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.
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
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
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.