Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Town of Wiehle, Virginia

By John Berry

The Town of Wiehle, Virginia (in what would eventually become Reston) began as a concept by Dr. Carl Adolph Max Wiehle.  From the 1892 map below, it appears that the Town of Wiehle encompasses most of what is now North Reston.

Dr. Wiehle's Background

A little bit about the background of Dr. Wiehle.  He was born in 1847 in Germany and was the son of a German Reformed Minister. Dr. Wiehle immigrated from Germany at the age of 2.  Wiehle, VA: Ghost of a Town that Never Quite Lived, Washington Star Pictorial Magazine, Aug. 31, 1952, at 2. He attended the University of Pennsylvania for Medical School and practiced medicine in Philadelphia. Dr. Wiehle had 7 children, did quite well in his practice, and decided to retire from medical practice early to engage in building.  He retired from medicine at the young age of 35-41 (accounts differ) in 1881. Wiehle's Legacy Lives on in Reston, Gregg MacDonald, Wash. Post, Apr. 4, 2002.

Purchase of Reston Lands by Dr. Wiehle

Dr. Wiehle purchased 4,000 acres of land in what would later become Reston and moved his family to Washington, D.C., living at 1621 Connecticut Avenue, NW.  Dr. Wiehle formed a land partnership in 1886 with General William McKee Dunn to purchase approximately 6,450 acres of heavily forested land in Fairfax County along the railroad, which was close to current day Sunset Hills Road, for about $20,000, or about $4 per acre. Legacy Lives on in Reston, MacDonald.  The land was divided equally between Wiehle on General Dunn, who subsequently developed "Dunn" Loring.  Dr. Wiehle took the 3,228 acres north of the railroad tracks, where he eventually built his home, a post office and a town hall. Dr. Wiehle's plan was to develop a self-sufficient community that would provide "about 800 homes for 4000 residents." I wonder if he would be surprised today that Reston would ultimately have about 60,000 - 70,000 residents by the year 2017.

The Train Comes to Wiehle

Almost 130 years before the Wiehle Metro Stop opened in 2016, a railroad first established a stop in Wiehle, Virginia in 1888. Reston's first railroad stop, so to speak, was established in August of 1888, on the W. & O Railroad.  As the Alexandria Gazette on August 2, 1888, reported:

New Wiehle Train Stop
Sunset Hill Stations Photos Sept. 2017
Post Office of Wiehle

In 1887, Dr. Wiehle was able to persuade the federal government to change the post office address in the Town of Wiehle from Thornton's Mills to the Wiehle Post Office.  In September of 1887, a new post office, named "Wiehle" was opened in what would become Reston. As reported by the Alexandria Gazette on September 2, 1887.  See the article below:

Wiehle Post Office Established
The Center of Town, Wiehle Town Hall and Church 

The Wiehle Town Hall building still exists, but is in much need of repair and restoration. It no longer sports the steeple shown in the photo below.  The old Wiehle Town Hall is located on Old Reston Avenue not far from Sunset Hills Road. The structure was designed by Dr. Wiehle in the Classical Revival style and built in 1892 and originally served two important functions for the Town of Wiehle. The first floor was occupied by the Town Hall and the second floor was occupied by the Wiehle Methodist Episcopal Church.  Eventually, the structure became part of the A. Smith Bowman Whiskey Distillery and Farm. Department of Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Form 10-900, dated October 18, 1999.  The building was last up for sale a few years ago in 2008 for $1,600, 000.

1892 Wiehle Town Hall

August 2017 Wiehle Town Hall

August 2017 Wiehle Town Hall

1950s View of Wiehle - Before Reston

In 1892, Dr. Wiehle hired a city planner to draw up plans for the town of Wiehle, which was to include 800 residences laid out along a grid of streets and avenues named after famous locales, such as New York and Paris. The main streets were named Paris, London, Berlin and Vienna Avenues. However, despite the plan for 800 residents, only 10 lots were sold and built upon in Wiehle.

Dr. Carl Adolph Max Wiehle
As mentioned above, the Town of Wiehle, Virginia was planned well. Dr. Wiehle was able to build the Town Hall, some residences, a lake and other buildings where a few remain today. He was able to commission the construction of his summer home. He had 3 lakes constructed on his property and each was drained every spring to be cleaned and refilled. If you look at an overview of the property today, it appears that some of the lake still exists today.

The Town of Wiehle also maintained an Icehouse.  According to the NPS Form 10-900 National Register form "A brick icehouse, the larger icehouse for miles around was constructed in 1888 on the Big Lake dam.  The structure could accommodate the storage of a large amount of ice that would be cut each winter from the dammed water.  The cutting of the ice was a huge event in the town of Wiehle, and the Wiehle family would travel from Washington, DC to attend the ceremonies."

Dr. Wiehle also built the Aesculapian Hotel in 1888, a large summer hotel which attracted a number of visitors from the D.C. area, and which was torn down in the 1950s. The Fairfax County Public Library (Fairfax City Regional) maintains a 1892 version of the Town of Wiehle Map.  If Dr. Wiehle had not been injured and/or gotten ill we might all be living in the Town of Wiehle today.

Map of Wiehle, Virginia 1892

As you can see from the map above, Dr. Wiehle had an elaborate plan for the Town of Wiehle. The 1892 map had a legend which had a Manor House, Hotel, Poultryman's Bungalow, Horsebarn and many other properties. The following photograph was taken sometime in the 1890s.  It shows the Town of Wiehle at its very start.  It is hard to imagine that the bridge would sit on top of where the 7-11 on Sunset Hills drive does today.

1890s Wiehle Virginia

A town charter was issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia General Assembly in 1898. By 1900 Wiehle had a population that was relatively small, approximately 50 people.

Dr. Wiehle died of pneumonia in 1901. Following his passing, the Town of Wiehle continued for some time, but did not prosper and the lands were sold to the Bowman family in 1927. Wiehle, VA: Ghost of a Town, at 3. The Town Hall ceased to function as such in 1909.

But for Dr. Wiehle's passing, Reston might instead be still known as Wiehle, Virginia.  The Virginia General Assembly, in 1989, through House Bill 1156 repealed the original act which had incorporated Wiehle, finalizing the end of the Town's name. However, Wiehle lives on with the naming of the Wiehle Metro Stop / Development and Wiehle Road.

Dr. Wiehle's signature

Monday, September 18, 2017

Great Reston Site

For anyone following the Reston History Blog, I wanted to give a quick recommendation if you have never seen the Restonian Blog.  It is one of my favorite websites for events and issues in Reston.  It covers all a lot of topics and has a bit of levity to it as well.  I highly recommend this website.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

How Reston Got it's Name

By John Berry

I have often wondered how Reston got its name.  I realize that the first three letters of the name R-E-S stand for Robert E. Simon, but I think that I was curious about what other names were in contention or perhaps who made the final call on the name and when.  I did some research and I found the answer.

Originally, Reston Lands Were Referred to as the Northern Neck Proprietary

The land which Reston would eventually be built upon was part of an original land grant the exiled English King, Charles II in 1649 which encompassed all the lands bounded by the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers in colonial Virginia.  Obviously, this covered a lot of land mass, but included Reston.

The Town of Wiehle First

Before it was Reston, the land in Reston was incorporated as the Town of Wiehle, named for Dr. Carl Adolph Max Wiehle who tried to form his own vision of a town on Reston lands in the late 1800s.  His ill health and passing did not allow this to come to fruition and ultimately little except for some structures on Old Reston Ave. remain of the Town of Wiehle. From the passing of Dr. Wiehle, for about the next 50 years until Robert E. Simon purchased the lands of Reston and changed the name, the Town of Wiehle existed not so much in substance, but in name.  Even the Town, which was incorporated in the last 1800s by the Commonwealth of Virginia was dissolved in 1989 at the urging of Delegate Kenneth Plum.

Old Reston Ave. sign Aug. 2017

Robert E. Simon Purchases Reston Lands

Robert E. Simon, in 1961 purchased the 6,750 acres of land that would become Reston as he planned for the development of a new town. He knew that timing was an issue and needed to come up with a name in order to form the new community.  However, when he purchased the lands he didn't have an immediate name for the town.

Simon Names Reston

Robert Simon explained, in a Washington Star Sunday Magazine in May 8, 1966 just how Reston got it's name. He held the interview was given in his office in a converted farmhouse at the time. In response to the interview by Benjamin Ruhe, Robert Simon stated:

Q. Why the name Reston?

A. That was a negotiation that took place one weekend in Martha's Vineyard between my wife and my mother -- I kept far away.  I wanted the name to have some relationship to me which be an "in" joke, so to speak. I'll tell you something amusing. At that time we had a public relations outfit, fortunately I don't remember the name, but I through this thing at them and said: "Come on, we've got to get a name because we've got to file with the County on such and such a day."  Meanwhile, back at home, they had a habit of pulling my leg by calling this think Simon City and we all found it very wonderfully repulsive.  So the P.R. Outfit sent someone up to make the presentation of the name and choice No. 1 was . . . Simon City.  Well, this is obviously repugnant, so what they came up with we're my initials, R.E.S., with the small version of town - "ton" at the end of it. This gives me and my family pleasure without being an insult to the people who live there.

1952 Washington Star Interview

One other note, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, from October 21, 2015 to October 25, 2015, passed a resolution, changing the name of Reston briefly to Hill Valley, to celebrate the Washington West Festival and the 30th anniversary of the film "Back to the Future."  I happen to love the name Reston for our community. I think it was a very good choice and a great fit. Somehow Simon City just not would have sounded right.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Reston in the 1800s

By John Berry

Reston, Virginia in the 1800s was essentially vacant land outside of the bounds of significant commerce.  That, of course, slowly began to change towards the end of the century as we now know. The nearby Town of Herndon, Virginia was the first to develop, as the railroad began to make its way through the area in the 1850s. In order to obtain a post office, the area needed to be named and according to the Town of Herndon website, residents met and named the town for William Lewis Herndon, a noted captain that had gone down with his ship. The Herndon area in the 1860s was secured by Union troops during the Civil War and took the role of a Depot, while Reston was still relatively undeveloped.

Reston, Virginia in the 1800s did not experience experience significant change until later in the decade. In 1843, Lord Thomas Fairfax, the Ninth Baron Cameron, gave a deed of over 8,000 acres, which included Reston, to his son Reginald who then sold the land to one Benjamin Thornton in 1852 at the price of $5 an acre. A Brief History of Reston, at 3.  The Civil War touched a portion of Reston, in 1861, during the Battle of Dranesville, with Union and Confederate forces firing at each other up and down Reston Avenue at Leesburg Pike.

After the Civil War, land around Reston became subject to speculation. The lands that comprised Reston was put up for auction in 1886.  As a result, the land that would eventually become Reston was sold to Dr. Carl Adolph Max Wiehle and General William McKee Dunn for the amount of $20,000.  A Brief History of Reston, at 3. Dr. Wiehle, for whom Wiehle Avenue and the Wiehle Metro Stop are named, was a German born physician from Philadelphia, who had retired from medicine at the very young age of 35.

Dr. Wiehle had partnered with Mr. Dunn and split the property, with Dr. Wiehle taking a portion of the property which included Reston.  Dr. Wiehle's goal, in the 1880s, was to develop a new town. In September of 1887, a new post office, named "Wiehle" was opened in what would become Reston. As reported by the Alexandria Gazette on September 2, 1887:

In 1888, Dr. Wiehle purchased additional property from the heirs of one Mary F. Chamblin, in the amount of 100 acres lying about one mile South of Dranesville, which likely included additional Reston properties, for the price of $10 an acre. Alexandria Gazette, Jan 20, 1888, at page 3 (see picture below):

Reston's first Metro stop, so to speak, was established in August of 1888, on the W. & O Railroad.  As reported by the Alexandria Gazette on August 2, 1888:

To develop his new town, Dr. Wiehle even apparently brought in a planner from Germany to design the municipality in 1892, which was supposed to include 800 residences, and include a city grid. See Gregg MacDonald, Wiehle's Legacy Lives On, Washington Post (Apr. 4, 2012).  Of note, a portion of land that General Dunn controlled eventually became Dunn Loring.  Fairfax County has provided a historic set of pictures of the Town of Wiehle.  The link to the county website can be found here.  The photograph can be found at the county website listed above:

Dr. Wiehle was seriously injured in a train collision on the Pennsylvania railroad in November of 1890.  Alexandria Gazette, Nov. 15, 1890 at page 3.  Records reflect that Dr. Wiehle and his wife sued the Pennsylvania Railroad Company as a result of the collision, for approximately $45,000.  Alexandria Gazette, Mar. 14, 1891.  A map of the Town of Wiehle was prepared in 1892 by Joseph Berry.

Dr. Wiehle was actively involved in railroad efforts to the area and served as the Vice-President of the Falls Church and Potomac Electric Railway.  Alexandria Gazette, Dec. 14, 1896 at page 2.  In late February of 1898, Dr. Wiehle, elected as mayor of the town of Wiehle and town councilman were named.  The Alexandria Gazette reported, on February 5, 1898, at page 2, that the Virginia Senate and House had passed bills to incorporate the Town of Wiehle.  The Alexandria Gazette, on March 4, 1898 provided:

In June of 1899, there was apparently a significant fire in Wiehle (Reston), which led to the destruction of Dr. Wiehle's large saw mill and barn.  From the Alexandria Gazette:

Alexandria Gazette, June 30, 1899, at page 3.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Reston, Virginia in the Early 1600s to 1700s

By John Berry

One cannot start a blog about the history of Reston without beginning with the mention of Robert E. Simon, our founder.  He was an amazing man with an amazing legacy.  I have been a resident of Reston for almost 14 years and had the good fortune of having dinner and lunch with him on 2 separate occasions, one shortly before his passing.  Without him Reston might very well be just like all of the surrounding suburbs; with no planning or thought process put into it; but it is not. It is an amazing an inclusive community thanks to him with all sorts of possibilities for all residents.  

Reston Pre-History

The story of Reston begins, however, even before Robert E. Simon and that is where this blog will begin. Ice Age hunter-gatherers passed through or lived in the Fairfax area at least 12,000 years before the first Englishmen arrived. The area of Reston, prior to English exploration, was under the control of Native American tribes referred to as the Taux, Does or Dogue. Donald M. Sweig, Ph.D., A Brief History of Fairfax County, at 1-2. There is also some indication that other tribes, such as members of the Powhatan Confederacy and the Iroquois Nation were located nearby in Great Falls and possibly Reston.  See NPS Publication.  Native Americans used the area, for thousands of years before it become Reston to quarry stone and for winter hunting and gathering camps.  Reston, Compiled by the Reston Historic Trust and Museum (2015), at 3.

Reston During the 1600s as the "Northern Neck"

In 1608, Captain John Smith explored and mapped the lands near the Potomac River. Captain Smith discovered that the Native Americans lived along many streams and rivers in Fairfax County.  A Brief History of Fairfax County, at 1. With English exploration, the land upon which Reston sits was first known as the "Northern Neck Proprietary." The first political organization of the land that would become Reston was in 1649 when King Charles II, who had been exiled to France provided a deed for 1/5 of the Commonwealth of Virginia, referred to as a the “North Neck Proprietary” to 7 noblemen and supporters. A Brief History of Reston, 1970, at 3.

Proprietary grantees had the authority to build towns, castles, and forts, could create and endow colleges and schools, and were to enjoy the patronage of the churches,  Nan Netherton, Reston A New Town in the Old Dominion, at 1 (Donning Co. Pub. 1989).  The extent of the Northern Neck Proprietary grant was not recognized by either the King or the grantees because most of it had never even been mapped previously. The proprietors also thought little of their grant since Charles II, due to political struggles in England, was a king without a kingdom.

Following the initial development of the Virginia colony, it was divided into eight “shires” for the convenience of colonial law by the Virginia House of Burgesses; Fairfax was included in the District referred to as Chicacoan. Fairfax and Reston lands later become part of Northumberland in 1645, Westmoreland in 1653, and Stafford in 1664. Sweig, A Brief History of Fairfax County, at 2. The last Native American tribe, the Dogue, moved out of Reston and Northern Virginia in 1675. This left the lands in Northern Virginia, including Reston, open to English settlement. The fact that the Native Americans left their fields abandoned made settlement of the area even easier.  

Reston During the 1700s Finally Becomes Part of Fairfax County

The land was eventually acquired in 1710 by Lord Culpepper’s daughter, Lady Fairfax.  
Colonists eventually moved inland towards the Reston area later on while Native Americans slowly moved out.  Lord Fairfax (6th Baron) inherited the property which includes Reston and then owned for several generations by the family. Reston sits on land that was first owned by Lord Fairfax for several generations during the 1700s. Development of the Reston area was relatively slow in the 1700s, with English settlers slowly making their way into the area. Development began more in nearby Herndon, with a church built in Herndon in 1727 and located in Frying Pan Park.  Herndon, A Town and its History, Charles V. Mauro, at 21 (2004). 

Reston lands became part of Prince William in 1730 and in 1742 became part of Fairfax County, as it is known today. In 1747 the 6th Lord of Fairfax emigrated to Virginia. The Fairfax Grant map survey, located at was made in approximately 1747, by John Warner, and shows the land in which Reston would sit upon.  

The map was prepared for the Right Honorable Thomas Lord Fairfax Baron Cameron (one of Reston's major roads is even named for him).  Reston is marked in blue.    

As of 1750, Fairfax County was mostly wilderness and more forest than cultivated land, and had a population of a little over 5,500 individuals. Herndon, A Town and its History, at 23.  The next map below indicates where Reston would have been as of 1751 (the date of the map by mapmakers Joshua Fry, Peter Jefferson and Thomas Jefferys) on this very old map. The full map is available at the Library of Congress at I have added a blue mark as to where Reston was likely located here.  Keep in mind that the maps of the time were very inaccurate.

The blue spot I have added in the map shown below shows the approximate location of Reston on this old and somewhat inaccurate map. I will try to research this further and post about this time period. At the end of the 1700s, the lands that would become Reston were mostly undeveloped and unpopulated.  The closet town of any note was Herndon, which had very few residents at the time. For the most part the lands in Reston were mostly vacant during the 1700s.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

This is the first post of the Reston History Blog.  I hope to post interesting articles about Reston History in the months to come. My goal is to cover Reston from the early days of the land that eventually became Reston, up through the years. Please stay tuned.

The Town of Wiehle, Virginia

By John Berry The Town of Wiehle, Virginia (in what would eventually become Reston) began as a concept by Dr. Carl Adolph Max Wiehle.  ...