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Why Is It Named Reston?

Robert E Simon purchased 6,750 acres of land in Fairfax in 1961 after his family sold Carnegie Hall in New York. He built a planned community with his initials RES and town as its name.
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Reston was officially born on April 10, 1964 as a planned community funded by real estate developer Robert E. Simon who had purchased 6,750 acres of land in Fairfax County after selling a notable family property, Carnegie Hall in New York City. Simon was the president of Palindrome Corporation and the name of the new town was to be a combination of Simon’s initials “RES” and town, or “ton”, and Reston was born.

Washington Plaza at Lake Anne Village. Source: Encyclopedia Virginia

This was the era of white flight and urban decline, with families abandoning the District for the suburbs of Virginia and Maryland. It began with the purchase of the old Sunset Hills Farm, owned by the Bowman family, which was reported on in The Washington Post on April 6, 1961.

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Washington Post April 6, 1961

The $12.8 million purchase of 6750 acres of Sunset Hills Farm in Fairfax County from Lefcourt Realty Corp. was confirmed yesterday by Robert E. Simon, a New York City investor and real estate operator.

It is expected that Palindrome eventually will develop the rolling acreage of the vast Bowman family tract near the new Dulles Airport into a community of homes and industries.

The New York Times ran an article in October 1961 covering the new town to be built nearly 20 miles outside of Washington, near the also-new and soon-to-open Dulles International Airport.

New York Times headline October 22, 1961

An eleven-square mile community near Washington that will have a population of 75,000 is being planned as a self-contained economic unit. It will have homes, light industry, shopping centers and recreation facilities.

Ground-breaking for the initial phase of the community, an industrial park section, is expected to take place next year. About fifteen years will be required to finish the project. The total cost is estimated at $500,000,000.

That’s an astonishing amount of money for the development, which amounts to nearly $4.98 billion today! Also, the population of Reston as of 2022 still hasn’t reached the estimated 75,000 from 1961, which projected it would happen by 1980.

A big change for Reston came in 1964 with a major investment by Gulf Oil. The headline in The Washington Post said it all on April 1st. Simon was running into financial difficulties with the planned community as sales didn’t approach initial projections. To keep this progressing, he accepted the investment from Gulf Oil in order to pay off creditors.

Washington Post April 1, 1964

Within a few years of Gulf Oil’s involvement, they had forced Simon out and taken full control of the development project.

Early advertisement for Garden Homes in Reston. Source: Encyclopedia Virginia

We came across some great maps and photos in the George Mason Reston @ 50 archives. Check them out below.

Reston master plan drawing depicting land use, natural features, roads, and utilities fro November 3, 1966
Photograph of an architectural model of Lake Anne Village. This view is from the south with the Goodman town homes in the foreground at bottom left, the Smith homes at the center right and Lane Anne Plaza and the Heron House apartment tower at the top center.
Photograph [undated] of Washington Plaza, Lake Anne Village, Reston, Va. while under construction.
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