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Step Back in Time in Historic District

A special highlight of Centreville Day is the opportunity it affords local residents to peek into the area's past by touring Centreville's Historic District.

A booth will be near the information tent at Old Centreville Crossing Shopping Center, from where shuttle buses will ferry passengers to and from the Historic District for tours between noon-5 p.m.

"I think it's exciting that we're really focusing on the history of the local area because there's so much there," said Sue Davis. (She and Sharon DeBragga are co-chairs of the Historic District events). "This is the largest assembly of historic buildings still in existence in Fairfax County. So it's a wonderful opportunity to help celebrate that and to make people aware of all the history that's right in their midst."

THEIR 10-PERSON committee has been working since April to make the Historic District really come alive for its visitors. The district is off Route 29 and Braddock Road, and people will be able to tour historic sites including: Royal Oaks House, Spindle House, St. John's Episcopal Church and cemetery, Mount Gilead, Havener House and the Old Stone Church.

Actually, events in the Historic District will begin Friday evening, Sept. 12. At 6:30 p.m., a homemade, traditional dinner will be served in the lower level of St. John's church. While listening to historic readings, guests will dine on turkey pot pie, field greens salad, biscuits, gingerbread squares and fruit compote.

At 7:30 p.m., there'll be displays of artifacts and family memorabilia from 19th- and 20th-century Centreville. At 8 p.m., costumed docents will share stories about the historic sites woven into the St. John's Historic District afghan. They'll also tell "Tales of Olde Centreville" from the Revolutionary period to the present.

Also speaking then will be Mary Robinson Ewell, a direct descendant of Gentleman Jim Robinson, one of the first freed-slave landowners in this area. On the program, as well, will be Pat Darr, a direct descendant of the Spindle and Darr families — both of whom are buried in St. John's cemetery.

Because seating is limited, those wishing to attend the Sept. 12 dinner and program must make reservations by Sept. 10. It's open to the public. Tickets are $12; call Davis at St. John's, 703-803-7500, or e-mail her at glysdishd@aol.com.

On Saturday, Sept. 13, will be tours of St. John's and other Historic District sites. (Earlier, students will have received "passports" containing pictures and short descriptions of Historic District landmarks). Chick-Fil-A of Chantilly will give meal coupons to students who visit these sites and get their passports "stamped" accordingly.

MOUNTAIN VIEW SCHOOL students and faculty will assist at the Royal Oaks and Spindle sites. The Royal Oaks house was dismantled in the 1950s, but period-costumed docents will give details of its history. It once stood on Mount Gilead Road and, along with its surrounding property, was sold many times.

Daniel Roberdeau, a Revolutionary War general and a member of the Continental Congress, lived there until about 1783. Much later, this house was the Union generals' headquarters when they occupied the town during the Civil War.

Mountain View School is on Spindle Court, and the Spindle family's Sears home was on Mount Gilead Road. As the name indicates, the house was ordered, around 1920, from a Sears & Roebuck catalog. Some 22 different models were offered, and a two-bedroom bungalow like this one sold from $600 to several thousand dollars.

It came by rail to Herndon Station and was brought to the site by two rail cars — in 30,000 pieces. Said DeBragga: "It came with 750 pounds of nails, about 27 gallons of paint and an instruction booklet."

Local contractors assembled the house in less time than it would have taken to build a conventional structure. The Spindles were one of the first Centreville families, and brothers Benjamin and Robert served in the Civil War and ended up in Mosby's Raiders in the Confederate Cavalry.

They settled in Centreville after the war ended. "Robert became a Fairfax County supervisor [representing] the Centreville District, in July 1901," said DeBragga. "Benjamin was a local businessman. Both are buried at St. John's."

Also on Centreville Day will be a Bull Run Civil War Roundtable display, and Susan Gray of the Fairfax Historical Society will be on hand to answer questions. At the Mount Gilead house, GMU history professor Ted McCord and others will give tours.

Children's games and crafts will be held on the lawn, Bob Wharton will discuss the hide-tanning facilities and visitors will observe a bee hive behind glass and receive samples of comb honey.

ST. JOHN'S CHURCH was constructed in 1851 and used as a hospital during the Civil War. It later burned down, and church services were held at the Harrison House on the corner of Braddock and Mount Gilead roads while it was being rebuilt, around 1867-68.

On Centreville Day, authors of Civil War books will sell and sign their work there and historic Centreville afghans will be sold. There'll be a Civil War railroads display, and Paula Elsey will autograph her book about Union Mills.

From noon -5:30 p.m., Western Fairfax Christian Ministries will host a Christian rock concert at St. John's. Performing will be His Glory Ministries, Full Circle Band, Good News Blues Band, New Life Christian Church Band and Corner Stone Band. Admission cost will be items for the WFCM's food pantry and, said Davis, "We're excited about that opportunity, too. It's another way we can help WFCM."

And at 2 p.m. at St. John's, longtime residents Kenyon Davis, Claudette Ward and Rita Koch will share their personal and family stories of life in post-Civil War Centreville.

The Havener House — built around 1790 and used as a Union hospital, store, post office and inn — may also be toured, as well as the Old Stone Church, built in 1855 as a Centreville Methodist Episcopal church. It, too, served as a hospital following the Battle of Blackburn's Ford and both the first and second Battles of Manassas.