Fairfax County History Commission

10360 North Street Fairfax, Virginia 22030-2514 Tel. 703-293-6383 http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/histcomm/ February 3, 2013 Hon. Dan Storck Fairfax County School Board Mount Vernon District Dear Mr. Storck: The Fairfax County History Commission voted at its January meeting to request of you and the Fairfax County School Board that preservation architect Mr. C. Richard Bierce be allowed access to the Woodlawn Elementary School building for the purpose of conducting a survey of the historic structure, and that the School Board be supportive of a new nomination of the building to the National Register of Historic Places, composed by Mr. Bierce, who has offered to work pro bono. This request is driven by the History Commission’s belief that Woodlawn Elementary School is a significantly historic building. Today’s Woodlawn Elementary School, located at 8505 Highland Lane, in the Mount Vernon District, has grown by additions to the Woodlawn Elementary School structure that was built in 1937 in the school consolidation program of Superintendent Wilbert T. Woodson. Woodson transformed Fairfax County schools from a patchwork of primitive frame buildings with independent boards into a centralized system of brick buildings with indoor plumbing, central heat and other modern amenities conducive to teaching and learning. The construction program drew variously on the Virginia Literary Fund and the Works Progress Administration. There were nine consolidated elementary schools built in Fairfax County in the 1930s: Franconia in 1931, Groveton in 1933, Centreville and Lorton in 1934, Woodlawn in 1937, Fairview in 1938, and Burke, Dunn Loring, and the Vienna Colored School, now Louise Archer, in 1939. Of these, two have been demolished and two are threatened, including Woodlawn. Several have lost their structural integrity. One, Dunn Loring (in Providence District), has already been recognized as historic and was recently placed on the County Inventory of Historic Sites. Although the 1937 Woodlawn Elementary School building is attached to an expanded structure, its exterior appearance, historic fabric and interior details appear to be largely intact. When built, it was considered the most modern school in Fairfax County. The school should be adequately documented, nominated to the County Inventory of Historic Sites, and re-nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. It is an extraordinary structure. At the very least, it should be preserved and rehabilitated. Although the previous nomination to the National Register submitted to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources did not receive an adequate score for an eligibility designation, discussions by Delegate Scott Surovell with representatives of the department indicate that a new nomination with a different focus would be seriously considered. It is believed that this nomination was a

“near miss,” and that restructuring of the application with further evidence would make it acceptable. Should Woodlawn Elementary School be accepted for National Register status, there are considerable benefits that would accrue to the school system. According to Chris Novelli of VDHR, the school system would become eligible for federal rehabilitation tax credits that could be used in rehabilitation of the structure through the syndication process, as was done successfully for John Handley High School in Winchester. The History Commission would further like to offer a higher level of cooperation with the Fairfax County School Board in the future identification and assessment of historic sites, in the spirit of the Heritage Resources Section of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan. That plan calls for entities within the County to “coordinate activities affecting heritage resources among County agencies and with other public agencies and private organizations” in support of the objective to “protect significant heritage resources from degradation, or damage and destruction by public or private action.” Thank you for your consideration of our request that would allow another chance for Woodlawn Elementary School to be considered for National Register status. Sincerely,

Gretchen M. Bulova Chair, Fairfax County History Commission CC: Hon. Sharon Bulova, Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Hon. Gerry Hyland, Supervisor, Mount Vernon District Hon. Scott Surovell, 44th District House of Delegates Hon. Ilryong Moon, Chairman, Fairfax County School Board Mr. C. Richard Bierce, Historic Preservation Architect