Tag Archives: VA

Candlelight Tours Illuminate 200 Years of Holiday Celebrations at Sully

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It’s dark. There’s no electricity. It’s cold.

Perfect.

The perfect time and conditions for you to celebrate December’s holiday season.

Sully Historic Site is lighting up December’s dark with holiday spirit and inviting you to party with the shadows cast by a house aglow with candlelight.

The one-time home of Richard Bland Lee, Northern Virginia’s first representative to Congress, is the centerpiece of Sully, and during the holidays there’s much to do, highlighted by the site’s annual candlelight tours. This year’s themes include a Civil War Christmas on Dec. 14, a Jane Austen Christmas on Dec. 15, and Victorian era holidays on Dec. 21. There are special tour times set aside for groups and scouts.

Register online in advance for the tour and associated events.

The candlelight tour programs, in the low light of sense-heightening evening, reach beyond the house and present 18th century life at night and Christmas customs of several different time periods.

Visitors will meet costumed characters of a past century in the house, strolling on the lawn, or at any of the outbuildings – a kitchen with open hearth cooking, a laundry, a connecting walkway, a smokehouse, a dairy and a representative slave cabin. You’ll have a chance to chat with folks who’ll convince you that you’ve stepped back in time into a small, Victorian street market lit by cresset torches, metal baskets on poles filled with burning wood that cast substantial light.

The evening is lit mostly by candlelight because that’s the way Lee’s family lived. Candlelight creates a leisurely, engaging, personal mood. You’re dropping in on friends, not watching a performance. Your volunteer hosts are experts in history, architecture, the Lee family, period clothing, candle making or period cooking.

It’s a leisurely evening that, depending on the night, could include a puppet show, dancing, music or visits with soldiers encamped in the yard.

It’s a festive scene at a festive time. Sully has stories to share from Christmases dating back to the early 1800s — more than 200 years of holidays that you’re invited to join this holiday season.

Come out this December to Sully Historic Site and be part of the third century of celebrations that turn gloomy winter skies into days filled with holiday spirit. Sully is located at 3650 Historic Sully Way in Chantilly, Va.

Co-author Barbara Ziman is the events coordinator at Sully Historic Site, and
David Ochs is the manager of Stewardship Communications in the Resource Management Division of the Fairfax County Park Authority.

General Store Gets A General Makeover

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So you think things change as time goes by? Maybe not so much.

In 1902, the teddy bear was introduced. Teddy Roosevelt became the first president to ride in a car. Michigan beat Stanford 49-0 in the first Rose Bowl. The first movie theatre in the USA opened. And Mark Cockrill was running a general store near Colvin Run Mill in Great Falls, Virginia.

Today, 111 years later, teddy bears and movies are ubiquitous. Presidents still ride in cars.  Michigan is still beating Stanford in football (although Stanford did spoil an undefeated Wolverine season in the 1972 Rose Bowl). And Mark Cockrill’s store is still open at Colvin Run Mill.

Maybe the events haven’t changed, but the trappings around them have. Teddy bears come in innumerable styles, presidential cars are armored, football gear has adapted, and movie theatres are plusher. And so also there are changes coming to Mark Cockrill’s store.

The Colvin Run General Store is undergoing a bit of a makeover. There are preparations under way, formally called a furnishings plan, that will help us show you what a typical general store that might have been found in the Colvin Run community looked like. In order to do this, we had to pinpoint a time period so that we can focus on accurately furnishing and interpreting the store.

We picked 1902.

That’s when Mark Cockrill operated a general store in Colvin Run and a family named Millard owned Colvin Run Mill. Cockrill was the area’s postmaster, but five more years would pass before free mail delivery would be available to rural areas like those around the mill. Hard to picture, huh? That area just a stone’s throw from Tysons used to be rural.

There are post office boxes on display now at the store, and they will stay in place so that you can learn about the store’s role in mail delivery.

You also might soon see something that many people born this century haven’t seen – a telephone. We know that the store was a hub of communication, and we have discovered that telephone lines ran right in front of the store along the Alexandria Leesburg Pike in the late 1890s. We hope to find a 1900-era phone to put on display.

Other future display items will come from Mark Cockrill’s records. His letterhead from the 1890s and just past the turn of the century, the receipts for goods that he and his father acquired, possibly for resale. Neighbors would probably have come to the general store to shop for groceries, hardware, shoes, hats, and other things that they couldn’t make or trade on their farms. We hope to have new artifacts that match those on the receipts for you to see, and those items won’t be so far above your head that you can’t get a good look. Current artifacts are on display, but high on shelves and out of reach.

The changes also mean that we will scale back on the modern items sold in the store. If you are a regular visitor, you may notice that we are not restocking the shelves after current stock is sold. Once we furnish and rearrange the store, we are going to be more selective in what we offer for purchase. We will have items similar to what you might have purchased in a 1902 general store, like the “penny candy” Mark was famous for handing out to the youngsters in the community. We will continue to offer high quality Colvin Run Mill merchandise, such as the mugs and coasters that are made in the United States. We’ll also introduce our own label McCutchen’s jams and jellies to compliment the canning memorabilia on display.

So come see the changes and come see what was. We may be changing the trappings, but Mark Cockrill’s general store is still open and is still a place to touch history.

Author Kathryn Blackwell is a historian based at Colvin Run Mill.

Marge Says

Seniors get exercise and catch up with friends during a water aerobics for arthritis at South Run RECenter.

Seniors exercise and catch up with friends during a water aerobics for arthritis class at South Run RECenter.

Oh, we all have our aches and pains, our pacemakers, joint replacements and health problems but they seem less significant when we are there together. Besides, none of us is particularly stunning in a bathing suit at this point in our lives anyway.

Marge says to me, “Why don’t you write a story about us, George? We’re a unique group.” Indeed, I guess we are. We are the ten o’clock water aerobics arthritis class at South Run Park. Of course, far from all of us are in that class because we suffer with arthritis. I mean, when you are a senior, who wants to rush to get up and get to a class at 8 or 9 in the morning? Coffee and the newspaper are much more fun until you can get your body going, and we all agree that it takes longer and longer for that to happen. Oh, we all have our aches and pains, our pacemakers, joint replacements and health problems but they seem less significant when we are there together. Besides, none of us is particularly stunning in a bathing suit at this point in our lives anyway.

The first task of the day is counting the men. Are there four or five of us today? Maybe six. Where is Joe? Haven’t seen Dave since last week. We have a new guy. One day we are going to outnumber the women. Bill, the lead counter, is 89. If only I could live to 89, I should do half as well as he. Bill is an amazing gent. He travels all over the United States visiting family, makes several annual trips to Florida on the auto train and is in a perpetually positive and humorous state of mind.

There are scores of interesting folks, Anna, who talks frequently of her sick cat, and though in her 80s leaves class and invites all of us to meet her and friends at McDonalds for lunch every day, who says McDonalds appeals only to young folks? Sam, who says he is trying to overcome 45 years of inactivity, May, always with tales of the wild kindergarten grandchild and those teachers who reminisce about their experiences in the classroom. Politics is outlawed and that is good for all of us.

Don’t get the idea that water aerobics is not serious business, it is. However, first we need to find out what Pete has planted in his garden, how tall the corn is, if there are any signs of tomatoes yet. How Shirley’s and Fred’s trip across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary went. Who is reading what book and will they share it when they finished and a dozen or so other equally important things.

In a fifty-five minute class surely there is time for a little bit of chatter before, Carolyn, the instructor says, “If all you are going to do is talk, then move to the back corner.” All gets quickly quiet for a few moments and we attempt to follow the instructions all the while amazed at Carolyn’s energy level and how easily she can move her body in ways that most of us couldn’t even twenty years ago. She is patient with us as she yells out, “Watch your posture, stand up tall, you’re leaning.” Or our favorite, “faster, faster.” I am always certain that I am the only one that is leaning forward. But I know I am not the one going slow.

After about twenty-five minutes we grab our noodles and ride them like we did our pretend ponies when we were little kids. What fun! Who can paddle without their legs touching the bottom of the pool, who touches and who cheats doing a combination of both. On occasion, we take the noodle in one hand and swing it wildly in the air making certain that as we do it splashes the water periodically so someone will complain they are getting their hair wet. Of course we stretch the noodle in every possible uncomfortable position.

In the end, Carolyn wishes us well and tells us that we are finished for the day. Whew! We are tired but it is time for our reward. Out of the pool, we grab towels and rush to the hot tub to finish our conversations, relax, check on everyone’s weekend, children, and grandchildren and just soak in the warm water. It seems that we have plenty to say. We bid our farewells and then it is off to our own activities until Monday, Wednesday or Friday, whichever one is next.

Thinking about us, I am reminded of the quote from Margery Williams “Velveteen Rabbit”: “When someone really loves you, then you become real. Generally by the time you are real most of your hair has been loved off, your eyes droop and you get loose in the joints. But once you are real it lasts forever.” A collection of grandmas and grandpas, we are about as real as it gets and in spite of our lack of hair and loose joints, we can always count on having a really good time.

Written by George Towery