Category Archives: Fairfax County

The most populous jurisdiction in the Washington D.C. area with over 1,000,000 people. Known for its public school system, Fortune 500 companies, government contractors and possibly being the Silicon Valley of the East.

VDOT releases 1949 footage of Shirley Highway in Alexandria

va350_old_tinyThe Virginia Department of Transportation has released another Then & Now video, this time of Henry G. Shirley Highway in 1949, then known as Virginia primary route 350 and now Interstate 395. Last time, the video was of US 29 in Arlington. This time VDOT recreated about a 2-mile drive along Shirley Highway and combined it with the 1949 footage (IN COLOR!) of the same stretch of road, though nothing really is the same:

Shirley Highway predates the interstate highway system, having been built to provide access to the Pentagon and the Fairlington development that came out of World War II as well as a bypass of US 1 a bypass of US 1 between the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers. Technically, Shirley Highway did not go over either river, but provided a direct connection between the two of them.

In the original 1956 interstate highway plan, VA 350 was to be part of I-95. The new number may not have been posted as such until massive rebuilding in the early 1970s that included 2 reversible express lanes. The designation was short-lived though as the proposal to build I-95 between New York Ave (US 50) and the Capital Beltway near College Park was cancelled. Shirley Highway was re-designated I-395 in 1977.

The contrast between then and now is striking of course. The video begins near Edsall Road which today is just south of the terminus of the “EZ Pass Express” toll lanes that supplanted the 1971 express lanes. The two lanes in each direction with no shoulders of 1949 is unrecognizable to the 11 lanes over three separated roadways of now. The hills of the Alexandria area are quite visible too — it looks like a rural area then. Because it was.

Concrete arch bridges (similar to the Washington Blvd spans over Columbia Pike that are being replaced now) and sporadic white guide signs have been replaced by steel girders and frequent big green signs. A conspicuous NO THRU TRUCKS signal also makes an appearance.

Rolling along in 1949 Shirley Highway was through untouched country side past the current Landmark Mall (opened as a shopping center in 1956) and the new Mark Center. Van Dorn Street, which parallels Shirley Highway now wasn’t even there yet, nor was it’s residential development. That would come within a decade. The large Mark Center building would only open in the last few years.

This is a fun exercise for me, seeing what the area close to my current home looked like long before I was born. A late former neighbor grew up in Fairlington and told me about how they would ride their bicycles along the grading for an Shirley Highway when it was under construction; I wish I could show him this video.

There is a lot more to learn about Shirley Highway and see maps and photographs and I recommend the following sites:

Adam Froehlig and Mike Roberson’s Virginia Highways Project – VA 350

Scott Kozel’s Roads to the Future – Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway

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29 Tastee Diner, circa 1995

Fairfax’s 29 Diner saved

After I initially became aware of the closure of the 29 Diner (nee 29 Tastee Diner, my photo above is circa 1995), I CC’ed a couple of loval Post columnists about the demise. Both indicated that 29 Diner would return. The Post still hasn’t reported anything, but yesterday I found that Northern Virginia Magazine has details:

New owner and Fairfax native, John Wood hopes to reopen the doors of this iconic establishment in late July. “We just signed the lease,” says Wood. “As soon as we get all of our marching orders from the Virginia Board of Historical Resources we will reopen. It is going to be the same classic diner that it has been for the last 67 years.”

From Iconic 29 Diner in Fairfax Plans to Reopen in Late July Under New Ownership

UPDATED 6.19.2014: John Kelly has a column in today’s PostFairfax City’s 29 Diner is getting a makeover; fans of late night eggs and grits rejoice

As a much-needed renovation progresses over the summer, the diner’s parking lot will host events, including food truck visits and car shows. They hope the diner itself will reopen by Labor Day.

And when it reopens? There will be diner food, yes, John and Billy said, but also artisanal food served by a rotating cast of acclaimed chefs. There’s likely to be a barbecue component, too. Ambitious.

John said the plan is to work with groups that help veterans and the homeless. He said the Lord inspires him to give back.

There were several comments on Facebook about the closing of the diner. I’ll admit to some nostalgia and will probably take a visit there sometime now. My wife’s never been and I think my six year old may enjoy it too. Adding barbecue makes me want to go back more. And artisanal food, why not? Though I’d just be happy if it’s less greasy than before.

By the way, Wikipedia mentions that the diner has been featured in a few Zippy the Pinhead comic strips over the years, including this one from 2003.

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britain-on-the-green

Britain on the Green is this Sunday at Gunston Hall

SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY is Britain on the Green, the region’s premier British car show, sponsored by the Capital Triumph Register. The weather forecast is sunny and clear all day. Over 250 cars spanning the last 100 years of automotive technology are expected. Included in the price of admission is a tour of the historic Gunston Hall, the famed home of George Mason a founding father of our nation – irony! Food trucks and entertainment will be available on site.

BOG Spectator Admission Prices:
Adults: $10
Seniors: $8
Children 6-18: $5
Children under 6: free
Family of 5 (2 adults, 3 children): $25

My brother Christopher will be showing Tommy, the Triumph TR250 our dad bought new in 1968 in Arlington and owned the rest of his life — he was probably the only original TR250 owner left! Come on down and vote for Christopher. They’ll be other cars there too.

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Tysons, Va. December 10, 2013 snow fall total at 10 a.m.

TYSONS, Va. — It is kind of hard to believe, but after last winter’s snow drought was followed by some measurable March snow, we’re already into our second winter storm of the 2013-2014 winter. In as many days, no less. The snow wasn’t really measurable yesterday; just enough to make it pretty before the mixed precipitation started. Today though, there is enough, only I had a problem — I can’t find my ruler at work. A co-worker offered this solution:

PROTRACTOR IN SNOW!

The official WWN Weather Bureau reading – 3 inches, though some may be from yesterday. I hope to have one more protractor-measured reading around lunch time.

Also: Alexandria, Va. December 10, 2013 snow fall total at 10 a.m. & My commute

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R.I.P. Mayo Stuntz

This Was Vienna, Virginia by Mayo & Connie StuntzThe Town of Vienna, Va.’s preeminent historian Mayo Sturdevant Stuntz, aged 97 years, has died. Stuntz was a lifelong resident and co-author of the book “This Was Vienna, Virginia” that was published in the late 1980s. He visited my social studies class and shared with us his memories of the town.

My brother Christopher, who provided a photograph of the book included here added “the town of Vienna will owe him a debt of gratitude for generations to come.”

FROM VIENNA PATCH

Remembering Vienna’s ‘Unofficial Historian’

Obituaries: Mayo Sturdevant Stuntz, Sr., 97

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Northern Virginia, D.C. should not get too many Brood II cicadas

Fairfax County to see minimal number of cicadasWTOP/AP
Recently, a co-worker was wondering when the cicadas would come out. I remembered the Brood X appearances in 1987 and 2004, but did not remember the Brood II cycles. Now, I know why — BeltwayLand is on the outskirts of Brood II’s range. I am not disappointed by this at all.

Stay tuned for our next cicada update, eight years from now.

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Britain on the Green at Gunston Hall – a celebration of British cars this Sunday

British Racing Green TR3
This Sunday at Gunston Hall near Lorton, Va. is Britain on the Green (BOG) a celebration of British cars. It looks like it will be a nice day, so if you love Triumphs, Jaguars, MGs and so on like I do, stop on by. The Capital Triumph Register description:

Past shows have featured nearly 200 British cars registered in 25 Classes and image003hundreds of spectators. The British Car hobby and motor industry are extremely well represented. Dozens of Triumphs and MGs are joined by Austin Healeys, Jaguars, Rolls and Bentleys, Minis, Lotuses, Land Rovers, and cars you’ve probably never seen before, such as Jensen, Riley, and Wolseley. The show is a participant’s choice voting for class awards plus special awards such as Best of Show chosen by the BOG committee. The price of show car registration includes a dash plaque, a commemorative poster, and a tour of Gunston Hall. Spectator admission will be at standard Gunston Hall prices, which includes a tour of the house and grounds as well as the car show. British car regalia and food vendors are available for your enjoyment all day long. Plus you will have an immersion in American Colonial history with the period reenactors giving demonstrations in outdoor cooking.

If you have a British car you’d like to show, the cost is $35.

Admission – Adults: $10, Seniors: $8, Children 6-18: $5, Children under 6: free, Family of 5 (2 adults, 3 children): $25

My brother Christopher will be showing our father’s 1968 Triumph TR250 that was bought new in Arlington and restored multiple times. We have great memories of going for rides with Dad from the time we were toddlers strapped in the passenger seat together and up until last year. Christopher now owns “Tommy” as he “held the light more” when we were growing up. He’s an excellent steward and eager to be participating in his first BOG. VOTE FOR HIM!

Also, there is the irony of celebrating British cars at the estate of an American patriot!

I got a sneak peak of the Triumph contribution to BOG last weekend when I joined my brother in a ride up and down the George Washington Memorial Parkway with almost a dozen Triumphs. I took a few photos of that too: [flickr : Photos of Capital Triumph Register ride/slideshow]

LOCATION


View Larger Map

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