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Plans Unveiled for Mount Gilead Park

It won't come to fruition for quite some time, but plans are afoot to create a Mount Gilead Park in Centreville's Historic District. Two representatives of the Fairfax County Park Authority presented details Monday night at a Historic District Task Force meeting.

In September 2005, Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) was able to obtain $100,000 from the Board of Supervisors to make various repairs and renovations on the 7.4-acre Mount Gilead property.

Included in the deal was the transfer of this property from the supervisors to the Park Authority. And Michael Rierson, with the Park Authority's Resource Management Division, couldn't be happier.

"FINALLY, after years of working with the supervisors and purchasing the Mount Gilead property, we'll see [it] transferred to the Park Authority," he said. "We consider this a significant and exciting acquisition because it enables us to have a cultural-resource park and open-space parkland in Centreville — something we've been looking for."

He said the Park Authority is already putting together a team to help decide that area's future development and operations: "We're developing a Cultural Landscape Report [CLR] to determine a treatment for the property's preservation." Then will come the creation of a master plan for it.

"Digital processing and enhancement of photos helps us see what's on the property better than we could in the past, before the advent of this technology," said Rierson. "It shows us, for example, archaeological sites, tree patterns and vegetation to help us define this property's character."

According to the book, "Centreville, Virginia - Its History and Architecture," the central section of Mount Gilead was probably built around 1783, and the house originally faced Braddock Road. It was the home of the Jamesson family from 1837-1904, and a family graveyard was established northeast of the house.

The money from the supervisors won't cover all the restoration work needing to be done on the Mount Gilead property, but it'll provide a good start. Eventually, the Park Authority hopes to perform some interior repairs on the Mount Gilead home, plus paint and put a new roof, exterior siding and gutters on its carriage house.

It would also like to restore the late 19th-century metal fence surrounding the Jamesson family cemetery, as well as repair the trim, windows and siding of the Sears house and give it a new roof, paint and downspouts.

THE SPINDLE family lived on Mount Gilead Road in a home ordered around 1920 from a Sears & Roebuck catalog. A two-bedroom bungalow like this one sold for $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. Along with it came 750 pounds of nails, some 27 gallons of paint and an instruction booklet.

"This house has its original character — it hasn't been messed with or added onto," said Rierson. "So this is exciting for us, and it will also be a focus of our preservation."

Sherry Frear, a landscape architect with the Park Authority, will head the development of Mount Gilead Park. She'll put together the master plan and the team that will create the roadmap of what will happen on this property.

"The first step will be to hold community meetings to get public input about the general management plan and the conceptual development plan," she said. "Then we'll determine how to best manage the site and which activities would best suit it."

Speaking directly to the Historic District Task Force members, Frear said, "The CLR will guide us, and I'm looking forward to working with this informed group. It's going to be fun."

However, added Rierson, "The Park Authority does not currently have the funds to develop this site. It'll be step-by-step. Mount Gilead will probably be on the 2008 park bond."