Four hundred years ago yesterday, July 30, 1619, a group of 22 colonists met in the wooden and mud church on Jamestowne Island as instructed by the investors of the colony “to establish one equal and uniform government over all Virginia” and to provide “just laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people there inhabiting.” They adjourned on August 4. That event is variously described as the beginning of representative government in America and as the beginning of the oldest continuous law-making body in the western hemisphere. It merits the commemoration it is receiving.
In order to fully understand the importance of a signature event as this one, I believe it is important to put it into perspective as our knowledge of what happened afterwards allows us to do. While termed the beginning of representative government, the first legislative meeting was anything but representative. Only white males could vote or serve in the Assembly. The indigenous people — called Indians because one of the purposes of sailing to this new world was to find a shorter route to India — were not able to participate even though they had inhabited the land for at least 15,000 years. Not only were they kept out of the Assembly, they were forced off their lands where they had their homes, governance, religion, and farms. In less than a half century the immigrants had taken over the land and displaced the indigenous people.
Nor could women take part in that first Assembly because they did not arrive in Virginia until 1619 and did not secure the vote until three centuries later! Enslaved people from Africa did not arrive in the colony until 1619 and not only were they not in the First Assembly but they were the subject of laws in subsequent sessions of oppressive slave codes that denied them basic human rights. It was necessary in the beginnings of the Assembly to belong to and pay taxes to the established church.
The history of Virginia and of America has been to move from this humble beginning and through decades and centuries of events to evolve into what is more closely a representative government. The planners of the events surrounding 1619 have correctly I believe termed it “evolution.” Contrary to what some may have us believe, our state and our country did not start out meeting the ideals and vision that we have. We have built on a humble beginning to evolve into the country we are today.
I trust that this important celebration will not be allowed to be taken over by an ignorance of what happened at Jamestowne and turned into a biased partisan view to justify the terrible actions of government today against people of color, people from other lands, and people in the LGBTQ communities. We do not need to try to return to a past that was much more imperfect than we sometimes care to admit. I am attending the Commemorative Session of the General Assembly to learn more about the past and how we can learn from our experiences and evolve further into a more perfect union. I will not be attending the session with POTUS.
In what’s become a familiar theme in Reston, the owner of a three-story office building on Old Reston Avenue wants to redevelop the 1980s structure into two three-story office buildings and a “campus-style’ setting.
The redevelopment project, which is located at 1856 Old Reston Avenue, is guided by the principles of “strength, dedication and permanence,” according to an application by the developer. The 5.2-acre site is also home to the historic A. Smith Bowman Manor House, which was built in 1899 and is listed on the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites.
The proposal by AP Reston Campus LLC, a subsidiary of the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association, is in its early stages. The county accepted the application for review earlier this month. AAFMAA bought the property in 2009 and has occupied it since 2010.
AAFMA said renovating the existing office buildings requires major capital investment, which is not feasible.
“Rather than continuing to invest in a 30 year old building, AAFMA anticipates a greater return on its investment by meeting market demand for modern, iconic, campus-oriented office buildings in close proximity to Reston Town Center,” according to the Feb. 19 application.
The company will preserve the manor house, a gazebo, pond and wall along Old Reston Avenue. A new landscaped garden is proposed behind the manor house.
A 45,000-square-foot office building is proposed on the north end of the property and a 94,000-square-foot office is proposing on the southern end. Both structures will be connected by an underground parking garage and shared conference facility. A 6,600-square-foot rooftop terrace will also run between the two buildings.
AAFMA said it is working with DBI Architects, Inc. to create a “innovative, sustainable, cutting -edge architectural statement along Old Reston Avenue,” according to the application. It hopes the new campus setting is an attractive backdrop to the Manor House.
The latest plan departs from the previously approved Boxwoods project, which would have brought 60 residential units to the site and converted the Manor House into a six-room hotel. The developer dropped those plans in 2009 to continue using existing office space on the site.
The Reston Planning and Zoning Committee will review the project tonight.
A legal representative for AAFMAA did not return a request for comment. A map of the proposed location is below.
Photo via Google Maps
For the final Reston Then and Now — a series where we’ve used Fairfax County’s aerial photography to track changes in the area — we’re looking at the area overall and at how far it’s come since its founding.
Reston was founded in 1964, but some of the paths that are roads today — like Baron Cameron Avenue — are still visible in photography from 1937. Reston’s iconic man-made lakes are also absent, leaving most of the area that’s Reston today just open fields.
By 1976 though — 10 years after Reston was founded — the region was starting to take shape in the neighborhoods around Lake Anne and Lake Thoreau. The village design envisioned by founder Robert E. Simon is still apparent in those early aerial photographs showing retail and residential areas clumped together.
But over the years, those isolated communities start to become increasingly interconnected to the point of being almost indistinguishable from above. By the mid-1990s, the only major patch of green space around Reston is Colvin Run near Lake Fairfax and southeast of Lake Anne.
After the Reston Town Center starts showing up in aerial photography in 1990 (construction began in 1988) the development starts to shift west of the original area and more toward major transit routes.
In the photography from 1990, construction also starts to bunch around the Dulles Toll Road in the Reston Station neighborhood. The Toll Road was built in 1982, and by the early 2000s, the urban centers of Reston shift away from the villages to the north and south and more towards the developments along the major highway. This density starts to ramp up in 2011 as the area builds up for the Silver Line’s opening in 2014.
The density continuing to focus around the Silver Line is poised to continue as developers plan new mixed-use buildings near Woodland Park by the planned Herndon Silver Line Metro station.
The Reston Then and Now series is going back to where we started for our penultimate episode: Lake Anne Plaza.
Anyone flicking through the photos overhead — taken from Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer — might have noticed that very little has changed at the plaza itself over the years.
But as the Lakeside Pharmacy icons show, there’s been plenty of changes in tenants and aesthetics over the years. While he’s somewhat dismissive of them as historic relics, Wayne Schiffelbein, a local artist and architect who once repainted and fixed up the icons at the owner’s request, said the icons and the damages to them tell the story of earlier unease between Reston and Herndon.
“We had people that lived in and around Herndon who did not take kindly to Reston being there, especially ‘northern folk’, like Jews and Blacks being there,” said Schiffelbein. “The people [in Reston] had college degrees. Not only were the houses more expensive, but they were driving better cars, and people knew that.”
Back in the 1960s, as Reston was first getting started, Schiffelbein said there was a lot of tension between Restonians and Herndon residents who would come into areas like Lake Anne Plaza and cause trouble.
Schiffelbein remembered summers where kids from Herndon would come over to his house by Lake Anne, climb onto the roof and jump out into the lake. Not exactly a campaign of terror, but Schiffelbein said the Reston residents were annoyed by the constant footfalls on the roof.
It was during these early years of class-tension that Schiffelbein said the drug store icons obtained the damages some of them still show.
“They discovered they could carry a sheath knife around,” Schiffelbein said. “The drug store had… soft wood. So the knifes would stick. There were tables in front of the drug store where you could have sat and had coffee while playing chess. They would throw their knives at the walls. It took a couple years, but it took chunks out of pieces of wood from the backing and pieces that were there. Toothbrush took a bunch of hits. Comb didn’t do much better. They dinged the bandaid.”
But it was Vietnam that partially put an end to the local turmoil, with many of the young men from Herndon swept up by the draft.
“Tensions with Reston and Herndon went down over time,” Schiffelbein. “Some of the Herndonites were drafted and some of them just grew up, and we’ll leave it at that. It’s something you do as a 15- and 16-year-old is not as appealing when you’re 22.”
In the 1990s, Schiffelbein said he was contracted to repaint and fix the icons after years of neglect.
“If I squint, it’s a flashback to the drugstore,” Schiffelbein said. “It was a real drugstore. It had a counter, some seats at the counter. It was old fashioned drug store. It was very nice. It was small, everybody knew everybody. But as the community grew that ebbed away.”
In the early days of the pharmacy, Schiffelbein said it catered mainly to the older residents at the Lake Anne Fellowship House.
“The older people used a lot of prescription drugs and that was before insurance companies required you to go to their pharmacy,” Schiffelbein said. “In the early years, they would amble across the road and fill 50 or 60 scripts a day. There was a stream of people going into the drug store. A lot of New Yorkers and New Jerseyites moved to Reston in the early years. There was an old man there who played the races. The owner got racing forms every year. I remember that as clear as a bell, I can still see the man’s face.”
For more Reston Then and Now, check out these earlier stories and come back next week for final Then and Now:
This week on Then and Now, we’re going back to South Lakes to take a look at Lake Audubon.
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 look at how the lake has evolved from overhead and under the surface.
Audubon is the largest of Reston’s lakes in both it’s acreage — 43.5 acres — and it’s extensive watershed covering 1,558.5 acres.
While Lake Thoreau holds 26.5 million gallons of water, it’s southern twin holds 133.6 million gallons.
Lake Audubon and Lake Thoreau were conceived to be one lake, then named Lake Elsa. The lake was impounded in 1971 and was named for Reston founder Robert Simon’s mother.
But in 1979 the South Lakes dam bisected the property and split the lake, creating Lake Thoreau in the North and Lake Audubon in the south.
For years, the southern area closed off by the dam, but for years afterwards remained a dry pit. During the 1980s, the lake was filled in with water.
But while the lake shows very little change from above between 1997 and 2017, there were plenty of changes taking place beneath the water’s surface. In those years, several new species of aquatic wildlife was introduced to the lake, including:
- Redear Sunfish
- Black Crappie
- Brown Bullhead
- American Eel
In more recent years, the levels of contamination in the water continue to be a problem, caused in large part by the lake’s large surface area. According to a 2017 report on Reston’s lakes, Lake Audubon’s has faced increasing amounts of toxic algae that pose an ecological threat to the lake.
For more Reston Then and Now, check out:
In a hunt for good local reads, Reston Now has recently been reaching out to Reston and Herndon book stores for book suggestions about local history or written by local authors.
Reston’s Used Book Shop weighed in with its top local picks for book lovers — all of which can be found on the shop’s shelves at 1623 Washington Plaza.
The book shop has called Lake Anne Plaza home for more than 40 years. Founded in 1978 by Restonians Sue Schram and Sue Wensell, the book shop changed owners in 1999, according to its website.
Readers looking to unearth Reston’s secrets might enjoy the shop’s recommendation of “Myths and Monsters of Reston, Virginia: The Phenomenal and Frightening Findings of Dr. Padraigin W. Thalmeus, PDS.” written by local authors Eric Macdicken and Kristina Alcorn.
Reston’s Used Book Shop provided this book description:
Every town has myths, but not every town has monsters. Reston, Virginia could be the most monstered town in all the world! At least according to the recently unearthed journal of the scholarly yet skittish Dr. Padraigin W. Thalmeus, PDS., circa 1819. Join our team of modern day paranormal researchers as we discover the supernatural creatures that Dr. Thalmeus faced on his perilous quest for a legendary hidden treasure. Perhaps these myths and monsters are still haunting to this day!
Reston’s Used Book Shop had two more suggestions that Reston Now covered in previous bookstore roundups.
The book shop suggested another book by Alcorn — “In His Own Words” — that was previously recommended to Reston Now by the Reston Historic Trust and Museum (Alcorn is the vice-chair of the Reston Historic Trust’s board).
The shop also selected “Reston A to Z” by Watt Hamlett, which was recommended by Mascot Books to Reston Now.
Tell us in the comments if you’ve read these or have other local reading suggestions for book lovers.
Photo courtesy Reston’s Used Book Shop
But what’s happened in the years since then?
In short: not much.
“The short answer is that we don’t have any additional information, including whether this was a slave cemetery,” Brian Worthy, a public information officer for Fairfax County government said in an email. “As far as I know, there are no preservation protections in place, and there no redevelopment proposals for this location.”
County records say the story of the potential cemetery is tied with that of Mildred Johnson, the matriarch of a prominent local family of Union loyalists. The Johnson family owned hundreds of acres of farmland in Fairfax, with one son fighting for the Union and Mildred Johnson herself sewing sacks for Union soldiers.
The Johnsons owned slaves, including one female slave held by the family for 20 years, and a plot of land 200 yards north of the log clubhouse is reported to have been the slave burial ground.
But while there’s no official recognition of the site as a slave cemetery, Worthy said the area is recognized in county documents as some kind of unmarked cemetery and thus would require study prior to redevelopment.
“The adopted Reston Master Plan acknowledges this unmarked cemetery,” Worthy said. “It states that any required surveys and studies should conducted if this site is planned for redevelopment, and the Master Plan recommends the cemetery be preserved. The county wouldn’t conduct any studies or survey unless there’s a development proposal on the table.”
Most of the new developments around town profiled by Reston Then and Now are village centers with new residents cropping up around them over time, but North Point Village Center is a little different.
Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer shows how the village grew first with the center being placed later at it’s heart — filling in Reston’s northern frontier.
Not including the Reston Town Center, North Point was the last of Reston’s village centers. In the 1960s, while the other villages were under construction, North Point was a sweeping expanse of untamed wilderness.
Construction on North Point Village started in 1982, and in 1993 the North Point Village Center opened to the public.
The area has changed very little from overhead since 2002, but there’s plenty of turnover on the ground. In December Koko FitClub closed, and a new Thai restaurant opened two months later down the street.
Despite some noble intentions, fundraising to save the Lakeside Pharmacy icons is not going well.
The Reston Historic Trust and Museum’s GoFundMe — which started in August — has only raised $1,663 of its $15,000 goal.
The goal of the fundraiser is to clean and reinstall the icons, currently being held in storage, in a new exhibit about the 1960’s pop art aesthetic that was a core part of early Reston history.
Alexandra Campbell, a media contact for the Reston Museum, said despite public interest — Campbell said stories related to the icons are some of their most popular social media posts — the donations to the fundraiser have been slow to trickle in.
While Campbell said there have been a few donations to the fundraiser outside of the GoFundMe, Carolyn Flitcroft, elected chair of the board for the organization, said in an earlier interview that it can be difficult to rally support for a fundraiser that’s for something that seems less dire than homelessness or hunger.
Campbell said the Reston Historic Trust is hoping for a boost with a fundraiser next week. A triathlon hosted by New Trail Cycling Studio and Lake Anne Brew House on March 27 will give a portion of the proceeds to the Reston Historic Trust.
Despite the fundraising setbacks, the organization is moving forward with the permitting process to get the icons on display. According to Campbell, the deadline to get the permits scheduled for review in April is next week, so it’s all hands on deck as the group works to get the application finalized.
Photo via Reston Historic Trust
Back by popular demand, Reston Then and Now takes a look at Hunters Woods Village Center — the people’s choice with 38.8 percent of the vote in last week’s poll.
Like with some of the other village centers, Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer shows wild spurts of growth from the 1970s through the 2000s before tapering off.
The center was first approved in 1965 as the second village center, following the success of the Lake Anne Village Center. According to a comprehensive history of the site by Northern Virginia Digital History Archive, the development was designed to be a mix of residential, retail and professional uses that would as one of several village centers that would be just as accessible by foot or bike as it would be by car.
Construction began in 1971, and by 1972, the first stores started opening. The grand opening was celebrated with an Elizabethan-themed fair.
But problems began to emerge for the center within the decade. By 1978, the surrounding area saw robbery rates 25 percent higher than the rest of Fairfax County and a series of sexual assaults in the area diminished the utopian allure. Despite the crime wave, rents continue to go up, and local leaders began to recognize that the development was not as ideal for business as initially imagined.
While the aerial photography showed the site continuing to grow, behind the scenes there were several changes in ownership and — as was the case with other village centers — competition from newer shopping centers across Reston and Herndon that were starting to draw customers away.
By the late 1990s, it was widely recognized that the Hunters Woods Village Center was not the vibrant community hub it had once been hoped to be. In 1997, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a $14 million redevelopment plan.
Between 1990 and 2002, most of the original buildings were demolished and replaced with more modern retail, including Safeway as an anchor tenant. The Safeway is still there, though it recently lost its SunTrust bank. The site has remained largely stagnant since then and changed hands in 2010.
Its addition to a rundown of potential spots for new residential development in a 2017 list put together by the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning means that changes for the site could be on the horizon.
Alex Campbell, the executive director of the Reston Historic Trust and Museum, told Reston Now that the museum reached out to the library late last year to inquire about hosting some temporary exhibits in an effort to bring Retson’s history out of the museum and into the community.
The “Reston Then & Now” exhibit shows early pictures of Reston and aerial photography, including images of Lake Anne Plaza being built and how the same area looks today and the large barn that used to be at Hunters Woods Village. The “50/100” exhibit, which was created for Reston’s 50th and Founder Robert E. Simon Jr.’s 100th birthday, highlights Reston’s founding and how its principles are still implemented.
“Both exhibits tell the story of Reston — of the community’s growth and transformation but also, in many ways, of its continuity,” Ha Hoang, the assistant branch manager for the Reston Regional Library, told Reston Now.
The library started to receive positive feedback during the exhibits’ first week, Hoang said. “Those who have just moved to the area and out-of-town visitors have been especially delighted to see the exhibits in the library and to learn more about Reston,” Hoang added.
Both Campbell and Hoan said that collaboration makes perfect sense.
“In many ways, our missions are very similar — we’re both community anchors and learning hot spots whose goals are to help our constituents stay informed, connected and engaged,” Hoang said.
The exhibits opened on Feb. 26 and will be on display until the end of April at 11925 Bowman Towne Drive.
The exhibits will then get replaced by others from the Reston Museum, Hoang said.
Image via Reston Museum/Twitter
Reston is built on planned village centers. Sometimes they work. Tall Oaks didn’t.
This week on Reston Then and Now we return to the Lake Anne area where Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer shows us the rise and fall of Tall Oaks Village Center and the plans that indicate how the area hopes to recover.
Like much of Reston, the site was open fields in aerial photography up to 1976. The development opened in 1974 as the smallest of Reston’s five village centers. According to the Washington Business Journal, the location enjoyed a brief golden age with 240,000 square feet of retail by 1990.
But gradually, Tall Oaks faces more modern competition. Between the 1990s and the early 2000s, Reston Town Center, North Point, Spectrum and a range of other retail options expanded throughout North Reston.
The first big blow was losing Giant in 2007, and two replacement stores failed within a year of opening in 2009 and 2011, leaving the location without an anchor tenant since 2011. Curves, Domino’s and 7 Eleven all vacated their locations as well.
But work is underway on a new project to for Tall Oaks. The redevelopment will convert the area into a largely residential neighborhood with 156 homes with more limited retail. The Reston Association recently voted in favor of vacating an easement it held in the Tall Oaks village to facilitate the redevelopment.
For more Reston Then and Now stories, check out our most recent coverage of:
Ever wonder how residents chose Reston for their home?
The Reston Historic Trust and Museum and the Reston Community Center are hosting a free panel discussion on just that, following Bob Simon’s goal of having the individual be the focal point of planning.
“The journeys our panelists have made to Reston confirm that the lived experience of that vision is alive in Reston today,” the Reston Historic Trust and Museum said in a press release.
The Reston Historic Trust and Museum shared backgrounds about three of the four panelists who will share their stories about their journeys to Reston.
After her parents’ divorce, Lindsay Trout moved with her mother to Reston at age nine because of the diverse housing stock available. She has stayed in Reston ever since. Trout attended Terraset Elementary, Langston Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School. She has spent her teaching career in Fairfax County Public Schools and is currently the Principal of Terraset Elementary.
Medelyn A. Ortiz Lopez
Medelyn A. Ortiz Lopez came to the United States at age nine. She attended Dogwood Elementary, Langston Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School. She formed part of Southgate Community Center for the past 11 years as a participant, then as a volunteer and currently as staff. She is pursuing a career in nursing.
Six years ago, Sara and her parents immigrated from Ethiopia after receiving U.S. visas in the diversity lottery. Sara was 15 years old and preparing to begin 9th grade. Her father is blind and partially paralyzed. The family has no outside support; Sara and her mother are his primary caregivers. Trying to juggle work, school, and caring for her father’s needs, the family has struggled with homelessness.
Sara attended six different high schools in four years. Being the only English speaker in the family, Sara had to take on many adult roles in her family early on, helping her parents as much as she could. Today, she and her family are preparing to move from a shelter into their own home. She is working on becoming a U.S. citizen. She hopes to earn her GED so she can attend college and become an engineer. She is brave, resilient and determined to succeed.
The fourth panelist is Rizwan Jaka from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society.
In conjunction with the event, the Reston Historic Trust and Museum is also encouraging Restonians to share their own short stories and photographs about how they came to Reston via an online forum.
The panel starts at 7 p.m. at RCC Lake Anne Jo Ann Rose Gallery (1609-A Washington Plaza) on Wednesday, Feb. 20.
Photo via Reston Historic Trust
Normally, Reston Then and Now covers places that only exist as forests and fields in the earliest aerial photography in Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer. But this week, the intersection of Hunter Mill and Hunter Station roads has a history that predates that aerial photography.
During the Civil War, the intersection was a major crossroads for Union and Confederate troops moving through the area. According to a historical marker at the site, Confederate Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton’s cavalry brigade passed through the site in 1862 en route to Antietam in Maryland. Several Union and Confederate generals are recorded to have passed the site throughout the war.
The intersection was a critical junction of the railroad, a north-south road, water resources from Difficult Run and farmlands to provide food for troops. Several skirmishes took place in the nearby area, including the killing of Rev. John Read from Falls Church. Read was an abolitionist and supplied information on Confederate activities to the Union. He was kidnapped in a raid and executed in the forest just southeast of the crossroads by Confederate guerillas lead by Col. John S. Mosby.
The area around Hunter Mill road was its own town at one time, called Hunter’s Village, which sprung up around the route of the Washington and Old Dominion rail line. The locality contained a post office, a general store, a train station and a military hospital. The station itself was a bare-bones facility — a flag stop where passengers could step out to flag down a train.
The farmhouse at the site may have been built in 1935, and by 1937 it shows up in the first aerial photography of Fairfax.
Until recently, a little house at the intersection of Hunter Mill and Hunter Station roads stood mostly isolated — all that was left of the old Hunter’s Village — with some other properties dotting the surrounding area. Passenger service on the line ended in 1951. Freight service ended in 1968 and the railroad was abandoned.
By then, new subdivisions and a new power station started to encroach onto the site. The farmhouse was squeezed between growth spreading out from Reston to the west and Tysons to the East.
The farmhouse on the site was demolished late last year to make way for a new residential development. The site remains a popular stop on the bike and pedestrian Washington and Old Dominion Trail.
For more Reston Then and Now stories, check out our recent coverage of:
Photo via Google Maps
The Reston Hospital Center (RHC) is halfway through its $72 million expansion, but while the expansion is large, it’s hardly the first for the hospital.
Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer has shots of the hospital since its creation and helps put together a view of how the hospital has changed over the years.
The RHC, located near the Reston Town Center, first opened its doors on Nov. 10, 1986. Some parking lots and building extensions were added over time.
The first major expansion began in 2001 when the west wing of the facility, a five-story facility with 60 additional beds and other treatment facilities. The Parkway Medical Tower, which ouses the ambulatory/outpatient surgery center and a parking garage, was also added.
Between 2012 and 2015, the RHC also invested $40 million expansions and new services, which included substantial interior renovations. In 2012 work began on the $25 million Pavilion II Medical Office Building which provided more administrative space.
The new upgrades include a 403-space parking garage scheduled to be completed this summer, as well as:
- New 18-bed Inpatient Rehabilitation Center
- Expanded 24-bed Intensive Care Unit
- Addition of a second lab to the cardiac services unit
- Renovations to visitor areas including a new cafeteria, a glass concourse, and main entrance and lobby
- New parking garage for patients and visitors on the West Wing entrance
- Addition of eight rooms to accommodate high-risk obstetric patients
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.