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Regional History



Area of Study

Historical Communities


Willard Crossroads

Map of Willard's approximate location superimposed on Dulles Airport's current borders.

Settled in the late 19th century and officially established in 1900, Willard was home to sharecroppers and a prominent black community in the area. The village was named after Joseph Edward Willard, Virginia House of Delegates representative from Fairfax county between 1893 and 1901.[1]

Willard's presence on the map can be credited to Harvey Cockerille and Frederick Bohrer, Willard's postmasters from 1900 until 1907, when the federal Rural Free Delivery program took over mail service in the area. Willard's store was located near the crossroads of Sterling Rd and Willard Rd and run by Samuel E. Horn until 1913 when management was passed to Edward N. Fitzhugh.[2]

Shiloh Baptist Church, awaiting demolition in 1958.

Shiloh Baptist Church, awaiting demolition in 1958. (Photo courtesy of Peck Collection.)

Shiloh Baptist Church, established in 1899, was Willard's prime place of communion. Students were educated at the nearby Willard, Carter (1920-1936), Bear (1874-1910), and Coleman (1894-1930s) schools. Only the foremost was accessible to black students, and at least two of these schools fell to the Great Depression. The church remained in service until 1958, when the airport's construction forced its congregation relocate.[3]

Between 1938 and 1951, local pilot Harry Sagar Jr. ran a small landing field near Willard known as Blue Ridge Airport. However, as a national security measure, the federal government ordered its closing during World War II. The field was reopened following the war until 1951. In this year, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (now Federal Aviation Administration) drafted a proposal set on constructing an international airport in the nearby community of Burke to serve the greater Washington D.C. area. Community protest and county opposition prevented progress on this plan. The Dulles Air Freight complex stands at its location today.[4][5]

Coleman's School.

Coleman's School. (Photo courtesy of Peck Collection.)

In September of 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the CAA settled on the current site for the "Chantilly Airport". Willard's fate was sealed by Civil Action 1638-M, which condemned 9,800 acres of land in Willard and its surrounding villages. By 1962, Willard had disappeared, and in its place was what many considered a "white elephant" due to the lack of substantial air traffic in its initial years of service.[6]

Dulles Airport was the first in the United States designed specifically for commercial jet aircraft. 3,000 acres of the land acquired was graded and soon became home to tarmac, large concourses, and control towers. Three runways (two 11,500 ft long, one 10,000 ft long) were opened upon the airport's completion, and featured turnoffs which maximized runway availability.[7]

Control Towers

Dulles Airport's main terminal and air traffic control towers. (Photo courtesy of J. David Buerk.)

Between 1969 and 1983, approximately 2.5 million passengers were served annually. However, in 1985, this number grew to 5 million, and to 10 million passengers two years later. By 1999, Dulles served over 3.5 million international passengers annually. Expansion was proportional to the airport's growth. In 1977, the parking ramp for jets was widened, and in the 1980s, two Midfield Concourses were added, as well as a hotel, and several cargo buildings. Parking lots and other concourses were added in the 1990s, and in 1996, the iconic Main Terminal was enlarged. By the 2000s, the airport's northern property had been completely inundated by parking garages and lots, as well as outlets for car rental and parcel shipment.[8]

Recent developments have included the completion of Dulles's new ATC tower and fourth runway, as well as the construction of a new underground light-rail system for transport from concourse to concourse.[9]

Today, not a trace of Coleman's School is left at its former location (now Avis Rent-A-Car property). There is no evidence of Harry Sagar's Blue Ridge Airfield (now the Continental Airlines office and FedEx World Service center). The crossroads of Willard and Sterling Rd have been covered in tarmac and are now home to the airport's 300-ft-tall control tower. Shiloh Baptist Church is but a mere memory on a patch of grass next to a runway. All that is left of Willard today are a number of vacant properties bordering the airport to the west that once contained farms.

The remaining physical artifacts of this lost village are likely to disappear completely in the near future, leaving only memories, maps and photographs for future generations to confirm its existence.


  1. Eugene Scheel, Loudoun Discovered, Communities, Corners & Crossroads: Volume 1, Eastern Loudoun: "Goin' Down the Country" (Leesburg, VA: The Friends of the Thomas Balch Library, 2002), 101.
  2. "History of Dulles Airport," last modified 02-22-2010, http://www.loudounhistory.org/history/dulles-airport-history.htm.
  3. Scheel, Loudoun Discovered, Communities, Corners & Crossroads: Volume 1, Eastern Loudoun: "Goin' Down the Country," 103-108.
  4. "A Look Back at Braddock District History," last modified 01-17-2010, http://braddockheritage.org/history/transition.
  5. Scheel, Loudoun Discovered, Communities, Corners & Crossroads: Volume 1, Eastern Loudoun: "Goin' Down the Country," 105.
  6. Peggy D. Vetter, "Dulles International Airport Opened in 1962," Herndon Observer, 2000, accessed January 6, 2011. http://archive.observernews.com/stories/archives/history/dulles.shtml.
  7. "History of Washington Dulles International Airport," last modified 01-13-2011, http://www.metwashairports.com/dulles/661.htm
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.