In the summer of 1952, the first residents of Holmes Run Acres, armed with typewriters, a mimeograph machine and plenty of creative energy, published their newly built community’s first newsletter.
The Holmes Runner began as a few stapled pages, mainly information on the neighborhood’s fledgling civic association that published it, but it soon expanded to include features, illustrations and advice columns. Today, the Runner is a full-color journal with articles, essays, artwork, poetry and professional photographs. Longtime resident Keith Gardiner described it as “still full of community lore and wisdom.”
Bound by their common real estate, residents of “the Acres” neighborhood — placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register in 2006 and the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 — have built and recorded their community’s history for more than 60 years. The Runner has connected neighbors as they created Fairfax County’s first community-owned pool, shared advice on renovating their mid-century homes and stayed up to date on neighborhood goings-on.
“To me, the Runner is a historical record of the times played out through our neighborhood,” said science writer/editor and Runner co-editor Mary Beth Gardiner. “When it started, it was our essential mode of communication, there was no other way to communicate. It was more like a newsletter with essential information. Now, though it still has news, it’s more about capturing the personality and creativity of the neighborhood.”
The Runner, which is hand-delivered free to association members and once annually to non-member residents, gradually has evolved from a nine-times-a-year publication to a quarterly magazine as alternate modes of communications have grown. Nearly all Runner issues, some with more than 60 pages, have a theme and a resident-created cover. Gardiner said the Runner does not take editorial positions, but it has published personal opinions on local and national issues. “The old newsletters from the 1960s where residents discussed racial issues and took a stand on integration really stand out,” said Gardiner. “It got pretty political.”
Several Holmes Run Acres couples recently participated in an exciting experiment. We were guests in the home of a Negro family as part of the Educational Home Visit Program of the Interreligious Committee on Race Relations . . . . For most of the white guests, the evening was the first opportunity we had ever had to visit Negroes of similar educational and economic backgrounds in their own homes. We found the experience so stimulating and enlightening that we have been urging it on others ever since . . . . The program has a limited objective . . . . No reciprocity is expected.
— Letter to the Editor,
The Holmes Runner, January 1964