Reston, VA

A new Reston Historic Resources Survey names ten area locations as “potentially eligible” for the National Register of Historic Places.

They include the Ring Road subdivision in North Reston, two area golf courses (Reston National and Hidden Creek), a number of 1960s-and-1970s-era housing clusters, and the Ken Bonner-designed residence on Stirrup Road.

The survey’s goal was to determine significant historic districts and buildings that were constructed during Reston’s prime development years – between 1961 and 1978. It was commissioned by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and conducted by Mary Hanbury of Hanbury Preservation Consulting, a historic preservation consulting firm out of Raleigh, North Carolina.

The survey covered all of Reston, except for the land within Lake Anne Historic District. This district is already on the National Register of Historic Places.

In a community meeting held last night (Jan 5), Hanbury explained that the survey and field work reconnessicance first began in December 2019. It took the better part of a year to conduct. She reviewed eight potential historic districts and 51 individual properties in Reston.

The survey consisted of photos, locational mapping, creating or finding site plans, and a brief written history of the location.

From this, she determined that ten locations were “potentially eligible” for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Potentially eligible” refers to the places that meet the requirements for eligibility for inclusion – meaning they are at least fifty years old (unless in exceptional circumstances), looks much like it did in the past, and has significant historical or architectural value.

However, it’s not up to Hanbury if it will be included on the National Register.

“I can not say that something is eligible for the National Register. That is something that the state department of historic resources also the national park service determines,” Hanbury explains. “But part of this as a professional is to say ‘this is something that I think is potentially eligible.’ Technically, I’m not in power to say that it is [eligible].”

The ten locations are:

  • The Hickory Cluster, a modernist group of densely-grouped townhouses designed by Charles Goodman who was hired by Robert Simon.
  • Waterview Cluster, one of the earliest subdivisions constructed as part of Simon’s plan for Reston. It was designed by Chloethiel Woodard Smith, who owned at one point the largest architecture firm run by a woman in the U.S.
  • Coleson Cluster, built in 1966 and also designed by Smith. The cluster is designed to be walkable and oriented towards public spaces, as opposed to private courtyards.
  • Mediterranean Villa Cluster, a rare example of residences designed by Robert W. Davis. He was much more known for hospitals and office buildings.
  • Golf Course Island Cluster, designed by Louis Sauer who worked and studied with famed architect Louis Kahn and notable urban planner Edmund Bacon (who happens to be Kevin Bacon’s father).
  • Ring Road subdivision, a mix of architecture and building styles focused on a single-family aesthetic that became popular throughout the area in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Wainwright Cluster, a grouping of dense townhouses oriented towards a common space acted as a model for Reston’s master plan.
  • Hidden Creek Golf Course and Reston National Golf Course, both designed by a golf-loving engineer Ed Ault. He became a prolific golf course architect who built over 200 golf courses across the east coast over his career.
  • 12146 Stirrup Road, designed by Ken Bonner and thought to be the first single-family residence built in Reston.

The survey also namechecks several locations that could be eligible once they hit the fifty year benchmark. They include the Atrium condominiums on Roger Bacon Drive, Sheraton Reston Hotel, and the Fairway Cluster. They all will hit their fiftieth birthday over the next few years.

Additionally, there are few places that the study determined merited “further study” ( including Lake Anne Gulf gas station, Fairway Apartments, and Cameron Crescent Apartments) as well as those that are “likely not eligible” due to significant changes that rendered them too different from when they were initially constructed.

Hanbury cautions that the National Register has very particular rules and regulations and is only one measure of historic importance.

“It is one that is commonly used and a good frame of reference,” said Hanbury. “But they are places that aren’t eligible… that are important and can be locally designated.”

After the presentation, a few members of the community spoke mostly commenting on other historical locations in Reston.

One community member asked why a number of golf courses were included considering that, in his understanding, are “environmental deserts” and were mostly used by “super affluent, white people.”

This comment received several retorts, notably that the golf courses were used by Reston’s diverse population and that local wildlife thrived there.

“The reason the falcons over at Reston Town Center have a place to hunt and eat is because of the open fairways that the Reston golf courses offer them,” said a citizen.

The survey will be used to determine what properties have historical value and should be nominated for historical designation.

It could also inform any future changes to Reston’s comprehensive plan, noted Fairfax County Board Supervisor Walter Alcorn of the Hunter Mill District.

“The report includes recommendations for future documentation and preservation efforts,” wrote Blake McDonald of Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources in an email to Reston Now. “[The department] hopes that Fairfax County will pursue some of these recommendations and we look forward to partnering with them on those efforts.

The public can continue to comment on the survey through January 10.

Photo courtesy of Virginia Department of Historic Resources

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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.

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Two exhibits highlighting Reston’s changes and values since its founding in 1964 recently opened at the Reston Regional Library.

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 

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Looking for some reading suggestions? Mascot Books has some recommendations for books by local authors.

The full-service hybrid book publishing company (620 Herndon Parkway #320) started in 2003 with a self-published book about a collegiate mascot. Since then, it has published more than 2,500 fiction, nonfiction, children’s and cookbooks since then, according to its website.

Reston Now asked Mascot Books to share some favorite books about Reston or written by local authors. Here’s what the staff recommended, along with reasons for why they are worth reading.

“Ruby Foo and the Traveling Kitchen: Finding the Foo Identity” by Tiffany Foo

Description: Ruby Foo may seem like your middle schooler, but in the kitchen, she turns into a culinary superhero called the Fantastic Foo! When a mysterious photograph leads her out of her own kitchen and into her grandfather’s, she must use her culinary skill and courage to uncover some long-hidden secrets about her family’s storied past.

Why we love it: Part history, part culinary adventure (and including several kid-friendly recipes!), “Ruby Foo” is perfect for chefs of all ages — she is as smart as she is fearless and is a great role model for middle school-age kids. Tiffany Foo is a Herndon resident.

“Reston A to Z” by Watt Hamlett

Description: “Reston A to Z” takes young readers on a tour of America’s first modern planned community. Guided by Robert E. “Bob” Squirrel (reminiscent of Reston’s beloved founder, Robert E. Simon), readers will undoubtedly recognize the town’s many landmarks in the photos of the places, activities and nature that make Reston a treasure to families.

Why we love it: Reston was one of the first planned communities in the state, and “Reston A to Z” does a great job not just showing off the local sites, but also talking about the history of this great town. We particularly love the piece about the town center — it’s amazing to see how it’s changed! Hamlett is a Reston resident.

“Hoos in the Kitchen” by Melissa Palombi

Description: Inspired by the flourishing food scene and endless pride of the University of Virginia, “Hoos in the Kitchen” features more than sixty recipes from members of the UVA community. This collection is perfect for UVA fans everywhere, with recipes designed to incorporate Virginia-based ingredients to those of international origins.

Why we love it: Melissa grew up in Reston and moved to Charlottesville to work for the University of Virginia. Hoos in the Kitchen does a great job of showing the local culture and community through food. We’d love to see a “Reston Kitchen” cookbook one day, too! Palombi was raised in Reston.

Photos via Mascot Books

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Several books focus on the history of the Reston and Herndon areas, and the Reston Historic Trust and Museum has some favorites to get you started.

The Reston Historic Trust, which operates the Reston Museum and Shop, was founded in 1997 as a community-based non-profit to keep Reston’s history alive. The museum debuted at Lake Anne Plaza in the late 1990s and offers exhibits and archives, walking tours, workshops and public events.

Reston Now asked the museum staff to share some favorite books about Reston or written by local authors. Here’s what the staff recommended, along with their reasons for why they are worth reading.

“In His Own Words” by Kristina Alcorn

Written by a Reston author and the vice-chair of our board, it is a wonderfully intimate look into the life of Reston’s founder Robert E. Simon, Jr. based on interviews the author conducted with him. It is truly a one-of-a-kind book and one of the best ways to learn about Reston’s founder.

The book costs $14.99 at the gift shop.

“Reston, Virginia” by the Reston Historic Trust & Museum

This book features archival artifacts from the Reston Historic Trust & Museum’s own museum collection to tell the story of Reston’s beginning. Seeing the pictures of the past are the perfect way to see and learn about Reston’s founding and evolution.

The book costs $18.99 at the gift shop.

“Reston’s African American Legacy” by Rev. LaVerne Gill

Gill, a Reston author, profiles 25 African-American Restonians who have made major contributions to the quality-of-life of Reston. It expertly highlights each person, making the reader feel as if they know the person themselves (and some readers might know them personally as many are active in the Reston community today). The book also allows the reader to understand the impact of their involvement in the Reston community.

The book costs $35 at the gift shop.

Photos via Reston Historic Trust and Museum and Amazon

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(Updated 1:36 p.m. to remove an event that has already passed)

Warming up to solar? – Fairfax County is holding a free information session today, and will be offering real estate tax credits, solar energy systems discounts, and more to home and business owners. (WTOP)

The throwback comments section – A Reston resident had their Letter To The Editor published in The Washington Post. The topic? The split between Reston and the rest of Fairfax County about density and proposed growth. (The Washington Post)

That’s a lot of butts – Reston business Waitbusters hit 50,000 customers seated since launching their software about a year ago. (Restaurant News)

Everyone’s a critic – A theater review of Reston Community Player’s Thoroughly Modern Millie. Sounds like it was a good time. (Maryland Theatre Guide)

We’re taking a hiatus – Our morning newsletter will be taking a break through May 10, as the editor is away. ARLnow’s assistant managing editor, Bridget Reed Morawski, will be stepping in to cover Reston.

The photo in the morning newsletter was provided with a caption that it is a Great Blue Heron. Another reader has chimed in to say that it is actually a Great Green Heron. Additionally, the Reston editor will be returning May 10, not May 8.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user vantagehill.

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Robert E. Simon BookReston founder Robert E. Simon’s story can now live digitally in your Kindle.

In His Own Words: Stories from the Extraordinary Life of Reston’s Founder, the biography published earlier this year by Restonian Kristina Alcorn, is now available for download on Amazon.

Alcorn spent about two years interviewing Simon, who died in September 2015 at age 101. The self-published book was made available locally and on Amazon in March.

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 says.

The book highlights Simon’s humor, adventurous spirit, and dogged determination, Alcorn said. It is illustrated with over 100 photographs and artifacts from his private collection, the archives of Carnegie Hall, and the Reston Historic Trust.

“As a kid growing up in Reston in the 70s, Bob was an icon,” Alcorn says. “Decades later, when I encountered Bob at local events I would hear bits and pieces of his stories. He was a real life version of the ‘World’s Most Fascinating Man.’ I wanted to hear more and as I did, I knew these tales were too good to only be heard by the lucky few around him. I asked if I could record his stories, and he said ‘yes,’ “

The download is available for $9.99. See more information on Amazon.

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FOUNDERS WEEK1

Reston’s Founders Day has expanded to be Founders Week in 2016 — and it begins today.

The Reston Historic Trust, the Initiative for Public Art Reston, Reston Community Center are teaming up to properly honor Reston founder Robert E. Simon, who 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.

Read this previous Reston Now story to see the full slate of events running from April 3 to 10. There will still be a big Founders Day celebration — featuring a 50-foot ferris wheel — at Lake Anne Plaza on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Meanwhile, here is Monday’s special event:

Reston: From New Town to Metro at Greater Reston Arts Center, 12001 Market Street at Reston Town Center at at 7:30 p.m.

Join Roger K. Lewis for a lecture and champagne/dessert reception from Red Velvet Cupcakery. $10 suggested donation.

Lewis, architect and professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland, will deliver a lecture exploring Reston’s place in the New Town movement.

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Bob Simon gets greetings from Willard Scott

Reston founder Bob Simon turned 100 years old last week. Thursday morning, he got a television shout out from The Today Show’s Willard Scott. Scott has been wishing Centenarians all over the country milestone birthday greetings on the show for years.

“He loves Reston,” Scott said. ‘He founded Reston and I remember that. I remember the day it opened up.”

See the clip on The Today Show website.

Read more about Simon’s birthday celebrations:

Best of Reston Gala

Founder’s Day 2014

Happy Birthday, Mr. Simon

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Reston Festival, 1960s/Credit: Reston Historic Trust

Reston founder Bob Simon’s idea for density and community was forged in a childhood apartment high above New York City’s Riverside Drive and in the green spaces of urban parkland.

Whether the idea was a good one, a not-so-good one, a half-hatched one or a groundbreaking one depends on who you ask.

And many people are asked — or at least answer — in the documentary Another Way of Living: The Story of Reston, VA. The 70-minute film by director Rebekah Wingert-Jabi was shown at a VIP screening Saturday night at Reston Community Center as part of the Founder’s Day celebrations.

Wingert-Jabi, a Peabody Award winner who shot about 250 hours of film for the project, hopes to enter the movie into national film festivals. After that, it will be available for the public.

The movie looks at founder Simon’s life and what inspired him to purchase more than 6,000 acres of Virginia  farmland in 1961 and plan an urban-style “New Town” in an era of neat lawns and tract homes.

It didn’t always go that well.

“The vision was correct, but his timing was terrible,” says former Fairfax County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert, one of many planners, architects and citizens interviewed in the film. “Putting a town in the middle of a field – people didn’t know how to take this field of dreams.”

Indeed, Reston had many ups and downs to get to the place it is today, with 60,000 residents, excellent amenities, and an important business and retail hub. Fifty different banks originally turned down Simon for financing. And in 1967, After Lake Anne and some of Hunters Woods were built, Gulf Oil took over the struggling operation and fired Simon.

“How could they fire him?” longtime Restonian and chair of the Reston Community Center Board Beverly Cosham wonders in her on-camera interview. “He WAS Reston.” Read More

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Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Sen. Tim Kaine and other dignitaries were among the hundreds of people who came to Reston’s Lake Anne Plaza Saturday afternoon to wish founder Robert E. Simon a happy 100th birthday and Reston a happy 50th birthday.

What will the next 50 years bring?

“We will have to just sit around and see,” Simon said before cutting the cake at the Founder’s Day celebration.

Reston Now will have full coverage of the weekend events on Monday.

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Reston founder Robert E. Simon will be 100 years old next week and shows no signs of slowing down.

The almost centenarian goes for a daily walk around Lake Anne, travels internationally (check out the dog sledding pictures from Canada!) and is out on the town at Reston events and fundraisers several times a week.

He is quite outspoken on his vision for the future of Reston. Last week, at a Master Planning meeting for Baron Cameron Park, he urged officials to finally build an indoor tennis facility — and to borrow the money to finance it.

The community is invited to Lake Anne Plaza Saturday at noon to honor Simon at Founder’s Day. Stop by to sing Happy Birthday on this big occasion.

To see a full list of celebration events, visit Reston Celebrates.

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Reston founder Robert E. Simon next to statue of his likeness.This week kicks off the heart of the many celebrations in honor of founder Robert E. Simon’s 100th birthday and Reston’s 50 anniversary.

Simon was born on April 10, 1914, and in 1960 had a vision of starting a “new town” where there were only cow pastures near the new airport on the Fairfax-Loudoun County line.

Today, Reston is home to about 60,000 people — and many thousands more as expected to move here as Reston prepares to fully realize its “Live, Work, Play” vision with the opening of the Silver Line Metro this year.

Reston Now will have ongoing coverage of festivities this week, but meanwhile, check out this interview with Simon from Sunday’s Washington Post.

Things to do to offer your best wishes

Saturday: Founder’s Day Celebration, noon to 3 p.m., Lake Anne Plaza

Come to the plaza for tributes from local dignitaries such as Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep. Gerry Connolly, musical performances, and, of course, birthday cake. Free.

Saturday:  A Toast to Reston and Its Founder, 8 p.m., Reston Community Center Hunters Woods

Limited tickets are available for this VIP reception and screening of The Reston Story  movie. Visit Reston Celebrates for more information.

April 7: 50 Trees for 50 Years Arbor Day Celebration, 9:30 a.m., Walker Nature Center

Join in and plant 50 commemorative trees in various locations around Reston. Volunteers will be treated to a celebratory pizza lunch at the Walker Nature Center after the planting. Contact Ha Brock at [email protected] or 703-435-7986 to volunteer and get a location assignment. Rain or shine

April 8: Reston Association Annual Meeting, 7 p.m., Reston Association, 12001 Sunrise Valley Drive

The meeting announces the coming year’s goals, newly elected board members, and the past year’s accomplishments. Refreshments will be served.

April 10: Best of Reston Gala, 6 p.m., Hyatt Regency Reston

Simon will be spending his actual birthday as the co-chair of this annual event that has a goal of raising about a half-million for Cornerstones. The gala in this milestone year will surely have many memorable moments. Some tickets still available starting at $200. Visit Cornerstones for information.

Visit Celebrate Reston for a complete calendar of upcoming events.

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TheRestonStoryLogo/Credit: Susan Jones

For more than two years, director/producer Rebekah Wingert-Jabi and researcher/writer/producer Susan Jones have been scanned and documenting, filming and editing.

They amassed about 250 hours of film and 4,000 documents, all of which will be edited down into an hour-long film that will tell the story of Reston as it readies for it’s 50th anniversary.

The Reston Story has truly been a community effort, says Jones. The project has received financial support from dozens of Reston businesses and families. The filmmakers have also interviewed 70 subjects — from Reston founder Robert Simon to Reston pioneers to planning experts who talk about Reston’s groundbreaking style when it was founded in 1964, says Jones.

The filmmakers also put out the call for archival pieces such as home movies and family photos from the first 50 years. Jones says the variety they received will add richness and personality to the the story.

“There are three main reasons we are making this movie,” she said. “One, to celebrate Reston’s 50th anniversary. Two, to get Restonains on the same page about our history. And three, to show the incredible impact Reston has had on community development in the United Stated and beyond.”

Wingert-Jabi grew up in Reston and returned a few years ago to raise her own family here. She won a Peabody Award in 2013 for her work as the co-director on My Neighbourhood, the story of a Palestinian teenager forced to share a section of his house with Israeli settlers. 

The Peabody Award is a prestigious national awards program that recognizes distinguished achievement and meritorious service by broadcasters, cable and webcasters, producing organizations, and individuals.

Those credentials will help The Reston Story as it tries to gain entrance in major film festivals, says Jones.

The film will be screened for sponsoring groups and individuals on April 5, which is also the public Founders Day celebration in honor of Reston’s 50th anniversary and Simon’s 100th birthday.

Then it will hopefully go to festivals later this year, said Jones.

After that, there will likely be screenings for the public in Reston. The filmmakers also hope to get the film shown on PBS. Eventually, it will be available for purchase on DVD.

While the film is still in its final editing stages, Jones says one of the messages that really comes through is how much people love the community.

“The enthusiasm all of the people we interviewed really comes through,” said Jones, a longtime Reston resident.  “It reinforces what I feel about Reston.”

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Robert E. SimonThe series of events marking Reston founder Robert E. Simon’s 100th birthday kicks off this weekend with a musical tribute by the Reston Community Orchestra.

Simon will turn 100 on April 10, and Reston is marking the occasion — along with Reston’s 50th anniversary with many celebrations. The full list can be found at Reston Celebrates.

RCO’s show, Innovation! A Tribute to Robert E. Simon, is Sunday at 4 p.m. at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods.

The performance is billed as “music as progressive and inventive as the community we share.”

The orchestra will perform works including Paul Creston’s Concertino for Marimba and Orchestra; Albéric Magnard’s Suite in the Ancient Style, Op. 2; and Bela Bartok’s Suite No. 2 for Orchestra Op. 4. 

Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

Another musical tribute will be held on Sunday, March 23, when the the Reston Chorale presents Reston’s 50th: Celebrating the Vision and the Visionary.

The performance, 4 p.m. at South Lakes High School, will feature the premiere of The Essential Life by acclaimed composer Donald McCullough.

Simon was a founding member of the chorale in 1967.

For more information, call 703-834-0079, email [email protected] and visit www.RestonChorale.org.

Tickets are now on sale online for $30/adult; $25/Seniors (62+) and Students (13 – 17).

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