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A Sunday Stroll

Residents take a historic tour of the Georgetown Pike Walking Trail.

When it comes to the history of McLean, Henry Mackall is a wealth of information.

Mackall, now 79, grew up on his family's ancestral property — a large chunk of land just northwest of the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Chain Bridge Road. For this reason, Mackell made the perfect guide for a stroll along the Georgetown Pike Walking Trail.

"In my mind, Langley is the historic district of McLean," said Carole Herrick, a local McLean historian, and a member of McLean & Great Falls Celebrate Virginia 1607-2007. "Henry Mackall knows more about Langley, about McLean, about Fairfax County and about Virginia than anybody I know."

On Sunday, April 30, the community group McLean & Great Falls Celebrate Virginia 1607-2007 sponsored a guided tour of the Georgetown Pike Walking Trail as a way to celebrate the trail's official dedication.

The McLean and Great Falls Celebrate Virginia 1607-2007 organization is one of the first four localities recognized by the state as an official community program commemorating the 400th anniversary of Jamestown’s founding. Participating communities agree to adopt a program that highlights their history and find ways to make their community a better place to live, work and visit. In addition, the group must adopt projects to be completed before or during 2007 that will be a lasting legacy for present and future residents, and plan activities in 2007 that will invite visitors from around the nation to "Come Home to Virginia."

The Georgetown Pike walking trail was identified as one of the organization's legacy projects. The trail was established and refurbished for the community's enjoyment and education.

Members of McLean & Great Falls Celebrate Virginia made up most of the walking tour, although a couple of residents had read about the scheduled walk in the newspaper.

"I'm a member of the group, but I’m also really interested in old homes and old buildings," said Barbara Smith.

As Henry Mackall guided the group down the path, he pointed out various historic landmarks. There are 10 in total — Clemyjontri Park, the Langley Forks Historic Marker, the Langley Toll House, Gunnell's Chapel, Langley Ordinary, the Langley Hill Friends Meeting House, Country Day School, Langley Hall, the old gas station and Hickory Hill.

Mackall peppered his tour with anecdotes from his childhood, illustrating just how much McLean has changed since the 1930s and 1940s.

"This is where I sold strawberries to earn a little extra spending money," said Mackall, pointing to the curb of Georgetown Pike, near Country Day School.

Back when Georgetown Pike was a turnpike that required a toll, Mackall's father worked in the tollbooth as a collector.

"My grandfather used to sit up on the porch and count the cars that came by so he could make sure my father turned in the right amount of money," said Mackall.

When asked if the changes in McLean over the years have saddened him, Mackall's reply was very matter-of-fact.

"It would have been better if it had stayed the way it was," he said.

However, he said that the historic Langley area "hasn't done too badly."

"It's developed some, but people have got to have a place to live," said Mackall.