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Authors Show Historical Flare

Members of the Historical Society, Margaret Peck and Chuck Mauro share their knowledge about Herndon.

Although they don't consider themselves local celebrities, authors Margaret Peck and Chuck Mauro have become somewhat famous since the completion of their most recent books.

Both members of the Herndon Historical Society, Peck and Mauro are not new to the book-publishing scene.

"The other ones had done well so I was hoping at least this one would follow suit," said Peck about her first independent book "Images of America: Around Herndon."

In 1996 Peck, joined by other members of the community, helped publish stories from people who grew up in the area in the book "Voices of Chantilly." From there she did another group book called "Stories from Floris" in 2000 that mirrored the first as a compilation of stories from long-time residents about the progression of the Floris neighborhood through time.

But, Peck decided there was too much history in Herndon to stop documentation, so she began her independent project.

"I think when you live in a community you should become a part of the community," she said. "A lot of what's taken place [in Herndon] is history that's been passed down through my family."

Peck explained because her ancestors settled in the area in the 1700s, she has inherited a lot of photographs in addition to knowledge about the area.

"I love living here, I grew up in Centreville and my husband's family is from here," said the 79 year old. "In 1970 we bought land and built a home."

What once was farmland, Peck explained is now where their house stands — surrounded by more recent housing developments — across the street from Frying Pan Park.

Because of the town's increasing changes Peck said she wanted to share with the community how Herndon has evolved — through her photographs.

"I wanted to show Herndon was a town and these outer communities were a part of this area too," she said about the previous farming community that has been replaced by housing developments.

"We always went into Herndon to buy groceries and now we have six grocery stores within three miles of our house," said Peck about the town's growth.

"There's been a lot of changes — some good and some bad," the retiree said. "Cars, people and houses — we have lots of them."

Along with inherited photos and photos she took to document history, Peck said she was able to borrow photos from the Herndon Historical Society, Fairfax County Library and from private donors' collections.

Active in the Herndon Historical Society, the Sully Foundation where she worked for 18 years, the Daughters of the American Revolution, Fairfax County Historical Commission and the Historical Society of Fairfax County, Peck said her first independent historical book will not be her last.

Her next goal is to compile photos she took from the beginning stages of the Washington Dulles International Airport development to its current state.

"I feel I have saved some history by sharing it with other people," she said. "As new people come in, hopefully they can read about what was here before them."

And as far as her local celebrity status, Peck said she doesn't agree with that label.

"I am not a celebrity, really I am a country woman," she said.

FOR CHUCK MAURO — having just come off the completion of taping a movie based on his book "The Battle of Chantilly (Ox Hill): A Monumental Storm," — life is a little more hectic than the "country living" Peck enjoys.

"When I first was published I got excited about writing," said Mauro. "I was going to write a Civil War book, but my wife said to do something else."

Mauro explained his first book was about the Civil War, which is why he thought to do another book with the remaining information.

"I wanted him to work closer to home," said Nancy Mauro, about why she told her husband to write his next book about the Herndon area as opposed to Fort Ward in Alexandria.

"At least when he was in Chantilly I could go to the Fair Oaks Mall," she joked. "I could deal with that."

So, Mauro — who has a full-time job in Washington, D.C. — decided to take what he already knew about the area and begin extensive research to write his second book "Herndon: A Town and its History."

"Working with the members of the Herndon Historical Society — that was helpful," he said about his research.

In addition to speaking to long-time residents, Mauro said he also reviewed books from the Herndon Historical Society, the Virginia Room at the Fairfax County Library, the Richmond Library and also browsed and bought books at Civil War shows.

"You spend the day and you look and look and look and then it gets late and you photocopy everything," Mauro joked about his research techniques. "You bring with you pennies and nickels and anything else."

ALTHOUGH — as president of the Herndon Historical Society — he knew a lot about the town, Mauro said there were still some things he knew little to nothing about.

"I learned about the Indians who were here," he said, adding he would spend at least two hours a night after work and all day on the weekends researching and writing.

In his book, Herndon's development is documented from the Paleo-Indians to the coming of the railroad — that helped build and support the dairy industry — to its further development as Washington, D.C. expanded and the Washington-Dulles International Airport was created.

"Because I had done the Battle of Chantilly first, I had the second book all ready to go," said Mauro of his pre-publication preparations. "I had 92,000 words and I had to get it down to 75,000 and 75 pictures."

Mauro said he was able to do that, although adding one more photograph to make it 76 photos — some he found, others he took himself.

Since the publication of his second book, Mauro said he has spoken to historical societies, photography societies and Civil War societies about his research.

In addition to speaking about his books, he has also had numerous book signings and said he has no plans of stopping in the future.

"I still go onto eBay and look for Herndon stuff — I still look for Battle of Chantilly stuff — once you get going it's hard to stop — there's always something else," he said. "I never stop, [Nancy] gets mad, but I never stop."