Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

The blue sign and multi-hued banners off of Washington Blvd. proclaim these Westover garden-style apartments as “Fisher House: Now Leasing.”

That’s not to be confused with the national nonprofit called the Fisher House Foundation, which builds for needy military families.

This one’s run by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, which, as its inaugural project in 1991, purchased the early ‘40s-vintage apartments and named them in honor of the late congressman Joseph Fisher (1914-92).

His name ring a bell? Fisher became a hero to Arlington Democrats during the “Watergate election” of 1974, when he ousted 11-term conservative Republican Rep. Joel T. Broyhill. Fisher’s confidant and chief of staff John Milliken (a county board member in the early 1990s) recently recalled his close rapport with Fisher.

“The night Joe was elected was extraordinary,” he told APAH. “It was a great night nationally for Democrats, but for Joe to have knocked off the 22-year incumbent Republican was amazing. There was a level of exuberance that shut down Route 7.”

But Fisher, whose wife Peggy was also active in Arlington civics, made an impact on housing on our county board from 1967-74. The former federal economist and specialist in natural resource planning served as president of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments. After his defeat by Frank Wolf in the 1980 Reagan landslide, he became Gov. Chuck Robb’s Health and Human Resources Secretary, and then taught economics at George Mason University.

That’s an Arlington life that merits a sign.

The first APAH Fisher House consisted of 33 apartments renovated in 2007-2008 using $9.5 million in private and public funds. Fisher House II, scattered throughout the block, preserved 68 apartments once targeted by developers, which were renovated in 2018 for a similar cost.

Available to individuals and families earning 60 percent or less of area median income, they are part of the Westover Village historic designation. Prospective tenants for the one, two and three-bedroom units apply to APAH, property management by S.L. Nusbaum Realty Co.

Renting is slow-going during the pandemic, I’m told by Nina Janopaul, the soon-to-retire president of APAH (replaced June 30 by Carmen Romero). “A lot of people don’t have income and are applying for rent relief,” she said. “It’s not a great time to start a rent application.”

The Westover community, Janopaul added, “has really embraced us,” sign and all. “Many of those apartments were demolished and turned into $900,000 townhomes during the past five years,” she said. “There was a community swelling of preservation support.”

A squad of boomer alums of Yorktown High School recently shared memories of 1960s childhoods collecting baseball cards of heroes like New York Yankees slugger Mickey Mantle.

Inevitably came the complaint about their mothers having thrown out cards that decades later could have been sold for millions.

But Mike Tramonte topped them all. His family ran the Bayou nightclub under the Whitehurst Freeway. One evening in 1960, several Yankee players, including the Mick, arrived as patrons. Problem was, all were wearing the required jacket except Mantle, who sported a cardigan. Mrs. Tramonte, only vaguely aware of who she was dealing with, denied him entry.

So, while many moms threw out their kids’ Mickey Mantle cards, Tramonte can say his mom threw out Mickey Mantle.

Realtors need an angle to make a sale. Sevi Kamm of Arlington Realty last week announced that his client’s townhouse at 1327 S. Glebe Rd. “boasts a unique story — it is the former home of Jim Morrison’s parents. Yes, the late singer and lead vocalist for the Doors has roots here, and was known to visit frequently.”

This columnist years ago identified this home as the former domicile of Adm. Steve Morrison after reading correspondence between the father and the sheriff of Dade County, Fla., referencing Morrison’s “indecent” on-stage antics during a March 1, 1969, concert in Miami. The letter is at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.