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How did Reston Get Its Name?

November 12, 2009

3-10-08 South Riding & Reston 034

Bob Simon, father of Reston, sits in bronze at Lake Anne

How Reston got its name

Marnie: How did Reston get its name…from being a restful place to live?

Steve: No Marnie, Reston is a peaceful place to live…but the name Reston was derived from the initials of Robert E. Simon, the man behind the outstanding design, vision, and creation of Reston. That is a sculpture of him above sitting on a bench a Lake Anne Center. I will write about the history of Reston from time to time, since it is an intriguing topic for anyone interested in real estate development and the thought process that goes into designing a livable community…rather then just slapping up some buildings, selling them and running off to do it again somewhere else.

The following quote is from the Washington Post 2004:

“Robert E. Simon Jr. is the pioneer behind the groundbreaking planned community of Reston, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. Reston’s European-style plaza, clustered townhomes, centerpiece lake, and contemporary architecture are studied by planning and architecture students across the country. Named by the American Institute of Certified Planners as a national planning landmark, Reston is a classic study in community planning. Simon, who turns 90 next month, moved back to enjoy his creation 11 years ago.”

Source: Washington Post, Mar 25, 2004

What was he thinking?

Marnie: Do you have some quotes from any speeches made by Mr. Simon which give some background into his thought process?

Steve: Yes …..the following quote is from his Genisis speech in 1961:

“This brings me to 1961. A representative of the Washington real-estate firm of Shannon & Luchs was given the assignment to sell a 6,750-acre parcel of Virginia countryside. He spoke to Jim Lannegan in New York, hoping to interest Roger Stevens, but instead Jim called a friend of his, Henry Wrightson. “Henry, do you know anybody that is interested in 6,000-odd acres in Virginia?” Henry replied, “Maybe, if you come on up and see me.” The person he had in mind, of course, was me.  The project was really out of my area, but it seemed such a marvelous opportunity. The location was perfect. The foundations were just being laid for the magnificent Dulles Airport terminal building and construction crews were scratching away at the runways. An airport like that in what seems like a desert will cause the desert to flower. And Dulles Airport was being put into Fairfax County, then the single, fastest-growing county in the United States.

The property was about 18 miles from Washington, the nation’s capital and fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country. On top of this, the terrain was beautiful. It was an irresistible challenge, so I didn’t resist.  What should be done with the land? With a parcel this size, the only conceivable single use was a bedroom community; and that, to me, was a repulsive idea. We began to think about a “New Town.” Of the many definitions of a New Town, I prefer the one given by Ada Louise Huxtable in the New York Times: a New Town is a large-scale development with residential, commercial, industrial, cultural and civic functions. In other words, a well-rounded community.

Marnie: Is Mr. Simon still alive…I hope so…… he sounds like such a good guy?

Steve: Yes Marnie Mr. Simon is alive and living in Reston at Lake Anne, where it all started. You can kind of visit him at the Lake Anne Plaza….his life size bronze sculpture sits on a park bench there. You can sit beside him after learning more about the very cool history of Reston at the Reston Museum.


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