During the Colonial America era, the land on which Reston sits on presently was part of a huge grant to Lord Thomas Fairfax from King Charles II, extending from the Potomac River all the way to the Rappahannock. This property remained in the Fairfax family until 1852 when they sold it.
Two gentlemen, William Dunn and Carl A. Wiehle purchased approximately 6,500 acres in the northern part of Fairfax County, along the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Railroad line in the year 1886. Later on, they divided the land between themselves, with Carl retaining the acreage that was on the north of the railroad line. He dreamt of founding a town on his property, including amenities such as hotel, parks, as well as a community center. Unfortunately, he completed only a handful of homes before his demise in 1901.
Carl’s heirs finally sold the land, which then changed hands severally before being purchased by the A. Smith Bowman family, who built a bourbon distillery on the site. By year 1947, the Bowman’s had managed to successfully acquire the former Dunn tract south of the railroad, for total holdings of over 7,000 acres. In 1961, Robert E. Simon used funds from his family’s recent sale of Carnegie Hall to purchase a huge chunk the land, except for some 60 acres or so on which the Bowman distillery continued to operate until 1987.
On April 10, 1964 on his 50th birthday, Simon officially launched Reston and named the community using his initials. He laid out 7 “guiding principles” that would express the quality of life he desired for the residents and also serve as a strong foundation for Reston’s future development. His dream was for Restonians to live, work, and even play in their own community, sharing common grounds, scenic beauty and serenity, all shared equally regardless of social status, therefore establishing a stronger sense of community ties.
Simon envisioned Reston, Virginia as a model for huddled residential development, also known as a conservation development, putting a premium on preservation of open space, landscapes, and wildlife habitats. Indeed, Reston was the first 20th-century private community in the U.S. to explicitly incorporate natural preservation in its planning. To date, Reston has remained as a unified, balanced and cohesive whole, being home to beautiful landscapes, recreational facilities, commercial hubs, cultural centers as well as historical sites. It is a city that continues to live in its founding fathers’ visions, prospering as a community that values togetherness above all.