A Landing a Day

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Willard (and Dulles Airport), Virginia

Posted by graywacke on May 2, 2019

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I use an app that provides a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”

I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town or towns I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. 

To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some relatively recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2442; A Landing A Day blog post number 878.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long (N38o 56.884’, W77o 34.088’) puts me in northern Virginia:

Here’s my local landing map:

Looks unremarkably rural, eh? And where’s Willard?  Where’s Dulles Airport?

First, let’s zoom back a bit to put my landing location in its proper context:

Still no Willard, no airport.  Before getting a closer look with Google Earth (GE), here’s my very local streams-only map:

You can see that I landed in the Lenah Run watershed; on to the Broad Run.  I’ll need to zoom back:

The Broad Run heads northeast, where it runs in to (what else?) the Potomac River (13th hit).

As promised, here’s a GE shot of my landing’s neighborhood:

Hmmm.  Not as rural as my local landing map would have you believe.  But the development around my landing is Johnny-come-lately.  Here’s a 1989 air photo:

Zooming back a little (and getting back to the present) you can see that I landed in the backyard of the Dulles International Airport:

I could tell by my local landing map that I practically landed on US Route 50, which is a 100% shoo-in for GE Street View coverage.    Let’s take a look:

And what-the-heck, I’ll zoom in even closer and look from a different angle, so I could locate my landing relative to the nearby bushes:

And here’s my landing, located extremely accurately:

While I’m GEing it, here’s where I sent the OD to look at Lenah Run:

And here’s what he sees:

Gee –  I could be out in the boonies!

Since I landed so close to Route 50, I’ll briefly feature it.  Here’s a Wiki map showing that it goes coast to coast:

It pretty much splits the country in half! 

I’m somewhat familiar with the road; back in the day, I worked for Mobil Oil, which had its headquarters east of my landing in Fairfax, just off Route 50 (although I worked in Jersey).  Also, I’ve crossed (and sailed under) the Route 50 Annapolis Bay Bridge numerous times.  Here’s a Wiki pic:

Here’s a very cool road sign near the western end of Route 50 (Wiki):

In this blog, I’ve featured Route 50 as it crosses Nevada, and is known as “the loneliest road in America” (Wiki):

Moving right along . . . the various “towns” shown on my local landing map don’t amount to anything; as you can see, the Northern Virginia suburbs are taking over all of the local real estate.  But I did stumble on a town that isn’t on any map:  Willard.

From Wiki:

The former unincorporated community of Willard (also known as Willard Crossroads) was located in what is now a part of Washington Dulles International Airport.

The village was named after Joseph Edward Willard, a delegate to the Virginia General Assembly from 1893 to 1901, then Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.  His father was Joseph Clapp Willard, the owner of the famed Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Willard was surrounded by extensive farmland, housing, schools, places of worship, the Willard store (until 1907), and Blue Ridge Airfield (1938–1951). Willard was regarded as a crossroads and a distinctive community until construction of Washington Dulles International Airport began in 1958.

This map, showing the airport surimposed on a 1940 road map of Willard, was part of the Wiki article:

And here are some excerpts from a 2002 Washington Post article by local historian Eugene Scheeler.  It’s a little long, and it rambles a bit, but it provides some cool vignettes into early 20th Century life:

Dulles International Airport celebrates its 40th anniversary today. Unlike its other significant birthdays, there will be no celebration. But the day reminds me of the airport’s 10th anniversary, a gala called “Transpo.”

One of the hostesses then was a young African American woman, and as guests milled about, one asked her, “What was here before Dulles?” She paused, smiled and said, “Why, Willard, of course.”

I mention her race because Willard was largely a black community, and it’s doubtful that a young white person would have given that answer. He, or she, most likely would have said Chantilly, for mail leaving the airport then bore a Chantilly postmark.

Near the Willard crossroads were the small family spreads of former slaves and their descendants — Nathaniel Corum, Joe Johnson, Joe Holmes, Charles Newman, Lafayette and Henry Robinson, Eldridge Smith and Arthur Thomas.

These men farmed on a sustenance level on their few acres, which included a patch of corn, a large vegetable garden, chickens and hogs, a milk cow, a heifer and perhaps a steer. They also cut firewood and fashioned the finer pieces into barrel staves, railroad ties and ax and hatchet handles.

The focus of black Willard was Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church, a small weatherboard building built by its members in 1899.

Flora Croson lived about a half-mile west of the Willard Church. Miss Flora was the last of the home switchboard operators of Gales Hutchison’s Prince William Telephone Co.

Flora’s house was called “The Central,” and one ring brought her to the switchboard. Then she connected the caller to the subscriber, who paid S5 a month for the service. Each subscriber had a special series of rings — perhaps two shorts and a long — that brought him or her to the phone. But every subscriber heard the rings. To eavesdrop, one had to remove the phone very gently so as not to create noise on the line.

Black and white Willard came together each summer when the “medicine show” and minstrel men came to the crossroads. They set up on a field, built a planked platform and draped it and a backdrop with canvas.

Holding sway on stage was the medicine man, who was sometimes a singer and comic and sometimes a pitchman for patent medicines, often laced with alcohol. Between acts, minstrels strolled among the crowd, playing fiddles and banjos and hawking “New Life” and “Golden Oil,” names for pills and elixirs extolled by the pitchman.

In January 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower selected Willard as the location for the new airport.

Without public hearings, the federal government sent condemnation letters to all 87 Willard area landowners early in September 1958, and the letters came like a bolt. Many landowners formed a citizens association, but it disbanded, and everyone followed separate courses. Several hired lawyers, who took one-third of anything over the condemnation price.

The government paid an average of $500 an acre, and more than 300 buildings were bulldozed. Between January 1959 and April 1961, the 87 property owners deeded 9,800 acres to the government.

As per usual when I wind down a post, I check out the GE photos around my landing.  Give me a break, people!  There are hundreds of photos posted on GE, and they are nearly all just ordinary houses!  I mean, really!  Google Earth should be used to post photos of general public interest, and trust me, your house is of no interest to anyone but you!

So, I’ll close with this Wiki shot of the main terminal at the airport . . .


That’ll do it . . .




© 2019 A Landing A Day

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