History Students and Faculty Commemorate Reston at 50

History Students and Faculty Commemorate Reston at 50
Undergraduates Mark Wisinger, DeNike Williams, Michael Fijalka, and Drake Eidson meet Reston developer Robert E. Simon (center) after presenting their research about the community he founded.

On April 28, students and faculty from the Department of History and Art History and the School of Art traveled to Reston, Virginia, to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of that planned community.

Doctoral candidate Lindsey Bestebreurtje described the patterns of suburban mass production and racial and income segregation of the mid-twentieth century against which Reston's mix of housing types and people stood out as such a contrast.

Harold Linton, director of the George Mason University School of Art, discussed the innovative architecture and planning of Reston, including precedents in Italy and Finland.

Doctoral student Jordan Patty (also an archivist at Mason) explained how the Department of Special Collections and Archives of the George Mason University Libraries acquired its collections on Reston and other planned communities.

Finally, four undergraduate history majors in the HIST 499 capstone research seminar--a Research and Scholarship Intensive (RS) course--discussed their work in those archives. Michael Fijalka stressed the importance of the performing arts to the community, Mark Wisinger explained how community resistance to a proposed fast-food restaurant exemplified Reston's self-conception, Drake Eidson explored Reston's mixed record of building affordable housing using new technologies, and DeNike Williams described the African American experience of finding Reston a safe haven in the Virginia of the 1960s and 1970s.

Professor Wendi Manuel-Scott of the history department and African & African-American Studies moderated the event.

The program was co-sponsored by George Mason University Libraries and the Reston Museum and Historic Trust and presented with the support of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.