Not that long ago, Reston was far-flung rural land, about a dozen miles west of Washington. For a little while in the late 19th century, a resort community sprung up along the railway. Reston has come a long, long way from those humble beginnings. It still may not hold enough charms to satisfy a certain set of hip urbanites inside the Beltway, but its siren song of a “new urbanism” future lured us over for a look today.
The really big show, the long-awaited opening of Phase 1 of the Silver Line, is still a week away. This morning, however, Fairfax County officials cut the ribbon and showed off parts of the new Wiehle-Reston station (end station of Phase 1).
Never before, it seemed, have so many gathered to see a new parking lot. Well, folks admired the shiny new buses, and in some ways the star of the show seemed to be the bike room. The first of its kind in the county, cyclists will have vertical and regular parking, 230 spots we were told, as well as room for oversized bikes or bikes with trailers. Repairs can be made at one of two “fix-it” stations with pumps and tools and a work bench for bike repairs.
Transit-oriented growth around the station will be seen in the form of Reston Station, a mixed-use, urban employment center.
Afterwards, we drove over to the Reston Museum, co-located with the Lake Ann Plaza. Walking past the farmer’s market tents, I sensed we were lost. But it’s there, located by the water and across from the sports pub restaurant.
For most folks, the history of Reston begins with Simon, who built a non-segregated community in the 1960s. But we also owe a debt to a Dr. Carl Wiehle, a German immigrant who built a resort and town in the late 1890s (his story is briefly covered in The History of Fairfax County). Wiehle was ahead of his time. He hired a professional city planner from Germany who laid out the town with inspiration from world capitals such as Paris and Berlin. Wiehle was on a roll and must have been thrilled when the Fairfax Herald told Herndon and Vienna to look over their shoulders. Wiehle built a hotel, bowling alley, tennis courts. Tourists poured in but residents numbered only in two digits.
Wiehle’s luck ran out after the turn of the century. He fell into bankruptcy and died in 1901.
There was a certain can-do, the-future-is-bright spirit this morning at the Open House. If only Dr. Wiehle could have been there to feel it.