Summer is well underway, and generations of Arlingtonians have beat the heat with cold beer. To commemorate a forgotten and vital part of our past, the Arlington Historical Society has opened a new exhibit, “Arlington’s Brewery and Cherry Smash.”
To introduce the new exhibit, AHS will host a free public reception on Friday, August 15, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Arlington Historical Museum at the Hume School. Attendees can meet museum director and exhibit curator, Dr. Mark Benbow, as well as fellow AHS board member Garrett Peck. The museum will have on hand copies of Peck’s latest book, Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C., for sale and signature. The exhibit – and the book – document Arlington’s long history with brewing.
From 1895 until 1917, Arlington had its own brewery making beer for thirsty residents. Built on the banks of the Potomac River where the Key Bridge Marriott now stands in Rosslyn, the brewery was originally named the Consumers Brewing Company, then was renamed the Arlington Brewing Company in 1902.
Despite crusading Commonwealth Attorney Crandal Mackey, who led raids to shut down the brothels and Sunday saloons of the then-seedy Rosslyn neighborhood, the brewery continued to operate and even managed to survive several fires.
Prohibition ended the brewing business after Virginia went dry in November 1916, and Congress outlawed alcohol in Washington, DC, the following year. The Arlington Brewery closed – but the complex found a new purpose. An entrepreneur, John Fowler, bought the facility in 1920 to make Cherry Smash soda. The fruit-flavored soft drink was popular throughout the Washington region.
After Prohibition ended in 1933, Fowler attempted to reopen the brewery, but the proposed Dixie Brewing Company never went into operation. The building was torn down in 1958 to make room for the new hotel.
Included in the exhibit are original bottles and bricks from the brewery, artifacts from the anti-alcohol temperance movement, as well as colorful advertisements, postcards, and other items from the Cherry Smash company. Many of these were donated by a descendent of Mr. Fowler. They include a rare oil painting of a young woman drinking Cherry Smash, which was used for the company’s ads in early 1900s.
The exhibit is on display from July 19 through November 30, 2014, at the Arlington Historical Museum at the Hume School. The museum is located at 1805 South Arlington Ridge Road, and is open from 1:00-4:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.