News and notes from Reston (tm).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Flashback Monday: Potemkin Village Center

Hunters Woods.jpg
Please to be enjoying this undated file photograph of the old Hunters Woods Village Center, back when it was an awesome outdoor shopping plaza instead of the current soulless strip mall configuration that God intended all along. You'd think this lovely photo caught our eye because of the attractive, vaguely DRB-flouting mustard and ketchup flags fluttering in the breeze, but we're actually shocked by the number of highly skilled actors that must have been brought in for this obviously staged photo op. Having been to the old village center in the apocalyptic, end-of-times years before it closed, the only way you'd have this number of people in one place is if they were an army of zombies, in pursuit of human flesh instead of 39-cent apples at Safeway.


  1. don't mention the zombies... it upsets JvE

  2. Hunters Woods was awesome.

  3. Wow...this photo is so different from what's there now that I can't even make out where precisely in the shopping center it is. From the perspective of the photographer, what would I be looking at now in the present-day Hunters Woods?

  4. Anon--

    It's hard to compare with what's there now. Take a look at the aerial shot linked in the article above, and you'll see that the same parcel had a smaller parking lot and a deeper (is that the right word?) assortment of retail buildings under outdoor plazas. Think a smaller version of what Landmark Mall in Alexandria used to look like years ago.

    It had a Safeway and a bunch of small businesses and a post office way in the back. That post office wound up being the last thing open before they finally razed the complex to build the strip mall that's there now. Was definitely spooky walking back there to buy stamps.

  5. That place was awesome.

    You'd probably be standing in the middle of the parking lot, facing Ledo's and the Dairy Queen. It was a much smaller parking lot.

    If you walked into the photo, you'd go past the Safeway and post office on the right, and past a little taco place on the left (I'm sure there was more but that taco place was the bomb when I was little).

    Keep going and you'd walk down some steps out the back and then a little plaza between there and the community center. There was a tiny branch of the library on the back wall there.

    TOTALLY AWESOME. It was all sidewalks and covered walkways, no parking under the roof. What we have now is not in the same league.

  6. Why did they tear it down???


  7. The ice-cream shop in the center of it all was super cool. A great hardware store, a nice used book store, the RR library, a cake shop, decent Thai, German restaurant, Fritzbees!, The Drug Store that had 2 levels, a video store... That's all about I can remember now.

    Hunter's Woods was a really great place.

    The problem was South Lakes shopping center and Fox Mill centers were too close to it and because they are the standard boring strip mall lay-out Hunter's Woods died.

  8. The Safeway was too small; the landlord let the place deteriorate; Drugfaire closed; Fritzbees closed; Baskins and Robbins closed; the other smaller stores were empty; skateboarders took over; the place was dark and frightening to many; the many trees between the store fronts and the nearby streets made it easy to forget what stores were in the center; few of the stores had signs facing colts Neck or Glade to remind passing cars which stores were in the center.

    It was an ineffective design that ultimately failed.

    Save the nostalgia.

  9. There are lots of people in the photo because it looks like there is one of those craft fairs going on. They used to be held under the covered area.

  10. When we arrived here in 1983 Hunters Woods was the town center of Reston. Everything was there--the hardware store, good restaurants, the community center, and the library. When they finally tore it down, that was the end of small town Reston.

  11. 9:19

    It failed because as 10:22 pointed out, HW was the center of town, but then no longer.

    The stores closed because people stopped going there. They stopped going there because they had other options closer at hand.

    If South Lakes had not been built, then maybe HW might have survived.

    Town Center would have finished it of completely.

    Riddle me this: What signs let the driver along Reston Pkwy know what stores are at RTC?


    It is not the design that killed HW, it is the fact that something glitzier came along and there is only so much business Reston can support.

    I'll keep my nostalgia.... You can keep your all you can eat breads sticks at MG.

  12. Ah, yes. I remember those days so well. My mother and I used to work at La Gazelle. I also remember stopping by Fritzbee's for a beer after work a few years later.

    I also remember the little black thug (he looked like he was probably late elementary aged) sporting a .38 snub-nose OPENLY in the mall during the height of the crack epidemic at Stonegate. He wasn't menacing anybody, just showing off his piece.

    The Gulag was still the Gulag even back then.

  13. Menahans, the HW store actually had parts that fit my appliances, plumbing, etc. Put out of business by Hechingers. Couldn't compete on price. Of course Hechingers or now Home Despot only carry cheap Chinese crap in plastic packages. If you actually need repair parts you are screwed.

    Taco Amigo, home of the $2.00 taco, and destination for the kids skipping school. Fritzbees was where the kids that ran away from home got jobs washing dishes.

    I never saw a customer in Sam's Tailor. I presume the paid the rent with a poker game in the back.

    The German resturant is now Euro Bistro in Herndon. They actually sponsored the Jamaican bobsled team made fameous in Cool Runnings.

    Bao Zaire's Thai resturant was great. She shared recipies if you asked. We still use her "Red Death" and "Green Death" condiments.

    Library. Reliable drug store. The only thing missing was a visible police presence. So the thugs drove the honkies to other venues.

  14. This is so sad to compare what was once a vibrant heart of the community with what is now a concrete eyesore.

    Kinda like Lake Anne, only they have water.

  15. HCKD

    Your ignorance is showing.

    Hunters Woods didn't and can't compete with RTC. It's of a different scale and retail mix. RTC competes with Tysons, Fair Oaks and Dulles Town Center.

    Hunters Woods did and does compete with South Lakes, Fox Mill, North Point & Plaza America, where the storefronts are visible from the streets and parking lots.

    It's the same reason Tall Oaks struggles and Lake Anne repeatedly fails to retain tenents. Bad design that failed.

  16. Been here since '74, it wasn't design that killed the center it was the crime, a neighbor of ours was robbed and his wife dragged through the parking lot by her hair. No one I knew ever went back after that. It's too bad because it was a great place, esp Fritzbees!

    They brought in new tenants, tried to make it nice again, but that place is marked for anyone who grew up here as an unsafe place...

  17. I never could figure out what they were doing it was all done then yuk! I understand there is a new owner so maybe yet hope?

  18. 7:44

    the design made it easier for the punks to act out without being observed by patrol cars as they went by either, in the parking lot or on the adjacent streets.

  19. 7:20

    Your bread crumbs are showing. I never maintained that HW could ever compete with RTC: It could not. It could not compete with SLSS and Fox Mill.

    The crime started when the place was no longer patronized. (After SLSS was built)

    Anyhoo it was a cool place. There were good stores, and nice restaurants all owned by local community members.

    But It sure never did have all-you-can-stuff-your-face bread sticks.

    (But it did have potato skins loaded to the gills!)

  20. And it had Chateaux Briand prepared at your table until La Gazelle went belly up.

  21. Oh, but how we miss the the rat-infested Soviet Safeway with the leak-stained barrel roof!

    Fritzbee's was a howl what with that backwards clock and the bathroom signs -- just like Reston is today --- backwards and FUBAR.

    The progeny of which think that "anyhoo" is a word.

  22. 8:02

    Well I guess you can always go to RTC anyhoo can't you?

    I hear there is an awesome place just over the road at Spectrum Center, near the Petsmart.

    It has all-you-can-stuff-your-stupid-fat-face bread sticks and never-ending bowls of pasta.

    No Yodas in a diving bell either....

  23. Central Fidelity, Hallmark store, Baskin Robbin, a real estate office, Just Like Mom's Bakery, Pizza Inn, Instant Replay (a sports clothing store), a bike shop, a computer store, a library, a used bookstore after the library left, Drug Fair, Jack In The Box are a few of businesses I recall there in the 1970s and 80s.

  24. The baskin Robbins was the shiz. I remember the old lady that used to work there, she'd give you the evil eye but then would smile. The book alcove was great! Spent many a summer day there just wasting the hours away. I applied to work in the snack bar of the Community Center.

  25. I loved the original Hunters Woods. They could have given it a facelift and improved the lighting and visibility without gutting it and putting a strip mall in its place. It was great having the covered area on rainy days. I remember going to flea markets/yard sales/craft shows there, and there was a carnival in the parking lot when I was in elementary school. I was sad when they filled in the pond (fountain?) and made it a mound of dirt. It was a lot of fun to play in that open area.

    The stores I remember most: shoe store (with a pretzel jar, I think; Buster Brown? Stride Rite?), Baskin-Robbins in the middle with the water fountain, the library, Fritzbe's; drug store/Hallmark/post office; later on, a jewelry store and/or bakery (can't remember if it was one and then another in the same space or if they were next to each other) in the back left. My dentist was there (back right) when we first moved to Reston. Safeway, of course. Jack-in-the-Box and photo-developing hut in the parking lot (kangaroo burgers!). Pizza place someone mentioned does sound familiar.

    In middle school, I'd take the bus to Hunters Woods to play D&D in the back room of the library.

    Seem to remember being at the dedication when they built the community center and/or when they buried the time capsule.

    Remember sitting on the benches in front, by the Safeway, to wait for RIBS to go home or for my parents to pick me up.

    It did start feeling a bit unsafe toward the end - but they "fixed" it in the worst possible way, by wiping it out.


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