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Old 10-14-2009, 06:22 PM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
30,204 posts, read 67,344,690 times
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This is something that has been bugging me ever since I moved here to Reston back in May. Can someone please explain to me how an art deco-oriented plaza built in 1965, just a little over 40 years ago, can be considered a "historic district?" Does this mean my 50-something parents are both ancient? I drive by the "historic district" sign along Baron Cameron Avenue everyday on my way home from work, and to this day I just quite honestly don't see it as being "historic." Was this done as an effort to save Lake Anne Plaza from an untimely demise after the Reston Town Center was built? Was this done to prevent the plaza from being considered for dense mixed-use redevelopment? I just don't get it. Most people would NOT call something built in the mid-1960s "historic." I'm just curious since I came from an area where homes built in 1900 were a "normal" part of the everyday landscape, and even neighborhoods with high concentrations of 19th Century homesteads were not labeled "historic districts."
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Old 10-14-2009, 07:21 PM
 
Location: Springfield VA
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I don't know honestly. But I would guess that it was probably one of the first shopping centers built in Reston. Remember there was no Reston in 1900 most of this area was dairy farms until the 50s.
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Old 10-14-2009, 07:29 PM
 
Location: Home is where the heart is
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You do not have to be old to have historic significance. Obama's presidency has historic significance, even though it happened just this year. Armstrong's walk on the moon has historic significance even though it wasn't very long ago.

In the same way, Lake Anne Plaza is historic not because it is old but because it has a number of "firsts" and also because it is an intact piece of architectural history (more on this below).

Here's a few things I remember from my days at the Reston Museum. If you were to actually go to the museum, I'm sure they could give you a list of the specific reasons. But as I recall, the following were the main points. Lake Anne Plaza is historic in a couple of different ways. It was one of the first "new towns", a historic movement in urban design. Associations, and the designs that go with them (for example, clusters of town homes surrounded by forested common grounds) may seem commonplace today but were innovative at that time. And, it is the oldest intact, complex and multi-purpose piece (i.e. a shopping center/residential complex complete with lake). Being intact is important (and rare). That was one of the biggest reasons to pursue the historic designation. Right now people may not appreciate having an intact piece of architectural history--that's why so few intact pieces remain. As soon as something gets a few years old folks always want to redesign things. But in 100 years the future generation will appreciate that this piece of mid century new town design was kept intact.

The Plaza also has historic significance because it features a number of unique "firsts." (Ironically, many of these firsts are not appreciated by the current residents, as they've become outdated. Sometimes it's hard to live in a historic building.). For example, Lake Anne Plaza featured an innovative cooling and heating system using the lake water that in turn inspired new concepts in this type of engineering. Another innovation was the cable system, I believe it was the first of its kind in the country. Of course today it seems antiquated--but it's still of historic significance.

Another reason for the citation is that Lake Anne Plaza is a signficant work in the careers of both urban designer James Rossant and architect Clothiel Woodard Smith. When I worked at the Reston Museum, architecture students would come in to see The Chimney House townhomes next to the Plaza. Apparently they have a special significance.

Anyway, this is a rough explanation. If you want the specific reasons, the museum will be able to provide them.

Last edited by normie; 10-14-2009 at 07:39 PM..
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Old 10-14-2009, 07:34 PM
 
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"Historic" doesn't necessarily mean old. They say the '08 Presidential election was historic and it wasn't even a year ago.

I don't know a lot about Reston, but I believe it was billed as an "experiment" of sorts....a departure from the norm at the time. Sort of in the same vein as Levittown....a new way of doing things. Whether these experiments turned out well or are abominations is irrelevant....they're still historic!

edited to add: Hey normie...fine minds think alike!
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Old 10-14-2009, 07:39 PM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
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Thank you, Normie. That was exactly the explanation I sought. I know JFromReston and some other pro-Reston folks think I'm a Reston "basher" for being critical at times of the lack of streetlights, sidewalks, and such, but that's not the case here with this thread. I was just a skeptic from the very beginning as to how something younger than my parents could be called a "historic district." I still personally think a "heritage district" might have been a better choice of words, but I know that's just being picky. You're right in that some monumental occurrences have happened just since the year 1960 that will have a huge historic impact upon us for generations to come---man walking on the moon, 9/11, the election of President Obama, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the current wars, etc. I suppose for me when it comes to historic architecture I'm automatically envisioning Victorians, Tudors, Colonials, Greek Revivals, Queen Annes, etc. built in the 1800s---not a 1964 plaza.

It's just something I'll have to get used to I suppose. I do need to get my derriere to the museum soon, especially since I live practically next-door and commute by it daily. I'm well aware of our 90-something-year-old Mr. Bob Simon and all of his founding principles and ideologies (and I might even like to bump into him someday before his inevitable passing), but after that I'm not sure how we evolved from a vision of being a walkable community with prominent village centers and ample housing options for people of all backgrounds and life stages to being a community that sold out original village centers for a "fake" town center replete with over-priced chains, wider roads in favor of more investments in encouraging mass transit usage and walking, and housing prices that are even squeezing me, a person who earns $42,000. I imagine once Metrorail comes in housing prices will soar, and Mr. Simon's vision of people of all walks of life living here will become impossible unless the taxpayers are subsidizing their housing.
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Old 10-14-2009, 07:44 PM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terrence81 View Post
I don't know honestly. But I would guess that it was probably one of the first shopping centers built in Reston. Remember there was no Reston in 1900 most of this area was dairy farms until the 50s.
Yes. Lake Anne and the adjacent Washington Plaza was one of several "village centers" that Reston was supposed to be oriented around. Reston Town Center, while giving the overall community a sense of greater prominence with its own skyline to boast about and plenty of high-end retailers and chain restaurants, also served to all but kill many of the original village centers. From what I've heard Hunter's Woods isn't exactly what it used to be at its prime, Washington Plaza/Lake Anne was more vibrant in the '70s, and I'm sure the same can be said for other center as well. I know Northpoint Village Center (where I do quite a bit of shopping after church each week) seems to be thriving, but that is also a much newer complex (built in the early-90's I believe?)
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Old 10-14-2009, 07:46 PM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
30,204 posts, read 67,344,690 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by car54 View Post
"Historic" doesn't necessarily mean old. They say the '08 Presidential election was historic and it wasn't even a year ago.

I don't know a lot about Reston, but I believe it was billed as an "experiment" of sorts....a departure from the norm at the time. Sort of in the same vein as Levittown....a new way of doing things. Whether these experiments turned out well or are abominations is irrelevant....they're still historic!

edited to add: Hey normie...fine minds think alike!
As I said this will just take some getting used to I suppose. I'm still not yet over the culture shock from moving here. While there are a LOT of things I like much better about VA than PA, one thing I'll never back down from is my belief that PA benefited from being mostly planned pre-automobile so that there are affordable places to live that have walkable cores. I know it's all a matter of preference, but I really like the aesthetics of late-1800s Victorians over 1990s tract housing and feel depressed that the former is nearly impossible to find here unless you go FAR away like Fredericksburg or Winchester.
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Old 10-14-2009, 08:01 PM
 
Location: Home is where the heart is
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScranBarre View Post
I do need to get my derriere to the museum soon, especially since I live practically next-door and commute by it daily.
Sadly, you missed seeing the museum at its best (in my opinion). It used to be an amazing clutter of artifacts, sort of like Grandma's attic. All sorts of fascinating things were on display. My favorite was the handbook for the original salesmen (they had to be told how to explain this strange town to potential buyers).

The RHT still has all the artifacts, but they're in storage now. The new museum is slick and attractive, but there isn't much "meat" to it. Personally I think it was better when everything was out for display. It was a chaotic jumble, but fascinating. You could spend a whole day there sifting through things.

In fact, that's how I discovered the museum. I write books, and one time I wrote a murder mystery set in Reston. So I went to the museum and literally sat there for weeks, looking through all kinds of things. Finally they asked me to volunteer, since I was there all the time. I remember finding an oral history collection that included interviews of gardeners and maids employed by the first residents in the 1960s. What a treasure for an author to find, it helped give a lot of historic accuracy to my book.

Nowadays people just display interviews with Simon. Sure, he's important-- but to me the life stories of all the different people of Reston are historic treasures.

I'm glad they kept all the artifacts, I just wish they were on display again. What good is history if it's kept locked up in a storage facility?
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Old 10-15-2009, 02:44 AM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, NC, formerly DC and Phila
8,574 posts, read 12,673,240 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by normie View Post
In fact, that's how I discovered the museum. I write books, and one time I wrote a murder mystery set in Reston.
Wow, that's so interesting! Have you written books we can check out of the library? I love murder mysteries - especially the so-called "cozy mysteries." It's always fun to read stories set locally, especially written by someone who actually lives locally and doesn't get the facts wrong.
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Old 10-15-2009, 07:37 AM
 
Location: Home is where the heart is
15,400 posts, read 25,825,081 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michgc View Post
Wow, that's so interesting! Have you written books we can check out of the library? I love murder mysteries - especially the so-called "cozy mysteries." It's always fun to read stories set locally, especially written by someone who actually lives locally and doesn't get the facts wrong.
At one point the Reston Library had a copy of Reston Peas (yes, I know that's a horrible pun ). But that was quite a few years ago and to be honest it was a pretty dreadful book. A fun read for locals since I referenced lots of people and local landmarks, but that was about the limit of the appeal. Found out I'm no Grisham! But I had fun writing it, that's the important thing.
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