correction: An earlier version of the story implied the Bell family built schools in Springdale for black children in the area. Minnie Peyton donated land to build the schools and Bailey’s Community Center, not the Bell family.
Willie Coleman’s plan was to settle down with his family in Springdale after his military service. Although he had a rough childhood at the height of the civil rights era in his all-black neighborhood in Baileys Crossroads, in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County, he always had a strong connection to Springdale and the people who shaped him.
“You know the expression of the old African proverb: It takes a village to raise a child. Well, that’s what it was like,” Coleman said.
When Coleman was growing up in the 1950s, his mother was the secretary of Springdale’s civic association. Both of his parents worked, so neighbors would look after him and make sure he didn’t do anything “out of sorts.” Today, Coleman is president of the association that meets every month at Baileys Community Center, just steps away from his home. Coleman finds it hard to measure the distance from the house he grew up in to the home he built for his family.
“A million miles. From the life I was living in to where I am now, it is like a million miles,” he said.
Coleman’s memory of Springdale was a neighborhood that lacked paved roads, sidewalks, gas, water drainage or public water. Water came from wells or a local spring. The civic association was born because of these issues, and Coleman grew up watching the community work with Fairfax County to address them amid a climate of racism and segregation.
“We had to fight for everything, and we got this community center that people come and enjoy,” he said. “But it took a lot of a lot of fighting. There was at one time one way in this community and one way out, because at the white edge of the community is where the white communities started and it was blocked off and fenced. We couldn’t go through.”
Elizabethe Hall has lived in Springdale for 68 years. She knew Coleman when he was a young boy delivering newspapers to her house. Today, she works alongside him at the civic association and sits at the front desk of the Baileys Community Center. She has become a fixture in the area, and some neighbors even call her “Mama Hall.”
“Everybody loves Baileys Crossroads,” Hall said. “Once they live here, they never want to leave. It’s all generations of kids who used to live here and it is very family-orientated.”
Past to present: Baileys Crossroads was where Abraham Lincoln reviewed Union troops during the Civil War in 1861. Springdale originated almost 20 years later, when freed slaves from the Bell family bought 50 acres of land for $2,500. Minnie Peyton donated land to build the Bailey’s Community Center and schools for black children in the area, but it wasn’t until 1954 that African Americans had a high school.
Today, Springdale has fewer black residents. The Baileys Crossroads area has become a haven for refugees and immigrants who began arriving in the 1980s. Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross recalls someone asking her about the demographics of Baileys Crossroads.
“You could have a Latino family living next door to a family from Yemen, living next door to a family from Egypt, living next door to a family from Vietnam,” she said. “That is crossroads. It is an amalgamation of a lot of different cultures all coming together.”
Springdale residents depend on the civic association led by Coleman for services. Coleman works closely with Gross and the county to address those needs.
Living there: Springdale is roughly bounded by Columbia Pike to the north, Moncure Avenue to the east, Magnolia Lane to the south and Munson Road to the west.
“There is a pretty wide variety of homes and condos in the neighborhood,” said Jason Lallis, an associate broker at RLAH Real Estate. “With easy access to grocery, restaurants, and shopping, it’s easy to see why people are drawn to the area.”
In the past 12 months, 11 homes have sold in Springdale, ranging from a two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo for $329,000 to a six-bedroom, five-bath Colonial for $875,000.
There is one home on the market — a five-bedroom, five-bathroom Craftsman-style house for $739,000 — and two houses are expected to be listed within the next two months.
Schools: Glen Forest Elementary and Bailey’s Elementary School, Glasgow Middle and Justice High (formerly Jeb Stuart).
Transportation: The closest Metro stations are King Street-Old Town in Alexandria, on the Blue and Yellow lines (closed until September for renovations), and Ballston-MU in Arlington, on the Orange and Silver lines. Buses run along Columbia Pike and Seminary Road.
Crime: In the past six months, there have been seven reports of assault, two reports of property destruction and one report of public intoxication, according to Fairfax County Police.