Sideburn Is More Than A Name

Sideburn Is More Than A Name

For Fairfax resident Ed Reedy, Sideburn Road is a reflection of what once was. The road, which runs roughly north/south from Braddock Road, was named for Maj. Gen. Ambrose Everett Burnside, a Civil War officer on the Union side. “Sideburn” was also the name of the land that the road now cuts through.

"I was born in Sideburn. This area is known as Sideburn," said Reedy, who was born in his mother's house on Guinea Road in 1929 and built his own house on Sideburn Road by hand. That house still stands, though the 1-acre piece of land it occupies is being redeveloped, and the new owner is applying for a special permit to build two homes on the property. Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) is having a community meeting on Sept. 21 to let citizens voice their opinions on the special exception.

REEDY RECALLS the history of the house in an area that was dominated by the train line. Stops were located at Burke Station, Sideburn Station, Fairfax Station and Manassas. Reedy used to stand by the tracks and flag down the train when he needed a ride to Alexandria or Manassas.

"I had a flag on a pole," Reedy said. "It was all steam engines then."

Not all memories of Reedy's recollections are as happy, though. His father was hit and killed by a train on Aug. 19, 1941. Another train tragedy occurred in 1945, when seven people were killed in a wreck in Sideburn.

"Dumped 13 coal cars over, [and] twisted 180-pound rails up like they were a toothpick," Reedy said.

Still, he has fond memories of his old blue house on Sideburn Road. It started as a two-room house in 1950, and he added on to it through the years. "I drove every nail in it," Reedy said. "We lived down there over 50 years. It was pink and gray at one time."

Reedy met his wife, Juanita, while on a blind date in Baltimore in 1950, and they have been married ever since. They both lived in his house until a few years ago, when they sold it and moved into a house a few doors up Sideburn. The new house had been owned by Reedy's mother, who had just died.

The blue house, which is currently unoccupied, has 190 feet of frontage area onto Sideburn Road. To build two houses on the property, the county requires 100 feet for each house, so the frontage is short by 10 feet.

Florence Naeve, administrator in Bulova's office, is familiar with rezoning issues which come up frequently in the Braddock District. One possibility with this property, Naeve said, was to rezone it R-3 with proffers, and then only build two houses like on the current plans.

"This is not unusual with these smaller infill developments," Naeve said.

Perry Monroe grew up in Annandale and moved into the house next to the blue house in 1977. Monroe thinks the development plan will be approved despite the frontage shortage.

"It will not surprise me," Monroe said. "The county will approve just about anything."

SIDEBURN HISTORY remains important to Reedy and Monroe. The Union Gen. Burnside, who had experience in the Mexican-American War, was one of Lincoln's choice officers in the Civil War. The Sideburn name adoption was mentioned in the book "Memories of Beautiful Burke" by Nan Netherton and Ruth Preston Rose.

"The two syllables of the family name were reversed for the name of the station because of association with their kinsman, Union Gen. Ambrose Everett Burnside," the book stated.

At one time, Monroe thought he was related to President James Monroe, through a set of silver spoons that were passed down through the generations. However, Monroe discovered that wasn't true.

"We're descendants of his brother, William Monroe," he said.

For Reedy, life focused around the Powel Store for years. The store was owned by his mother and located where the present Roberts Road Bridge crosses the tracks used by the Virginia Railway Express. Reedy was born in the family house next door at 5670 Guinea Road.

"You wouldn't even know there was a house there," he said of the current landscape.

Reedy would walk up the train tracks to Fairview School, which was a three-room building until the Works Project Association (WPA) built the new school. The WPA was a Depression-era program instituted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Burke Elementary School was built through the WPA, as well.

"In 1939, the WPA built the brick school," Reedy said.

In 1964 the store closed, and his mother bought Reedy's current house at Nellie White Lane and Sideburn Avenue. Reedy knew Nellie White, a black woman who owned a 150-acre farm that was split when they put in Sideburn Avenue.

"Nellie White had 100 acres on that side and 50 acres on this side," Reedy said.

At that time, there were only five houses in the Sideburn area.