Rouse estate.

“Shifting responsibility for the house to a preservation group makes sense, as the county has demonstrated itself to be an indifferent and irresponsible steward of historic assets . . .

“I disagree that the focus on the property’s historic value should be on Audrey Meadows. It’s not that her and Howard Hughes’s connection to the 1907 house (historic in its own right) is irrelevant, but the actual historic value lies in the house’s Civil War-era bones. Simply because a subsequent addition covers those bones, and we cannot see them doesn’t reduce their historical value.

“The fact that quite a few people in Arlington (elected or otherwise) lack the education and knowledge to appreciate and understand the inherent value [of the estate] doesn’t automatically make it any less valuable.

“Then there is the fact that the [Febrey-Lothrop-] Rouse estate is enshrined in the Arlington County Public Spaces Master Plan, adopted by the County Board in April 2019, which clearly identifies the property as a ‘generational’ opportunity for acquisition. . .So acquisition of the property is consistent with the county’s own planning documents.

“As for the cost, it’s no secret that there is unallocated (or readily reallocatable) one-time funds sitting in the county’s growing General Fund Balance, should the County Board choose to [use them]:

“In short, Arlington has very little history of significance remaining. Plenty of cities and towns across Virginia work very hard to prevent their history (frequently in private hands) from being bulldozed. . . One has to wonder about a community that is so totally ignorant of or hostile to its own history.”