Cherrydale Branch Library

Serving North Arlington since 1922


This page was last updated on November 24, 2021.

Plan Lee Highway

Historic and Cultural Resources

Arlington County, Virginia

Prepared for Arlington County Department of Community Planning, Housing & Development, 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite 700, Arlington, VA 22201
August 2020

p.4-30: SECTION FOUR: Results of the Lee Highway Cultural Resources Survey

Cherrydale Branch Library:

This jewel of Mid-Century Modern architecture features native stone and wood on its exterior. The library has served as a Cherrydale community gathering space throughout its history. In 1922, the Cherrydale League of Women’s Voters in concert with the Patron’s League (forerunner of the Parent-Teachers Association) moved decisively toward the realization of a public library for the Cherrydale community of Arlington County. Many of the two groups’ founding members were experienced fundraisers through their experience with the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department. The coordinated efforts with the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department resulted in successful funding drives, enabling the fledgling collection for the proposed library to expand on the original 1922 catalogue of books. A location was soon selected and the first iteration of the Cherrydale Public library first opened in a room in the old Cherrydale Elementary School at 3710 Lee Highway (since demolished and now the site of the Cherrydale Health.

In November 1934, County Manager Roy S. Braden made the request of several concerned residents that they assist him in supporting Arlington's existing libraries. By July 1936, the Department of Libraries was founded. In the County budget for that year, the County Board voted to allocate $3,000 for libraries. Soon, the Department of Libraries became an official County bureau with administration provided by an official designated as County Librarian. All five branch libraries - Arlington Community, Aurora Hills, Cherrydale, Clarendon and Glen Carlyn – constituted a system that served a community with a population of 40,000 residents and containing 74 farms. Initial funds provided each library with $250 to buy two encyclopedias and an unabridged dictionary, in addition to miscellaneous supplies.

During the 1930s, the Cherrydale Library relocated to a modest building at 3828 Lee Highway, beginning an era in which the library would move often; changing addresses several more times over the next eight years. From January 1941 until October 1942, the library made its home in a large corner room on the Cherrydale Firehouse’s second floor, before moving on to 4010 Lee Highway(today the site of Essy’s Carriage House Restaurant). That month, the County formally accepted the Cherrydale Library as part of Arlington County Library system. In 1946, Cherrydale Library moved again; this time to the building previously occupied by the Cherrydale Children’s Clinic at 4006 Lee Highway. A plan to construct a new building for the library in tandem with a funding campaign began in 1957. A coalition of eight North Arlington Parent Teacher Associations along with eight civic associations (Bellevue Forest, Cherrydale/Maywood, Donaldson Run, Gulf Branch, Lyon Village, North Highlands, Northwest, and Parkway) founded the Northeast Library Committee. The coalition was led by Harvey Lampshire, president of the Cherrydale Citizens Association. Collectively, this group made over 50 presentations to the County Board in an effort to pressure them to commission a new library building for the Cherrydale community.

​ The groundbreaking ceremony took place on September 4, 1960, presided over by Harvey Lampshire, an advocate of the Cherrydale Library. Harvey Lampshire’s wife Maxine Lampshire was a journalist for The Northern Virginia Sun. Maxine was a tireless advocate of the Cherrydale Library, and wrote in support of it frequently in the Sun.

J. Russell Bailey (1905-1998) of the firm Bailey & Gardner of Orange, Virginia was selected as the Cherrydale Branch Library’s architect. Including its Cherrydale commission, the Bailey & Gardner firm designed upwards of 185 libraries throughout the Eastern United States, with commissions including libraries for Yale University, the University of Maryland, the University of Westover, and the Glencarlyn Branch of the Arlington County Public Library. Further, the Bailey & Gardner firm designed the original Arlington Central, Westover, Shirlington, and Quincy Street (1961-1990) Arlington County library branch buildings.

Among Bailey’s earliest concerns in designing the Cherrydale Library building was addressing the challenges inherent in the lot’s heavily wooded, steeply sloped grade, while still remaining sympathetic to the built esthetic of the immediate neighborhood. Bailey and his associate Judson Gardner (1923-2017) resolved to spare as many of the lot’s trees as possible and to leave undisturbed the greatest number of natural features possible. Bailey also made the decision to let the palette of natural features inform the aesthetic of the building he would design. The use of cut stone and wood on the building’s façades creates a visual and material harmony with the surrounding terrain just as Bailey had intended. Bailey said of the Cherrydale Library project:

Our selection of stone and concrete shingles for the exterior materials was done to harmonize with the trees and surrounding terrain. Since we had to show a considerable amount of roof, we felt that a roof with a strong texture was necessary.

Paramount over all other construction challenges was the costly, meticulously engineered retaining wall that constitutes the rear wall of the library building. The considerable slope to the grade of the lot, coupled with the plan for a deeply inset building, made the retaining wall a critically important structural element regarding the safety and durability of the building.

The interior of the building is a natural complement to its exterior features; including an airy split-level floor plan, abundant natural light from ample windows, redwood ceiling trusses, and sleek walnut shelving. Another distinctive feature of the building’s interior is the absence of air distribution vents in the ceilings.

The building features a ductless HVAC system that utilizes porous acoustic tiling over an air chamber formed between the tiling and the roof’s decking. The result is a quietly efficient airflow, while the material treatment preserves the clean lines and cathedral ceilings of the building’s interior design.

One of the building’s most distinctive design features is the unusual configuration of three principal entrance levels that relate to the slope of the lot’s grade. Bailey’s design was also forward-looking in its purposeful implementation of wheelchair access:

It is very important to have one level reached from the street by a walk that has no steps. We found it possible to do this in this case, by having a sidewalk at an intermediate level which makes it possible for a wheelchair patron to enter the library without being lifted out of his chair. (Bailey, n.d.)

Cherrydale Library opened at its present location on August 14, 1961. It was the first purpose-built branch library in Northern Virginia, and is the oldest remaining library building in Arlington County.