Where We Live: Court House

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘rpongsaj’

After profiling 22 neighborhoods in the District, it’s time Where We Live headed out to the suburbs. This week we’re focusing on Court House, an urban neighborhood in the middle of Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. Sure, it’s technically a ‘suburb’, but with a movie theater, multiple grocery stores, tons of bars and restaurants, and office and government buildings, Court House has more to offer than many neighborhoods in the heart of DC.

History: In 1791, this area used to be part of DC.  But Virginia wanted Alexandria County back (mostly due to the sad fact that Alexandria was a big slave port, and talk of abolishing slavery in DC had Virginia scared), and this land was retroceded in 1846.  Fort Woodbury was a Civil War fort built in 1861 that stood where the current courthouse stands.  In 1852 the City of Alexandria split off, and in 1920 this area was renamed as Arlington County.

The area grew as a residential suburb throughout the early part of the twentieth century; the proximity to Hoover Airport/the Pentagon and the streetcar line to DC made Court House an ideal residential location.  The Colonial Village neighborhood was developed in the 1930s as one of the first garden-style apartment complexes in the country; this development is currently on the National Register.  Most of the development in this area was strip commercial and some neighborhoods.

Then the Metro came along and changed everything.  Thanks to the forward-thinking planners in Arlington County, transit-oriented development revitalized the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and became a national example of how to encourage high-density, mixed-use development at transit stations.

Photo courtesy of
‘The end of labor is……….’
courtesy of ‘LaTur’

Neighborhood Character: Arlington offers a bit of separation from the hustle and bustle of DC. We Love DC foodie Katie has lived in the Court House area for three years, and has this to say about the neighborhood: “I really like the separation of neighborhood and city in Arlington. I can work and play in DC but go home to what some may call the suburbs. I like how everything is super easy to get to (I can walk to three grocery stores! And a bajillion bars! And yet there’s a Target ten minutes away!) and I really like the trails and parks. I also really like the neighborhood proper, tree lined sidewalks, dogs and kids.” Court House provides access to so much, yet just blocks away from the Metro station you’re surrounded by single family homes and lots of families.

Transportation: The whole Rosslyn-Ballston corridor is considered a walker’s paradise of transit-oriented development, and Court House is no exception– there are so many options to get around in this area. There’s the Court House Metro station on the orange line that provides access to downtown DC and the rest of Arlington, and a number of ART and Metrobuses that serve the area. Need a Zipcar? There are more than you could shake a stick at.   There are a growing number of bike lanes in the area, and as Katie mentioned, there are great trails in the area, like the Custis, W&OD, and Mount Vernon trails, so it’s easy to get around by bike too.

What to See: There’s a lot to check out in this part of Arlington.  Next time you find yourself in Court House, here are some favorite places:

  • Katie has plenty of local restaurants to recommend.  “As the foodie, I like to eat. Minh’s is one of my favorite Court House eat places, and Earl’s sandwiches can’t be beat. Also, now that Ray’s the Steaks moved up to Court House, we officially have the best steak in the DC metro area.
  • Grab a drink.  We Love DC contributor Dave has lived in Court House for three years, and has this to say: “I’d be remiss if I didn’t profess my love for Four Courts; I started going as a Red Sox fan and transplant looking for a community in Arlington to watch the ’07 series, and just really never moved out. Live music nearly every night, a truly authentic Irish feel, and one place where you can go on 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday to watch Euro soccer while having a pint of cider – and not find a seat.”
  • Other favorite neighborhood hangouts include Brooklyn Bagel for (what else?) great bagels, Java Shack for some good coffee, and Boccato for gelato.
  • Take advantage of the underutilized movie theater!  The AMC Courthouse Plaza 8 shows the same movies as those big theaters across the river, but you’ll never have trouble finding a seat here.
  • Check out the Arlington Farmers’ Market every Saturday from 8 AM to noon for local produce, bread, and flowers.

Photo courtesy of
‘Arlington, Aug 2, 2008’
courtesy of ‘dionhinchcliffe’

Why We Love Court House: Court House probably has the most diversity of any of Arlington’s “urban villages” with county buildings, a movie theater, lots of housing, some great bars, good restaurants, and shopping– it’s not just apartment complexes and offices here.  As Dave says, “It’s perfect for the mid-20s crowd and actually does offer plenty of variety that doesn’t mandate a field trip into the city.”  Court House is close enough to DC, but it’s also close to the trails, parks, and single-family neighborhoods that you’d typically find further away from the city.

Shannon grew up in the greater DC area/Maryland suburbs, went to Virginia for college and grad school (go Hoos!), and settled in DC in 2006. She’s an urban planner who loves transit (why yes, that is her dressed as a Metro pylon for Halloween), cities, and all things DC. Email her at Shannon (at) WeLoveDC.com!

13 thoughts on “Where We Live: Court House

  1. Shannon,

    Are you going to visit Old Town Alexandria?

    Some FYI. A recent issue of Northern Virginia magazine picked their Best 50 Restaurants. If my count was right, Old Town had 9 of those.

  2. I have been shocked to hear reports the outwardly chain/cheesy/lame-seeming Velocity 5 is kind of a happenin’ place on weekends. Can anyone confirm or deny?

  3. Jay, Old Town Alexandria is definitely on my list– probably coming right up after Bethesda!  I’ll definitely have to sample a variety of Old Town restaurants to fully experience the area for ‘research’.

    TheGreenMiles– I haven’t been to Velocity 5, but if Yelp reviews are any indication, I’m not missing much.

  4. you should totally do mount rainier, md! it’s right next to brookland and full of cooperative opportunities…

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  6. As a clarendon resident, I’d just like to mention that Boccato and Earl’s are actually in my hood! Barton st. is the clarendon limit.

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  8. Don’t forget Rhodeside Grill and Ragtime as other established neighborhood watering holes. Both of those have great outdoor patios for a summer afternoon.