Fairfax County History Commission Accomplishments

Civil War Sesquicentennial

Lawyers RoadFairfax County has joined other localities across the Commonwealth in forming a Local Sesquicentennial Committee to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in Virginia. Members of the Commission have collaborated with Visit Fairfax, the Park Authority, the City of Fairfax and representatives from local groups and societies to work with the State Sesquicentennial Commission, plan events and activities that highlight the County's role in the Civil War, and to promote Fairfax County's rich Civil War history. Gretchen Bulova is the Commission's representative to the County Sesquicentennial Steering Committee and serves as Chair of the History Commission's committee.

Members of this committee include Carole Herrick, Mary Lipsey and Naomi Zeavin. They have planned a wide variety of activities and educational resources to support the County Sesquicentennial initiatives. Some of these activities include collaboration with the City of Fairfax to commemorate the Skirmish of Fairfax Courthouse on June 1, 2011; the creation of a driving tour of Fairfax County Civil War sites, "Footsteps to Fairfax Trail;" suggested reading lists for both children and adults; the coordination of a series of Civil War Trail markers throughout the County; eight Civil War in Fairfax County educational outreach kits for school teachers, groups, and community organizations; and a Civil War in Fairfax County smart phone app. Information and links to these initiatives and historical resources can be found on the Commission's website.

Fairfax County Resident Curator Program

Since 2010, the Fairfax County History Commission has been investigating the feasibility of instituting a resident curator program in Fairfax County. A resident curator program would allow a historic property owned by the County to be maintained according to specified preservation guidelines at a reduced cost to the County. A resident curator program could provide citizens with the opportunity to hold a long-term lease on a county owned historic property. In exchange for this lease, the curator would contract to restore and maintain the historic property during the life of the lease while periodically opening the historic property to the public. The Commission studied several programs to determine their viability and learn their guiding principles. In 2011, this became an official Commission goal with Robert E. Beach leading the effort and Gretchen Bulova, Michael Irwin, Barbara Naef and Richard Zambito serving on the committee.

In March 2012, staff presented the results of a cost benefits study of a resident curator program to the Development Process Committee of the Board of Supervisors. Staff recommended a program development study that would establish a program structure, define program management and analyze the potential risks of a resident curator program. In Summer 2012, funding for a program study was identified, and subsequently a Request for Proposals (RFP) was developed in order to hire a consultant to perform the study. The RFP was issued in February 2013, and it is anticipated that a consultant will be starting the study by Summer 2013.

Web Site

In addition to providing History Commission members' contact information, the History Commission's web page describes the various programs the Commission offers to promote interest in local history extending from pre-history to the recent past. The History Commission's Publication Grant encourages the sharing of local history research. The Awards Programs recognizes individuals for their efforts in researching or promoting history. Procedures and application forms for the Publication Grant and the Awards Programs are available online. Promotional information on the annual Fairfax County History Conference is placed on the website as it becomes available each year. In addition, a historical resources page provides information on property owners in 1860, lists of Board of Supervisor members, and links to the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites and an external database of Fairfax County historical markers. The Sesquicentennial page provides information on the Civil War in Fairfax County, including suggested reading lists and a Fairfax County Civil War driving tour. The website serves as an easy, up to date and readily available tool for anyone interested in our County's history. Debbie Robison manages the website. The webmaster is Greg Chase with the Department of Planning and Zoning. (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/histcomm/)

Eighth Annual History Conference

Conflict and Courage: The Civil War Comes to Fairfax County!

The 8th Annual Fairfax County History Conference was held on Saturday, November 10, 2012 at the Stacy C. Sherwood Community Center in the City of Fairfax. A record 120 participants attended, along with over 20 authors and exhibitors. The Fairfax County History Commission, Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center and the Fairfax County Park Authority co-sponsored this annual event. Preservation Virginia, Northern Branch, the Bull Run Civil War Round table and Visit Fairfax made generous contributions. The program included:

  • Re-enactment of the "Secession Vote in Fairfax Courthouse" by the Jon Vrana players.

  • Premier of Chuck Mauro's play, "Chantilly: After the Storm" depicting three survivors of the Battle of Ox Hill/Chantilly on September 1, 1862.

  • Award-winning author and speaker, Greg Clemmer spoke on "Why the Civil War Still Lives."

  • Kevin Knapp captured the audience's attention with his period dress and stories of Thaddeus Lowe - the reconnaissance balloonist who landed a balloon in Vienna, Virginia and literally launched the first American Air Force.

  • Letters written by Clara Barton were read by Susan Rosenvold, Educator at the Clara Barton Medical Museum.

  • Fairfax County Park Authority staff, Mike Henry, John Rutherford and Jim Daniels, made a presentation entitled "Echoes Still - This Land = Our Land" which was a review of the stories that are the backdrop to Fairfax County's parks.

  • The Seeds of Independence Committee of Gunston Hall that traces African American History on Mason Neck shared their recently released video, "The Story of Free Blacks Living on Mason's Neck During the Civil War."

  • The conference ended with a passionate "Appeal" from President Abraham Lincoln, masterfully re-enacted by Fairfax County School Board member, Dan Storck.

Guests included retired news correspondent Roger Mudd and Delegate Ken Plum from Reston. 11th District Congressman, Gerry Connolly joined Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman, Sharon Bulova in presenting Recognition Awards and Heritage Awareness Awards to this year's honorees. For more information, see the Awards Programs section of this report.

Committee members who coordinated efforts for the conference included, Lynne Garvey-Hodge, chair, Barbara Naef, Liz Crowell, Susan Gray, Esther McCullough, Naomi Zeavin, Sallie Lyons, Carole Herrick, Mary Lipsey, Michael Irwin, Rob Orrison.

The 9th Annual Fairfax County History Conference, "Voices for Freedom" Abolitionists, Oral History and Documenting the Past, is scheduled for November 9, 2013 at the Stacy C. Sherwood Community Center in the City of Fairfax again.

Awards Program

The Fairfax County History Commission has several awards programs to honor achievements in Fairfax County history and historic preservation. In 2011, the Awards and Executive Committees worked together to carefully review, streamline and revise these programs. After a great deal of hard work, the revised awards programs that included adjustments to the monetary prizes and revisions to the submissions requirements, program policies and judging process were adopted by the Commission in January 2012. The revised policies, along with an Application Form and Heritage Awareness Awards Standards for Evaluation are on the Commission web site. The Fairfax County History Commission maintains awards programs to honor research and achievements in Fairfax County history and historic preservation. These programs are open to the public. A full description of the programs, along with rules and requirements can be found on the Commission's web site. (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/histcomm/awardsprogram.htm)

On November 10, 2012, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Sharon Bulova and Congressman Gerry Connolly presented the following awards at the 8th Annual Fairfax County History Conference:

Heritage Awareness Awards: Established in 1995, this program is designed to stimulate and reward original research in Fairfax County history using standard social, political and economic sources in written narrative form, a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places or a video documentary.

  • C. Denise Barrett -The Nan Netherton Award, $500 prize, for her work in researching and writing a narrative on the Lakewood Estates neighborhood off Wolf Shoals Road in southwestern Fairfax County. She included information on the prehistory of the county, early land acquisitions, the American Revolution, the Civil War and 20th century life, meticulously documented with 304 endnotes and a bibliography of 26 sources.

  • Lisa Friedrich Becker-The CJS Durham Award, $250 prize, for her hard work and research in preparing a nomination to place the Sydenstricker School on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • David G. Farmer-The Beth Mitchell Award, $500 prize, for his automation and indexing of the Flint Hill Cemetery records. His database consisted of 3,500 plus lines of data from a collection of information from more than 2,100 tombstones reflecting the use of the cemetery since 1875.

Recognition Awards: To recognize contributions to the preservation of history in Fairfax County

  • Distinguished Service Award to Evelyn Fox, coordinator, and assistants for the production, Wanda Hill, Joan Morton, Virginia Norton and Gail T. Nields for casting, performing as well as producing a video of a play called "Captain John Smith: a HiStory of McLean and Great Falls Virginia" that honored the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown and subsequent events that occurred in the McLean, Virginia area.

  • Lifetime Achievement Award to Suzanne Levy for her 30 plus years of service in the Virginia Room of the City of Fairfax Regional Library and her tireless efforts to promote history, genealogy and historic preservation in the region.

The Awards Committee included Commissioners Naomi Zeavin, Robert E. Beach, Jack L. Hiller, Elise Murray and Lynne Garvey-Hodge, Chair.

Ethnic/Oral History

This committee was formed in the fall of 1997 in response to the increasing demographic diversity of Fairfax County's population. The one hundred languages spoken within schools show the diversity of the population. It has been estimated that in less than fifty years the County's white population will drop below 50 percent. The committee set as a goal to explore the ways in which more ethnic segments might be encouraged to record their experiences and community history since their arrival in Northern Virginia.

In 2004, at the suggestion of then-Chairman Connolly, the Commission formed a subcommittee of the Ethnic Committee to seek a project for recording and presenting oral history in Fairfax County. The subcommittee is researching ways to present oral history that convey to the County and the youth that the history of all people is important. In addition, that history is not just the past, but is made each day. The members of these committees are Naomi Zeavin, Anne Barnes, Sallie Lyons, Lynne Garvey-Hodge and Chair, Esther McCullough.


The Fairfax County History Commission's Publications Committee completed a project to reprint the book "Fairfax County, Virginia in 1760" and its associated map. They continue working on several reprints including "Beginning at a White Oak: Patents and Northern Neck Grants of Fairfax County, Virginia;" "Legato School: a Centennial Souvenir;" and "Mount Air, Fairfax, Virginia." The committee is working on publishing "Fairfax County in 1860" which is a portrait of the County shown through property identification maps and an aggregation of census data. The maps are posted online at (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/histcomm/1860maps.htm)..

Committee members are coordinating with the Fairfax County Park Authority and the Virginia Room on sales of history publications previously sold at the Maps and Publications Center. The Commission's publications are available for purchase at the Virginia Room. Some of the old Planning Office publications are available through the Park Authority. Committee members are working to find outlets for all of the Fairfax County local history publications.

The Commission established a new grants program, whereby an individual or a group may apply for a grant of up to $500 to aid in the research and publication of local history.

Members of the Publications Committee are Mary Lipsey (Chair), Anne Stuntz, Elise Ruff Murray, Barbara Naef, Lynne Garvey-Hodge, Anne Barnes and Carole Herrick.

Historical Markers

Fairfax County's Historical Marker Program began in January 1998 when the History Commission approved a design and agreed to fund a distinctive marker for Fairfax County. While this marker was generally modeled after Virginia's roadside markers, by state code it had to have a distinctive appearance. With colors derived from George Washington's Fairfax Militia uniform, these buff and blue roadside markers emblazoned with the Fairfax County seal, stand ten feet from ground level.

In the twelve years the program has existed 42 historical markers (including six state markers) have been approved for installation by the History Commission. Many requests for historical markers are initiated by the public, which provides for approximately one half of the funding. Some markers, including those requested by developers, are funded entirely by the requesting party. All requests are reviewed by a committee for historical accuracy and editorial continuity before being submitted to the entire Commission for approval.

Six historical markers were approved in 2011:

  • "Shiloh Baptist Church" (installed at the church on Mason Neck);

  • "Gooding's Tavern" (installed on Route 236 near the entrance of the Pleasant Valley Cemetery);

  • "NOVA Campus Heritage" (not yet installed). Although this marker was approved for a Fairfax County historical marker, the Northern Virginia Community College chose to apply for a state marker instead;

  • The Laughlin Building" (installed at 6805 Old Dominion Dr., McLean) ;

  • "Civil War At Frying Pan Meeting House" (installed at Frying Pan Park); and

  • "Bog Wallow Ambush" (waiting approval for installation on Virginia Department of Transportation property along Braddock Road).

Beginning in FY 2011, the Commission agreed that funding for markers would be limited to the cost of two Fairfax County markers. The Commission can contribute all or any portion of that amount toward the fabrication of historical roadside markers. Of course, if a sponsor agreed to fund the entire cost of a marker, that would still be possible.

Due to the efforts of Laurie Turkawski and Greg Chase, from the Department of Zoning and Planning, the Fairfax County History Commission Historical Roadside Markers are available for viewing on the Commission's web page. The viewer can select a magisterial district on a map to observe the number of markers in that district, click on the red dot showing the marker location and see a picture of the marker and its surroundings along with the text, date installed, how it was funded and a detailed location map. An alphabetical list of the markers is also available. (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/histcomm/historicmarkers/)

Serving on the Marker Committee are Anne Barnes, Michael Irwin, Mary Lipsey, Esther McCullough, Page Shelp and Jack L. Hiller, the chairman.

Inventory of Historic Sites

The Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites is one of the History Commission's longest standing responsibilities. It serves as both an honorific and a planning tool. The Comprehensive Plan includes the Inventory sites in the Heritage Resources section of each Planning District. The Comprehensive Plan Amendment, S12-CW-1CP, to update the Inventory tables, references to Inventory sites in the text and other technical corrections was approved by the Planning Commission on February 28, 2013 and by the Board of Supervisors on April 9, 2013. Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) Planning Division staff completed the plan amendment with review by the Commission's Inventory Committee. As of December 2012, the Inventory stands at 360 listings. The following additional locations of a currently listed site were added in 2012:

Additions to the Inventory of Historic Sites 2012

Site Name Date Added District Location
Manassas Gap Railroad Independent Line and Loudoun Branch June 6, 2012 Mason, Sully Great Falls

The current Inventory list along with its background, nomination forms and research guidelines are accessible to staff and the general public on the County website. An Inventory nomination form, instruction guide and example are also available. (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/historic/ihs/). Sallie Lyons, Elise Ruff Murray, Barbara Naef, Debbie Robison and Anne Stuntz serve on the Inventory Committee, in cooperation with Laurie Turkawski and Linda Cornish Blank of DPZ. The current Inventory list along with its background, nomination forms and research guidelines are accessible to staff and the general public on the County website. An Inventory nomination form, instruction guide and example are also available. (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/historic/ihs/).

Sallie Lyons, Elise Ruff Murray, Barbara Naef, Debbie Robison and Anne Stunz serve on the Inventory Committee, in cooperation with Laurie Turkawski and Linda Cornish Blank of DPZ.

Cultural Resource Managment and Protection Section Grants

Since 2000, the Commission has provided a modest grant to Vicki Monken for entering archaeological data into the computer for the Park Authority Cultural Resource Management and Protection Section. In 2011, Denice Dressel used grant funds to work on the Cultural Resources Management Plan and Cultural Resource Policies and continues to work on site specific Cultural Resource Action Plans.

In 2011, the History Commission provided funding for two summer interns who earned course credit working on the Colchester archaeology project. They were Allison Harmon, a junior in the Applied History Department at Stevenson University and Justin Herbst, a recent graduate from George Mason University with a degree in anthropology with a concentration in archaeology. The Park Authority contributed to the student's internships by providing free housing at a historic house for the duration of the internship.

Speaker's Bureau

At the Board of Supervisors request, the Commission compiled a list of people willing to speak on topics related to Fairfax County history. The resulting Speaker's Bureau List includes a variety of countywide history topics with related speakers and contact information, including name, email address and phone number. An update is in progress.

Members of the Fairfax County History Commission continue to be active in speaking before various civic, community and historic groups.

Anne Barnes has presented talks on the early historical Fairfax County "Colored" schools at the annual Fairfax County History Conference, Gunston Hall and historic one room Laurel Grove School located in Franconia, Virginia.

Jack Lewis Hiller spoke in four classrooms in 2011. Typically, he is asked to speak in public schools, to civic associations, historical groups, senior citizens or to private groups. Many of Hiller's lectures are given with slides and focus on Springfield. Titles of his lectures include: "Murder At The Mill: My Search For William H. Keene," "Henry Daingerfield and Origins of Springfield," "Oakgrove: The Home that John H. Broders Built," "The Hidden History of Hidden Pond Park," and "An Introduction To Fairfax Archaeology."

Lynne Garvey-Hodge has a particular interest in the Progressive Era of the United States (1890-1920). She re-enacts Suffragist Mrs. Robert Walker in a 45 minute, one-person monologue for numerous community events, educational groups and Cox Cable Channel 10. She has performed in this capacity on upwards of 50 occasions and has traveled throughout Virginia. Ms. Garvey-Hodge also speaks on the background and research for her book, published by Arcadia Publishers in their Images of America Series, "Clifton." She has given presentations on the history of Clifton using music, photo boards and games to local groups and for the Cox Cable Channel 10, "Virginia Time Travel" and "NARFE" programs, as well as to local educational forums and civic organizations. "Women of the Progressive Era in Fairfax County" is another presentation Ms. Garvey-Hodge has given to local non-profit, civic and educational associations and "Victorian Mourning Customs" is a more recent presentation she has given both to the Fairfax County Cemetery Preservation Association and to the Sons of Union Veterans.

Mary Lipsey continues to provide presentations on a variety of topics related to the "Braddock's True Gold" project, local history, women's history and firsts in American history.

Sallie Lyons promotes preservation and archeological and historical research in the old town of Colchester, Colchester Park and Preserve and Mason Neck, speaking frequently to groups and at the History Conference.

Naomi Zeavin speaks at the Rotary and schools, etc. on Historic Mason District.

Outreach Activities

Fairfax County History Commission members continue to be active in a variety of ways in the community. The following summary, though not a comprehensive list, highlights the wide variety of outreach activities performed by commission members.

Anne Barnes is a member of the Board of Directors of the Laurel Grove School Association.

Architect member, Robert E. Beach, AIA, LEED, AP, designed the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial, which will be located in Occoquan Regional Park in Lorton and will pay tribute to the women who endured harsh imprisonment to secure voting rights for women. Lynne Garvey-Hodge and Irma Clifton serve on the committee for the project.

Irma Clifton is the President of the Lorton Heritage Society, Inc., and is historian and collections manager for the Lorton Arts Foundation. She owns a historic house in Falmouth where she also is active in historic preservation.

Carole Herrick was chair "McLean Remembers the Civil War," an all-day event commemorating 150 years of the beginning of the Civil War, held at the McLean Community Center on October 22, 2011.

Carole Herrick is a past president of the McLean Historical Society and currently serves as vice-president.

Lynne Garvey-Hodge serves on the Town of Clifton Historic Preservation Committee, which she initiated; serves as chair of the Clifton Betterment Association's Clifton Oral History Project; and chaired the Clifton Community Woman's Club Spring Homes Tour in 2011. Her new historic home on Blue Dan Lane will also be on the 2012 Clifton Community Woman's Club Homes Tour.

Lynne Garvey-Hodge and Mary Lipsey co-founded the non-profit Fairfax County Cemetery Preservation Association, Inc., whose goal is to preserve and protect family cemeteries in Fairfax County. Both are officers.

Sallie Lyons formed and incorporated the Friends of Fairfax County Archaeology and Cultural Resources, FOFA, supporting the Cultural Resource Management and Protection Section of the Park Authority. Barbara Naef was among the charter members.

Sallie Lyons continues to promote preservation and archaeology in Colchester and provide pro bono graphic design through Lyonshare Studios for CRMP historical interpretive trailside displays. She is an active member of the Lorton Heritage Society, Preservation Virginia and the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Archaeological Society of Virginia.

Elise Murray and Mayo Stuntz serve on the Board of Directors of the Historical Society of Fairfax County.

Elise Murray attended the Virginia State Preservation Conference held in Winchester in September 2011.

As the Archaeologist Representative on the Commission, Barbara Naef continued to meet regularly with the Park Authority Cultural Resource Management and Protection (CRMP) Section Manager, to keep advised and updated on the various activities and projects involving the countywide archaeology programs that are managed through CRMP.

The volunteer assignment to coordinate the Park Authority Resource Management Division's American Association of Museums (AAM) accreditation self-study that Barbara Naef accepted in 2009 continued through 2011. In September 2010, she received the Resource Management Division Volunteer Excellence Award for her work on accreditation.

Debbie Robison continues to research local history and write articles about historical sites and events in Fairfax County. In addition, she regularly assists the public by answering research questions. She completed the research phase of a major project begun in 2010 to research and identify water-powered mills in Fairfax County. In addition, she researched the history of all of the historic structures in Clifton and the ruins of Matildaville at Great Falls. She is a member of the Historic Centreville Society Board and serves on the Centreville Joint Committee reviewing proposed developments in the Centreville Historic District.

Naomi Zeavin serves on the board of directors of the Capitol Hill Civil War Roundtable.

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