Editor: Save Old Sterling is a group of concerned citizens who believe Old Sterling, the area on Ruritan Circle and Ruritan Road known as Guilford Station, should be preserved as a “Grandfather Village.” Our idea for preservation is to restore and fashion the old buildings, along with new ones, into a destination with a variety of shops and appealing places instead of the usual faceless townhouse clusters, strip malls, office parks and storage facilities which already dominate this area. The village would incorporate the long‐forgotten 150 year-old history of the Guilford rail stop which first brought prosperity here in 1860.
As a consequence of unrelenting development, most of the old business establishments, houses and other buildings have been demolished. Most prominent among them was the historically significant 1899 Sterling Methodist Church, leveled in 2017 to make way for a commercial storage business. This type of demolition must never happen again.
As one of its principal objectives, SOS advocates preservation of several standing structures on Ruritan Circle including the 1880 two-room schoolhouse, the 1882 Guilford Baptist Church (now an Ethiopian Orthodox Church) and the 1860s Sexton/Grooms House (now Mona’s Lebanese Café and Guilford Station Arts). In addition, the 1955 Sterling Warehouse and 1880’s Tavenner’s Wheelwright Shop and Thompson’s Saddlery on Ruritan Road just may be worth saving.
Preservation of what remains of Guilford was endorsed in 2009 by the William and Mary Center for Archeological Research, which noted that “Ruritan Circle was bypassed by [major thoroughfares], essentially saving the tiny community.” The center concluded that Guilford Station should be preserved as “a compact, railroad-oriented, late nineteenth-century village [embodying] regional vernacular architectural trends.” The center added, “The handful of historic buildings clustered along Ruritan Circle and Ruritan Road are a rare reminder of the rapidly dwindling history of the area becoming increasingly threatened by development pressures.”
While recognizing that physical restoration and adaptive reuse of existing buildings is a priority, SOS recommends new construction to make Old Sterling a viable “destination place.” Such a concept has now been published by the Loudoun Design Cabinet, a group operating under the auspices of Loudoun County’s Department of Economic Development. The cabinet, a think tank of about a dozen architects, engineers, planners and designers met in a “charrette” format to brainstorm development concepts that considered how Guilford Station might be preserved and rejuvenated, offering their thoughts to affected property owners, community members and local preservation organizations (including SOS). The cabinet’s tentative vision will be considered at future charrettes: a walkable, bicycle-accessible commercial district, including a two-to-three-block business area, parking and green spaces such as a park along the W&OD Trail linking nicely to similar efforts in Herndon and Ashburn.
We have one final opportunity to rescue the last remaining fragment of Old Sterling. Bringing to fruition what the Loudoun Design Cabinet envisions would create a lasting asset for Sterling, Loudoun County and Virginia.
Mark Gunderman, Sterling Park