Below the Beltway

Below the Beltway – You May Be a Fort Hunter If…

Drive down the George Washington Parkway in Alexandria to the Fort Hunt area... if you ever want to know more about local history, chances are there's a neighbor who can give you a firsthand account.

: Hollin Hall Automotive, a Fort Hunt business that has stood the test of time. (Photo courtesy of the Harvey Family)

Alexandria, VA – An ode to the Fort Hunt neighborhoods surfaced on Next Door recently, titled “You May Be a Fort Hunter If…”, adopting comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s signature theme. Within hours, dozens of Fort Hunters added their two cents and a beautiful conversation ensued over the next few weeks.

From weeping with joy at the return of self-checkout lanes at the Fort Hunt Safeway to naming all the banks, drug stores, restaurants, and shops that have come and gone over the years, neighbors shared, reminisced, laughed, and loved all the idiosyncrasies that define this special area.

Readers lauded the Variety Store, deservedly so, not only for its longevity but also for its incredibly varied inventory, enabling parents of procrastinating students to get crucial items for last-minute school projects without having to venture far while dinner was in the oven.

The Variety Store’s friendly Dee Bodkin has been helping customers like Molly Singerling for 10 years. (Photo: Susan Fleischman)
Catie Hicks, Kiera Hope and Madison Reed can count on the Variety Store for school projects and just about anything else. (Photo: Susan Fleischman)

Fort Hunt High School alumnae joined in (was the class of ’74 really the best?) and residents gushed over the beloved potato salad that was a staple at Good Shepherd’s International Festival. (Someone tracked down and shared the decades-old recipe.)

People lamented all the cell phone calls dropped in the dead zone on Fort Hunt Road and marveled over morning coffee on the patio while foxes and deer scurried about. They shared traffic shortcuts, favorite hangouts, and the thrill of running into Martha Washington while grocery shopping.

Nostalgia quickly took over the conversation, with neighbors remembering the drive-in movie theater (it’s now a Costco), Hechinger’s (now Results Fitness), and even Power Video (now Snap Fitness). Some of the folks who chimed in grew up here, went off to college, traveled the world, then returned home to start a family and make a living. Of course, there are plenty who have never left. But even these long timers aren’t the only ones who sing the praises of the Fort Hunt corridor.

With the transient nature of the company town just up the road (ahem, the federal government), people come and go as elected officials arrive and depart every four, six, eight or more years. A large contingent of military families in all services also make their way through the area. Many seek homes in the neighborhood, if possible, and still more choose to return permanently when their active duty is complete.

On October 3, 2019, the Washington Post ran a story on the Fort Hunt neighborhood, heralding the 1950s suburban vibe of Little League and block parties in an area that’s not only an easy commute to the city but also mostly free from further growth and development.

Fort Hunt Little League games often draw a crowd. (Photo: Susan Fleischman)

The Next Door post was started by Hollin Hall resident Frazier O’Leary, founder of the Fort Hunt Community Business Association. O’Leary understands the attraction. “My wife and I moved here in 2001, and we quickly fell in love with the area,” he said. “It’s like living on a college campus. Everything you need is right here.” Libraries, schools, churches, neighborhood pools, ice skating, dog parks, banks, beautiful parks, and shopping galore—he’s exactly right. Go see a Fort Hunt Little League game for a taste of community support. Stop by the Variety Store if you need a toy, a kitchen gadget, candy, or maybe some material or buttons for that sewing pattern. Take a drive down the George Washington Parkway for a long look at the beautiful Potomac River, bordered by a busy trail full of walkers, joggers, and bikers. And if you ever want to know more about local history, chances are you have a neighbor who can give you a firsthand account.

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