The Fairfax County History Commission presented its annual report to the Board of Supervisors on June 21. The History Commission is a board-appointed group of citizen volunteers, whose task is to promote public interest in the history of Fairfax County. And what a rich history it is! Much of the Colonial Era, the struggles of the new nation, the challenges of the Civil War, and its aftermath, have been documented, but the newer history of Fairfax County needs similar documentation, before we lose our longtime residents and their significant memories.
In 1970, Fairfax County’s population was 454,300, overwhelmingly Caucasian, and housing units numbered just 130,800, countywide. Fairfax County was a bedroom community, most people worked in Washington, D. C., and commuted via the Shirley Highway (now I-395). The county’s success as an economic engine and national leader may have been dreamed about, but not realized. Today, our incredibly diverse population is 1,125,400, living in 412,200 housing units, with an economy that rivals many small nations.
What happened between 1970 and today? That’s where you can be helpful. As the population ages, neighbors who witnessed such significant changes are leaving, some downsizing, some moving to be near family, some through death. Their memories, photos, letters, newsletters, etc., should be captured and preserved for future generations. Oral histories are a simple way to do that, and connect with treasured neighbors at the same time. The History Commission’s Oral History subcommittee offers support to groups in Fairfax County seeking to record and collect oral histories. Perhaps you have a longtime neighbor who remembers when farmland was abundant inside the Beltway, or when that same farmland was developed into your subdivision. My across-the-street neighbor, who has lived in the same house since about 1954, told me that our street used to be a dirt road, and her husband finally got the state to put some gravel down to make it passable when it rained. There were four houses on the street then; now there are 13, with very diverse architecture and occupants, mirroring the changes in the county. Another approach might be to ask residents, who came here from another country, about their experiences moving to Fairfax. Those changes, and those memories, can provide the basis for an oral history that will be treasured for years to come. More information is available at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/histcomm.
Fairfax County’s free summer concerts continue to draw hundreds of attendees to local parks for live musical entertainment. You can enjoy a free concert somewhere in the county most evenings during the summer, usually starting at 7:30 p.m. Check the Fairfax County Park Authority website (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks) for venues and performers. Tomorrow, the Empty Bottle String Band will perform at Mason District Park, and the NOVA Annandale Symphony Orchestra will play on Sunday. The international concert series at Ossian Hall on Saturday will feature Vietnamese Cultural Heritage Night. Bring a blanket, bring a picnic, bring the family. I look forward to seeing you there.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.