Preserved & Developed: Arlington Main Post Office and Dan Kain Building

Preserved & Developed: Arlington Main Post Office and Dan Kain Building

Preserved & Developed is a weekly series of articles by Preservation Arlington highlighting local development projects that have involved both development of a site and preservation of historic resources. The projects highlight a wide range of challenges and solutions over many years. At the time they were completed the projects represented a commitment by the developer and the community to embrace the future and preserve the past. Preservation Arlington is awarding each project a gold, silver, or bronze star based on the extent to which the project protected historic resources within its particular constraints. gold-star

One of the most substantial and exciting renovations when it was first approved, this Clarendon project is already standing the test of time due to an excellent level of architectural detail and site planning that makes this project look as if it has always been there. But this is only partially true.

The Dan Kain Building at 3100 Washington Boulevard, a great example of Streamline Moderne, started out in 1945 as an appliance retailer and had several other uses before the mid-1960s, when Dan Kain Trophies moved in. The long-time store owner remained in the building until 2004. DanKain

The building was designated a Arlington County Local Historic district in 1988 and serves not just as a visual landmark but also as an excellent representation, through its distinctive materials and design, of Clarendon’s growing commercial core in the 1950s. It now holds the popular Lyon Hall restaurant. (Read more about the building on the Arlington County website.)

The other significant historic building on this site is the Joseph L. Fisher (Arlington) U.S. Post Office at 3118 Washington Boulevard. A nearly perfect example of Federal New Deal architecture and investment, this 1937 structure is the first federal building built in Arlington and an Arlington County Local Historic District (1984). It is also listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register (1985) and is part of a National Register Historic District (1986).

PostOffice Today it is still a very important civic building, visual landmark, and active part of the community. (In 2000 the Arlington Post Office was renamed the Joseph L. Fisher Post Office, a U.S. Representative from the 10th District of Virginia.) The building materials, its prominent corner location, and interior murals depicting a wide range of historic events related to the history of Arlington make it a truly valuable historic resource. (Read more about this building on the Arlington County website.)

Using Arlington County’s complex and flexible site plan process, this site has been preserved and transformed into a development that serves as premier example of 21st-century planning incorporating historic preservation, excellent urban design, unprecedented mixed-use components, and very strong architectural details. Approved in July 2003 by the Arlington County Board, the development included a General Land Use Plan (GLUP) Amendment and a 4.1 site plan, which involves extensive negotiated details on the site design, architecture, engineering, and community benefit of the project, including agreements for the restoration and preservation of the two existing historic buildings.


The project is a true mixed-use development with six unique different components on a 2.5-acre site. The site includes: residential units; live-work units; retail; office; USPS distribution facilities and offices; and USPS retail space. The overall mix in uses is 60% residential and 40% commercial. The buildings meet County goals for Clarendon by preserving and restoring a significant community facility, creating a smaller-scale office building, and establishing retail along major pedestrian routes. The site plan process allowed the developer to move the density from the protected buildings to other portions of the site.

DanKainHistoricThe developer and County reached an agreement to preserve and restore the buildings on the north block as part of a Preservation Scope of Work, subject to review and approval by both the HALRB and the Secretary of Interior. The scope of work also includes the conservation, presentation, and interpretation of the seven murals in the historic Arlington Main Post Office. In addition to the compatible architecture, the development also included a fill-in building that was built between Dan Kain and the Post Office. What was once a driveway entrance is now a relocated Clarendon retailer, A1 Clarendon Valet, at 3110 Washington Boulevard. Preservation and restoration of the Arlington Main Post Office and the Dan Kain Building was estimated at $2,200,000.

The staff report supporting this project when it came before the July 2003 County Board hearing is available online.

This project is an exciting top-notch example of preserving and developing a site–one in which the County, the community, and the developer worked together for an attractive and inspiring solution that serves many needs.

Preservation Arlington is pleased to kick off our weekly Preserved & Developed series with this GOLD STAR project.

(Historic photo of Dan Kain building is courtesy of the Arlington Public Library; historic photo of the post office comes from the National Register nomination/National Park Service.)

This project was developed by Keating Partners.

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