The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) commemorated the centennial of its incorporation Dec. 1 with a presentation on the group’s chronology and many contributions to the McLean community.
MCA members Merrily Pierce and Paul Kohlenberger, who did extensive research for a booklet celebrating the 100th anniversary of the association’s founding in 1914, put together a PowerPoint presentation for board members that summarized the group’s history and highlighted three local properties where MCA had made a difference.
MCA began as the McLean School and Civic League and held its first meeting at the Franklin Sherman Consolidated School on Nov. 2, 1914. The group’s co-founder and first secretary was the school’s original principal, Charlotte Troughton Corner.
“The [school] building had been delivered, but there were not chalkboards or books, nothing else for the students to use,” Kohlenberger said.
The league officially incorporated on June 25, 1921, and reincorporated in 1953 as the MCA. The group has held town-hall meetings since 1915, hosted candidate debates since 1934, and engaged with 85 homeowner groups and 24 community organizations.
From its earliest days, MCA was devoted to improving the community. The group in 1922 established a committee to work with the Alexandria Light & Power Co. to bring electricity into McLean, specifically for streetlights in the downtown area.
More than 10 years after the committee’s formation, the utility extended electrical lines from Falls Church along Westmoreland Drive and built a distribution station where that street intersects with Chain Bridge Road.
That easement is MCA’s only current piece of real estate, said president Robert Jackson.
The local fire department in 1932 celebrated the dedication of seven streetlights with a parade, which featured music provided by Franklin Sherman School. Fifteen streetlights eventually were installed, and the league/MCA paid the electric bills for them through 1954, Pierce said.
The McLean Trees Committee in the 1990s camouflaged the electrical transformers with pine trees that eventually grew 30 feet tall. Dominion Energy removed those trees in 2020 when upgrading the facility with three new distribution poles. The utility enclosed most of the equipment in lower-profile enclosures.
The upgrades were designed to lower maintenance costs, increase reliability and safety, and lessen visibility, Pierce said.
The league/MCA in 1916 and 1922 also purchased land at Corner Lane and Chain Bridge Road near the Franklin Sherman School and used the site, which became known as the “League Lot,” for McLean Day events.
The league for many years used McLean Day proceeds for schools and later roads and other community improvements.
The group sold the League Lot to Sun Oil Co. in 1958. A Sunoco gas station was located there until recently, and the site now is home to a privately owned Liberty gas station.
The league/MCA used proceeds from the lot sale to buy land on Balls Hill Road for a community-recreation facility. The group later sold that land to purchase property on Ingleside Avenue, which was used for the McLean Community Center.
After Safeway installed a huge, lighted sign for its new store on Chain Bridge Road near Dolley Madison Boulevard in the late 1950s, which irritated some nearby homeowners, MCA established a sign committee, which was headed by future state Sen. Clive DuVal.
The committee negotiated with Safeway for a smaller sign and engaged with Fairfax County officials to craft a sign ordinance that to the present day governs the placement, size and lighting of signs in the county’s business districts, Pierce said.
MCA throughout its history has given birth to other organizations, such as the McLean Community Foundation, McLean Trees Foundation and McLean Community Center.
In addition to securing electrical service, MCA helped devise and obtain alternate routing for Dolley Madison Boulevard to save historic Langley Fork, and secured a permanent green buffer at Lewinsville Road and Dolley Madison Boulevard.
“As private landowners [and] public agencies have sought to make changes to the environment, the MCA, as it still continues to do, has tried to ameliorate those for the benefit of the quality of life for the residents here in McLean,” Kohlenberger said.
“There aren’t a lot of corporations that last 100 years,” noted Jackson.