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Looking Back at Braddock

The Braddock District is conducting a year-long 'mini-series' of its own history.

Mail delivered by train, a sprawling dairy farm and Civil War-era treachery — just what happened in the past 150 years in what is now the Braddock District?

Guided by Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) and her staff, an army of historians is reading, listening and testifying to create a thorough history of the district.

"It’s been fascinating to hear these stories," said Mary Lipsey, coordinator of the Oral History portion of the year-long "Look Back at Braddock" project, being undertaken through Bulova's office. "It’s the emotions and all that you get, and the tidbits you wouldn’t read in a history book or even a news article."

"Throughout my career, I hear stories from 'old-timers' about what was here before our present neighborhoods and shopping centers, and I've always wanted to capture some of these stories before they're lost forever," said Bulova.

The project kicked off in the fall, but has gained steam with three weeks of oral history sessions in May conducted in conference rooms at the Braddock District offices. Members of an Oral History Committee compiled a list of names of members of the community whose stories they would like to hear, then contacted them to see if they were up for it. Among the residents interviewed were former Board of Supervisors Chair Audrey Moore, retiring Del. Jim Dillard (R-41), Mayo Stunz and various citizens and business owners.

"This (is) a good time for us to stop talking about capturing the history stories and start taking oral history interviews," said Bulova. "We're getting some great stories, and hopefully we'll end up with a number of different products."

EACH PARTICIPANT filled out a questionnaire, then told his or her story on video and audio tape.

"Many of them have family stories that go back about to the Civil War," said Laura McDowall, a former Fairfax County School Board member and interviewer and interviewee for the project. Once the interviews are completed in early June, staff members will compile a written and visual account throughout the year.

The oral history is one of many projects associated with "Look Back." Another project will produce a layered map that traces the boundaries, significant landmarks and features of Braddock District from its beginnings in the 18th century to the present. Viewers will be able to "peel back" layers of the map to see when certain features existed, or ceased to exist, both on a real map and on a virtual map created with Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.

"You can essentially take a look at present day, and click back 20 years, 50 years, 100 years, until you see the Braddock area when Braddock Road and Little River Turnpike were old Indian trails and show some of the geologic features that existed then," said Bulova.

Bulova's office is also sponsoring a high school paper competition, open to students from several middle and high schools within the district, and focusing on an historical aspect related to Braddock District. Papers will be judged and awards presented at the Braddock District Council of Community Associations Picnic on June 14.

"This place is rich with history, which goes way past the suburbs," said Lipsey.