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James Rossant’s work is on display at George Mason University through June 30 (courtesy Fenwick Library)

The work of Reston’s master planner James Rossant is on display at George Mason University through June 30.

The exhibit, “Cities and Memory: The Visionary Architecture of James Rossant with Poetry by Juliette Rossant,” displays the work of Rossant alongside poems that reflect on his art by his daughter, Juliette Rossant.

Rossant, who died in 2009, was an architect involved in the New Towns movements in the U.S., which sought to address issues related to urban overcrowding, air pollution and decay.

Rossant and his partner, William Conklin, developed the master plan for Reston in the early 1960s in an effort to create a suburban community that harmonized with urban amenities in park-like settings, according to GMU.

“Rossant’s plan proposed an organic mix of housing types and densities, green spaces, public sculpture, and mixed-use buildings, along with cultural facilities, schools, and churches,” the exhibit organizers said in a press release. “He believed that architecture could — should — be both beautiful and serve to build a better society.”

The exhibit features work from 1972 to 2009. Here’s more from the university on the exhibit:

The artworks in this exhibit range from 1972 to 2008 and give us insight into Rossant’s prodigious imagination and the fantastical processes that underpin his subsequent architectural creations. His subjects vary widely, from modernist portraits to imaginary cities to pastoral landscapes. Uniting them is Rossant’s deep commitment to realizing utopian ideals and visions. As described by architectural critic Joseph Giovannini, James Rossant’s drawings “fly off the grid, off the wagon of rationality, into a surrealism and humor of imagination liberated from the right angle and architectural propriety. […] These are temperamentally joyous drawings, propelled by curiosity and a spirit of exploration.”

His daughter’s poems act as responses to her father’s paintings. Her book — “Planet of the Blue Flowers” — will be published later this year by Finishing Line Press.

The work will be on display in Mason’s Fenwick Gallery during Fenwick Library’s business hours. The Conklin Rossant firm donated the Reston architect’s work to the University’s Special Collections Research Center.

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A special event on May 10 will dive into the transportation history of Reston (courtesy Reston Museum)

Reston Museum will take a deep dive into the history behind street names, Reston’s transportation system and the road to accessibility at a special event on May 10.

Called “This Way to Reston,” the program will kick off at 7 p.m. at Reston Community Center Lake Anne. Although the program is free, registration is required. Programming is supported in part by RCC.

Presenters will include museum board member Caren Anton, a museum board member; Mike McDermott, chair of Reston Association’s Multimodal Transportation Advisory Committee; and Colin Mills, project director of the Reston Accessibility Committee.

Reston Museum Executive Director Alexandra Campbell noted that transportation has played a major role in Reston’s history, influencing the community’s master plan in 1962, community volunteerism, and the area’s live, work, and play philosophy.

“We look forward to sharing historical photographs of this history and learning from Mr. McDermott and Mr. Mills on the Reston modes of transportation today,” Campbell wrote in a statement.

The event comes as Reston’s master plan undergoes a major revision. Fairfax County is expected to release a staff report of its recommendations on a draft master plan update sometime this month.

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When Vienna Elementary School celebrates its 150th anniversary next month, the occasion will double as a milestone for the entire Fairfax County Public Schools system.

Opened in 1923, the 74,904-square-foot home of the Vikings at 128 Center Street South is the oldest continuously operating public school building in the county, though the school as an institution can trace its origins back to the founding of FCPS in 1870.

“Vienna was one of the first three or four schools that began FCPS,” Vienna Elementary principal John Carmichael said. “So, while we’re celebrating Vienna’s birthday, it’s really Fairfax County Public Schools’ birthday as well.”

Vienna Elementary School will commemorate its sesquicentennial by hosting a birthday party on May 19 to excite the 381 students who currently fill its halls, complete with cake, games, music and food from Vienna Inn.

Carmichael and other school administrators have been planning for the celebration for about a year now. Around Thanksgiving, they brought current and former parents of students into the fold by convening a committee to help organize and promote the event.

While there will be speeches reflecting on the school’s history, including recognition of its segregated beginnings, the organizers want to keep the proceedings fun and engaging for all students, from kindergarteners to sixth graders, Carmichael told FFXnow.

Aside from the president of the school’s student council association, a sixth-grader who will comment on her time at the school, kids will be able to savor the treats and games free of any obligations.

“We want the students to be able to enjoy and, just as they would in a birthday, get to play games, activities, have cake and eat food,” he said, noting that some students have asked if he remembers what it was like when the school first opened.

Though he does “have the white hair,” he quipped, Carmichael’s memories don’t stretch back quite that far.

Vienna Elementary cites 1872 as its founding year, since that’s when the original school building on its current site opened. However, that location was preceded by one on Park Street between Church Street and Maple Avenue that was established for white students only in 1870 after Virginia passed the Public Free Schools Act.

“Two segregated schools operated in Vienna during those early years,” Jeff Clark, an FCPS spokesperson and unofficial resident historian, said. “The Vienna ‘Colored’ School, as it was called in historic records, for Black children, operated out of a church on Lawyers Road until a one-room schoolhouse was constructed in the 1890s.”

The “colored” school later became Louise Archer Elementary School, whose first principal will soon be honored with a historical marker.

The existing Vienna Elementary School building was the fourth one on the Center Street site. Preceded by a four-room school that burned down in 1919, the facility was built in 1922 and consisted of eight classrooms and an auditorium before expanding with subsequent additions and renovations — most recently in 2010, per the FCPS capital improvement program.

The school remained segregated until 1965, when FCPS finally integrated schools system-wide.

Carmichael says he plans to acknowledge that history in his opening remarks at next month’s celebration. Other attendees will include Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid, Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch, and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

A Facebook page has been set up so people can RSVP to the event. Anyone who attended Vienna Elementary or is otherwise connected to the school is welcome to stop by, Carmichael says.

“We’re trying to just bring anybody that may have gone to the school in the past,” he said. “If they’re able to come, they’re more than welcome to join, because at the end of the day, a school is really just a family. It’s a community.”

Photo via Google Maps

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A traveling exhibit is coming to Reston this week (courtesy Reston Museum)

A traveling exhibition looking at the ins and outs of Prohibition in Virginia is coming this month to Reston Museum.

The Library of Virginia’s Teetotalers & Moonshiners exhibit will be on view between tomorrow (March 21) and April 29. Reston Museum will also showcase artifacts from its own collection of Bowman Distillery items.

The exhibition tells the story of Virginia’s Prohibition, including its history as part of a social reform movement, the economic and social costs of Prohibition and the role of government in overseeing public health.

Here’s from Reston Museum on the exhibit:

Distilled from the Library’s 1,200 square foot exhibition (on view through December 5, 2017), Teetotalers & Moonshiners uses the Library’s deep and compelling collections on this era, from humorous sheet music mocking the absurdities of Prohibition to blazing headlines in anti- and pro-liquor newspapers and broadsides. At the core of the story are the records of the state’s Prohibition Commission, which record the daily activities of its agents. A digital interactive component documents statewide prohibition trends and tells the personal stories of commission agents, bootleggers, and moonshiners. The exhibition is supported in part by the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the National Alcoholic Beverage Control Association. The Virginia Distillers Association provided support for the traveling exhibition.

Teetotalers & Moonshiners addresses the important and long-lasting effects of Prohibition on Virginia and America, including the prohibition movement as part of a social reform movement, the economic and social costs of Prohibition, including the closing of businesses and conflict within communities, and the rise of illegal alcohol production and sale as an underground culture and economy, the role of government in overseeing public health, and prohibition’s legacy–from NASCAR to the creation of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to the rise of the modern brewing and distilling industry.

The Library of Virginia was founded in 1823 to preserve the state’s printed and manuscript holdings. The exhibit is made possible in part with support from Virginia ABC and the Virginia Distillers Association.

Located at Lake Anne Plaza (1639 Washington Plaza North), Reston Museum is a nonprofit organization that aims to preserve Reston’s past, inform its present and influence the future of Reston.

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Lake Audubon in Reston (photo by Ray Copson)

Updated at 4:05 p.m. — Yesterday’s meeting on a potential Lake Audubon renaming was suspended after 20 minutes due to a medical emergency. The meeting will be rescheduled, but an exact date hasn’t been determined yet, Reston Association spokesperson Mike Leone says.

Earlier: Months after floating the possibility of a name change for Lake Audubon, Reston Association is beginning initial conversations with the community.

RA planned to hold a meeting on the idea of renaming the lake yesterday (Thursday) at the Walker Nature Center.

The meeting was strictly intended to “explore community sentiment on whether to rename Lake Audubon,” RA spokesperson Mike Leone said.

Leone told FFXnow that the meeting focused on getting input from members in the area around the lake on the possibility of a name change.

“Currently, no other meetings or discussions are scheduled on the renaming,” Leone wrote in a statement.

RA’s Board of Directors first pitched the idea at a December meeting. The motion was suggested by at-large director John Farrell, who later announced that he is running in the state delegate race to succeed Ken Plum.

Farrell is also seeking to retain his seat on the RA board, which has an election now underway.

The lake is named after 19th century artist and known enslaver John James Audubon.

In October 2021, the Audubon Naturalist Society — a major D.C. area conservation group — said it will change its name due to the “pain” caused by Audubon. The organization is now called Nature Forward.

The National Audubon Society, however, voted earlier this week to keep its name, even as local chapters of the bird conservation nonprofit — including the one in D.C. — move to drop it.

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Army headquarters at Fort Belvoir (via Fort Belvoir/Facebook)

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors is no stranger to renaming things, from roads to magisterial districts. But now, the board is leading a push not to rename a site associated with slavery.

In a Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (March 7), Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck raised the topic of Fort Belvoir’s potential renaming. The base is named for the Belvoir plantation that once occupied the site.

In a final report last year, a Department of Defense Naming Commission recommended that Fort Belvoir be renamed. According to the Association of the United States Army:

One final matter involves Fort Belvoir, Virginia, named for a plantation that once occupied the land. Belvoir has ties to the Confederacy but was not named in 1935 in direct commemoration of the South. The commission was not given authority to rename Fort Belvoir, which was previously known as Fort Humphries, but the commission believes it should have a new name. The report “strongly encourages” the defense secretary and Army secretary to review the history of the installation, noting it was the site of the celebration of Confederate Memorial Day.

While Fairfax County and other localities have routinely renamed locations, the Fairfax County History Commission expressed concerns about the Naming Commission’s report for a few reasons, from questions about historical inaccuracies to uncertainty about the effect on how Black history should be represented at the fort, according to Storck.

“Any action taken by the army should be transparent, based on evidence, and include local community and stakeholders,” Storck said. “Removing the name Belvoir may reduce the likelihood that these stories of the enslaved African Americans and free Black residents who lived on the base will be told.”

Storck proposed that the Board of Supervisors recommend the Fairfax County History Commission’s report be sent to the Secretary of the Army and the Naming Commission Historian voicing their concerns. The proposal was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay said concerns about the renaming came up in a recent meeting with the base commander. Whatever the ultimate decision is, McKay said the process around the name change should be more transparent and should involve Fairfax County.

“I had an opportunity to sit down with the base commander for quite some time and this was the subject of conversation,” McKay said. “I know it’s created a lot of angst for Fort Belvoir. I think it’s important as this consideration is being made — not by the county — but that county input is part of the decision process.”

A public affairs officer from Fort Belvoir told FFXnow that any consideration of renaming the base will be open and transparent and the Fort Belvoir leadership has already started moving forward on renaming four streets honoring Confederate leaders:

The Naming Commission encouraged the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army to review the relevant historical facts and consider renaming Fort Belvoir. The Army will begin an open and transparent process to consider renaming the installation.

The redesignation of Beauregard Road, Stuart Street, Lee Road, and Johnston Road fit within the legislative mandate of the Naming Commission. Fort Belvoir has already begun consulting with the local community, through the Fairfax County History Commission, to recommend name changes for the four streets currently named after Confederate leaders.

In October 2022, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III concurred with all of the Naming Commission’s recommendations, including redesignating nine Army installations with names that are rooted in their local communities and that honor American heroes whose valor, courage, and patriotism exemplify the very best of the U.S. military.

Fort Belvoir is standing by to assist in that effort as requested.

Photo via Fort Belvoir/Facebook

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Lane’s Mill Archaelogical Park was identified as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by the county’s African American Historic Resources draft report (via Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development)

Several locations linked to African American history in Fairfax County could be eligible to be designated as historic places.

Those buildings and neighborhoods include the Louise Archer School, the Tinner Hill neighborhood and Clifton Primitive Baptist Church. Along with other candidates, they appear in a draft African American Historic Resources Survey Report, which was released on Feb. 23.

The county is looking for residents to share their thoughts on the report ahead of its final version, anticipated late this spring.

“We’re looking for feedback on the historical context and properties as written in the report,” Leanna O’Donnell, planning division director at the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development, wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

Residents who want to weigh in on the report can do so through Friday, March 24. There will also be a virtual community meeting on the report’s findings at 6:30 p.m. on Monday (March 6).

“Any feedback will be taken into consideration as we finalize the report and help identify properties that could be nominated for inclusion in Fairfax County’s Inventory of Historic Sites, the Virginia Landmarks Register or the National Register of Historic Places,” O’Donnell wrote.

The survey report furthers the work of the African American History Inventory, a database of resources related to the county’s African American culture and history. That inventory came to be following an October 2020 motion from a commissioner on the Fairfax County History Commission.

In 2021, the county received funding through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources’ Cost Share Grant Program to support the current study.

The report includes historical information about African Americans in present-day Fairfax County, starting in the 1600s. It also features photos and descriptions of buildings and communities surveyed, as well as preliminary recommendations.

For example, the entry on Louise Archer Elementary School includes a description of the building’s location, its exterior and the surrounding area of Vienna, along with pictures of the building and some historical context.

“The evolved building is the third purpose-built school for African Americans in Vienna,” the report says. “Once Fairfax County schools began to integrate, Louise Archer School was the only formerly Black elementary school to integrate and remain open.”

The report calls the school “a strong candidate for NRHP listing.”

Of the sites not already listed, Lane’s Mill in Centreville and Luther Jackson Middle School in Merrifield were deemed eligible for the national register. Other potential candidates include McLean’s Chesterbrook Baptist Church, Clifton Primitive Baptist Church, Quander Road School in Belle Haven, and the Tinner Hill neighborhood in Falls Church.

The Gum Springs area was the only part of the county excluded from the survey. That area is “part of a more intensive survey effort focusing specifically on this prominent African American community,” according to a county press release.

The county has also moved to honor Black and African American history with new historical markers, selected late last year.

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Gloria Runyon and Dee Dee Carter, descendants of the Carter family, speak at a dedication ceremony for new signs at Freedom Hill Park recognizing their family’s history (via FCPA/YouTube)

Fairfax County may get involved in the preservation of a cemetery belonging to a family with deep roots in the Vienna area, predating the formation of the U.S.

The Board of Supervisors directed staff yesterday (Tuesday) “to investigate options for addressing safety concerns” and the long-term care of the Carter Family Cemetery, a small plot near Tysons in what was once the historically Black community of Freedom Hill.

“This has been a while in coming. We’re getting to the point where there are some outcomes that may be truly viable, so [I] appreciate the board’s indulgence,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said, noting that a final vote by the board will be needed before any action is taken.

According to the board matter, which was introduced by Alcorn and co-sponsored by Chairman Jeff McKay, descendants of the Carter family who still live in the area asked county staff for “assistance in preserving and protecting the cemetery property.”

The cemetery is located at 1737 Key West Lane in the Carter’s Green neighborhood, a subdivision of single-family houses adjacent to Raglan Road Park and the Tysons Towers senior living community.

There is one identified grave with a headstone for Millie Whales Carter that’s inscribed with the date of her death on Feb. 29, 1916 and the words “Gone but not forgotten.” The cemetery also has five or more unmarked graves, per the county’s cemetery survey.

Whales Carter was a descendant of Keziah Carter, who bought 50 acres of land in 1842 that had been inhabited by her ancestors in the indigenous Tauxenent tribe until the area’s colonization. The Carter family lived on and farmed the land for decades, later expanding into what’s now the Town of Vienna, according to the Fairfax County Park Authority.

The park authority dedicated signs at nearby Freedom Hill Park in 2021 that tell some of the Carter family’s story, but the cemetery has become neglected since the Carter’s Green subdivision was built in the 1970s, Alcorn said in the board matter.

“In recent years the Carter Family Cemetery has suffered from vandalism and dumping of landscaping waste,” the board matter says. “The immediate neighbor has also expressed safety concerns over a mature tree overhanging their property.”

The wooded lot is now “overgrown and has been used as a neighborhood dump for yard debris,” according to the Fairfax Genealogical Society.

Living members of the Carter family declined to comment for now when contacted by FFXnow, stating that they hoped to meet with Alcorn before talking to media.

The park authority says the board’s vote allows it to evaluate options for the future of the Carter Family Cemetery, but the exact role that the county will play isn’t clear yet.

“We have not yet conducted an analysis of potential solutions for this specific property in advance of the board’s directive, so we are just beginning the work of seeing what avenues might be available to help preserve this site,” an FCPA spokesperson said. “We will be providing the Board of Supervisors with proposed recommendations at a future date.”

Prior to yesterday’s vote, some supervisors suggested a countywide policy may be needed to set criteria for when and how the county should get involved in cemetery preservation efforts.

A new survey of cemetery and grave sites across the county is currently underway. The park authority’s initiative is expected to continue into 2024.

“Each one is a little different, and some might be better positioned for our engagement than others, but I think having a consistent policy across the county is going to be really important to make sure from a One Fairfax perspective that all of these cemeteries are treated fairly,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said.

Photo via Fairfax County Park Authority/YouTube

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Nikole Hannah-Jones will speak at the McLean Community Center’s Alden Theatre on Sunday (photo by James Estrin/The New York Times)

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the investigative journalist behind “The 1619 Project,” is coming to McLean.

Anyone hoping to snag a last-minute ticket to her talk at the McLean Community Center on Sunday (Feb. 19), however, is out of luck. Seats filled up quickly once registration opened last month, and the waitlist has exceeded 400 people, according to the Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL), which organized the free event.

Fortunately, Hannah-Jones has agreed to let the county make a recording of the event that will be shared “for a limited time” with attendees and everyone on the waitlist, FCPL Director Jessica Hudson says.

“We are honored and excited to host Ms. Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize and Peabody Award winning author, and creator of the landmark 1619 Project, during our Black History Month celebration,” Hudson said in a statement. “Authors are chosen for a variety of reasons including educational value, because they inspire a high level of interest among our diverse community members, and for their ability to offer unique insight into important cultural and social issues.”

Since launching in The New York Times Magazine on Aug. 14, 2019, The 1619 Project has ignited vigorous debate among academics and the general public alike over its argument that racism and slavery are foundational — not incidental — to American history.

The initiative won awards for Hannah-Jones, including a 2020 Pulitzer Prize, and has expanded with a teaching guide, podcast, the nonfiction book “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story,” the kids’ book “Born on the Water,” and most recently, a documentary series on Hulu.

The project’s longevity surprised even its author — as has the intense backlash, which has manifested in everything from historians disputing specific claims to politicians banning it from classrooms.

Far from being wary, Hannah-Jones wants to visit states like Virginia, where pushback to her work and the once-niche academic concept of critical race theory has evolved into broader fights over how history is taught in schools and access to books. She spoke in Arlington last year for “Banned Books Week.”

“It’s really important for me to go into places that are having these battles,” she told FFXnow. “Really, I see part of it as standing up for teachers and librarians and students’ right to learn, but of course, in a place like Virginia or a place like Fairfax County, or a place like Arlington, or really anywhere, we are daily seeing how the legacy of slavery is shaping lives, and people don’t often recognize that.” Read More

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Ted Lerner (courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club)

Before he helped oversee the Washington Nationals’ rise from cellar dwellers to World Series champions, Ted Lerner was busy building Tysons.

The real estate developer who transformed rural farmland into Fairfax County’s urban center died Sunday (Feb. 12) at the age of 91 in his Chevy Chase, Maryland, home. The cause was complications from pneumonia, as first reported by the Washington Post.

As founder and principal of Lerner Enterprises, Lerner laid the groundwork for Tysons by establishing Tysons Corner Center — now one of the biggest and busiest malls in the D.C. area — and the nearby Tysons II development. This work made him a visionary in the eyes of those now charged with shaping the area’s future.

“Ted Lerner was a visionary who laid a foundation for a mixed use Tysons Center which is now continuing to evolve into a dynamic urban community,” Tysons Community Alliance Chair Josh White said to FFXnow. “His contributions will continue on well into the future.”

In a memorial video from Lerner Enterprises, Lerner said his work in both real estate and baseball focused on “striving for excellence and building for future generations.”

“That way, it’s not about the properties at all. It’s about community. It’s about the future,” he said.

A native of D.C. and Army veteran, Theodore Lerner entered the real estate industry in 1951 with a $250 loan from his wife, painter and sculptor Annette Morris, according to a bio provided by the Nationals.

After initially getting a foothold in housing as a pioneer of concepts like model houses and centralized sales, he turned to the retail market with investments in Maryland’s Wheaton Plaza, which opened in 1960, and the land at the intersection of routes 7 and 123 then known as Tysons Corner.

When Lerner and fellow developer Gerald Halpin started building in Tysons, the area had little in the way of amenities beyond a corner store and a beer joint amid dairy farms and fruit orchards, according to the Post. That changed with the arrival of the Capital Beltway in 1961 and Dulles International Airport in 1962.

In a heated battle for control, the developer team of Lerner, Homer Gudelsky and H. Max Ammerman beat Baltimore banker James Rouse to get the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ approval for its $20 million plan to build a shopping center on 85 acres on the northeast side of the crossroads.

Tysons Corner Center opened in 1968 to quick success with an initial focus on local businesses, the Post reported in an extensive 1988 profile.

“When Tysons was still an apple orchard, he understood the potential for population growth and the demand for retail that would follow,” Fairfax County Economic Development Authority president and CEO Victor Hoskins said. “He predicted the emergence and value of enclosed malls which were a new concept at the time and helped transform Tysons into a predominant retail cluster in the Mid-Atlantic region.” Read More

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