The Green Valley community finally has the chance to enjoy its newly redeveloped and extensively upgraded John Robinson Jr. Town Square.
Community leaders on May 7 formally dedicated the plaza, long an informal gathering point for the community. Owing to the weekend’s grungy weather, the event was moved to a nearby indoor venue.
Voters approved funding for the project in a 2018 referendum; County Board members in 2019 ratified the final procedural steps needed to move forward, including purchase of an adjoining parcel. A year later, board members approved a proposal from the local civic association to name it after Robinson (1934-2012), a civic activist who ran the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and published the Green Valley News.
For years, the square that served as a centerpiece of the community but was little more than some trees, chairs and benches. It sits where 24th Street South, South Kenmore Street and South Shirlington Road come together.
Even before the Civil War, the Green Valley community (alternately known as Nauck) was one of the rare enclaves in what is now Arlington where free African-Americans could live. After emancipation, more moved into the neighborhood. In recent years, increasing home values have led to a degree of gentrification, but some longtime residents and a number of important facilities (including churches and the local YMCA) remain.
The town square is located across the street from what had been the Green Valley Pharmacy, a community institution run for 65 years by Leonard “Doc” Muse, who died in 2017 at the age of 94. The pharmacy closed not long after his death, although plans to reopen the building as a restaurant have been advanced.
A marker outside testifies to the historic provenance of the pharmacy and the role played in civic life by Muse. Murals of Robinson and Muse by artist Romeo Taylor can be found on the side opposite the town square from the pharmacy building.