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History Revisited in Vienna

Freeman Store Historical Plaque unveiled.

U.S. Congressman Gerry Connolly, Virginia Delegate Mark Keam, Mayor M. Jane Seeman and Virginia Senator J. Chap Petersen celebrate the unveiling of the Freeman Store plaque commemorating its historical designation in the Commonwealth.

U.S. Congressman Gerry Connolly, Virginia Delegate Mark Keam, Mayor M. Jane Seeman and Virginia Senator J. Chap Petersen celebrate the unveiling of the Freeman Store plaque commemorating its historical designation in the Commonwealth. Photo by Donna Manz.

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HVI president, Anne Stuntz, with the newly-unveiled plaque naming the Freeman Store to the Commonwealth of Virginia Historic Register.

More than 100 members of the Vienna-area community and a cast of local dignitaries took part in the program at Freeman Store on April 21 at which the plaque commemorating Freeman Store’s historical designation in the Commonwealth was unveiled.

"Celebrating history is one of the most pleasurable parts of public service," said U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11), noting Vienna’s "important role in resisting secession.

" … We have to remember what happens when the glue that holds society together falls apart," said Connolly."

Mayor M. Jane Seeman gave opening remarks and introduced the ceremony’s speakers. Rev. Dr. Kenny Smith of the First Baptist Church of Vienna, retiring April 29, gave the invocation. Rep. Connolly, Del. Mark Keam (D-35), and state Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34) offered brief insights into the circumstances that pulled the country apart in 1861 and the role that Freeman Store played during the Civil War and in Vienna’s history.

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Del. Mark Keam evoked laughter when he thanked Vienna resident and County historian Mayo Stuntz for his research and for "producing Anne," HVI president.

THE FREEMAN STORE is the first historic landmark in Vienna to be named to the Virginia Historic Register. The recognition was approved by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources [DHR] on September 22, 2011.

Seeman recognized Vienna Volunteer Fire Department volunteer Tom Bonner for 50 years of service to the department. Bonner was accompanied by VVFD president Bob Zillian and Auxiliary president Joan Dempsey, all in full dress uniform on a hot, humid day. Del. Keam, on Virginia’s Sesquicentennial Commisson of the American Civil War, brought a note of levity when he honored Vienna historian Mayo Stuntz for his research of the area, and, for "producing" Anne Stuntz, Historic Vienna, Inc. president.

Petersen, whose college thesis was on the origins of the Civil War, alluded to the conflict as a test of the "great American history of democracy."

Known as Lydecker Store when it was built in 1859, the building was used during the Civil War as a base for both the Union and Confederate armies, including its use as a hospital. Vienna stood its Union ground and, unlike most of Virginia, voted against secession in 1861.

The Lydeckers and Freemans were joined in business through marriage soon after the Civil War ended and the Freeman family eventually took over the building. Leon Lydecker Freeman took the reins from his father in 1894. He was the first president of Vienna’s volunteer fire department, and was elected Fairfax County‘s first Republican Delegate to the Virginia General Assembly since the Civil War.

Anne Stuntz, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and Town Council members Laurie DiRocco, Laurie Cole, Howard Springsteen, Edythe Kelleher and Carey Sienicki rounded out the honored-guest list. The Vienna Community Band played a selection of patriotic music and the 17th Virginia Infantry Regiment, Company D, the Fairfax Rifles Living History Society and the combined American Legion Post 177 and 17th District Honor Guard presented the colors. The Fairfax Rifles closed the ceremony with a volley across Freeman Store grounds. On the lawn, HVI volunteers served refreshments, including a Freeman House replica cake.

The interior of the Freeman Store and Museum is owned by Historic Vienna, Inc., which operates the facility through a lease with the Town of Vienna. HVI volunteers have administered and run the Freeman Store and Museum since 1976.

To support Historic Vienna, Inc., see www.historicviennainc.org for details.