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June 9, 2011

Local Neighborhood Information for Centreville, Chantilly and Fairfax County, Virginia Provided by Spencer Marker

I'm hopping up and down inside.

I grew up in Herndon, where the historical society is very active and vociferous. I had the opportunity to work with them in my position at the local TV station, and so got to know Herndon history very well. Yes, it was a hokey little dairy town on the W&OD railroad, but people lived there and influenced other's lives.

When I moved to Centreville, I was a little disappointed at the dearth of historic information. I managed to dredge up a 1970's book on Centreville from, of all places, GMUs library. I fortunately had a professor who lived in one of Centreville's few historic houses, and provided me with a lot of information on the area.

I began a summer internship with Fairfax County Park Authority last week, where I will be cleaning up their document and photograph section in the computer database. The transfer from paper to PC was not exactly successful. Since I have OCD tendencies towards organization, and I can beat any computer into submission, I feel this position is right up my alley. History AND Computers!

Sadly, the computer I was slated to use was abruptly upgraded before I began work, and the database program has not yet been installed!

In the meantime, I've been acquainting myself with the paper database and some of the original documents and photos. Each item has an accompanying work sheet detailing the information about it. The items are in archival safe boxes, sorted by location, and assigned its own archive number. The work sheets are in numeric order in binders according to whether it's a photo or a document or the dreaded 'miscellaneous.' From what I saw before the upgrade, the computer just has the assigned numbers, and may or may not have any detail information.

I thought I would begin by creating a spreadsheet of the work sheet information, so all I would have to do is copy and paste into the database program once it's installed, after checking that the item matches the number and the work sheet description. This means I get to read lots of descriptions of photographs of local places, some of them unfamiliar.

I've taken to conducting a little internet research and adding that information to the description so that I have a better idea of what an item is. So far I've corrected a mislabeled church, added the name of a park to a description just labeled 'battle monument' (and learned why Monument Drive in Fairfax is CALLED Monument Drive!), and added pertinent information to archived newspaper articles. (title, author, publication, date! c'mon, that's important!)

I also discovered a few extra historic sites in Centreville, such as listed the website posted above, and other websites like and

I haven't yet seen the pictures to these descriptions yet, and hope that I'll be proved correct. I'm having a blast and I haven't even gotten started!