Skip directly to the bottom if you want to be part of a little contest. Otherwise feel free to read through my
blathering extended explanation of context for a few moments.
I featured a nice Google Street View image of the historic Hume School in Arlington County, Virginia recently. It seemed familiar, and not because I’ve driven past it a thousand times but because I’d seen an eerily similar image not too long ago. It dawned on me that this was remarkably close to the winning design for the county tax sticker that will be placed on every motorized vehicle next autumn to cover the 2011/12 tax year.
I live in one of very few localities that still requires windshield decals to prove payment of annual automobile taxes. Many jurisdictions have done away with these stickers as superfluous. They haven’t done away with the tax of course, just the stickers. Arlington took the opposite tack and turned it into a contest, but that’s life here in the People’s Republic. Local high school students get an opportunity to participate in an annual design competition. The winner has his or her creation displayed on 155,000 vehicles for the following tax year. The Hume School will be stuck to windshields all over the county in a few months.
They’ve compiled quite a list of iconic images since beginning the contest in 2005. These are places that embody "Arlington" as distinct from the behemoth directly across the river, the District of Columbia. It’s not easy creating a distinct identity in the overpowering shadow of the capital of the United States, but that’s what the contest attempts to portray.
Surprisingly I couldn’t seem to find a comprehensive list of past winners so I had to do some Intertubes digging. I thought at the very least the county would have tracked these awards but I couldn’t find anything. I was able to compile a chronology of decals after some creative searching though. I’ve linked the locations to similar Google Street View images where they are available.
- 2011/12 – Hume School.
- 2010/11 – A bridge on the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) rail-to-trail in the snow. Street View doesn’t go down the trail so I can’t get very close to it.
- 2009/10- Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Again, Google Street View falls short, however satellite imagery is available.
- 2008/09 – Pentagon. This view also includes a memorial to September 11, 2001, which was still under construction when the Google car made its last pass.
- 2007/08 – U.S. Air Force Memorial.
- 2006/07 – Arlington House (Custis-Lee Mansion at present Arlington National Cemetery).
- 2005/06 – Key Bridge and Rosslyn skyline viewed from a frozen Potomac River. This is a great image even if everything but the skyline is actually part of Washington, DC.
I like many of the serious and not-so-serious contenders but my favorite view is:
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To me, the Marine Corps War Memorial, more commonly called the Iwo Jima Memorial, is truly the most striking and iconic image in Arlington. I’d thought this one was used on a decal sometime before but I couldn’t find a record of it. Maybe it was an also-ran from one of the years. I can’t remember anymore.
There are some other local features that have never been considered but might be viable future candidates. From a local history perspective as distinct from the nationally-recognized features, perhaps these would include the Charles Drew House where the famous doctor lived between 1920-1939, or perhaps Fort C.F. Smith (my page) which was part of the Civil War defenses of Washington, or maybe even my personal favority the West Cornerstone (my page).
What iconic image best represents your neighborhood? What view captures the very essence of your hometown (or other favorite place) in a single Google Street View frame? Simply take a moment to drop a link from Google Maps into a comment, below. You don’t have to provide an explanation unless you want to, or for the enjoyment and amusement of other readers. I have no idea how a winner will be declared but when it happens the victor will receive a hearty congratulations and perhaps some boost in personal pride. Maybe I’ll think of some other award too. Should we keep this open for a week? That sounds about right.
You’ve seen my iconic image. Can you do better?