The land on which Reston sits was initially owned by Lord Fairfax during the 18th century. C.A. Wiehle (for whom Wiehle Avenue is named) bought the land later in the 1880s. He died after construction of several buildings. His sons did not share his vision, and sold the land to A. Smith Bowman, who built a bourbon distillery on the site while maintaining a farm on most of the area, a tract. An office retail development and a road are named for him. In 1961, Robert E. Simon bought most of the land, except for on which the Bowman distillery continued to operate until 1987.
Reston was conceived as a planned community by Robert E. Simon. Founded on April 10, 1964 (Simon's 50th birthday) and named for his initials, it was the first modern, post-war planned community in America, sparking a revival of the planned community concept. Simon's family had recently sold Carnegie Hall, and Simon used the funds to create Reston. Simon hired Conklin Rossant Architects as master planners to incorporate higher density housing to conserve open space, as well as mixed use areas for industry, business, recreation, education, and housing.
The first section of the community to be built, Lake Anne Plaza, was designed by James Rossant (who studied under Walter Gropius at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design) to emulate the Italian coastal town of Portofino. Lake Anne village was designed with modern architectural themes that extend to a nearby elementary school, a gasoline station, and two churches. Lake Anne also has an art gallery, several restaurants, the Reston Historic Trust Museum, shops, and a senior citizens' fellowship house. All are local businesses, as there are no chain stores or chain restaurants allowed in Lake Anne. Close by are the cubist townhouses at Hickory Cluster that were designed by the noted modernist architect, Charles M. Goodman, in the international style. Other sections of the town, such as Hunters Woods, South Lakes, and North Point, were developed later, each with a neighborhood shopping center and supermarket.
Zoning and description
The careful planning and zoning within Reston allows for common grounds, several parks, large swaths of wooded areas with picturesque runs (streams), wildflower meadows, two golf courses, nearly 20 public swimming pools, bridle paths, a bike path, four lakes, tennis courts, and extensive foot pathways. These pathways, combined with bridges and tunnels, help to separate pedestrians from vehicular traffic and increase safety at certain street crossings. Reston was built in wooded areas of oak, maple, sycamore, and Virginia pine.
The growth and development of Reston has been monitored by newspaper articles, national magazines, and scholarly journals on architecture and land use. In 1967 the First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Lyndon Johnson, visited Reston to take a walking tour along its pathways as part of her interest in beautification projects. Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin visited Reston elementary schools named for them. The Washington Post featured a road trip to Reston in January 2006 and a relatively new website "Beyond DC" has a page devoted to Reston with almost 150 photos.
Reston is the location for a regional government center serving citizens in the northern part of Fairfax County. The Reston Regional Library, Reston Hospital Center, and The Embry Rucker Community Shelter are located nearby. The Reston police sub-station is also the office headquarters of the locally elected supervisor of the Hunter Mill District within the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Reston experienced increasing traffic congestion as it grew in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This was a time when Reston's population was growing but the Dulles Toll Road had not been built. Commuter traffic between Reston and Washington created serious traffic congestion on the roads that connected Reston to Washington DC. In 1984 the toll road opened and in 1986 the West Falls Church Washington Metro station opened. Most recently the Fairfax County Parkway, a major north-south artery, was opened.
Reston is one of just a handful of communities in the U.S. that has been designated a backyard wildlife habitat community. Usually this designation is for single-family homes.
Reston has grown to a point where it now fits the definition of an edge city. While Reston takes on the statistical properties of an edge city, its tightly controlled design averted several problems they typically face, such as hostile pedestrian situations and lack of mass transit. Many of the neighborhoods in Reston were designed to be medium density, which is atypical of an edge city. In other ways it is a textbook example, with a majority of medium rise office buildings, and some citizens opposed to the expansion of its high density core.
Reston serves as the headquarters for the North American command of the German armed forces and oversees upwards up 1,500 troops deployed in the United States at any given time.
Ebola virus scare
A filovirus, at first suspected to be Ebola virus (EBOV), was discovered among crab-eating macaques (Macaca fascicularis) within the Covance Primate Quarantine Unit in 1989. This attracted significant media attention, including the publication of The Hot Zone. The filovirus was found to be distinct from EBOV and to be nonpathogenic for humans. It was named after the community, and is now known as Reston virus (RESTV). Macaques found to be or suspected to be infected with RESTV were euthanized and the facility was sterilized. The facility was located in an office park near Sunset Hills Road and Wiehle Avenue. It was eventually torn down and a daycare was built in its place.