“I always feel that people who know something about the community they live in…. are much better citizens.”
C.B. Rose, Jr., NO VA Sun, July 2, 1976
They Wrote the History of Arlington County
The history of Arlington County has been largely written by three women: Eleanor Lee Templeman, C.B. Rose, Jr. and Ann “Nan” Netherton.
Each had a different approach but together they are responsible for researching and writing much of what we know about Arlington’s past, its development and issues.
Eleanor Lee Templeman
Eleanor Lee Reading Templeman was born in Washington, D.C. and spent the first twenty-one years of her life in California. A descendent of the prominent Lee family of Virginia, Templeman’s interest in family history followed her to Arlington County after she and her husband Robert moved to Northern Virginia in 1935. Her work as a writer, artist, and photographer prepared her well for researching and publishing a history and numerous articles on Arlington as well as four other books on Northern Virginia.
Spurred by her 7th grade son’s difficulty researching material for a report on local history, as well as the hope that if people were aware of the importance and beauty of local landmarks they might be able to save some of them from destruction, she began a series of articles in the Northern Virginia Sun called Arlington Heritage. The series later evolved into her book "Arlington Heritage: Vignettes of a Virginia County," published in 1957.
Because of her feeling that houses symbolize the people who lived in them, and it is the human element that makes history a vital experience, she chose to concentrate on homes and landmarks as the vehicle for writing Arlington’s history.
Her other published works include, "Blair-Lee House: Guest House of the Presidents" and "Northern Virginia Heritage," co-authored with another local historian, Nan Netherton. Outside of her writing career, Templeman also worked with groups to preserve historic sites in the area including Abingdon Plantation and Sully Plantation, and served on commissions to prepare for the 1976 Bicentennial celebration. She was active with historic preservation and local history groups throughout her life in Arlington.
Eleanor Lee Templeman died in 1990.
C.B. Rose, Jr.
Cornelia Bruere Rose Jr. graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1928 with a degree in economics and politics and a minor in history. She then worked as an economist in New York City until her marriage in 1934 to Laszlo Ecker-Racz, also an economist, after which they moved to the Washington area where she first worked for the federal government. Despite her marriage, Rose maintained her maiden name all her life in order to, as she put it, “preserve her identity.”
As assistant to the Arlington County Manager from 1958 to l965, she wrote the manager’s annual report, edited the departmental reports and prepared the Handbook on County Government Organization. In the studies that she wrote and edited she said that she tried to cover “not just the current factors, but the background and development of the subject as well."
Rose recalled not being able to find answers to historical questions that she was asked and soon discovered that no comprehensive history had been written on Arlington, its issues or development.
As a result, over the years, she collected a wide variety of material on Arlington and published both "The Boundaries of Arlington" as well as "The Indians of Arlington." She commented that before the latter was published there was little reference to Native Americans. She said books just said things such as “and there were also Indians in Arlington.”
Then, when Arlington was planning for its Bicentennial she was approached by the Arlington Bicentennial Commission to write a book about Arlington as part of its celebration, and "Arlington: A County in Virginia" was published in 1976, the most comprehensive history of the county that has been written.
Active in civic affairs, Cornelia Rose was a founding member of the Arlington Historical Society, a member of the Virginia Historical Society, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Arlington Committee of One Hundred as well as a successful proponent of the conversion of the old Hume School on Ridge Road into the Arlington Historical Society Museum. She was also active in local Democratic politics.
The County was fortunate to have such a dedicated historian and we are indebted to her. Her archival collection in the Center for Local History contains many early documents that would undoubtedly have disappeared if she had not had the foresight to preserve them and then compile twenty-five years of research into what remains the seminal history of this county.
Cornelia B. Rose died in 1976, shortly after "Arlington: A County in Virginia" was published.
Ann (Nan) Netherton
Ann “Nan” Netherton was a prominent figure in capturing the history of Arlington County and all of Northern Virginia. Netherton and her husband Ross co-wrote a book on Arlington County titled "Arlington County in Virginia: A Pictorial History" in 1987, which updated the history of Arlington. Their book approached Arlington’s history somewhat differently than previous accounts, augmenting shorter text with numerous illustrations, photos, maps and drawings.
Born in Illinois, Netherton moved to Northern Virginia in 1950 after working on the Manhattan Project during World War II. She found the area, while in a period of transition from rural to suburban, was historically interesting and important. She worked for Fairfax County as a staff member for the Office of Comprehensive Planning and compiled an 800-page history of the county for the U.S. Bicentennial celebrations in 1976.
The Nethertons published many works on the history and development of Northern Virginia, especially in Fairfax County, where they resided, including "Memories of Beautiful Burke, Virginia" (1988), "Fairfax County, Virginia: A History" (1978), and "Reston: A New Town in the Old Dominion" (1989). Nan volunteered for the Fairfax Historic Landmarks Commission, was elected president of the Northern Virginia Association for History in 1988, and received the Association’s Joseph Harsh award for her work in historic preservation of local history in 2000.
Nan Netherton died in June 2003.