Clarendon is often thought of as the laid-back, cool kid in Arlington's class of urban villages. This is a place where you can expect to see t-shirts, baseball caps, flip flops and Volvos. It's a nightlife destination where people can have a great yet moderately priced dinner before heading to one of several local bars. Of course, Clarendon is much more than that. Not just a hip place to hang out after work, it also offers mid-sized office buildings near the Clarendon Metro station and safe, stable neighborhoods full of single-family homes and tree-lined streets, offering great opportunities to live, work, and play - no car required.
Along with Virginia Square, Ballston, Court House, and Rosslyn, Clarendon is located on the Wilson Boulevard-Clarendon Boulevard corridor, which was named one of 10 "Great Streets" in the U.S. by the American Planning Association in 2008.
Clarendon plays host to businesses of all sorts and sizes, many of them with nationally recognized names.The Market Common Clarendon shopping center features Barnes & Noble, Crate & Barrel, Apple, The Container Store and Pottery Barn. But Clarendon is probably better known for its local, homegrown businesses. This combination of local and national results in a shopping and retail scene that is quite varied and unique.
The prevalence of small businesses also contributes to the strong sense of community that pervades the area and manifests itself through a variety of neighborhood organizations and special events. One such organization, The Clarendon Alliance, is a neighborhood association that unites residents with business owners, both local and national, to address community issues and concerns and to promote the community. Regular events in the area include a farmers market every Wednesday afternoon, year-'round.There is also an annual Mardi Gras celebration and the Clarendon Day festival in the fall. These events reinforce the feeling of welcome and camaraderie that can be felt just spending an evening here.
Clarendon's reputation for good food and lively bars is very well deserved, as people from throughout the DC metropolitan area come to the neighborhood to sample the ethnic restaurants. Favorites range from Chinese to El Salvadoran to the best Peruvian chicken you've ever had, but you can also find Japanese, Greek, Cuban, American, Barbecue, Moroccan and several Vietnamese eateries all within walking distance of the Metro station. Of course, people stay for the nightlife once they're here. Whether it's the laid-back atmosphere and local music at Iota or Galaxy Hut (official capacity: 48), the sports bar atmosphere of Mister Day's, the cavernous Whitlow's, or the lovely Clarendon Ballroom, there is a lot of fun to be had after dark in Clarendon.
With its comfort, community, and cuisine, it's no surprise then that the area is attracting more and more people. Newly constructed housing options are presenting more opportunities for prospective residents seeking to join in the fun. However, even as more people arrive, the locals tend to agree that Clarendon will be able to retain its unique individuality as a young, quirky, and exciting urban village.
Clarendon Metro station entrance
Clarendon is a neighborhood in Arlington County, Virginia, located between the Rosslyn area and the Ballston area. The main thoroughfares are Wilson Boulevard (one-way westbound) and Clarendon Boulevard (one-way eastbound).
Boundaries and geography
Because of the local street network configuration, many of Clarendon's 40-45 blocks resemble triangles rather than squares. The precise dimensions of Clarendon are not defined, and several different sets of boundaries are often used. These include:
- Arlington County's Clarendon sector plan area (bounded roughly by Cleveland Street, 11th Street, Kirkwood Street, 13th Street, Highland Street and Wilson Boulevard)
- the boundaries of the civic associations comprising the Clarendon Alliance association (i.e. Ashton Heights, Clarendon-Courthouse, Lyon Park and Lyon Village, and bounded by Lee Highway, Veitch Street, Wilson Boulevard, Arlington Boulevard, Glebe Road, Wilson Boulevard, and Kirkwood Street)
- the area unsuccessfully proposed to have been incorporated as a city in the 1930s
- the boundaries of the Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association (Wilson Boulevard, N. Courthouse Road, Arlington Boulevard, and N. 10th Street)
The central geographic/cultural/economic features of Clarendon are the Clarendon Metro station (on the Orange Line of the Metrorail system at Wilson Boulevard and Highland Street),Market Common Clarendon and the Whole Foods Market at Clarendon Boulevard and Edgewood Street. As Clarendon's profile both as a popular destination and marketing location have increased, its informal boundaries have expanded west toward Virginia Square and east toward Courthouse, two adjacent Metro station areas.
First platted in 1900 at the top of a hill on the Georgetown-Falls Church Road (now Wilson Boulevard), Clarendon evolved into Arlington County's original "downtown" after the arrival of streetcars into its area in 1896. During the early 20th century, two interurban trolley lines converged in Clarendon a short distance west of today's Clarendon Metro station.
One of these trolley lines traveled between Rosslyn and Clarendon along the present routes of Lynn Street, Fairfax Drive and Clarendon Boulevard to a station at the present intersection of Clarendon Boulevard and Washington Boulevard. Metrorail's Orange Line now closely follows this line's former route.
The other line traveled from downtown Washington, crossed the Potomac River over the Highway Bridge and traveled along Washington Boulevard to reach the Clarendon station. Trolleys from both lines traveled between Clarendon, Ballston and Falls Church along the present routes of Fairfax Drive, I-66 and the Orange Line. Some of these trolleys traveled as far as the towns of Vienna and Fairfax. Like many other interurbans around the country, these lines were to remain in service until the mid-1930s, when they succumbed to the automobile and Depression-era economics.
In 1920, the same year in which Arlington County adopted its name, a movement to incorporate Clarendon as a town was defeated in the courts.
Over time, Clarendon became Northern Virginia's retail center. Department stores including J.C. Penney and Sears opened stores in Clarendon, and other retailers extended west along Wilson Blvd and Fairfax Drive to Virginia Square (anchored by Kann's Department Store) and, farther west, the Parkington Shopping Center anchored by the Hecht Company, which was later enlarged and renamed as the Ballston Common Mall.
Built in 1937, the Arlington Post Office was the first federal building constructed in the county. Previously Arlington's mail was handled in Washington, D.C.. Lobby murals depicting scenes about Arlington history were painted by Auriel Bessemer in 1939. In 2000, it was named in honor of Joseph L. Fisher, former U.S. representative from Virginia's 10th district. The building is a designated Arlington County landmark and is listed on the national register of historic places.
By early 1975, two Vietnamese grocery stores had been opened in Clarendon. Clarendon came to be known as "Little Saigon" - restaurants, shops and a large Vietnamese community. Vietnamese restaurants adjacent to Clarendon Metro like Queen Bee, and Cafe Dalat, closed in the end of 2005 and Little Viet Garden closed at the end of 2008. Nam Viet seems to be all that remains.
Since the opening of the Clarendon Metro station in the early 1980s, Clarendon has become well-known for its eclectic mix of unique shops, trendy bars, and small restaurants. More recently, luxury apartments, office buildings and upscale chain stores have been constructed and gentrified the area, although some of the original businesses do remain. The former Sears store's parking lot and automotive department, briefly considered as a site for a Home Depot, was developed as a mixed residential/commercial project that now includes townhouses, luxury apartments, and national chain retail stores.
Clarendon is also host to several local and County-wide events each year, including Arlington's Neighborhood Day parade (held the second Saturday in May), the Mardi Gras parade and Tax Blues Night. The largest annual event, "Clarendon Day," is held on a Saturday in mid-October and features four live music stages, local restaurant and coffee house booths, clothing, jewelry, antiques and collectibles sales, children's games and rides, an ice-cream eating contest and other local traditions. Additionally, each spring Clarendon is host to the CSC Invitational, one of the largest one-day professional and amateur bicycle races in the U.S.
A farmer's market at Clarendon's Central Park is held Wednesday afternoons from Memorial Day until Labor Day and features organic produce, baked goods, plants and herbs, homemade soaps and other items for sale.