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Thursday, August 11, 2022
FairfaxFairfax History Commission could get additional resources

Fairfax History Commission could get additional resources

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The Fairfax County History Commission scored several successes last year, from installing historic markers to undertaking multiple initiatives on African-American history, but its leader said the group needs further county resources to realize its potential.

Commission Chairman Cheryl Repetti, who delivered the group’s annual report to the Board of Supervisors June 28, asked supervisors to finance a full-time staff member and allot extra county staff hours to help fulfill the board’s requests of the commission.

Supervisors lauded the commission’s efforts and were amenable to providing it with additional funding.

The county’s Department of Planning and Development will have temporary funding as early as July to finance an employee to support the commission, said Supervisor Dalia Palchik (D-Providence). Officials will look for more permanent financial source for the position in time for next year’s budget cycle, she said.

The 21-volunteer-member commission was established in 1969 to maintain the county’s historic-sites inventory, advise officials and promote public interest in the county’s history.

The commission’s major 2021 projects included establishment of the African American History Inventory and Black/African Experience Marker Project and the promotion of its Confederate Names Inventory report, which it had presented to supervisors in December 2020.

Commission members last year also added the William H. Goldsmith House and Pride of Fairfax Lodge 298 to the historic-sites inventory; conducted, in partnership with cable Channel 16, five ethnic/oral history interviews with former county supervisors; updated the historical marker at Carrolltown in Lee District; and installed a marker at James Lee Elementary School in Mason District.

This year, commission leaders expect to release the African American History Inventory, which was compiled by information-technology students at George Mason University, as a publicly searchable Web database hosted by Mason’s Fenwick Library, Repetti said.

The commission also will hold its second annual “We Are Fairfax County” series of history conferences that will “explore and share the county’s overlooked and untold stories.” This year’s events will cover the experiences of African-Americans and early immigrants, Repetti said.

Infill development is putting increased pressure on more historic sites and the county soon will need to start preserving 20th-century locations as well, she said.

“The county needs new tools to better protect and preserve cultural resources,” Repetti said.

Some new strategies being put into play include single-property Historic Overlay Districts, such as the kind used at River Farm in Mount Vernon, as well as tax credits and other incentives for owners to preserve, rehabilitate and reuse their historic structures, Repetti said.

The commission’s budget for upcoming fiscal year 2023 remains at $21,013, which pays for an annual conference, roadside markers, subscriptions, support of partnerships, and personnel and recordkeeping work, she said.

“This is remarkable. It’s a lot of work,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D) said of the History Commission’s efforts.

McKay especially thanked the commission for its recent inventory report on Confederate names, which was “done very quickly, but very thoroughly.”

Supervisor Rodney Lusk (D-Lee), who would receive board approval later that meeting for his proposal to begin the process of changing his district’s name to Franconia, thanked the History Commission for its research in the matter.

“The discussion of our full history is so important right now,” added Supervisor Walter Alcorn (D-Hunter Mill).

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