Our Man in Arlington

March 27, 2018 1:50 PM0 comments

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Perched on a tree-lined cliff overlooking the Potomac — as seen through the G.W. Parkway — sits the Glass House.

It’s a stately, historically designated, century-plus-old Arlington home originally called “Glenmore” (a contraction of the first lady of the house’s maiden name). But its current owners love the Glass House nickname and preserve its history as one of the area’s most celebrated scene of…wild bachelor parties.

Glenmore was built in 1906 deep in what today is the subdivision of Bellevue Forrest, at 3440 N. Roberts Lane. A photo of the original log-and-shingle structure appears in Eleanor Lee Templeman’s Arlington Heritage. The county’s historic sign reports that William Florian Roberts, a Washington printer, commissioned it as a summer home designed by Appleton Clark.

“The tremendous stone mantel was drawn up the cliff by a donkey engine, and trees were cut from the site for the log walls,” Templeman wrote. The foundation was made from rock quarried from Potomac palisades.

Roberts partied hardy (oyster roasts), hosting big-wigs from Washington lodges and exclusive clubs. I suspect that before his death in 1929, he fought to preserve his spectacular view before the 1930 construction of the G.W. Parkway.

But Glenmore fell on hard times after Mrs. Robert’s death in 1941 and passed to prominent Admiral Chester Ward. He did major remodeling, adding the exterior gray stucco and installing three levels of glass windows plus a glass-and-flagstone garage.

Ward also began the tradition of renting to military tenants.

Last month, I was treated to a tour by owners Gail Raiman, a public relations counselor who worked in the Ford White House, and Bob Hynes, former lobbyist for NBC. “In summer and spring it’s like a treehouse,” they told me as I marveled at the home’s greenery, thick walls and non-standard windows.

When the couple moved in together in 1983, the home was “uninhabitable” with poison ivy, snakes and rats. “We redid the whole thing,” said Raiman, a do-it-yourselfer. The modernization uncovered secret compartments, old fireplace cooking tools and long-covered pathways.

Roberts descendants gave them a photo collection of the construction, picnics with ladies in ankle-length dresses and their black housekeeper.

But Raiman and Hynes zeroed in on the fun. From 1958-1971, the Glass House was a bachelor pad, scene of poolside parties given by White House military social aides. “Home of bachelors extraordinaire” read the business card.  A tongue-in-cheek history described the place as a “catalyst for Washington romances,” denying that any were “prematurely consummated.” Wine bottles emptied at “a party where they booze and feed you, put you to bed, get you up, feed you breakfast and send you on your way,” one guest recalled.

Future president of George Mason University Alan Merton, then an Air Force officer, proposed to his bride in the house in 1965. The engagement of future Virginia Gov. Chuck Robb and presidential daughter Lynda Byrd Johnson was celebrated there. Tricia Nixon merited a song performance in front of the fireplace by the 5th Dimension.

Society-page reporters wrote the place up when Ward sold the house and furniture in 1971.

In June 2006, Raiman and Hynes assembled a “black-tie optional” reunion of the 35 bachelors who’d enjoyed the Glass House. They returned from Oklahoma, California, Texas and New York, and paid the price of admission: one written memory. Today’s owners of Glenmore have many more.

***

Gravelly Point, nicknamed for decades “the plane-flying place” near Reagan National Airport, will not be renamed after all.

The proposal from Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., to change it to honor Nancy “Just Say No” Reagan, was dropped from the big budget bill just signed into law.

The move was opposed by Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., who blasted Hice for never consulting the local lawmaker. It was the equivalent, Beyer said, of him seeking to rename a campground in Georgia for Hillary Clinton.

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