One of Arlington’s coziest coffee hangouts is the independent Java Shack, which offers dark liquid charms on Franklin Road near the Courthouse.
When I popped by, however, it was not merely to sip the brew but to consult the owner, Dale Roberts, as part of my ongoing study of one of our county’s less-happy legacies: the presence of the American Nazi Party from 1958 to 1983.
Roberts, who opened the coffee emporium in 1996, was aware of its past as headquarters for 15 years to a clique of neo-Nazi propagandists who settled there after their founder, George Lincoln Rockwell, was murdered further down Wilson in 1967. Roberts gets queries monthly.
“You’d think it would have died down by now,” says Roberts, who owns the business but not the building he shares with a pet accessories shop and residents. But he cheerfully showed me the “New Order” business card he found on the premises. (The same one keeps showing up anonymously in the Central Library’s copy of the Rockwell biography “American Fuhrer.”)
Roberts pointed out holes in the facade once used to display a swastika, and the braces that held a Nazi flag.
Most vivid is the flier he found stashed behind a toilet with fading color photos of the unprepossessing Nazis posing out front below a “White Power” sign as members of what after 1967 was the National Socialist White People’s Party.
It was from here in 1976 that these “patriots” marched in Arlington’s Bicentennial Parade. And here on Dec. 12, 1977, they were attacked by 30-40 D.C.- based anti-racism protestors, who were “hurtling rocks and eggs and scuffling” with the Nazis, according to the Northern Virginia Sun. Thirty cops arrived in 12 squad cars to break up the melee, with no arrests.
The Java Shack location was actually the fifth local site of Nazi headquarters. A private home on Williamsburg Boulevard at Sycamore Street was where Rockwell in 1958 first mounted his well-lit swastika in the picture window. In 1960, the group moved to a donor-subsidized shack at 928 N. Randolph Street (now Richmond Square Apartments), where they greeted Ballston neighbors with a sign reading, “White Man Fight! Smash the Black Revolution Now.” The “storm troopers” were evicted in 1965 for failure to pay taxes, staying briefly on North Taylor Street (now the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association).
Soon they reassembled at their other “barracks” near Seven Corners on Wilson Boulevard. Known in the press as Hatemonger Hill, this house (now Upton Hill Regional Park) was where Rockwell was living when he was shot at the Dominion Hills shopping center.
In 1968, the party faithful moved up Wilson to Franklin Road (first renting, later owning). They would share the building with co-owner Lucas Blevins, a dentist and former county board member who called their presence “nauseating.” Blevins’ daughter, Beth Cuje, a local therapist, told me her family was “disgusted” by these neighbors. “We were all amazed, it seemed so odd. My sense is my father had no power to stop it, and didn’t know what was going on.”
In 1983, the much-diminished Nazis, now called the New Order, packed up and moved to Wisconsin.
I assured Dale Roberts that in presentations I give on Arlington’s Nazi experience, I always give a shout to the Java Shack as a much better use of the facility.