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by Dave Emke September 20, 2017 at 10:15 am 3 Comments

A pair of local historians will tell the tale of Reston’s early days tonight at Lake Anne Plaza.

Kristina Alcorn and Chuck Veatch will present “Meant to Be: How Reston Almost Wasn’t” at 7 p.m. at the Jo Ann Rose Gallery at Reston Community Center (1909A Washington Plaza). The public program is being put on by the Reston Historic Trust and Museum.

According to information provided by the museum, the presentation will “delve into the chain of improbable events and the forks in the road that paved the way for the creation of Reston.”

Veatch was a member of Reston’s original development team, coming to the community in 1964 to work with founder Bob Simon and handle Reston’s first home sales. He is also photographer and publisher of the book “The Nature of Reston.”

Alcorn is the author of “In His Own Words: Stories from the Extraordinary Life of Reston’s Founder.” To write the book, she spent two years interviewing Simon.

The program is free, but seating is limited and reservations are encouraged. For more information or to RSVP, call 703-709-7700 or email [email protected].

Photos provided by Reston Historic Trust and Museum. Top, Chuck Veatch with Bob Simon. Bottom, Kristina Alcorn.

by Dave Emke August 4, 2017 at 2:45 pm 11 Comments

Lake Anne Village Center, which was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places, faced some challenges on its path to becoming the nation’s first zoned planned-unit community.

So did its champions as they worked diligently to have its history nationally recognized.

Shelly Mastran and Cheryl Terio-Simon, longtime residents who are chair and vice chair — respectively — of the Reston Historic Trust and Museum Board of Directors, spent several years compiling the information required to seek the NRHP designation.

Mastran said they began working on the process in 2011, submitting written narratives at the state level to justify the social and historical significance of the Village Center. The state’s Department of Historic Resources then encouraged them to continue their effort to the national level.

But the quest for NRHP recognition was halted for a time, Terio-Simon said, as some worried it may hinder potential growth in the plaza through proposed redevelopment — something she said would not have been affected by the designation. In addition, Mastran said, the women began to feel daunted by the amount of work the process entailed.

“A lot of the process involves data entry, in the state’s database,” she said. “Every single property has to be individually described in the database, in a very particular way.”

There are more than 100 properties within the boundaries of the designated zone. The women ended up hiring an intern to help them do the data entry, while Vern Wingert was tasked with taking photographs of all the properties.

“We gave [the National Park Service] much more than they probably wanted,” said Terio-Simon, widow of Reston founder Bob Simon. “But we thought as long as we were doing the research, we’d put everything in there.”

The boundaries of the nationally designated area also include all of Lake Anne, which was made at the same time as the village center. All residents who live within 300 feet of the lakefront needed to be notified of the nomination.

“If more than 50 percent of the owners within the district protested, it could fail,” Mastran said. “I don’t think any [did].”

(more…)

by Dave Emke July 31, 2017 at 9:00 am 21 Comments

Silver Line Struggling to Maintain Riders — Phase 1 of Metro’s Silver Line expansion fueled an unprecedented building boom in areas adjacent to its five stations, the Washington Post reports. However, the line has struggled to attract riders in the three years since it opened. Only the Wiehle-Metro East station is even close to projected ridership numbers. [Washington Post]

Remembering Bob Simon — In a piece for an English-language Indian newspaper, Manish Nandy remembers the stories Bob Simon told him during daily walks around Lake Anne. [The Statesman]

‘White Liberals Give Themselves Too Much Credit’ — In an opinion piece for an “intersectional feminist” magazine, a Restonian looks back on the death of Nabra Hassanen, saying that hate lives here and everywhere. [Wear Your Voice]

Work Today at Park & Ride — The access road to the Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride will have daytime lane closures for paving from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. Drivers should watch for flaggers, who will help direct traffic around the lane closures. [Fairfax County]

Teavana Stores Shutting Down — Starbucks announced last week will close all 379 of its Teavana stores, which it says have been underperforming. This will include the store in Reston Town Center (1826 Library St.). [CNN Money]

Get Ready for Terraset — All rising Terraset kindergarteners are invited to the Terraset playground from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays in August to meet classmates and play on the new Terraset playground. The August kindergarten play dates are sponsored by Terraset Elementary School and Terraset Elementary Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). Representatives from the PTO will be on hand Aug. 2 and Aug. 9 to answer parent questions. No RSVP is required. [Terraset Parent Teacher Organization]

by Dave Emke July 18, 2017 at 5:00 pm 16 Comments

Restonians know how historic Lake Anne Plaza is.

Now, that historic significance has been made official by the National Park Service, as the Lake Anne Village Center Historic District has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Lake Anne Village Center, the first village of the planned community of Reston, was constructed between 1963 and 1967. According to a press release from the Reston Historic Trust and Museum:

[Lake Anne Village Center] is considered to be nationally significant in the areas of both social history and architecture.

As the first village of the planned community of Reston, Virginia, it is part of the nation’s first zoned planned unit community. Additionally, it is socially significant because it articulates its founder’s seven goals, as well as Mr. [Bob] Simon’s insistence on an integrated community in the Commonwealth of Virginia prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Lake Anne Village Center’s influences derive from the English Garden City movement, as well as European plazas and the townhouses of urban areas of the northeastern United States. The complex, designed by the New York architectural firm of Conklin Rossant, features Brutalist-influenced architecture tempered by its human scale and medieval elements. For its era, the complex presented a shockingly modern design in a Northern Virginia dominated by single-family Colonial Revival homes.

Lake Anne Village Center showcased the new town movement, with social, architectural and land-use development innovations — elements internationally recognized today for influencing subsequent planned developments in the U.S. and around the world.

Lake Anne Village Center was named a Fairfax County Historic District in 1983. In March, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources included the Lake Anne Village Center Historic District in the Virginia Landmarks Register.

The American Institute of Certified Planners celebrated Lake Anne Village Center’s status as the nation’s first Planned Unit Community zone in 2002, when it designated Simon a “Planning Pioneer.”

[Simon] introduced urban living to the American suburban countryside at Lake Anne Village Center, created the nation’s first Planned Unit Community zone, and founded a community of international renown dedicated to social openness, citizen participation, and the dignity of the individual.

Elizabeth Didiano, executive director of the Reston Historic Trust and Museum, said the new federal designation will “bring awareness to the property’s significance and encourage property owners to preserve their property through historically sensitive improvements.”

“Property owners within the historic district may also qualify for Federal or Virginia Rehabilitation Tax Credits (RTC) through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for substantial improvements to the exterior of their buildings,” Didiano said.

She said the federal listing will not provide any further restrictions on property owners to use private funds for development.

Images courtesy Reston Historic Trust and Museum

by Dave Emke February 8, 2017 at 2:45 pm 13 Comments

Bob Simon Black History Speech/YouTube screengrab

Robert E. Simon founded Reston in 1964 on the principle that it would be inclusive for all. Six years ago this month, during a Black History Month event at the Reston Historic Trust and Museum, a 96-year-old Simon shared some of his thoughts about racial inclusion.

His words, which are available on YouTube, are transcribed below:

“The story is something I read in the New Yorker magazine. In those days, if you wanted to go from one coast to the other, you had to change trains in Chicago. After Chicago, there were no more cars where you could get food. You got off the train and went into Harvey Houses.”

“So, the story tells of this troop train. Black soldiers transporting white prisoners from one place to the other. After Chicago, they stopped at the Harvey Houses – the prisoners were put in the dining room and the soldiers were put in the kitchen. Well, that really blew my mind.”

“And so when I got started here, it was inconceivable that we would not be an open community. [unintelligible] It wasn’t that great an idea to some fellow Virginians at the time. The brokers outside of Reston were prone to say ‘That’s communist.'”

“At any rate, the rest of the history is pretty heart-warming. You have, I think I heard someplace, 100 different languages. I don’t know if that’s possible. But we do have enormous diversity here.”

“At the moment, if you want to pick on ethnic origin, it’s not so much Black. At the moment it’s Latino, which is very interesting, what’s going on in the world, if you think about it — how hate can be transferred.”

Simon died in September 2015 at the age of 101.

H/T Restonian. Screen grab via YouTube.

by Dave Emke January 19, 2017 at 2:45 pm 123 Comments

Reston Concerned Citizens Group

The morning of Nov. 9, Margot Lebow was beside herself.

“The day after the election [of President-elect Donald Trump], most of us were in the dark in fetal positions,” the longtime Reston resident said.

Lebow and friends Donna Shaffer and Susann Gerstein simply could not believe the direction the nation had turned in. So they made plans to gather at Cafe Montmartre in Lake Anne Plaza for a “hug.”

But Shaffer thought more people might be in need of a place to gather and talk. So she posted the invite on Facebook.

“We had about 45 people who showed up, and many of them we’d never seen before,” Shaffer said.

At that meeting — and a subsequent one that had an even greater turnout — teachers, children, immigrants and more were given a platform to speak and share their concerns about what the future may bring.

“That kicked off a very powerful discussion,” Gerstein said.

So was born a community activism group the women say is designed to show support for those who feel threatened — and to make sure the principles laid out by Reston founder Robert E. Simon are remembered and followed.

“The wonderful thing about this, honestly, is that it isn’t just old-time Restonians putting our arms around each other,” Gerstein said. “It’s the second and third generation in this community who really do understand what the value system was that created this community.”

Simon, who in 1961 purchased 6,750 acres that would become Reston, founded the community on seven principles — among them, that the importance and dignity of each individual be a focal point of community development.

The women who gather at Cafe Montmartre considered themselves longtime friends of Simon. They said they fear a new zeitgeist that normalizes bullying, mistreatment of others and political incorrectness will result in the “importance and dignity of each individual” being forgotten.

“In a personal sense of what’s right and what’s wrong, the morality of this coming administration is truly frightening,” Lebow said. “Everything is contrary to what we believe as a community, to what we believe as individuals.”

The women say their group isn’t rooted in politics, but rather in ensuring a proper sense of community is maintained in Reston. A separate group, Herndon-Reston Indivisible, has been founded to tackle purely political issues.

Lebow said the idea that Restonians look out for their fellow community members — no matter what race, religion or background — cannot be lost.

“That value system must persevere,” Lebow said. “That concept that is Reston needs to be expanded globally, or at least nationally.”

The women say they continue to plan the future of their group and hope to have more information about upcoming meetings soon. Their goals include continuing to support local charitable organizations including Cornerstones in their efforts.

“It’s really just about respecting people who are different than you,” Gerstein said. “In Reston, you really can put your arms around your neighbors and believe that somehow it will be all right.”

Jesse Bonfeld, Lebow’s husband, said the group understands how important it is to make sure everyone’s voices — not just the loudest — are heard.

“What really drove this was the realization that there are now people in power who have given the bully pulpit to a minority in this country whose values are diametrically opposed to what Bob Simon’s values were,” he said. “That is really the bottom line.”

Pictured: From left, Donna Shaffer, Margot Lebow, Susann Gerstein and Jesse Bonfeld meet at Cafe Montmartre in Lake Anne Plaza on Wednesday evening.

by Karen Goff April 11, 2016 at 10:15 am 8 Comments

Reston citizens, elected officials and old friends gathered at the Hyatt Regency Reston on Sunday to honor Reston founder Robert E. Simon.

Simon died in September at age 101, and there was no formal funeral or memorial service at that time. Sunday’s program, “In Celebration of the Life of Robert E. Simon Jr.,” served as a way for people to memorialize Simon, who would have turned 102 yesterday.

The gathering — which featured Simon’s favorite drink, a Danish Mary (Bloody Mary with Aquavit) — capped Founders Week activities in Reston.

The formal part of the service featured some of Simon’s favorite showtunes, including selections from Jerome Kern played by a string quartet and a piece commissioned with the Reston Chorale for Simon’s 100th birthday in 2014.

There was also a short film by Rebekah Wingert-Jabi, the director of Another Way of Living: The Story of Reston, VAThe film, made from some the footage from the longer-form Another Way of Living, captured some of Simon’s signature vigor and wit.

“From the waist up, I feel about 65,” he said on his 99th birthday. “From the waist down, I am about 125.” (more…)

by Karen Goff March 23, 2016 at 10:30 am 4 Comments

Bob Simon BookA new book about Reston founder Robert E. Simon Jr. will be released next month, just as Reston is celebrating Founders Day.

Simon died in September at age 101. Founders Day has been expanded to Founders Week (April 3-10) this year in order to accommodate the many tributes to Simon.

The author of the book, titled In His Own Words: Stories from the Extraordinary Life of Reston’s Founder, is Reston native Kristina Alcorn.

The book is a compilation of Bob’s life stories that “draw an intimate and entertaining portrait of the man many knew only from a distance,” Alcorn said. (more…)

by Karen Goff March 14, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

FOUNDERS WEEK1

To properly memorialize Reston Founder Robert E. Simon, the Reston Historic Trust, the Initiative for Public Art Reston and other local groups are greatly expanding Founders Day into Founders Week April 3 to 10.

Simon died in September at age 101. His 102nd birthday would have been April 10, 2016.

The celebrations will be a combo of art exhibits, films, and the traditional party on the plaza.

 The community Founders Day celebration on April 9 will feature a little (and a big) something extra — the addition of a ferris wheel and a recreation of a historical piece of Reston public art.

Founders Day at Lake Anne Plaza, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 9 . Free.

Join the Reston Historic Trust and Museum to celebrate Robert E. Simon, Jr. and Reston. Founder’s Day will feature a 50-foot Ferris wheel sponsored by Reston Association (RA), children’s activities, children’s art projects in cooperation with the Initiative for Public Art – Reston (IPAR), musical entertainment for all ages provided by local artists and schools, guided walks around Lake Anne Plaza in cooperation with IPAR and RA, and remarks by local elected officials.

On this special Founder’s Day, Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association (LARCA) and IPAR partnered to commission a new version of The Wooden Horse originally created by artist Gonzalo Fonseca in 1965. The sculpture was first installed on grass, as in a pasture, and was later moved to a brick walkway, not far from the building, another sculpture created by Fonseca.

Because both sculptures were made of wood, they have been lost to the effects of time. Like the other sculptures at Lake Anne Plaza, The Horse was meant to be played on. This new version of The Wooden Horse was constructed by Reston artist Marco Rando.

Here’s an overview of what else is on the Founders Day slate:

Emerging Visions: Contemplating Community at Greater Reston Arts Center, 12001 Market Street at Reston Town Center. Free.

(more…)

by Karen Goff January 11, 2016 at 10:30 am 0

Chesapeake Chocolates at Lake Anne/Courtesy Chesapeake ChocolatesFor four decades, there was a small post office — really, a counter — located inside Lakeside Pharmacy at Lake Anne Plaza.

Lakeside Pharmacy, the last of the plaza’s original stores, closed in 2014, and so did the postal operation. But even with the post office gone, is that an absolute neighborhood necessity in an Amazon.com and email world in 2016?

A current Lake Anne merchant thinks so and has started a fundraising campaign to bring it back.

Doris Tyler, the owner of Chesapeake Chocolates who also took over Lake Anne Florist in 2015, has started an effort to bring a post office across the plaza to her store space at 11426 Washington Plaza West.

The U.S. Post Office recently awarded Tyler the license for a Contract Postal Unit (CPU), a retail postal facility located inside a retail establishment. CPUs are operated by the retailer’s employees and offer the same basic services available at a regular Post Office, according to a Go Fund Me page started for the project.

She would like to name the space the Bob Simon Lake Anne Post Office after Reston’s late founder, who died in September. (more…)

by Karen Goff December 30, 2015 at 2:45 pm 1 Comment

 This week, Reston Now will highlight some of the most read-stories of 2015. The No. 3 story was the death of Reston founder Bob Simon.

Even though Robert E. Simon — who envisioned Reston where others saw just muddy pasture in the mid-1960s — was past the century mark, he lived his last years as active as a man half his age.

In any given week, Simon was at development meetings, Reston Association meetings, IPAR receptions. He could be seen on a his daily walk around Lake Anne Plaza or at his usual table at Cafe Montmartre. In May, he even filmed a Geico commercial, doing multiple takes under a blazing hot sun.

That’s why it came as such a shock to many when he died on Sept. 21 at his Heron House condo after a very short illness.

Read the original Reston Now obituary, as well as many other reflections of what the man meant to our community. Among them:

The Bronze Bob turns into a makeshift memorial.

A candlelight memorial for Simon.

Reflections from Sen. Janet Howell,  Del. Ken Plum and Reston Now editor Karen Goff on Simon’s death.

by Karen Goff November 25, 2015 at 11:30 am 3 Comments

LOGO-RestonMuseumThe Reston Museum and Historic Trust is embarking on a new fundraising campaign, one that asks Restonians to donate a buck for every year they have lived here.

Really, that’s no more than $50 or so since Reston is a fairly young community just heading towards its 52nd birthday.

The RHT is organizing the online fundraiser “to help support our mission and honor Robert E. Simon, Jr.’s legacy. The campaign is designed to help RHT collect $100,000 toward the retiring the mortgage, securing our space on Lake Anne Plaza for generations,” RHT officers said in a statement.

Founder Simon died in September at age 101.

The RHT has a goal of raising $100,000.The nonprofit would then be able to expand its outreach and educational programs; employ a full-time director; and retire the debt on the Reston Museum at Lake Anne Plaza.

To donate now, visit RHT’s Go Fund Me page.

by Karen Goff November 19, 2015 at 4:30 pm 0

Did you miss the candlelight vigil in honor of Reston founder Bob Simon on Sept. 25?

The event has been packaged into a 10-minute video featuring speeches from Reston dignitaries; kind words from friends, neighbors and citizens; and the moving sendoff lining Lake Anne Plaza.

The video tribute was produced byAround Reston’s Kat Toussaint and Mediavolution Visual Strategies LLC.

See the entire video on Mediavolution’s website.

Simon died on Sept. 21 at age 101.

Photo: Candlelight vigil on Sept. 25/Credit: Charlotte Geary of Modern Reston

by Karen Goff October 15, 2015 at 9:00 am 2 Comments

Simon at his beloved Lake Anne Plaza/file photoReston and founder Robert E. Simon’s legacy will be featured in a segment on WAMU’s (88.5) “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” Thursday at 12 p.m.

Nnamdi’s guests will include former Reston Association CEO Milton Matthews and
Roger Lewis, Architect and Professor Emeritus of Architecture, University of Maryland College Park.

WAMU says “Robert Simon, the brain behind one of America’s best-known models of planned suburban development, recently passed away. But he left behind a legacy in Reston, Va., that continues to influence how neighborhoods are conceived and developed. Architect and urban planner Roger Lewis joins us to explore whether planned communities function as Simon intended – and where they still fit into the fabric of the D.C. region.”

by Karen Goff October 13, 2015 at 11:00 am 0

Another Way of Living/Credit: Virginia Film Festival

Another Way of Living: The Story of Reston, VA, a documentary about Reston, will make its film festival debut at the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville on Nov. 7.

Award-winning filmmaker Wingert-Jabi, of Reston, has been working on the film for more than two years.

The documentary explores founder Robert Simonʼs unique vision for American life. While 1950s post-war suburban sprawl prioritized single-family homes, Simon dreamed ʻanother way of livingʼ that valued community, nature and social equity.

Simon set out to build a suburban town that integrated citizens across racial and economic divides. It wasn’t always an easy ride.

Many longtime Restonians are interviewed in the film, which also uses historical photos and items. Wingert-Jabi has filmed more than 250 hours of footage to create the 72-minute movie.

Wingert-Jabi says she hopes the legacy of Simon, who died last month at age 101, will live on through this film.

“The film shows how Simon’s vision was so powerful and touched upon such basic human values that it not only influenced the way the suburbs were developed in America but also guided the development of Reston over the last 50 years,” she says.

A rough cut of the film was screened for Reston VIPs in 2014 as part of Simon’s 100th birthday celebrations. Wingert-Jabi said much more work has been put into editing the film into its current format.

She said she is excited the film will be premiering here in Virginia.

“From the beginning, Reston was shaped by its Virginia context and it continues to grow in that context today,” she said. “The University of Virginia is an ideal setting to have a conversation about how Simon’s vision developed over 50 years and how it can inform community development moving forward.”

The screening will be followed by a conversation with Urban Land Institute Global CEO, Patrick Phillips; Virginia State Senator and Reston Resident, Janet Howell; Reston’s first salesman, Chuck Veatch; director Wingert-Jabi; and the University of Virginiaʼs Chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, Tim Beatley.

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