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Reston Then and Now: South Lakes

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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Reston Then and Now: Elden Street in Herndon

This week on Reston Then and Now we take our first foray into Herndon, moving a little west of the Reston Town Center. Fairfax County’s aerial photography shows how the shopping venues on Elden Street west of the Fairfax County Parkway have evolved over the years.

Herndon is a historic town, but the shopping centers along Elden Street are a relatively recent addition that followed the rise of Reston to the east.

The first of the shopping centers to spring up along Elden Street was Herndon Pines Shopping Center, which was established in 1959 but recently has faced continuing vacancies.

Further east, the the Herndon Centre was anchored by a Kmart built in 1976. The building was demolished in 2017 and is expected to be replaced by a Sprouts Farmers Market.

New development continued to spring up along the southern side of Elden Street from the 1990s onward, including the addition of the Safeway, SunTrust, and various shops in Herndon Marketplace.

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Reston Then and Now: Reston Station

This week on Reston Then and Now we move a little east of the Reston Town Center and use Fairfax County’s aerial photography to look at how the area around the the Wiehle-Reston East Station has changed over the years.

Like much of the Reston area, photography from 1960 shows the area as fields and farmland. While the Metro station wasn’t built until 2014, the area had some development as early as 1976. By 1990 the area was starting to show increasing levels of development along the Dulles Access Road.

Between the 1990 and 2009, new construction tailed off except for the BAE systems building along Sunset Hill Road. But following the Metro station’s construction, including the 180,000-square-foot Reston Station office building scheduled to open in 2020.

Now, the Reston Station area is on track to continue its expansion over the next few years. A new fire station is planned near the Isaac Newton Square redevelopment at the northern edge of Reston Station.

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Reston Then and Now: Reston Town Center

If there’s an area that represents the opposite of the sleepy, village-style Lake Anne, it’s the Reston Town Center. Like we did with Lake Anne, Reston Now has used the Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer to put together aerial views of Reston Town Center as it has developed over the years.

Like much of Reston, aerial photography of the site up to 1960 shows open forest or farmland. However, while the rest of Reston started being developed and growing throughout the 1960s, the Reston Town Center would remain forest until the Mobil Land Development group began construction in 1988.

Photography from 1990 shows the very beginnings of the town center — a handful of central buildings at the main square surrounded mostly by parking lots to the west.

Throughout the 1990s, more buildings are constructed at the northern end of the site, but it isn’t until around 2002 that the Town Center fully expands to the Fairfax County Parkway in the west and the Dulles Access Road in the south.

A big park of this expansion is the creation of the West Market neighborhood at the western edge of the development. In 1993 the open pavilion, currently an ice-skating rink, was built and in 2000 the 18-story One Freedom Square and 16-story Two Freedom Square west of the main plaza were constructed.

From 2002 to 2017, most of the new development is filling out the spaces between the larger developments. Throughout the 2000s a parking garage and additional office and high-rise residential buildings were also constructed.

Much of the newer development is concentrated at the southern part of the Town Center along Sunset Hill Road, near where the Reston Town Center Metro station is scheduled to open in 2020.

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Reston Then and Now: Lake Anne

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 Lake Anne area has evolved since the lake’s creation.

Like many of Reston’s lakes, Lake Anne is not natural. Photography from 1960 shows the open fields and forests just two years prior to the first development on the site.

According to the Walker Nature Education Center, the lake was first built in 1962 to compensate for the increased water runoff caused by new developments. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Lake Thoreau, Lake Audubon, and Lake Newport were also built across Reston.

While some of the water in the lake comes from underground springs, most comes from rainfall and surface runoff. The lakes store water as it flows through streams to the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.

By 1976, ten years after it was founded, Lake Anne Village Center took the form is essentially remains in to this day. The center was designed by architect James Rossant to emulate the Italian coastal town of Portofino but with then-popular brutalist themes. The center was designed to be located within a half-mile of most homes in Reston at the time.

Over the next twenty years, the aerial photography shows development on the periphery around the central plaza, like new subdivisions built near Lake Newport to the north across Baron Cameron Ave. New residential developments also emerged on the south side of Lake Anne.

To the southwest, the Lake Anne Elementary School went through substantial upgrades in the 1990s, adding air conditioning throughout the building. In 2003, construction began on a $2.1 million addition and renovation of the school. Forest Edge Elementary School to the east also saw substantial growth between 1997 and 2017.

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Friday Morning Notes

The historic designation debate — In this opinion piece, the writer explores two historic designation issues in Herndon and Reston. [Greater Greater Washington]

Trout fishing season is here — You heard that right. The Fairfax County Park Authority invites you to fish for trout at Lake Fairfax Park. Season passes are available. [Fairfax County Park Authority]

Tishman Speyer sheds some land — The Pinkard Group paid $3.15M to acquire the 3.3-acre parcel at the corner of the Dulles Toll Road and Monroe Street in Herndon, part of the Woodland Park East development, from Tishman Speyer. [Bisnow]

Climate change in schools — Well, not in schools. The Fairfax County School Board passed a resolution last night calling on state and federal action on climate change. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

In the time machine — Flavors of Fall brought beer, wine, food and fun to Reston Town Center last weekend. Mercia Hobson offers a recap here.  [The Connection]

Photo by Lindi Mallison

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County Board Supports Proposed Soapstone Connector Route Amid Concerns about Historic Resources

County officials seek to proceed with construction of the Soapstone Connector, a major road extension between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road, amid concerns the path of the half-mile extension would disturb potentially historically significant buildings on Association Drive.

On Sept. 25, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to support the county’s proposed route for $169 million project because buildings on Association Drive are not likely eligible a historical designation on the national register. The board’s approval responds formally to a Virginia Department of Historic Resources letter that urged the county work with the Fairfax County Architectural Review Board (ARB)  to determine if the buildings on Association are historically significant.

Earlier this year, the ARB raised concerns that the 1916 Association Drive and ten office buildings on Association Drive could be eligible for National Register of Historic Places as a historic district. The county’s environmental assessment of the property did not concur with the ARB’s analysis.

Construction of the connector, which will create a new crossing over the Dulles Corridor, is not anticipated to begin until after 2023.

Tom Biesiadny, director of the county’s transportation department, said the county was ready to pitch its proposed route in January when concerns about the historical significance of the buildings arose. After direction from state officials, the department consulted with boards, agencies, property owners and developers to determine how to proceed. Two historic studies commissioned by architectural historians offered conflicting opinions on the historical significance of the buildings, which served educational associations.

If the state’s historic resources department determines the proposed route of the Soapstone Connector impacts historic resources on the site, county officials will need to mull additional alternates to avoid disturbing any historic resources. But county officials hinted the overall discussion on the impact of possibly historically significant buildings was largely moot because the entire office park is slated for potential redevelopment as a mixed-use project. Reston’s comprehensive plan was amended in 2014 to allow high-density development in the area and property owners have long expressed eagerness to proceed with redevelopment.

“I think you’re looking at an uphill climb to preserve this area as a district,” said Frank Selden, director of the Fairfax County’s Department of Planning and Zoning.

Biesiadny also said the future road connection would run through the building on 1904 Association Drive, which is not likely of historical significance. The building that is likely historically significant is 1916 Association Drive and lies on the opposite side of where the connector would run through.

The board indicated overall support of the project, which it formally approved several years ago. Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said the connector was desperately needed to manage traffic generated by additional redevelopment and development.

“This would be an additional north-south crossing of which we have two that are already congested and [are] desperately in need of an alternative,” Hudgins said. She also suggested the county and the developer could acknowledge the historical significance of the buildings through other means.

An attempt to defer the vote to the board’s next meeting failed.

“This is not something that hasn’t been vetted and worked through,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova.

Although the state transportation department is procuring a consultant to design the Soapstone Connector, design work cannot begin unless state officials are aware of the final road alignment.

Photo via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Hunter Mill Road Historical Tour Set for Late August

Want to learn more about the history behind Hunter Mill Road? Reston Association is offering a narrated bus tour conducted by local historian and tour guide Jim Lewis in late August.

The tour will take place on August 29 from 8:30-11:30 am. Attendees will get a chance to see locations of military forts, encampments, structures, cemeteries, mill sites and old roads. The tour will also stop by Confederate earthworks.

Attendees will get on and off the bus to check out local treasures up close. Registration is $35 for RA members and $42 for all others.

File photo 

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Learn How Reston Defined Itself through Vintage Advertising

Reston received a lot of press attention back during its initial development stages, but what really helped attract people to live and work in Reston was the marketing, said local graphic designer Chris Rooney.

The Reston-centric advertisements of yore primarily ran in The Washington Post and the now-defunct Washington Evening Star.

“These ads first appeared at the genesis of Reston when it was being developed,” said Rooney. “Without these ads, I don’t think that Reston would become what it is today, attracting people here today and making it what it is now.”

Rooney will conduct an event at the Reston Community Center next Thursday (May 10) at 7 p.m., entitled “Reston Hears Voices: The Marketing of a New Town.” The event will focus on how the town defined itself through marketing and advertising from the early 1960s through the first 10 years of Reston’s existence.

Over 70 newspaper advertisements have been collected for the event, all spanning the time from when construction on Reston’s first village center started to when the town reached a population of 10,000.

The event will probably offer “things that the audience hasn’t really seen before,” said Alexandra Campbell, the Reston Historic Trust’s executive director. “So that certainly will be a nice aspect to it.”

Photo via the Reston Historic Trust

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Reston Historic Trust and Museum Seeks New Leader

The search for a new executive director at the Reston Historic Trust & Museum is on. 

Elizabeth Didiano is leaving her position, as she relocating. Didiano, who began her position in January, said is especially proud that she and the organization’s board of trustees were able to set RHT’s foundation to continue to grow as an organization and reach new audiences through programs and events.

“In 2017, we launched our inaugural Lake Anne Cardboard Boat Regatta, and I feel fortunate to have been a part of such a fun event. I am sure the new Executive Director with the help of the RHT’s Board of Directors and volunteers, will explore many wonderful opportunities to share Reston’s history with our community and beyond,” she said.

RHT is a non profit organization that was founded in 1997 to preserve the past, inform the present and influence the future of Reston. The executive director is responsible for managing daily operations of the museum, including donations to museum archives, oversight of the bookkeeper, fundraising, and recruitment and training of volunteers. The head also participates in community events, including the annual home tour in October. 

Ideal candidates will have a Master’s degree or equivalent experience in urban planning, museum studies, history, architecture or another related field. Strong organizational skills are required and fluency in the use of social media and other emerging technologies is preferred. The complete job description is on RHT’s website.

To apply, candidates should send a cover letter, resume, and salary requirements to Shelley Mastran. The salary is negotiable.

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Local Program to Highlight Buildings Under Threat, Preservation Challenges

The Reston Historic Trust & Museum will host a discussion on present-day challenges in preserving pieces of the past. The program, led by John Burns, chief appeals officer for the National Park Service, will examine several significant local structures including Lake Anne Village Center, the demolished American Press Institute building and a building in Herndon under threat.

The event will take place on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the JoAnn Rose Gallery at Reston Community Center. The presentation will include an explanation about the National Register of Historic Places, the government’s official list of sites worthy of preservation.

Burns will discuss current issues in preserving the former API building, which was demolished last year to make way for a townhouse development project in Reston. The building was designed by 20th Century architect Marcel Breuer. The demolition effort drew vocal opposition from preservation activists and residents.

The program will also include a discussion on the Center for Innovative Technology campus, a 26-acre sprawl of land in Herndon that is being pitched for Amazon’s HQ2. Loudoun and Fairfax counties are pushing to propose the site.

Burns makes decisions about appeals of projects denied certification for federal rehabilitation tax incentives. He has also worked as the assistant director of heritage preservation assistance programs for the NPS. He currently serves as chairman of the Fairfax County Architectural Review Board.

The event is free, but seating is limited.  To make a reservation, call 703-709-7700 or email [email protected]

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Presentation Tonight Will Explore How Reston Was Created

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.

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Longtime Photographer Captured History of Reston Community Center

Reston Community Center recently bid a fond farewell to a woman who has been documenting its history for more than three decades.

Staff photographer Linda Rutledge, who had been with RCC since 1981, retired from the position last week. Leila Gordon, RCC’s executive director, said the impact Rutledge has had on the organization over the years has been practically immeasurable.

“We have a massive and fabulous photo archive from RCC’s very earliest years,” Gordon said. “We’ve been very close, and her history with RCC is very much intertwined with the history of this agency, this institution itself.”

Reston Community Center opened in 1979.

Linda Rutledge/Reston Community CenterGordon said Rutledge has not only a keen eye for photography, but a “tremendous degree of institutional memory” that made her an extremely valuable employee.

“We will be very hard-pressed to replace, and we’ll just have to grow again, Linda’s tremendous knowledge of Reston,” Gordon said. “You didn’t have to give her instructions or a shoot list, or say ‘Be sure that you get so-and-so.’ She just knew, she just absolutely knew where the people she needed to shoot were.”

Rutledge’s ability to capture a moment in a photo, showing the emotion of a situation, was another quality Gordon praised.

“[She could] focus on a spontaneous humanity of a setting, not taking pictures at an event that are just people standing and smiling for the camera,” the executive director said. “Her photographs are beautiful because they show people doing things and engrossed in those things that were part of their RCC experience.”

Gordon said she fully expects that Rutledge will not be able to completely separate herself and her camera from Reston Community Center.

“She loves the Multicultural Festival, and she loves our [Dr. Martin Luther] King celebration events, so there are some things like that I imagine she’ll still want to contribute photographs to,” Gordon said. “There are some things that Linda says she just wouldn’t feel she is alive if she missed.”

Photos courtesy Reston Community Center/Linda Rutledge

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Black History Month: Hudgins Family Found Acceptance in Reston

Cathy Hudgins headshotEditor’s Note: February is Black History Month. Reston Now recently asked Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, who has lived in Reston since 1969, to share her memories of arriving in the community after her family had difficulty finding acceptance in other places.

“[My two sons] went to school here, but schools were different. They were Virginia schools and we really did have to do some work as parents, as well as as a community. This community was very overt in saying to the Fairfax County school system, ‘Equity is not here.’ We saw overt discrimination and we had to speak up.”

“Lake Anne Elementary was the first school built here, and a group of families… realized that the history of Virginia that [schools were] teaching kids was not the history of real Virginia, and we don’t want our kids to learn just one side. This is not just African-American families, all families were saying that. ‘This isn’t the history.’ And so they went out and said, ‘We’ll help you create a curriculum, because this isn’t what we want.’ Those kinds of things took place often.”

“Coming here, we found it very welcoming. We found people who were looking for the same thing that we were looking for, and that was to be able to bring our children and raise them here. [The children] got the opportunity to not only live with people like them, but with people of all different environments. That was the richness of what I think this has done for us as a family. It has been, I think, what makes Reston one of the really great places to live.”

Do you have a personal story about Black History in Reston you would like to share? Please contact [email protected].

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Black History Month: Looking Back on Simon’s Thoughts on Race

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.

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