Archive for the ‘D.C.’ Category

History of the United States Flows through Fairfax County, Virginia

The history of the United States flows through Fairfax County, Virginia. Two of our Founding Fathers called the county home, George Washington and George Mason. Washington and Mason were the brains behind the Fairfax Resolves, the first document to outline the colonies’ grievances against England.

historic courthouse 600But it goes much further back than that. Capt. John Smith explored the Potomac River area of the county as far north as Great Falls in 1609, shortly after the founding of Jamestown. And, it didn’t end with our first president’s death, either. The first turnpike in America, a 15-mile stretch of Little River Turnpike, ran through the county to Washington, DC.

The Historic Fairfax County Courthouse opened in 1800, the same year as the U.S. Capitol and the White House. And, of course, one of the first land battles in the Civil War occurred at the courthouse, which led to the first Confederate officer to die in the war. A monument to the officer, Capt. John Quincy Marr, stands outside the courthouse. The monument faces north, as do the two Civil War cannons on either side of the monument.

Those are some of the tidbits Jenée Lindner, president of Friends of the Historic Fairfax Courthouse, shared Wednesday at the courthouse during a lecture titled, “Who Was the Fairfax Family? The Colonial History of Fairfax County.” The lecture was part of a series of ongoing events celebrating the 275th anniversary of the county’s founding.

The county receives its name from Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. He is the son of Thomas Fairfax, 5th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, and Catherine Culpeper, heiress to Leeds Castle, Kent, England, and of the land that would become Fairfax County. While Fairfax laid claim to the land with his marriage to Catherine, Culpeper County and the incorporated town of Culpeper, about an hour’s drive southwest of the courthouse, pay tribute to her family’s contributions to the founding and development of Virginia.

historic courthouse plaque 600Culpeper met Fairfax when he rescued her after a probate hearing during which she successfully wrested control of her inheritance from her father’s mistress, Lindner said. She was just 19 and a mob of men clawed at her following the judge’s decision. Lord Fairfax picked her up and carried her safely to her carriage. The rest, as they say, is history. (Actually, that’s history too, if you’re keeping score.)

Our nation’s first president is closely tied to the Fairfax family. The family schooled Washington in high society customs and traditions after Washington’s father died when George was 11. Washington and Bryan Fairfax, son of the 6th Lord’s cousin William Fairfax, would become lifelong friends. Bryan Fairfax also would inherit the title of 8th Lord.

Not surprisingly, Bryan Fairfax and Washington had different views of breaking with England. Bryan Fairfax strongly urged Washington not to endorse the Fairfax Resolves. He wrote a lengthy letter outlining his protests that was delivered to Washington the day of the vote, Lindner said. But Fairfax remained neutral during the war.

After the war, the two men socialized regularly. In a sign of how strong their bond was, Martha Washington asked Bryan Fairfax to be chief mourner at Washington’s funeral. Martha was too distraught to attend.

On the other hand, Washington and Mason, an instrumental pairing in the founding of the United States, rarely spoke after Mason refused to sign the Constitution over its lack of Bill of Rights, Lindner said. The eventual Bill of Rights added to the Constitution is largely based on Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was added to the Virginia Constitution in 1776. James Madison, another Virginian, ushered them through Congress. They were ratified in 1791.

Mason’s ideas also crossed the Atlantic Ocean. His Declaration of Rights influenced the French Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen, which was issued after the French Revolution. Not to be outdone, the Fairfax influence crossed the continent when Charles Snowden Fairfax, 10th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, caught the ‘49er Gold Rush fever. He and his wife, Ada, officially settled in Marin County, California, in an area now called Fairfax, California, in 1855.

Fairfax County, Virginia, has had its economic ups and downs over the centuries. It remained primarily agricultural until its growth spurt began in 1930, coinciding with the growth of the federal government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Today its economy is diverse and international, with 400 foreign-owned companies representing 45 countries operating within its borders, along with eight Fortune 500 companies. And the county continues to influence. Celebrity database company IMDb lists 113 celebrities who were born in the county. Olympians and an astronaut also called the county home.

Although the Fairfax nobles have resided exclusively in London, England, for three generations, Nicholas Fairfax, 14th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, will cross the pond to help celebrate the anniversary with his wife, Annabel. While here, he will lecture on what Brexit means to Great Britain and the European Union. The Fairfax history and its effect on the world continues.

Additional sources:

Fairfax History – Page 1. Accessed June 1, 2017.

“History of Fairfax County, Virginia.” Accessed June 1, 2017.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

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Earth Day musings: A natural reconnection

I’m an outdoorsman. At least I used to be. My earliest memories are fuzzy visions of recreating in the great outdoors. I was a Boy Scout and my dad was our scoutmaster. Dad insisted that the troop camp one weekend a month throughout the year, except for June and July, which was reserved for a two-week Scout camp. Then there were the family camping trips up and down the East Coast. Later, my friends and I threw a tent and sleeping bags in the car trunk for road trips to scenic spots.

Terry F. Liercke, president of the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, led a Nature/Bird Walk.

Terry F. Liercke led the Nature/Bird Walk. Click on the photo for more images on my Pinterest page.

I carried on that tradition when I began my own family. My daughters were in diapers and barely crawling when I began taking them on family camping trips. We camped, hiked, snow skied, and water skied throughout California. When we moved to Virginia, we explored the Shenandoah Mountains and Valley by foot and canoe, camped at Pohick Bay Regional Park, and kayaked off Chincoteague Island.

But somehow my daughters aged and so did I. Somehow my outdoor excursions became limited to performing yard work. I had lost my connection to nature. Daughter Clare pushed me back with a recent gift of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Near Washington, D.C. On Saturday, I took my first guided nature walk in years.

Our guide was Terry F. Liercke, president of the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia. Our venue was Mason Neck State Park, which was celebrating its 2014 Eagle Festival. Initially, I was disappointed because our hike was to be along the Bay View Trail, the trail I had hiked the week before. I wanted to hike the Eagle Spur Trail. It was, after all, the Eagle Festival and I wanted to see a bald eagle, or two, or three! But I grudgingly plodded along with about a dozen others.

It wasn’t long before I realized I was seeing the trail with new eyes. I learned, for example, that oak trees, including the native oaks of this mature hardwood forest, can host 534 species of moths and butterflies. The bird boxes in the freshwater marsh were erected for the wood duck. Mayapples and spring beauties adorn the forest floor. Blueberry bushes grow in wild abundance. Butterflies and bees avoid azaleas because they are non-native plants. Beaver and Canada geese live in harmony, or at least the goose we saw napping on a beaver lodge. A pair of osprey flew overhead as we approached the shore of Belmont Bay. But no eagles, until one of our group called out, pointing to a spot above the early spring’s leafless canopy, “Is that a bald eagle?” It was. Eagle Festival mission accomplished.

Bald eagle flies over hikers.

Bald eagle flies over hikers. Click on the photo for more images on my Pinterest page.

One would think it would be difficult to visit the park and fail to see an eagle. The Mason Neck peninsula juts into the Potomac River about 20 miles south of Washington, D.C. Like Italy, the peninsula is shaped like a boot. Mason Neck State Park comprises the top of the boot along Belmont Bay. The Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge is the boot’s sole on the banks of the Potomac River. It was the first national refuge created specifically to provide bald eagle habitat. Gunston Hall (home of founding father George Mason) and Pohick Bay Regional Park run up the Achilles tendon bordering Gunston Cove and Pohick Cove, respectively. Together, the four entities provide wildlife with 6,000 acres of protected land in which to thrive. Dozens of bald eagles call the peninsula home. One of them had to fly overhead.


Caroline “CobraCaroline” Seitz explains how the eastern rat snake she is holding is a bald eagle food source. Click on the photo for more images on my Pinterest page.

And one did. Our nature walk and mission concluded, I was drawn to the Big Tent by the energetic voice of “CobraCaroline” enthusing her young audience with a show-and-tell of native reptiles. Caroline Seitz owns Reptiles Alive! LLC, which performs live animal shows throughout the Greater Washington, D.C., area. In addition to being an entertainer, Seitz also is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Along with her enthralled youngsters, I learned that the eastern rat snake is among the bald eagles’ taste treats, although 90 percent of an eagle’s diet consists of fish. I also learned that the eastern snapping turtle can grow to 75 pounds. Happily, even I can outrun a turtle.

Someday, I may have to. Because I’m back to nature. Anyone want to mow my lawn while I’m hiking the great outdoors?


If you go:

The park is in southern Fairfax County, about 20 miles from Washington, D.C. Access to the park is via U.S. 1, then five miles east on Route 242 (Gunston Road) to the park entrance.

The address is 7301 High Point Road, Lorton, VA 22079-4010. Phone: 703-339-2385703-339-2385. Email:

Passenger vehicle parking fees: $4 weekdays; $5 weekends.

There are no campgrounds at Mason Neck State Park, but camping is available at nearby Pohick Bay Regional Park.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

A walk in the park

For my 60th birthday, daughter Clare presented me with AMC’s Best Day Hikes Near Washington, D.C. It’s not the first time she suggested I go take a hike.

Sign showing Bay View Trail 0.2 miles ahead.

Click on the photo to see more photos on my Pinterest page.

On Sunday, I opted to hike the Bay View Trail at Mason Neck State Park in Lorton, VA, just a 25-minute drive from my home. Mason Neck is just a hop, skip, and jump from Gunston Hall, George Mason’s home. (George Mason was the father of the Bill of Rights, for those of you wondering.) It’s also a hop, skip, and jump from Pohick Bay Regional Park. I’ve visited Gunston Hall and camped at Pohick Bay, but somehow never meandered down the road to Mason Neck. It’s been on my list for years because of its reputation for bald eagle sightings, but I needed to be prodded by Clare to get me there.

Everyone else in the Greater D.C. area were crowded into the pathways around the Tidal Basin for the Cherry Blossom Festival, so Mason Neck was relatively quiet. Alas, the bald eagles were also sparse, but then I hiked a trail on the other side of the park from the eagle trails.

Next Saturday, the park is hosting its 2014 Eagle Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

Snowy DC post-inauguration

A few days after President Obama was sworn into his second term, snow began to fall on the nation’s capital. These are just a few random scenes of bunting still waving in the breeze, the bleachers still bearing witness, and tourists wondering what was going on behind those walls as I tried out my new camcorder.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

No lie: You can plant a cherry tree to celebrate history

I received my first official e-mail about the 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival last June. In December the e-mails began to come more regularly.

But it wasn’t until the temperature hit 75 on Friday and I began to contemplate the severity of this year’s annual Washington, D.C., President’s Day winter storm that the idea of another annual Cherry Blossom Festival became a possibility in my mind.

Cherry blossoms at night along the Tidal Basin with the Washington Monument in the distance.

Used by permission from the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Cherry trees, of course, had an important heritage in the D.C. area long before Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gave 3,000 cherry trees to our nation’s capital in 1912. This President’s Day weekend — like every other — we remember the lie that George Washington cut down a cherry tree and admitted his crime when confronted by his father. That cherry tree lie began a tradition that carries on to our present day.

It also began the lie that our favorite presidents don’t lie, a tradition that also carries down to the present day.

Thankfully, you no longer have to live in or visit Washington, D.C., to experience firsthand the blossoms of a cherry tree or the lies by and about our presidents. Now, “for the first time, the Festival has partnered with Arbor Day Foundation in a nationwide, year-round tree planting program that will bring the trees directly to you,” declares the National Cherry Blossom Festival. You can purchase a Japanese flowering cherry tree, also known as the Yoshino, which is the species planted around D.C.’s Tidal Basin, for $8.98. If you want to go cheap, you can get the Sandcherry Western for $4.98. Want to plant to impress? The Arbor Day Foundation has four varieties priced at $12.98.

A portion of the proceeds goes to support the festival, of course.

So buy and plant now so that by next President’s Day your very own cherry tree will be large enough that your very own tyke can cut it down. Because in America, anyone can grow up to be president and lie and be lied about. It really is the pits.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

Postcards from D.C.

By guest blogger Flat Nicholas

I hail from Long Island, N.Y., and was sent to spend a few days with Uncle Tommy as part of a second/third grade class assignment from Mrs. Lerit at West Middle Island School.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the cherry trees on the Tidal Basin, with the Jefferson Memorial in the background.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the cherry trees on the Tidal Basin, with the Jefferson Memorial in the background.

Uncle Tommy was very busy during most of my time in Washington, D.C. He works for a U.S. congressman and debate over the health care bill was raging. I barely made it out of my envelope all week. I was literally left in the dark. But we did spend Saturday seeing the sights.

We started just after dawn at the Tidal Basin where the Jefferson Memorial sits. Cherry trees given to the capital city by the Japanese as a gift in 1912 rim the basin. Every year the city celebrates the gift with a Cherry Blossom Festival, now in its 98th year. Saturday was the first day of this year’s festival, but it was also very, very cold. The temperature was in the upper 20s when we arrived at the basin. Perhaps that’s why Uncle Tommy is not smiling in any of the pictures we took.

The cherry blossoms are still about a week from being at peak, but it was very pretty just the same.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building.

We posed in front of the Washington Monument, which is the tallest structure in Washington, but does not reach the highest elevation. By law, no building in Washington can be at a higher elevation than the U.S. Capitol. Elevation means the height above sea level. Because the U.S. Capitol sits on a hill, the top of it is at a higher elevation than the Washington Monument, even though it’s a shorter building.

From there we went to see the Library of Congress and posed before the Jefferson Building for a picture. Thomas Jefferson, our third president, sold all his books to the Library of Congress after the British burned the library in 1814. Now the library is the world’s largest repository of books, manuscripts, photos and recordings. The library has been working very hard to put its collections on the Internet.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the U.S. Supreme Court as two police officers look on.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the U.S. Supreme Court as two police officers look on. We look pretty suspicious, don’t we?

Next stop was the U.S. Supreme Court, which is right next door to the Library of Congress and across First Street from the U.S. Capitol. The nine members of the Supreme Court decide if the laws passed by Congress and other governmental bodies in the United States are constitutional.

We then jumped on the Metro – Washington’s subway system – and headed for the White House. George Washington was our first president, but he never lived in the White House. The first president to live there was our second president, John Adams. It was still under construction when President Adams moved in and he was not very happy living there.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the White House. President Obama didn’t come out to say hello.

Uncle Tommy and Flat Nicholas pose before the White House. President Obama didn’t come out to say hello.

The White House is heavily guarded. When Uncle Tommy tried to set his tripod up to take a picture of us outside the south fence, a police officer politely told him he couldn’t do that. So Uncle Tommy and I went across the street to take the picture from there. Notice Uncle Tommy’s still not smiling, even though it was starting to warm up by then.

We walked from the White House to the National Mall, which is not a shopping center. It is a long strip of mostly grassy area bounded by Independence Avenue to the south, Constitution Avenue to the north, the Lincoln Memorial to the west and the U.S. Capitol to the east. There are many memorials on the Mall, including the Washington Monument. Most of the Smithsonian museums also line the Mall. Uncle Tommy and I took our picture with the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial before heading back to Uncle Tommy’s home.

Flat Nicholas and Uncle Tommy pose before the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.

Flat Nicholas and Uncle Tommy pose before the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.

Washington, D.C., is an interesting place. It is where our federal laws are made by Congress, implemented by the President and the administrative branch, and their constitutionality decided by the Supreme Court. It is a tourist destination, drawn by such events as the Cherry Blossom Festival and the numerous memorials and museums. It’s also a very friendly city. As Uncle Tommy and I walked around, numerous people called out: “Hey, it’s Flat Stanley,” not realizing I’m actually Flat Nicholas. Some even stopped to talk about their own experiences.

I would definitely go back. If I do, hopefully Uncle Tommy will take me out of his backpack when history is being made.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

Library of Congress celebrates music

Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons. You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body. —Oliver Wendell Holmes

The Library of Congress is not only about books. Its music collection is world-renowned as well. A sampling from this week’s announcements:

Life Begins at 8:40

LOC Jefferson Building

“On March 22nd, the Music Division of the Library of Congress will present a concert of the 1934 musical revue, Life Begins at 8:40. Though the show and score may not sound familiar, five years later four of the original participants joined forces for the film, The Wizard of Oz, with Harold Arlen and ‘Yip’ Harburg writing the score, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, and Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion.”

Library of Congress Acquires Dexter Gordon Collection of Jazz:

“Considered one of the world’s greatest tenor saxophonists, jazz legend Dexter Gordon (1923-1990) was once quoted as saying, ‘Jazz to me is a living music. It’s a music that since its beginning has expressed the feelings, the dreams, hopes, of the people.’ The Library of Congress has taken steps to ensure the survival of Gordon’s musical heritage by acquiring more than a thousand items from his career spanning more than five decades. …

“The Library will celebrate the acquisition of this invaluable record of Gordon’s cultural legacy in a special program at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, April 16, in the Mary Pickford Theater on the third floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed. …”

Tickets available: Jack Quartet, Coolidge Auditorium, Friday, April 30, 2010 at 8:00pm

“Cheered for high-energy performances, the Quartet premieres a new work by California composer Caleb Burhans commissioned by the Library of Congress. The rest of the concert includes Matthias Pintscher’s ‘Study IV for Treatise on the Veil,’ Jeff Myers’s ‘Dopamine,’ and Xenakis’s ‘Tetras.’

“Pre-concert presentation at 6:15 pm – Whittall Pavilion (no tickets required): Caleb Burhans talks about his new work with members of the Jack Quartet. (Part of ‘Music and the Brain II’).”

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

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