Fairlington at Play

For Fairlington’s first families, there were many challenges of wartime living in a new community. Prominent among them was the lack of recreational and play space. The neighborhood’s original architectural drawings showed eight parks. None were built, though, and both children and adults improvised.

34th and 36th Streets South, 1943. Courtesy National Archives

With no patio fencing, the rear of the buildings provided immediate play space for children, but presented hazards as well. In June 1944, Lt. Col. Douglass Walker wrote to the Defense Homes Corporation after his small daughter had fallen into a window well:

Rear of 3464 -3466 South Stafford Street, 1943. Courtesy Fairlington Properties, Realtors

“I am writing to you with regard to something that I feel is a definite health hazard …. I refer to the wells directly outside many cellar windows…. [and] should be covered by a suitable protective screening… to forestall… persons tripping and falling into them…”

Other children’s adventures were nothing short of alarming. One resident recalled in an oral history:

“There was a standing rule that [children] were not to cross Buchanan Street… [and they] all… abided by it. [One day] my aunt got a call from a neighbor who said, “You know the rule [about] children crossing the street? …Well, …they’re going under [it].” These children had figured out a way to …[climb] down into the sewer system… [and] they continued to play down there for years… the farthest they ever got was halfway to Annandale out Columbia Pike.”

After World War II, as the Defense Homes Corporation prepared to sell the property, the manager noted the lack of recreational facilities and urged that this be addressed. Fairlingtonians would wait, however, until the property was converted, some 30 years later.

The Utah Field Park was created in 1975 on land originally slated for construction of additional homes. Fairlingtonians successfully lobbied Arlington County to purchase the property for use as a park instead. The Fairlington Citizens Association (FCA) was established the following year and participated in the 1979 preservation of the Fairlington School (now the Fairlington Community Center), which included additional recreational features and space that are currently being renovated and updated.

Condominium conversion brought other recreational amenities, including pools, playgrounds, and tennis and basketball courts throughout the neighborhood. Reflecting the community’s current age diversity, Fairlington Villages renovated its pools in the last decade to include a lap pool, heated for earlier and later seasonal use, and a family-friendly pool. The first tennis court was re-purposed for use by the increasing number of pickleball players in 2016.