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Reading 1963’s ‘The Reston Letter’

by Karen Goff June 11, 2014 at 4:30 pm 2 Comments

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Classic Reston is a biweekly feature sponsored by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce that highlights businesses, places and people with deep roots in Reston.

Before there was Reston Now, or Reston Patch, the Reston Connection or the Reston Times (now Fairfax Times), there was the Reston Letter.

In fact, the Reston Letter predates Reston residents.

The Reston Letter was a combination newsletter and marketing material aimed at updating readers about the progress of this “New town” to be built in the cow pasture near the new Dulles International Airport.

See the entire first Reston Letter here.

Volume I, Number I is part of the George Mason University Digital Archives. Let’s take a look at what it was saying about Reston in February of 1963:

Reston is a 10-mile square tract of gently rolling Virginia hill country, 18 miles west of Washington, D.C.  and four miles east of the newly opened Dulles International Airport. It is bisected by the airport’s high-speed access highway which takes travelers quickly in and out of the nation’s capital.

Comprising 6,800 acres, Reston could easily have been developed along well trod, conventional lines. Instead, Reston has been planned in a way that suggests a new, creative solution to the twin dangers inherent in America’s enormous population increase and rapidly changing pattern of living — unsightly suburban sprawl and haphazard urban spread.

The letter says Reston hopes to have a population of 75,000 by 1980.

It details the plans for Lake Anne Village Center to resemble a European village where residents can live and shop in the same place. “The first of the seven villages was started in October 1962, when work began on a 500-foot earth dam which will create a crescent-shaped 35-acre lake,” it reads.

The plans for housing units at Lake Anne are detailed, as well as plans for the south end of Reston, where 100 acres would be turned into low density housing surrounding a community horse stable.

“Bridle paths are to be laid out so they lead from the [horse] academy to one of the village centers,” the letter said. “This village will be planned so horse riders will be able to actually ride into town.”

The homes were eventually built (with horse homage street names such as Steeplechase and Paddock). The stables were in action for several years (though hitching the horse at the Hunters Woods Safeway never quite caught on). The barn later burned down, and the site at Steeplechase and Triple Crown is now Pony Barn Pavilion, a Reston Association park.

The early materials encouraged prospective residents that things were about to happen very quickly here.

“By Spring of this year, Reston will be a good place to visit,” the letter says. “By Spring of next year, Reston will be well on its way to becoming one of the best places in the nation in which to live.”

More than 50 years later, has Reston lived up to its marketing? Tell us in the comments.

  • vdiv

    “Unsightly suburban sprawl and haphazard urban spread”?!
    Yes, I’d say Reston has indeed lived up to that. Oh, wait… 🙂

  • Tim Barwick

    Is there a way to see later editions?

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