Monday, May 30, 2016

Looking for Father's Day fun? Sully Historic Site hosts an annual antique car show

The Sully Historic Site holds a number of family-friendly events throughout the year. One tradition for more than four decades is its annual Father’s Day event, the Antique Car Show. The 2016 Sully Antique Car Show is held on Father's Day and is co-hosted by the Fairfax County Park Authority and the Model A Ford Club of America. 

Now running for more than 24 years, the event has hundreds of cars on display, including both American and foreign-made antique and classic cars. Additionally, there is more family fun to enjoy including musical entertainment, a flea market (more than 100 vendors according to promotional material) and food. 

The Sully House

A tour of the 1794 house is also included in admission to the event. Admission fees for the antique car show are as follows: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $7 for children. As always, parking is free. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

In general I've found Sully’s themed days to be very family-friendly and typically a nice day out (one year I will get to this car show!). We've attended the World War II Weekend a couple of times, the Civil War Encampment Weekend, and I always enjoy the different holiday-themed weekends held during the winter holidays.  

Sully Historic Site is located just off Route 28, a few miles south of Dulles Airport and across the highway from the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian). Sully Historic Site's address is 3650 Historic Sully Way, Chantilly, Va.

Monday, May 23, 2016

10 fun facts about Washington DC's Union Station

Washington D.C.’s Union Station is a pretty busy place. Serving as a home to Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express (VRE), Maryland Rail Commuter Service (MARC), Metro's Red Line and ground transportation services, many travelers come through its walls on a daily basis.

Union Station exterior
Union Station front exterior

Union Station is definitely not your standard transportation hub – it houses a shopping mall and a food court too. And it’s a popular tourist site. It is said approximately 100,000 people pass through the station every day with 20,000 coming through the Main Hall.

10 fun facts about Union Station

1. Union Station opened its doors on Oct. 27, 1907. The first train to service the station was The Baltimore and Ohio Pittsburgh Express - it arrived at 6:50 a.m. At this time, the station was still undergoing construction and was completed in 1908.
2. Daniel H. Burnham was chosen to design Union Station. The care and attention given to its design is evident when you see the detail. Burnham was the principal architect of the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair; he chose Beaux-Arts style for the new transportation hub.

Union Station as it appeared in 2008

3. It cost over $25 million to build Union Station originally.
4. The Main Hall of Union Station is 120 feet by 119 feet. Its 96 foot ceiling is made of plaster and 22-karat gold leaf decorates its ceiling. There are 36 figures of Roman legionnaires surrounding the ledge of the Main Hall’s balcony. According to officials, the figures were originally nude, but it was feared this would be offensive so shields were placed to cover body parts. 

Not the clearest photo, but these are the shields that were placed to hide the statues' original nude appearance

5. There are several carved figures located in the station’s main entrance. These represent fire, electricity, agriculture and mechanics. Each figure weighs 25 tons.
6. The beautiful woodwork found throughout the station is made of solid mahogany. The antique train gates in the concourse are originals.
The National Park Service says during WWII up to 200,000 people passed through Union Station’s doors each day.

8. Union Station has undergone some major restorations over the past century. Congress enacted the Union Station Redevelopment Act of 1981 to bring Union Station up to date. Work started in 1986 and in 1988 the $160 - $180 million restoration was completed – at the time this was the largest restoration project in the United States. Funding came from various sources. As crews worked, they found antiques in some of Union Station's air shafts. Being these hadn't been opened since 1907, it is believed they were stored there all along (I'm still digging for info on this, but it seems it is a mystery why the antiques were there in the first place).
On Aug. 23, 2011, Mineral, Virginia was the epicenter of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. The impact was felt across the East Coast and several buildings in Washington, D.C. were damaged; Union Station was one of them. Restoration has been ongoing ever since to repair the damage and to secure the facility.

Photo taken in 2012 during one phase of repair after the 2011 earthquake

9. Burnham’s use of white granite set the standard for building Washington’s monuments and many of its buildings – white granite is still very prominent throughout the District today.
10. Despite its beautiful build, over the decades rail use declined and there was once talk of demolishing Union Station. Ultimately, and lucky for us, in 1965 it was decided repurposing the station was a better course of action.

bell outside Union Station
A replica of the Liberty Bell sits outside the main entrance of Union Station

Its first repurpose was to be a visitor’s center, which was opened during the 1976 bicentennial on July 4, but this venture didn’t succeed as a tourist attraction, and it was closed in 1978. Over time, rats moved in, mushrooms grew from the floor and the building began to fall apart. Fortunately, during the 1980s things turned around and today visitors can visit the beautiful structure as it blends the past with the conveniences of the present. Today, retail space is said to be over 210,000 square feet, including 50,000 square feet to house restaurants. Office space constitutes 100,000 square feet and public space, including passenger and baggage space, is 200,000 square feet.
Bonus fun facts: Did you know that Union Station once had a presidential suite where presidents, kings and queens spent time? Also, Union Station once had its own mortuary.
It’s incredible to think just mere decades ago this beautiful piece of architecture was almost bulldozed. Fortunately, after the 1980s “save” of Union Station and the damage caused by the 2011 earthquake, the structure is still standing.
Union Station is located at 50 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Summer fairs in Northern Virginia (2016)

Hard to believe there is only a month left to spring (aside from the fact we’ve actually had a real one this year instead of jumping straight into summer!). As June rolls in, this means all the county fairs, cultural festivals and later in the summer, most of the air shows, arrive too.

Northern Virginia hosts some of the biggest County Fairs in the state. Here are a few that are coming up: 

Celebrate Fairfax:  Each year Fairfax County puts on several great events, a popular one is “Celebrate Fairfax”; 2016 marks its 35th year. Fun for all ages, Celebrate Fairfax has the typical carnival attractions, such as rides and food, but it also offers several performances and special presentations. This year’s musical headliners include the B52s and Living Colour (I've always wanted to see the latter band and hope to make it). And a whole lot more. The fair runs for 3 days, Friday to Sunday, starting June 10th

Loudoun County Fair: The fair is a large annual event and will open on July 25 and run through July 30, 2016 There is plenty to see and do including live entertainment contests, a demolition Derby, concerts, performers, lots of animals, a Carnival Midway and more. There are lots of daily events, fun for all ages listed, just check out the fair's website. At time of writing, it looks like the schedule is still being finalized. The fairgrounds are located at 17558 Dry Mill Road, Leesburg, Va.

Photo taken at the4-H Fair horse show a few years back
The Fairfax County 4-H Fair and Frying Pan Farm Park Show will run from dates TBA, but typically runs during the last few days of July and the first couple of days in August. This annual fair showcases all kinds of entertainment, including animal shows, various exhibits, music, contests, rides and more. The fun takes place at Frying Pan Farm Park, located on 2709 West Ox Rd in Herndon. You can learn more about daily events everything else fair-related at the designated 4H website. 2016 marks the event's 68th year!  

Arlington County Fair will run from Aug. 17 to Aug. 21, 2016. Admission to this fair is free and there is also a shuttle service priced at $2 per adult round trip (children under 12 and seniors are free) to get visitors to and from the fair. The fun includes entertainment, family-oriented events, sports, carnival rides, music, dancing and more, both indoor and outdoor events. The annual fair, now in its 40th year, takes place at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center, located at 3501 South Second St., in Arlington.

The Prince William County Fair is scheduled from Aug. 12 to Aug. 20, 2016. This fair has been an annual event since 1949. Its origins were seeded by a group of WWII veterans who sought to promote Prince William's agricultural industry. The fair bills itself as Virginia's largest county fair. It looks like this year, like previous years, will has lots of events on the calendar. The action takes place at 10624 Dumfries Rd, Rt. 234, Manassas, Va. You can visit the Prince William County Fair website for more information regarding admission, parking and more. While agriculture in the region has declined as the population and building growth continues to move west from the District, still the history and popularity of this event lives on. 

If you're looking for some family fun as the summer arrives, these are some great events in Northern Virginia to consider.

Monday, May 16, 2016

History and photos of Mt. Zion Old School Baptist Church

Over the several years I’ve now lived in the area, I’ve passed an old church on Route 50 in Loudoun County many times and always wondered about it. Typically, I was en route to somewhere else and didn’t have time to stop.

It wasn’t until last year I stopped the first time to at least get its name and I learned it was Mt. Zion Old School Baptist Church. I was out that way again at the end of March of this year and stopped to try to learn more about this intriguing site. The church was closed, but I was able to walk around, take some photos and read the signage.

Mt. Zion Old School Baptist Church, Civil War, Aldie Virginia
Exterior shot of Mt. Zion Old School Baptist Church (March 2016)

History of Mt. Zion Old School Baptist Church

The Mt. Zion Old School Baptist church was built in 1851. The crossroads the church was built on was a main thoroughfare which included an old road “Old Carolina Road” (which I need to look up, I’m not familiar with this main road).  
The church also has a long history. According to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, who operates the site, the church was “an eyewitness” to much history that took place in Northern Virginia, most notably the Civil War, and saw a lot of “action”. This action included being used as a rendezvous site for Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby’s troops, battleground, military barracks and field hospital. 

Peeking through a window, I took this shot

Mt. Zion Cemetery 

The first burial at Mt. Zion Cemetery took place in 1852. There is also a cemetery on the grounds which contains close to 250 marked headstones and many unmarked graves. 

Mt. Zion Cemetery

NVRPA states on its website there are also at least 60 African American graves outside the cemetery wall, two have inscribed markers, according to a sign located at the site. There is also a War of 1812 veteran buried on the grounds and 13 Confederate soldiers. There are 12 markers to honor Union soldiers that died during the Battle of Mt. Zion in July 1864.  I found a list of transcriptions from the tombstones on the Genealogy Trails website.

Another photo of the cemetery.

Restored and preserved

After the war was over, the building was once again a church and Mt. Zion was an active congregation until 1980, meeting once per month until its population became too small. According to signage at the site, the church was restored in 2007-08 and is now a historic site opened for tours and also for special events. In 2009 ownership was transferred from Loudoun County to NVPRA.

I’d love to take a proper tour sometime. NVPRA is seasonally open for guided tours on the fourth Sunday each month from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (or by appointment) from April to October. Admission fee is $2 per person.

Mt. Zion Old School Baptist Church is located at 40309 John Mosby Highway, Aldie, Va. 
Another view of the interior of Mt. Zion Old School Baptist Church