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Historical marker for McLean’s old firehouse to get overdue dedication

A historical marker for the McLean Volunteer Fire Department was installed outside the Old Firehouse Center in 2020 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

If buildings could speak, the Old Firehouse Center in McLean would have some tales to tell — almost a century’s worth, in fact.

Originally built in 1925, the low-lying brick structure hosted the McLean Volunteer Fire Department (MVFD) as well as the wider community, which was starting to take shape.

“McLean’s fire department was the first to be incorporated in Fairfax County,” Carole Herrick, a Dranesville District representative on the Fairfax County History Commission, said. “Back then, it served as the community center of its day, and we want to preserve its rich history.”

The history commission will help honor that legacy with a belated dedication ceremony later this month for a historical marker erected outside the firehouse at 1440 Chain Bridge Road in 2020.

Delayed by COVID-19 concerns, the ceremony will take place at last at the Old Firehouse Center at 1 p.m. on Aug. 21, according to the McLean Community Center, which now uses the facility for its teen after-school programs.

Free and open to the public, this event is being sponsored by MCC, the county history commission, the McLean Volunteer Fire Department, and the McLean Historical Society.

Speakers will include Herrick and Fairfax County History Commission Chair Cheryl Repetti, and MVFD members will be on hand “to discuss various displays,” the press release says. The ceremony will open with Boy Scout Troop 128 and close with an indoor reception.

Joining a sign posted for McLean overall in 2003, the MVFD marker is one 55 installed since Fairfax County’s Historical Marker Program began in 1998. It reads:

The McLean Volunteer Fire Department incorporated in 1923 in Fairfax County. A two-bay firehouse was built and a Ladies Auxiliary formed in 1925. Construction of a rear addition in 1932 provided work during the Depression and offered space needed for equipment and community activities. For several years, the firemen organized the McLean Carnival to raise funds for the department. An air raid observation tower was added during World War II. In 1948 a four-bay station replaced the previous building. A new station opened on Laughlin Avenue in 1988, ceding the vacant firehouse to Fairfax County that the McLean Community Center converted into a teen center.

Though the department has a new home, the old firehouse still holds a special place in the memories of long-time volunteer firefighters like Clyde Clark, who joined the department in June 1962 and recently commemorated 60 years in the role.

Clark’s tenure with the fire department has included stings as chief, assistant chief, and on the board of directors. Currently on the McLean Volunteer Fire Department History Committee, he fondly recalled the firehouse’s role in the department and the community in a statement to FFXnow.

“The coffee pot was always on. People were welcome to stop by, to hear the latest local news and local gossip,” he said by email. “There really was nothing else open like that. No Starbucks like there is today. It was a delightful place to be, and it really served as the center of the community.”

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