Annandale's Historic Shopping District:
1949 at The Triangle
By: M. Callahan
Once upon a time, the Annandale Businessmen’s Association produced the flyer seen below encouraging residents to, “Avoid downtown parking and rushing, your Annandale merchants are fully prepared for your Christmas shopping needs.” Fortunately in 1949, that was a real possibility since Annandale’s commercial district hosted stores with products that ranged from novelties, children’s toys and clothes, appliances, furniture, jewelry, and top drawer women’s and men’s fashions. Annandale even had its own cab company and caterers, and a Turkey Shoot benefiting the Fire Dept. Annandale was a fine example of the city meeting the country.
Two shopping districts also utilized by local residents were Clarendon and Washington DC; but not nearly as convenient. The other attractive aspect of shopping in Annandale was the ability to park once and walk painlessly through the commercial area. Within five years, many more stores and restaurants opened in Annandale to include a fabric shop, book store, pizza parlor, pet shop, paint & wallpaper store, Italian restaurant, drug and convenience store, a children’s shoe store, music, stationary, & multiple large grocery stores.
In the fifteen years following WWII, the population of Annandale, indeed the entire Washington area, exploded with new residents. Most had come to Washington in support of the war effort and remained after its conclusion. Annandale went from being a rural self-sufficient community to an idyllic suburb. Neighborhood subdivisions such as Crestwood, Rolfe Heights, Barcroft Terrace, Brook Hills, Annandale Terrace, Wilburdale, Broyhill Crest, Sleepy Hollow Woods, Columbia Pines, Holms Run Acres, Raymondale, and North Springfield were built as well as individual streets such as Annanwood Court.
With this hugely expanding and ever diversifing population, Annandale retail and service related businesses thrived. (Special note about Annandale: This has always been a highly diversified population, something that gives great pride to the community. Much like the Scottish founders of Annandale, we welcome every stranger to our door and have been acknowledged as a "Community of Cousins.")
The Annandale Businessmen’s Association, later to change its name to the Greater Annandale Chamber of Commerce, recognized that if Annandale was to continue flourishing, various upgrades to the community’s infrastructure were needed. Unfortunately, the county had no interest in working with the smaller communities and offered no financial or physical aid to the Annandale community. The county had bigger fish to fry was the response given to a hugely active Chamber and Community Committee. The first municipal challenge was to design, purchase and construct street signs and place house numbers on the residences so that the US Postal Service would begin door to door mail service. Prior to this time, streets carried a Route Number and mail was delivered to a single post office where patrons would come, either daily or weekly, for pick-up. For many years Mattauer Bros.General Store and Texaco (currently Steinhorst Plumbing) at The Triangle served as the Annandale Post Office.
The next challenge was installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Little River, Columbia Pike, and Annandale Road, an area known as The Triangle. Street lights were also needed to encourage late day shopping. After endless haggling sessions between the county, state and Chamber of Commerce, a single traffic light was finally installed and a number of street lights erected. For more than twenty years, the Chamber of Commerce was obligated to pay the electric bill for these amenities or all would go dark again. Another important task tackled during Annandale’s early modern age was leveling the grade along Little River Turnpike, just east of the present George Mason Library. On stormy days, a car could not stop at the bottom of the slope nor navigate up it. This was a reminder of the rolling topography our community inhabits and how many more hills there are to climb.
The community realized quite early that any number of residents were in need of medical and dental care along with rent assistance and periodic supplements of food. An annual medical and dental Open House would be held at the Annandale Elementary School on Columbia Pike where basic medical/dental exams, vaccinations, blood pressure checks were given free of charge. If further attention was required, volunteer medical professionals in the community would open their offices for follow-up (again, free of charge for those financially challenged) and aid from various government services sought. The Annandale Chamber of Commerce organized the event with help from the Annandale Fire Department, local churches, and the organizers and parents of the Annandale Little League.
The last challenge continues. For sixty-six years Annandale has tried to convince the county to build a community center here. One was initially planned for the Annandale Community Park, then another at the newly developed Annandale Recreational Center on Little River and finally, utilizing a public private partnership, at the soon to close Annandale Elementary School on Columbia Pike. Part of the school would become the Mason District Government Center. Part would be occupied by the police who would relocate from their building on Ravensworth Road, and the rest would become the Annandale Community Center. Instead, the county built a new building for use as a police dept. and government center on Columbia Pike, and the elementary school was temporarily abandoned. Now, ACCA resides there while Annandale waits, but less patiently, to establish, a Community Center for ALL of Annandale.
The Annandale Chamber of Commerce founded in 1946 is no longer required to handle municipal duties. For many decades supervisory districts, with well-staffed district offices, conduct governmental affairs and direct whatever aid, if any, Annandale receives from the county. Regrettably, when it comes to supporting Annandale, there always seems to be bigger fish to fry.
Photos Credit: ACC Photo Archive with all right of use reserved. (Copyright © 2012 Annandale Chamber of Commerce. All rights reserved. (Photographs & images, on this page, and on this website, are not available for use by other publications, blogs, individuals, websites, or social media sites.)