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.
(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)
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.”
Simon returned to New York, where he would stay for the next 30 years. Gulf, and later Mobil, would finish Reston, but much of the vision was watered down. Ideas for village centers like Lake Anne morphed into garden variety shopping centers and high-density housing in much of the community ended up being single-family housing subdivisions.
But the idea came back together by 1990, when the Dulles Toll Road made Reston more accessible and the opening of the Reston Town Center — another innovative (and to some, skeptical) idea in an era of enclosed shopping malls — helped cement Reston’s sense of place. Simon returned to stay shortly after.
The movie is ripe with archival footage, from old Life magazine articles and photos about Reston, to home movies at Lake Anne Plaza. Much of that came from residents, and it is the story of the residents that is a huge part of Reston’s history.
The movie talks to some of the originals and what drew them here: One felt isolated in a single-family house elsewhere in Virginia; others heard of the inclusive community in an era of segregation and packed up to live here and have a more egalitarian life. They are still here all these years later; the gamble paid off for them personally.
The pioneer spirit (and some trippy 1960s fashions) are at the heart of Another Way. At the brink of the civil rights movement and the women’s movement, Reston was starting from scratch. It could be anything it wanted. So it was.
Want a coffeehouse? Start one. Child care center? Gather some moms. An inclusive church focusing on good deeds for the community? Sure, open a couple. Theatre troupe? Put up a flyer and hold auditions. A commuter bus line to D.C. that features evening cocktails? Go for it.
The film also captures Simon’s personality, which is funny (seriously, several audience giggles) and feisty even on the brink of 100. The filmmakers follow him on his morning walk around Lake Anne, where he answers the question “How are you, Mr. Simon?” with a hearty “I’m healthy! And you?” every time.
As for the future, Simon admits he probably won’t be around to see what happens. Reston is on the brink again, this time as it prepares for Metro’s Silver Line to arrive in 2014 and some major redevelopment of Crescent Apartments, Fairway Apartments and other aging neighborhoods.
Will lower-income residents be priced out of housing? The movie spends too much time following one Crescent resident in a battle for access that really never was much of an issue. Will Metro double the population here and how will Reston handle the change? We may have to wait for the sequel.
Photo of early Reston Festival courtesy of Reston Museum.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
Tickets are now on sale online for $30/adult; $25/Seniors (62+) and Students (13 – 17).
Reston Celebrates is now live as the community prepares for founder Bob Simon’s 100th birthday and Reston’s 50th anniversary this spring.
Celebrations for the big 50/100 events begin in March and continue with Founders Day on April 5 and the Best of Reston Gala on April 10, which is Simon’s birthday.
Organizations supporting the 50/100 events are Reston Community Center, Reston Association, Reston Historic Trust/Reston Museum, Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, Reston Hospital Center/Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), Cornerstones, Reston Town Center, and Myers Public Relations, which is hosting the RestonCelebrates.org website.
Visit the website to see the full lineup of events, which will include a performance by the Reston Community Orchestra and a screening of the film “The Reston Story,” among others.
Photo courtesy of Reston 50/100.
Fifty years ago, the first residents moved into Reston’s new homes. A then-50-year-old Robert E. Simon, who envisioned a “New Town” in the cow pastures near what is now Dulles International Airport, was taking a risk that people would want to live in the undeveloped western part of Fairfax County, with no highway, no grocery store and hardly any other people.
Simon likes to joke he only had to appease 3,000 residents when Reston was founded.
“And that was easy, because they were all cows,” he says.
In 2014, Reston — now home to close to 60,000 residents — is now a significant residential and business hub for the Washington, DC, metro area. Reston is the second-largest office market in Fairfax County with almost 19.7 million square feet of space, according to the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce.
And, with Metrorail’s Silver Line set to open in 2014, more residential and business development is on the way. Long-range major developments planned for Reston:
- The Spectrum (Mixed-use; 774,879 square feet of office, retail and hotel space)
- Reston Heights (Mixed-use; 145,000 square feet of above-grade retail, 100,000 square feet of below grade space, 428,225 square feet of office 498 units residential units in the area around the Sheraton Reston and Westin Reston Heights hotels)
- A pair of 10-story, 280,000-square-foot office buildings on Sunset Hills at Reston Parkway near the future Reston Parkway Metro station
- A 23-story, 418,000-square-foot office tower at 1760 Reston Parkway
- The surface parking lot at Reston Town Center to be redeveloped as a high-rise office building (276,788 square feet of space, a maximum height of 17 stories, with 7,800 square feet of retail/restaurant uses on the ground floor)
- Mixed use buildings at Reston Station at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro stop, including residential, office, hotel and retail
- Redevelopment of Fairway Apartments, Crescent Apartments, Lake Anne Fellowship House and the Lake Anne area.
But before those exponential expansions will happen, Reston will have a series of events commemorating the big anniversary/birthday in 2014.
Already planned are:
Sunday, March 16, 4 p.m., Reston Community Center Hunters Woods
Reston Community Orchestra’s “Innovation: A Tribute to Robert E. Simon on his 100th Birthday”
Featuring music by Creston, Magnard and Bartok with renowned marimba player and RCO musician Rebecca Kite.
Sunday, March 23, 4 p.m., South Lakes High School
Reston Chorale presents “Reston’s 50th – A Celebration of the Vision and the Visionary,” a world premiere of All Beautiful and Splendid Things – a choral and orchestra work by composer Donald McCullough commemorating Robert E. Simon’s 100th
birthday and the 50th anniversary of Reston.
Saturday, April 5, noon, Lake Anne Plaza
Founders Day celebrating Robert E. Simon’s 100th birthday and Reston’s 50th Anniversary. Program will feature tributes, music and cake.
Saturday, April 5, 8 p.m. Reston Community Center
Reston’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. Enjoy the special screening of “The Reston Story” movie and the winners of My Community Video Contest. The evening will conclude with champagne and dessert with a toast to Robert E. Simon and each other.
Photo of Robert E. Simon, Sen. Harry Bird and Jane Wilhelm strolling in early Reston courtesy of Reston Historic Trust
Then nominate them as a young Restonian to be recognized at Founder’s Day 2014.
As part of Reston’s big 50th Anniversary celebration on April 5, 2014, the Reston Historic Trust will recognize some of Reston’s second generation.
Nominate them by downloading and submitting this Young Restonian form.
Lots of other plans are underway for Founder’s Day, which will also celebrate Reston founder Bob Simon’s 100th birthday. Reston Now will keep you updated as the program develops.
Meanwhile, RHT is accepting Happy Birthday messages for the commemorative program. Messages begin at $25.
Want to have your birthday greetings to Bob in the program? Download this Bob Simon Birthday greetings form.
To our credit, we’ve been taking steps to recognize and preserve that history. The Reston Museum, with its series of talks about the early days of Reston, has done a great deal to capture the stories of our past. The forthcoming movie “The Reston Story” should also help in preserving our collective memory. And of course, Lake Anne Plaza is recognized by Fairfax County as a historic district.
However, there’s another aspect of our history that I believe deserves some thought: how best to remember our most dedicated and distinguished citizens. Of course, we have awards like Best of Reston and RCA’s Citizen of the Year, which recognize the people who are doing good work in our community currently.
But I’m thinking about memorializing those Restonians who are no longer with us, but who made lasting contributions that deserve to be remembered by future generations. We should publicly honor those people who helped make our community the great place it is today.
Now is the time to think about this. The pioneer generation of Restonians is getting older. I wish they could all be immortal (as Bob Simon appears to be), but unfortunately, they won’t be with us forever.
We’re already starting to lose some of them (Dave Edwards, Bill Nicoson, and founding RCA president Dick Hays are three who come to mind from the last couple of years).
These people helped build our community from the ground up. Driven by a love of Reston and a desire to make Bob Simon’s vision a reality, they created and shaped the facilities and institutions that we take for granted today. Will they be remembered 50 years from now, or even 20? They should be. And we can help ensure they are by creating suitable memorials to their service.
It’s understandable that most things in Reston aren’t named for notable Restonians. At the time most of them were built, we didn’t have famous or notable Restonians to recognize. When you’re a New Town, you don’t have a past. (The area where Reston now sits did have a past, of course, but one that we largely didn’t commemorate, with the exception of Wiehle Avenue.) We named things after the nearby features (like South Lakes, Hunters Woods, or my neighborhood growing up, Golf View Court), or we named them after famous people with no particular connection to Reston (like Lakes Audubon and Thoreau, or Langston Hughes Middle School).
Now, a half-century into the Reston story, we have a lot of people who have done a lot for our community, and they should be remembered. Naming things after notable Restonians is one way that we can make this happen.
We do have examples of Reston institutions that have been named after some of the early Restonians who served our community. For instance, there’s the Embry Rucker shelter, RA’s Vernon Walker Nature Education Center, and the Terry Smith Aquatics Center at RCC Hunters Woods.
Each of these is a fitting memorial to life and work of its namesake. Embry Rucker was a minister who spent a lot of time helping and advocating for the less fortunate. Vernon Walker was RA’s first Open Space and Nature Center director, a man with a real love of nature. And Terry Smith was a longtime RCC Board member and a proud member and supporter of Reston’s swimming community. They each did a lot to shape Reston’s community, and I’m glad that their legacies live on in the facilities that bear their
We should look to these examples as we seek to honor the pioneer Restonians who created our community. The hardest part might be finding the best way to memorialize the folks who served Reston in many capacities.
Take Dave Edwards, for instance. There are so many aspects of Reston that he helped build that you could name almost anything after him. You could name a street after him, in honor of his expertise in transportation and his service on RA’s Transportation Committee. You could name a school after him, in recognition of the work he did to get South Lakes High School built. You could name an RCC facility after him, in honor of the leading role he played in its development.
You could name a village center after him, to remember his background in planning and the ways he served Reston in that capacity, from his time with the County’s Economic Development Authority to his service on Reston’s Planning and Zoning Committee. Any of these would be a fitting memorial, but surely something in Reston should bear his name, considering how much he did to build our community.
Even if we don’t want to rename existing Reston facilities, the development that’s going to come along with the Silver Line will provide us with several opportunities: new streets, new schools, new facilities. Naming some of these after notable early Restonians would help strengthen the connection between the station-area development and the rest of the community, in addition to preserving our past for future generations.
Reston is now a community with a history, and we’re making an effort to preserve that history, which is great. Let’s continue that trend by naming some of our facilities after the dedicated citizens who built Reston into the community it is today. We should make sure that their legacies will live on in Reston’s next 50 years, and beyond.
Now, I’d like to hear from you. Who are the notable Restonians that you’d like to see honored? And what do you think would be the best place to memorialize them? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Also, if you know of any Restonians whose community service deserves recognition here and now, nominate them for Citizen of the Year. The submission deadline is coming up fast, so submit your form today!
Colin Mills is the president of Reston Citizens Association. He writes weekly on Reston Now.