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Photos: Celebrating Freeman Store's Legacy

Ceremony honors building as Virginia landmark

has always been an iconic part of Vienna — and now, during the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War era in which it built, it becomes a state landmark, too.

On Saturday, local officials and volunteers celebrated the building's acceptance to the Virginia Landmarks Register, unveiling a plaque engraved with the honor that will hang to the left of its white wooden door.

It's the only site in Vienna to earn the honor.

"[The recognition is] about embracing and remembering the past, but also looking toward and celebrating our future," said State Del. Mark Keam (D-35th), one of the Saturday's honored speakers. "It's truly the centerpiece of our community."

The American Legion Color Guard opened Saturday's ceremony, which also featured music by the Vienna Community Band and displays by the 17th Virginia Infantry Regiment, Co. D, “Fairfax Rifles” Living History Society Color Guard .

A number of local officials — including Mayor Jane Seeman, members of the Vienna Town Council and HVI, U.S. Rep Gerry Connolly, State Sen. Chap Petersen, Sup. Cathy Hudgins and Rev. Kenny Smith, among others — spoke about the building's significance and how the community can weave the town's rich history into its present and future.

Earning the recognition was the legacy project Vienna's commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial from 2011-2015,

Historic Vienna Inc. and the Town of Vienna contracted a consultant , which included old records, photographs and documents — among them, a pencil drawing of Vienna from 1861, sketched by a  famous journalist and found last year in the Library of Congress.

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources requires landmarks on the list to either be associated with events that made "significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history," or,  "associated with the lives of persons significant in our past."

For the Freeman House, that means preparing an application that features the property's role as a store in Fairfax County for 150 years,  its connection to local residents like Abram Lydecker and Leon and Anderson Freeman, and its time as a hospital and quarters during the Civil War.

From 1859 to 1929, the building was many things for many different causes and people, according to the group's nomination. The store and residence was originally built for Abram Lydecker, "an immigrant from New Jersey," a year after the railroad reached Vienna, an area then known only as Ayr Hill, according to the nomination.

The nomination details the rest of the structure's history, including its time as a post office, general store and infirmary, among others.

It was an infirmary near the beginning of the civil war, according to Historic Vienna Inc. modeled after an 1861 original, which showed soldiers climbing of the top-story window and overflowing onto the porch, perhaps to get fresh air or wait for beds inside the packed-to-capacity, makeshift hospital.

The house was also the polling place for 1861's secession vote. Vienna was not only one of the few Virginia areas that voted to stay with the Union, it's former polling place is the only secession vote location in the state that's stayed true to its original form, Keam said on Saturday.

After the war, the building operated as a general store until the late 1920s and then served as a residence until 1955, according to HVI.  It was sold to the Town by Freeman’s daughter Dorothy in 1969 and was restored by the Town of  Vienna in 1976 as a United States Bicentennial project.  Since then, it has been operated by HVI volunteers, as a general store and gift shop on the ground level and as a history museum on the second floor.

The town learned the building had earned the honor last fall and planned the spring celebration.

For photos from Saturday's event, click through the media gallery above.

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