main banner

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A quiet, rural Lincolnia is remembered by a long-time resident

The old Carter store.
Few Lincolnia residents know what their community was like when it was still a rural enclave, before it became choked with strip malls, subdivisions, and traffic.

Third-generation Lincolnia resident Jill Gerald, 79, remembers. At a presentation on Lincolnia in the Olden Days at the Mason Government Center in August, Gerald spoke about the old farms, country stores, and her family’s roots long before Shirley Highway was built.
Jill Gerard's mother's house.
Her father was born in Lincolnia in 1885. Her mother moved across the road in 1900 when she was 2 years old.

They went to a one-room schoolhouse near what is now the intersection of Interstate 395 and Route 236. The school only covered five years, and the older kids taught the younger ones.

The original Lincolnia Methodist Church.
Gerald and her twin brother were the youngest of nine children – the four oldest ones were born at home.

Her parents bought their house in 1924, and Jill lived on that property for 77 years and now lives nearby.

Gerald’s mother’s cousin worked at a chicken hatchery where Landmark Plaza is now. “The women’s job there was de-beaking the baby chicks so they wouldn’t hurt each other,” she says.

She remembers going to Howard’s Store on Columbia Pike, across from the Discount Zone gas station, where local farmers bought feed and straw. The building had a lunch counter, tables and chairs, gas pumps out front, and the owners’ living quarters in the rear. The store was owned by Jill’s uncle Harry. He had one of the first TVs in the area, and a crowd gathered there to watch boxing and wrestling matches.

Lincolnia Elementary School in 1950.
Gerald attended Lincolnia Elementary School on N. Chambliss Street. Part of that building was preserved when Lincolnia Senior Center was built on that site.

Each student was given a vitamin at lunch, she recalls. As a clinic aid in the seventh grade, she was responsible for making sure the cot had clean sheets and cleaning up the blood after accidents, such as the time a globe fell on a girl’s head.

Schools and churches had a close relationship back in the day, she says. The church didn’t have running water so it held dinners at the school and church softball teams used the school field.

The first-grade class at Lincolnia Elementary School in 1950.
A little white church on Lincolnia Road near the post office was torn down when Shirley Highway was built in the early 1950s, and Gerald remembers that when the congregation moved to a new building, church members carried everything – the pews, Bible, cross, communion items – as they walked to their new home.

The area between Columbia Pike and Braddock Road was originally settled by former slaves and had stayed a predominantly black community for decades, as “everything was segregated back then,” Gerald notes.

That community had its own school and small white church, which had been expanded over the years and is now the large, brick Mount Pleasant Baptist Church on the corner of Lincolnia Road and Columbia Pike. A historic marker was installed there a year ago.

Trucks at the chicken farm where Landmark Plaza is now.
When Gerald was in school, black students were bused to a segregated high school in Manassas, and later were sent to the all-black Luther Jackson High School, which is now a middle school.

“Segregation ended in 1962 but everybody didn’t comply with it right away,” she says.

Twins Jack and Jill (the future Jill Gerald) feed the family chickens.
Gerald remembers the Dowden family, who lived in an old house on Fairfax Parkway where what is now the Parklawn community. Sarah Foster Dowden attended the one-room school and helped teach the younger children. Later, they built a brick house across from the dam on Columbia Pike. Mr. Dowden was a justice of the peace in Groveton and also gave dogs rabies shots.

The Clark House, which is now owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority and was rotated to its current position overlooking Barcroft Plaza, used to be Clark family’s farmhouse. The Clarks owned a large dairy farm where Parklawn is now.

There was no trash pickup when Gerald was a child. People burned their trash and kids played in the garbage dump in a small area in the future Parklawn community. The rest of that area was a field with cows.

A worker at the chicken farm. 
There used to be a chapel and social hall on the site of the cemetery near the senior center, and students from the Episcopal seminary used to walk there to preach. Gerald’s parents, grandparents, husband, and son are buried there.

Several years ago, there was a plan for townhouses on that property, but Fairfax County purchased the land in 2012 for use as a burial ground for indigents.

Lincolnia was originally known as Lebanon, Gerald says. The residents wanted to rename it for President Lincoln, but there already was a town in Virginia called Lincoln, so they settled on Lincolnia.

Gerald went to Fairfax High School for the eighth and ninth grades, then transferred to Annandale High School when it opened in 1955. An older sister graduated from Mount Vernon High School; two others went to Fairfax High School. One of her older brothers worked at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria when it produced torpedoes for World War II.

Jill Gerald (right) and her daughter Debi Gerald.
Gerald recalls shopping at Landmark Plaza when there was a Grand Union grocery store (where Total Wine is now), an S. Klein department store, Sterling Hardware, and a greeting-card store called Magellan’s.

Landmark Plaza will be evolving again soon, when Giant opens in the space formerly occupied by Shopper’s. The new Giant is expected to open before Thanksgiving. Hobby Lobby is expected to open in the upper level in spring 2019.

More comprehensive changes are coming to Lincolnia. A task force is drafting recommendations for amending the comprehensive plan to allow for more density, more coordinated development, and transportation improvements.


  1. OMG, it really is a dump!

    1. I cannot believe the article says that Parklawn was once a garbage dump. No wonder my trees keep dying. Well Parklawn was certainly a reversal, just has me concerned that it was built on top of a dump. I think its time to pay Larry Clark a visit.

  2. So interesting, Jill. I wish I could have been there to hear your presentation. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. It's fun to drive by some of the old homes and imagine them as the farm houses they were. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Usually progress turns out things for the better, but not in Mason. How I pine for the past. These photos depict Annandale as a once charming place to live.

    1. Yesterday's charm could be today's podunk. People don't move to Northern Virginia for something quaint.

    2. Annandale is a great place to live right now!

      I've lived in Annandale for 15 years. Just last year, my wife and I decided to buy a home in Annandale. We considered other parts of northern Virginia. But, we genuinely love Annandale, and decided to stay here.

  6. Very cool to see my great grandmother, Sarah Foster, referenced in this article. I grew up in that brick house across from the damn!!

    1. I love that property. I noticed that there was a leasing sign out a few months ago and was hoping that the property would not fall into the wrong hands. It had been so well maintained in the past, it looked like a small park.

    2. Dowdens are great people. Believe they moved because of multiple break-in attempts due to the seclusion. Also, the more recent smell of sewage from the sewer line by the creek.

  7. I love these articles. It's always interesting to learn about this area before it became heavily developed. My home was built in the late 1950s on a lot that had previously been part of the Chanel farm. Does anyone know where I can find information about the Chanel family? - Sparky

  8. Wonderful story Jill. You are an exceptional story teller. I learned so much. Certainly missed not being there. thank you for continuing to tell the Lincolnia Story.

  9. Wow!!! This was an excellent article! I'd love to learn more about Linconia! It's a special place and now, even moreso, that I've learned some of he history. Thank you!!!!

  10. Great recollections, Jill! I thoroughly enjoyed this article and was sorry I wasn't able to attend your presentation. I, too, am a long time resident of this area, having grown up as Dinah Bonham on Edgemoor Lane. While I didn't know a lot of what you shared, I do remember walking down Lincolnia Road and saying hi to Mr. Cassidy as he sat on his porch. Your Dad, right? Such a nice man. Thank you so much for sharing your memories!!!

  11. THomas R. Hopkins9/12/18, 9:17 PM

    1. The Parklawn area was not a dump. There was a big hole in the field that was part of the Clark property. It was in an area between the rear of the Barcroft plaza and Parklawn school. I don't know if it was a sinkhole or if someone dug it but I think that is what some people used as a dump.
    2.There used to be a couple of old frame farmhouses in the area where the Lutheran church currently sits on Lincolnia rd. after being abandoned for a while, the fire dept set at least one on fire one Saturday and used it for practice and training. The event drew a respectable crowd of onlookers.
    3. where the discount zone gas station currently sits at Col Pike & Lincolnia Rd, there used to be an old building, the left side of which was a shell gas station owned by a man named Cecil Weatherholtz. The right side was a little country store owned by a man named Fairfax. I don't remember or probably never knew his first name. Everyone just called him old man Fairfax. Local kids, myself included, used to pick up coke, pepsi, RC bottles and turn them in to him for 2 cents each. Some were muddy and dirty but he would take them anyway as long as they weren't broken. 5 bottles were worth a dime at a time when cokes and candy bars were a nickel and you could still buy penny candy.

    T.R. Hopkins