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By its very design, Reston is a self-contained community, balancing living space with recreation, open spaces, appropriate commercial development and more. Add to that the wide variety of activities and programs available, as well as the broader resources available in our surrounding area, and it’s easy to see that you’ll never run out of things to do and places to explore. This part of our website provides quick links to a variety of resources for you to explore.
Reston is a large, self-sufficient community spread over more than 7,000 acres, but it began as an undeveloped tract of wilderness in the Northern Virginia Piedmont.
Reston’s history dates back to the 1890s, when a doctor from Philadelphia made an unsuccessful attempt to establish a town (then called the Town of Wiehle) in the area now known as Reston. Later, in the 1950s, two entrepreneurial brothers from Kentucky drew up a town master plan, but this effort likewise failed to materialize. More efforts followed, but each was unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the idea of community-building was undergoing major changes. In response to the evolving demands of modern living, the concept of “new towns” emerged in western England and Scandinavia. The idea behind these communities was highly attractive – self-sufficient, small-to-medium sized cities with a broad range of carefully planned and balanced housing, commercial, industrial, educational and recreational facilities. They were urban landscapes in rural settings, and they were proving the viability of creating living areas that combined quality of life, amenities and individual dignity.
Then, in 1961, Robert E. Simon, Jr., saw this land, fell in love with it, and succeeded in gathering the elements needed to begin the process of bringing the new town concept to Northern Virginia. Using proceeds from the sale of a family property – New York City’s Carnegie Hall – Simon purchased the 6,750-acre parcel. He called the new town “Reston,” using his own initials and the English suffix for town. Within its 11.5 square-mile area, more than 58,000 residents would eventually come to live, work, play and enjoy life.
Simon assembled a talented team of planners, architects and environmentalists to prepare a grand design for the development of his parcel — and the management of its open spaces. One of Simon’s important early steps was persuading the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance allowing the closer clustering of housing. This change enabled Reston to include the then-remarkable notion of large commonly held open spaces with fields and trees that would improve the aesthetic and environmental quality of the community.
Engineers dammed natural streams to form lakes, and planners designed village centers to provide shopping facilities and other services. Near the center of it all was Lake Anne Village Center, with its tall Heron House apartment building and innovative townhouses surrounding the lake, similar to a European coastal village. The center, in fact, soon became an internationally-recognized symbol of this growing American New Town.
In 1967, however, the capital costs of the ambitious development project began to overwhelm Simon’s financial resources. One of his principal investors, Gulf Oil, stepped in to save the project from bankruptcy. To their lasting credit, Gulf Reston officials continued development of the New Town and for more than 10 years and encouraged its growing diversity in housing sizes, styles and prices. The company worked to attract businesses and organizations to relocate in Reston, thus providing opportunities for residents to work near where they lived.
Reston’s citizens soon began forming many of the civic, cultural, sports and religious organizations that flourish to this day. One of the most significant efforts was the building of the Reston Community Center at Hunters Woods Village. Requiring seven years to plan and design in close cooperation with Fairfax County officials, backers established an administrative board and a special taxing district to fund the ambitious plan.
Mobil Corporation bought the remaining undeveloped land from Gulf Reston in 1978, and formed Reston Land Corporation as a subsidiary. The new developer continued following Simon’s master plan. Long-envisioned projects became realities, including new schools and parks, a regional county library, the Reston Hospital Center, a homeless shelter, a county magisterial district office building and the Cameron Glen nursing center for the elderly.
Meanwhile, more businesses were moving to Reston. Attracted by the community’s desirable campus-like office and R&D park designs, the new business neighbors also benefitted from their proximity to Washington. In 1984, the local business community banded together and established the Reston Board of Commerce, which now includes some 800 members working to strengthen the connections between businesses and the community.
By 1988, over 1,400 companies had established themselves in Reston, employing 31,000 people — more than an average of one-and-one-half jobs per household. High-tech firms like Sperry were followed by others, especially after the Dulles Toll Road opened in 1984. Time and again, company officials pointed to Reston’s community design, housing, amenities and talented workforce as major factors in their decisions to locate their businesses here. The commitment of numerous businesses to locate in Reston, starting in the early years with USGS, has provided the broad employment base so vital to the new town concept.