Photo: Tazeen Ahmad
Charles Dunbar, dressed in burgundy and gold, relaxed with old friends on the grassy patch across the street from the Green Valley Pharmacy, discussing Monday night’s Redskins win over the Giants, and reminiscing about old times. The men were all grateful for the unusually warm weather on a December afternoon.
Music blared from an old blue truck. The intersection of Shirlington Road and S. 24th Street was full of life and laughter. Most people, whether they were hanging out in the parking lot, spontaneously dancing to the beat or heading into the pharmacy for medicine or a cold soda, seemed to know and care about each other.
“This is a gathering spot. This is a neighborhood place where everyone comes. We have a thriving community and people love to come down here and sit and talk,” said Hazel Brown, a long-time volunteer and assistant to the pharmacy owner, Leonard “Doc” Muse.
Muse founded the pharmacy with a partner in 1952. The business is the first known African-American owned pharmacy in Arlington County. The county board is expected to name the site a historic district at their January 26, 2013, meeting.
“Our customers, they have been encouraging it. People have been coming in and saying this is something that should be kept,” Muse said in a recent interview.
He said he would like to see the pharmacy continue to thrive and be there for the community. A letter to the Historical Affairs and Landmarks Review Board dated November 2009 asked for the designation.
Muse wrote, “With the community outcry and public recognition of preserving the ‘Green Valley Pharmacy’ as one of Arlington County’s historical properties, I am attaching a petition from the community.” It contained 143 signatures from patrons and neighbors of the pharmacy.
“Just from the research, knowing all the struggles and challenges that Dr. Muse and his original partner must have encountered to establish the business and the fact that it stayed such an overwhelming part of the community, and it is held in such high regard since 1952, it becomes very obvious that Dr. Muse views this [the pharmacy] as his legacy,” said Cynthia Liccese-Torres, a historic preservation planner with the county’s historic affairs department. She is the staff liaison on this project to the HALRB.
The proposed historic designation still has to go through two steps before being presented to the county board. On Dec. 13 it will be reviewed by the Long Range Planning Committee which is a sub-committee of the Arlington County Planning Commission. Then on Jan. 14, it will go before the full planning commission after which it will be sent to the county board for final approval.