Great Falls Historical Society, VA website

Historians Tackled
History of Tysons Corner

by Dr. Donald J. Senese

 

hebustling area of Tysons Corner—tall buildings, clogged traffic arteries, cars and trucks bumper to bumper, hurried office workers and frantic shoppers—was chronicled by two local historians from its earliest land grant to current growth in narrative and pictures, This Was Tysons Corner, Virginia: Facts and Photos, by Mayo Sturdevant Stuntz and Connie Pendleton Stuntz, 1990. The publication originally was almost the last chapter in their 1987 book, This Was Vienna, Virginia: Facts and Photos.

Mayo Stuntz, the only original member still on the Fairfax County History Commission, noted, "Being a native of Vienna, and Fairfax County, I was curious how the development started. My parents were here in the 1900s."

As Connie Stuntz noted in her introduction to the Tysons book, the belief that a book on Tysons alone was too optimistic fell because "too many interesting facts surfaced" and surprisingly additional resources became available: the 1868-1881 diaries of Edmund Flagg who bought three corners of Tysons Crossroads in 1868, A. Lawrence Foster's detailed Civil War claim against the U.S. government, and photos and narratives from other locals.

Known originally as Peach Grove, the area received the designation Tysons Crossroads after the Civil War. William Tyson, a Maryland native, purchased a tract of land from A. Lawrence Foster. Tyson served as postmaster of the now discontinued Peach Grove Post Office 1854-1866.

Big changes came in 1963 when the Tysons area moved from a country crossroads to a giant commercial urban area with the awarding of contracts at the interchange of Route 7 and Route 123.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 1962 approved a Tysons Corner Shopping Center of 88.13 acres within 150 acres triangle bordered by Chain Bridge Road, Leesburg Pike, and the Capital Beltway. Developers proclaimed it as the largest enclosed mall in the world when it opened July 25, 1968.

Mayo attended Cornell University and served in the U.S. Army 1941-1945 and 1955-1957. After years in the private sector and U.S. government, he retired in 1975, but has been extremely busy since then.

He has continuously served on the Fairfax County History Commission for almost forty years and as president of the Flint Hill Cemetery Association for forty-six years. He has taught and lectured on local history at George Mason University and adult programs at local high schools. He is a member and past president of the Historical Society of Fairfax County, Virginia, a member of Historic Vienna, Inc., historian for the Vienna Presbyterian Church and a director and former president of the Sully Foundation.

Connie Stuntz, majored in English at Duke University. She serves on the mayor of Vienna's advisory committee and the architectural review group of their home area, Windover Heights. She enjoys history as well as flower arrangements.

One of the current projects occupying Mayo Stuntz is investigating whether his father, a Library of Congress employee, carried copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to the 1907 exposition in Norfolk and Jamestown. This project has special interest as Virginia prepares to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown colony in 2007.

Tysons Corner has continued to grow in the more than decade since their book was published but nothing has surpassed it as a narrative and pictorial history of the area.

Efforts are being made, in the largest development expansion since 1988 make the mall the 6th largest (from the current 10th largest) in the United States. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved construction of 570 new homes in the area earlier this year, to develop a better sense of community. Objections were raised to putting too many homes on so small a site and increasing traffic.

Mayo and Connie Stuntz predicted the continuing growth of Tysons in their book, calling it a "mind boggling phenomenon to all of us who remember the rustic crossroads at Routes 7 and 123." They noted one problem is a lack of community life and spirit, "a city with no soul, a harsh corporate monument." Both of them are still watching its continuing growth and development.

This team of writers began their collaborations with This Was Virginia, 1900-1927, a series of pictures taken from the glass negatives of newsman/photographer J. Harry Shannon, who explored and recorded areas in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. They have also authored individual pieces of historical research. They have three children and eight grandchildren.

Dr. Donald J. Senese, a historian and writer, was a resident of Fairfax County and a member of the Fairfax County History Commission.


This very informative article was courtesy of that very interesting publication,

"The North County Chronicle,"
      28 July 2004
Web site, www.chroniclenewspapers.com.

 

Great Falls Historical Society, VA website