Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

The Seven Corners Land Use and Transportation Task Force completed its Design Charette in late June, with encouraging results. Teams of Task Force members examined four “opportunity sites” in the Seven Corners area, and suggested potential land uses and design elements. Several community observers also attended the charette, which was open to the public. Prior to the Design Charette, Task Force members spent several months researching items such as population demographics, housing, economic development, and transportation. Additionally, most Task Force members participated in a bus tour of the area in May, poking into the nooks and crannies of the area not necessarily noticed when driving by. The full Task Force and county staff will review the charette results further as recommendations are developed for possible changes to the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

The Seven Corners Task Force work is just the latest in a long history of activity in what used to be known as Fort Buffalo. During the Civil War, a Union fortification was built and called Fort Buffalo, one of more than two dozen outposts established to protect the capital city. Decades later, the road network of a growing residential community expanded to become what we know today as Seven Corners. In fact, a 1948 aerial photograph published in “Fairfax County, Virginia: A History” shows Seven Corners, the intersection “where seven roads meet in a tangle.” There were no grade-separated or signalized intersections then, but the configuration of today’s roads is clearly identifiable.

About the same time as the photo was taken, the 1500-unit Willston Apartments were constructed to house returning soldiers and “government girls,” who were recruited to work in postwar federal agencies. Late in 1951, 31 new homes were constructed in Sleepy Hollow, “long considered one of Fairfax County’s finest residential areas,” according to the December 2, 1951, Washington Post. Sales price for a three bedroom, 1½ bath brick home was $22,500. From the description and directions in the 1951 article, it appears that today’s Crane Drive is the location of those new homes.

According to an article in the October 3, 1956 Washington Post and Times Herald newspaper, Virginia State Highway Commissioner James Anderson said that Seven Corners was “the worst bottleneck of [sic] the state.” A $1.4 million traffic interchange was begun, to include four bridges and a mile of new highway. Apparently, the project did not include direct access from Route 50/Arlington Boulevard for the new Seven Corners Shopping Center. A 1954 state highway department decision denied the access request, because Arlington Boulevard was planned as a limited access highway. The shopping center developers feared loss of a major department store as a tenant but, as we know, Woodward and Lothrop and Garfinckel’s became anchor tenants, opening in 1956. In fact, Woodies gave out opening day mementoes: fancy little Italian silver demitasse spoons with an image of the iconic store on the handle. They must be collector’s items now!

History and development of our communities can be fascinating, but perhaps even more interesting is what the future will bring. That will be the charge of the Seven Corners Task Force as they work to develop recommendations for consideration sometime in 2014.