For his 91st birthday, Robert E. Simon Jr. took a trip to visit Macchu Picchu, an ancient Incan city in the mountains of Peru. When Simon returned, the Reston community honored him for his 44-year-old vision of a place called Reston.
While not yet ancient, Reston was made possible by Simon when he sold Carnegie Hall in New York City and used the money to buy the 6,750-acre Sunset Hills Farm in 1961. A Realtor and builder of large shopping centers, Simon fell in love with the land and gathered the necessary people to establish Reston, a community, which was named by taking Simon’s initials and the English suffix for town.
At Saturday’s second annual Founder’s Day at Lake Anne Plaza, Restonians gathered to celebrate and recognize the history of their community and its founder.
“We celebrate our past, our present and our future in the community,” said Vicky Wingert, president of the Reston Historic Trust. “It takes us looking back to notice what we have.”
Responding to the festivities, co-hosted by the Reston Community Center and the Lake Anne Village Center, Simon said he was “overwhelmed.”
AT THE INAUGURAL EVENT last year, Simon was honored with a lifelike, bronze statue of himself sitting on a Lake Anne bench. Just two years running, the event also includes a traditional photo op of Simon sitting beside his lookalike. “I would guess there have been more pictures with this bronze Bob probably than anything else in Reston this last year,” said Chuck Veatch, vice president of the Reston Historic Trust.
The event started with a crowd-rousing musical performance by a student orchestra from Langston Hughes Middle School.
During the presentation portion of the event, the local elected officials representing Reston, including Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, Del. Kenneth “Ken” Plum, state Sen. Janet Howell, and School Board member Stuart Gibson, were given a chance to make remarks and acknowledge Simon’s work.
“I think we owe it to all the people and parents of this great community who chose to live here because of Bob’s vision,” said Gibson.
“I think it is so important to help people remember what we are about,” said Supervisor Hudgins. “We will always remember what Bob Simon has given us.”
“I’m proud to be at the beginning of Reston,” said Simon, who took the opportunity to urge attendees to continue to work to make Reston a better place. “But much remains to be done to provide for those who remain less fortunate,” he said.
THE PRESENTATION was followed by a procession to the Reston Historic Trust’s newly-dedicated bricks in Washington Plaza. The bricks, donated by residents, help raise funds for the Trust and allow residents to cement their mark on Reston history.
“My parents moved here in 1972,” said Katie Eldridge, who grew up in Reston and bought a brick for her parents, Bob and Dianne. “They have everything they need for Christmas, so I thought I’d get them something lasting,” she said.
Also, as part of the festivities, celebrants visited the newly-renovated Reston Museum, where they enjoyed desserts donated by McCormick & Schmick’s and M&S Grill, and coffee donated by Greenberry’s Coffee. Afterwards, celebrants went on the Founder’s Day Walk along Reston paths to the Island Walk complex.