News and notes from Reston (tm).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Flashback Monday: Selling Way-Out-Of-Townhouses in a Place Called Reston

H&H.jpgWow, this fancy cover of the June 1966 issue of House & Home magazine, which we assume is a lot like Cosmopolitan minus the sex tips ("5 Earth-Toned Negligees He Won't Be Able to Resist!"), really nailed the Reston dynamic from the get-go, didn't it? And, forty-odd years later, have we determined if our beloved beige community is just an "oversized subdivision with oversized problems?"

Well, no. But it's reassuring to learn through a Reston Historic Trust lecture duly attended by our BFFs at the Fairfax Times that even in its infancy, Reston was a bit of a tough sell to folks accustomed to bland subdivisions. We've seen the pop quiz Bob Simon subjected Reston's early sales staff to, but now we get to learn firsthand what it was like to sell way-out-of-townhouses to an incredulous public:

In its infancy in the 1960s, many early marketers who tried to sell the concept of the unique utopian village to prospective buyers initially had a rough time of it.

Sales of original Reston homes were transacted through Reston itself and not through traditional realtors, so the community had its own sales, marketing and public relations staff.

“It was my job to tell people why they wanted to drive 17 miles from D.C. and then two more miles down a dinky two-lane road to Reston; to live in a high-rise with no one else in it yet,” said Houston Park, an early Reston marketing and public relations staff member who spoke along with others last week as part of the Reston Historic Trust lecture series.
What could possibly go wrong?
Chuck Veatch, an even earlier resident of Reston, moved to Reston in 1964, only one year after it was established, and began trying to sell homes.

“The first model homes in Reston opened that year,” he said. “Our goal was to sell 80,000 homes by 1980, but we were trying to sell the concept of Reston, and homes that were a little more expensive, at a time that homes were sold strictly by a square footage standard. It was initially a tough sell.”
The speakers said that local real estate agents used Reston's inclusive nature, at a time when Virginia was still segregated and had no fair housing laws, as the opposite of a selling point, and sales remained slow for years. What turned things around for our favorite planned community? Bloomingdale's, that's what.

It also turns out the long-standing stereotypes perceptions of Reston vis-a-vis its more affluent neighbors to the north and its more, shall we say, rustic, ones to the west, came honest early:
John Siddall, another early Reston marketer, remembers the outside perception of Reston at that time.

“Reston in the early years was a young, intellectual community made up of 30 and 40 year olds,” he said. “And there was a perception that the people in Reston were weird. Some thought we were communists, and even the rest of Fairfax County thought we were a strange group of folks.”
Communists? What would give anyone that idea?


  1. That "strange group of folks" are still with us, judging from the Eat The Rich demonstration at the used bookstore. Strange, yes, but "intellectual"? Apparently not. "Young?" not so much anymore, too many gray-heads.

  2. We moved to Cocquina when the redwood houses were new. Everybody was new. It was a bit like a commune. A friend remarked, "You people on Cocquina. You're all the same age. Your kids are the same age. You even look alike!"


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