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Reston Then and Now: South Lakes

by Vernon Miles January 11, 2019 at 3:30 pm 0

This week on Then and Now, we’re going back to our roots as seeing how Reston’s iconic lakes have changed over the years. With help from Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer, which offers aerial views of the county dating back to 1937, Reston Now has put together a review of how the area around Lake Thoreau and Lake Audubon has evolved since the lake’s creation.

Like Lake Anne, there was no “South Lakes” in photography from 1960. Reston as a planned community was founded in 1964. Before that, much of what is the South Lakes were forests with a few cut-through roads. Interestingly, where Lake Audubon would be built later there was a large pond.

Lake Thoreau and Lake Audubon were built as reservoirs collecting the runoff created by the rapid urbanization nearby. Lake Thoreau was built in 1970 and Lake Audubon was built in 1971, though from the aerial photography there wasn’t much of a “lake” about Audubon until the late 1980s.

One of the earliest large scale developments in the area was the South Lakes High School, which opened in 1978 on 600 acres of land with an “open classroom” design.

The school was not broken into individual classrooms, a plan teachers and students discovered early on was ineffective and distracting. They wound up building temporary barriers until more permanent ones built in 2006 killed the open classroom idea for good.

Langston Hughes Middle School was originally an intermediate school for South Lakes High School, but in 1980 it was officially renamed the Langston Hughes Intermediate School, then Langston Hughes Middle School in the early 1990s.

By 1980, new residential developments had sprung up along the northern and southern edges of Lake Thoreau.

In 1984, the South Lakes Shopping Center opened, marking the last major shift in the area, though the design of that area could be undergoing some visible changes.

Between 1990 and 2017, most of the changes to the area involved the filling in of residential developments in the vicinity of the lake. In 2006, South Lakes High School also expanded and the aforementioned open-space classroom model was eliminated.

If you enjoyed this piece, check out our Then and Now coverage of:

If there are any places in Reston you would like to see covered as a Then and Now feature, let us know in the comments.

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