Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

Virginia’s dark history as the seat of the Confederacy is well-known and well-documented; Fairfax County’s role in the conflict is lesser known, but Confederate names linger in street and place designations. Last summer, the Board of Supervisors asked the Fairfax County History Commission to undertake a review of Confederate place names in the county, and report to the board before the end of the calendar year. Earlier this month, the 536-page report was completed and presented to the board.

The report is a fascinating history lesson, as the commission identified 26,552 street and place names in the county. The commission narrowed its focus to 650 well-known Confederate officers and locally well-known Confederates, and filtered street and place names for matches. Those matches then were researched for possible Confederate connections. The report found only 157 “assets” with confirmed Confederate-associated names; 14 of those were located in Mason District. Beauregard, Bragg, and North Chambliss Streets originated in the City of Alexandria and extend into the eastern edge of Mason District. Those street names were selected long ago by the Alexandria City Council, not Fairfax County.

John Marr Drive, a roadway constructed in the mid-1960s in downtown Annandale, most likely was named for John Quincy Marr, reputed to be the first Confederate soldier killed in the Civil War at Fairfax Courthouse. A monument to Marr there was removed earlier this fall. As far as can be determined, John Marr had no connection to Annandale. In the Broyhill Crest subdivision, also in Annandale, six street names commemorate Confederate generals: Early Street, Ewell Street, Longstreet Court, Pickett Court, Rodes Court, and Stuart Court. That neighborhood was constructed in the early 1950s, but the History Commission could not find any confirmation that the use of Confederate names was intentional.

The extensive report is a fascinating encapsulation of the development of many neighborhoods. In each magisterial district, the names are identified alphabetically, with the filter name based on military records and even pension rolls and burial data. Each entry has corresponding notes about the finding, usually with no Confederate connection that could be identified. For instance, many names are Green or include Green as part of the name. Of the seven “Green” street names in Mason District, none were found to have Confederate linkages. The same was true for “Hill”-related names. In some cases, the entry was found to be a “common family name” in Fairfax County — Farr, Fitzhugh, Hummer, Lee, Slade — with no definitive documentation about a role in the Confederacy. The report can be accessed on-line at fairfaxcounty.gov/history-commission/sites/history-commission/files/assets/documents/confederate-names-committee/confederate-names-inventory-report.pdf.

The Commission also made recommendations about next steps: 1) adopt a process to engage the public in open dialogue through public meetings and community gatherings. That would be followed by a period of deliberation leading to definitive action, and 2) archive all the project research at the Virginia Room in the City of Fairfax Regional Library, which has an extensive collection of Fairfax County history and documentation. The first two roadways identified for consideration of a name change are Lee Highway (Route 29) and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway (Route 50 west of Fairfax City); both roadways traverse multiple magisterial districts, although not in Mason District. Announcement of public meetings is expected in the early part of the new year.

There are many opinions about changing the Confederacy-connected names of familiar locations, and those certainly will be on display at public hearings and community meetings. However, one thing we all can agree on is – have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.