School History - Our Building

Prior to the opening of Crestwood Elementary School on February 29, 1956, our students were housed at Garfield Elementary School. While at Garfield, future Crestwood teachers and students were administratively grouped separately from Garfield’s staff and students with the intention that Crestwood’s teachers and their classes would move together to the new building when it opened.

Black and white photograph from a newspaper clipping, published in The Evening Star on April 24, 1955. The caption reads: Filled to capacity. Pupils pour out of Garfield School, attended mostly by Springfield, Virginia pupils. The rapid jumps in school population in the burgeoning area is forcing the building of a new school in the Crestwood section of Springfield and eventually another in the Lynbrook subdivision. The picture was taken east of the school on Old Keene Mill Road. The road is barely wide enough to fit two cars. It was taken before all the shopping centers in this area were built and much of the surrounding area is still forest. Groups of children walk along a dirt path toward Backlick Road. One student is riding his bicycle up the street, followed by a long line of cars pulling out of the school’s driveway.
Garfield Elementary School in The Evening Star - April 24, 1955

Garfield’s principal, Woodrow Thomas Robinson, served as the principal of the Crestwood-bound students and staff until January 1956, when Evelyn Lynn was appointed principal of Crestwood Elementary School. 16 teachers and approximately 540 students transferred from Garfield to Crestwood in February.

What was cool was how we moved from Garfield to Crestwood. School buses came and our desks were put on the buses and taken to Crestwood. The kids who were going to Crestwood walked with their classmates and teacher, single file, up Old Keene Mill Road, crossed the road at Hanover Avenue, and continued on Hanover to Crestwood. We lived on Amelia Street, and it was great to finally be in a school that was only a couple blocks from home.
~ Pat Springer, Crestwood Alumna

Design and Construction

Crestwood Elementary School was designed in 1954 by the architecture firm of Willgoos and Chase, and the original 16-classroom building was constructed by E. L. Daniels, Inc. of Arlington, Virginia, at a cost of $493,616. Construction began in April 1955, but a nationwide shortage of steel hampered construction progress. In addition to the 16 classrooms, the original building had a teacher workroom, a health clinic, a library, administrative offices, a kitchen, and a cafeteria that also doubled as an auditorium.

Black and white photograph of Crestwood Elementary School taken in 1958. There is snow on the ground. Cars are parked in the driveway in front of the school and four people are visible outside the building. The building is designed in the egg-crate style, common to schools of the 1950s, with rectangular classroom wings with rows of classrooms separated by a central hallway. The front classroom wing, office, and cafeteria are visible.
Crestwood Elementary School, 1958. Courtesy of the Virginia Room, Fairfax County Public Library.

Crestwood Elementary was dedicated at a ceremony on May 8, 1956. The dedication was held during a regular monthly meeting of the joint Garfield and Crestwood P.T.A. at Crestwood Elementary. Local dignitaries, P.T.A. members, school staff, and students were present. Cub Scout Pack 691, still in our area today, presented the colors, and an American flag that had flown over the United States Capitol was donated to our school.

Photographs of the cover and a page of Crestwood's yearbook from 1957 to 1958. The cover is on the left. It has a blue background with orange and white accent lines and an illustration of an open book. The words School Memories are printed in orange and white near the book. The yearbook page is on the right. It shows a color photograph of the main entrance to Crestwood.
Crestwood Yearbook, 1958

During the summer of 1956, construction began on a six-classroom addition to Crestwood Elementary School. The addition was built by Earl K. Rosti, Inc., of Falls Church, Virginia, at a cost of $104,521. At the start of Crestwood’s second year in September 1956, our school was already overcrowded. Children from the new Lynbrook and North Springfield neighborhoods were housed at Crestwood until Lynbrook Elementary School opened in February 1957, and North Springfield Elementary School opened in September 1957. Prior to the opening of these schools, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) administrators rented Sunday School classrooms in nearby churches to serve as temporary classroom spaces. Enrollment in the Greater Springfield area schools stabilized in the mid-1960s and gradually declined during the 1970s.

Photographs of the cover and a page of Crestwood's yearbook from 1961 to 1962. The cover is on the left. The background is half blue, half white, divided vertically down the middle. On the blue side is an illustration of a boy and girl. On the right is an illustration of a school and the words Memories of my School Days printed in red. The yearbook has a red ring binder. On the right is a black and white photograph of Principal Evelyn Lynn. She is seated at her desk holding papers in her hands.
Crestwood Yearbook, 1962, with Principal Evelyn I. Lynn (1956-1972)

A Different Time

In the 1950s, FCPS students had to follow a strict dress code. Children were not allowed to wear t-shirts or jeans. Boys had to wear button-down shirts, tucked into their pants. Girls were only allowed to wear dresses or skirts, with either ankle or knee socks. Fears of a nuclear conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union were ever present, and air raid drills were held at Crestwood in which students practiced going into the hallways and getting into what was called the "tuck and duck" or "turtle" position.

Black and white photograph of a hallway at an elementary school in Baltimore, Maryland. Children are lined up along the walls in the tuck and duck position.
Air raid drill at an elementary school in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1951. Students at Crestwood participated in similar drills. Associated Press File Photo.
Black and white photograph of Crestwood Elementary School taken in 1965. The front of the building is pictured from Hanover Avenue. Cars are parked in what is now the bus loop in front of the building. A tall metal tower is visible behind the school.
Crestwood Elementary School, 1965. An air raid siren was atop the tower behind our school (on the far right side of the photograph). The siren was tested every Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. The siren was so loud that teachers were forced to stop their lessons until the test was finished.

In the 1950s, the majority of FCPS teachers were female—in fact, 15 of Crestwood’s first 16 teachers were female. Crestwood's first teachers earned between $3,400 and $4,400 per year, depending on their years of experience and level of education.

Page from 1957 to 1958 yearbook showing Mr. George Leyda's class of seventh graders. The head-and-shoulder portraits are printed in black and white and are arranged in five rows. 31 children and their teacher are pictured. The portraits are separated with the girls in the top-most rows and the boys in the bottom rows.
George Leyda's 7th Grade Class at Crestwood, 1957-58

Elementary schools in Fairfax County educated children in grades 1-7 until 1960—when FCPS opened its first intermediate schools—and there were no kindergartners at Crestwood until 1968. A kindergarten program was piloted in several schools in 1967 and proved so successful that one year later FCPS implemented kindergarten county-wide.

Black and white yearbook photograph of Crestwood's S.C.A. Executive Committee taken in 1966. The children are arranged in three rows on the steps in front of the school. 16 children are pictured, and even mix of boys and girls. The boys are wearing button down shirts or sweaters, and slacks. The girls are wearing dresses or skirts, and ankle or knee socks. A teacher sponsor stands behind them.
Crestwood's S.C.A. Executive Committee, 1966

When Crestwood opened, public schools in Virginia were segregated by race. In 1965, almost every former all-African-American FCPS elementary school ceased operation (one notable exception is Louise Archer Elementary School in Vienna). These schools were located in predominantly African-American enclaves, necessitating the busing of students out of these neighborhoods to formerly all-white schools.

Black and white photograph of Drew-Smith Elementary School. The building is a single-story concrete structure with a brick veneer. It had much fewer classrooms and fewer amenities than the schools built for white children during this time period.
Drew-Smith Elementary School, an all-African-American school located at Gum Springs on Route 1, closed in 1965 and was converted into a special education center. Courtesy of the Virginia Room, Fairfax County Public Library.

School segregation and residential segregation were deeply intertwined in Virginia. Since at least the early 20th century, legal land documents for Springfield area properties had language in them which was designed to permanently restrict the sale of the land to Caucasians only. The restrictions “ran with the land,” meaning that no future owner of the property could undo this practice. These restrictions were already in place on much of the land when developers purchased it, so homes in nearly all of the newly developed neighborhoods like Crestwood were sold exclusively to white families. In 1968, the Fair Housing Law was passed, eliminating racial barriers to homeownership. Crestwood's student body remained largely Caucasian until the 1980s, by which time the effects of the passage of the Fair Housing Law began to be evident in Fairfax County’s suburbs.

Black and white photograph from Crestwood's 1983 to 1984 yearbook showing a group of students boarding a school bus. The photo was taken during the wintertime because snow is visible on the ground in the background and the children are wearing heavy coats.
Crestwood Elementary School Students, 1984

Renovations and Additions

When Crestwood Elementary School opened, our school did not have a gymnasium. Our school also lacked classrooms for music, art, and science. In the 1970s, the Crestwood P.T.A. lobbied the Fairfax County School Board to remedy these inequities. An upgrade to the lighting, heating, and ventilation systems was approved by the School Board in 1976, and additional classrooms and a gymnasium were constructed in 1978.

Color photograph of the main entrance of Crestwood Elementary School. The photograph was likely taken during the 1980s because the main office and main entrance are still in their original configuration.
Crestwood Elementary School, 1980s

Student enrollment gradually declined at Crestwood from 436 in 1975 to 349 in 1985. Beginning in 1984, children from the newly built Saratoga neighborhood south of Springfield on Rolling Road were bused to Crestwood, Forestdale, and Lynbrook elementary schools where classroom space was readily available. Children from Saratoga attended Crestwood until the opening of Saratoga Elementary School in September 1989.

Color Polaroid photograph of the front entrance of Saratoga Elementary School taken in 1990. A group of approximately 23 students are sitting and standing together, waving at the camera.
Saratoga Elementary School, 1990

In 1988, air conditioning was added building-wide at Crestwood. Prior to this time, teachers propped open their classroom windows on warm days to allow the air to circulate. The first building-wide renewal of Crestwood began construction in the spring of 1999, and was contracted to the Falls Church Construction Corporation at a cost of $4.8 million. A modular classroom addition was constructed in 2004, and the most recent addition to our school was built in 2012 by the Pavone Construction Company at a cost of $2.6 million. Watch our building change shape in this animated series of aerial photographs courtesy of the Fairfax County Park Authority.

This series of aerial photographs shows Crestwood Elementary School from directly overhead in 1953, 1960, 1976, 1997, 2009, and 2017. The 1953 and 1960 aerials are in black and white. The 1953 photograph shows the future site of the Crestwood Elementary School before the school began construction. Newly built homes of the Crestwood neighborhood are visible on the right. The school site is forested. The 1960 building is shaped like the letter T. The 1956 addition is visible on the rear of the building. A trailer is behind the school, just down the hill from the air raid siren. The 1976 aerial is in color. The building looks relatively unchanged. The 1997 aerial shows a playground and a gymnasium have been added to the school. The building is shaped like the number four. In 2009, a large modular classroom wing has been added to the rear of the building and eight classroom trailers are located near the south entrance. In 2017, two addition modular buildings have been added to the rear of the building. Six trailers have been moved to surround the blacktop. A new classroom wing has been added, and the main building is now shaped like the letter H.

A True Community School

Following the passage of the Fair Housing Law in 1968, Springfield area homeownership restrictions ceased. As the 1970s drew to a close, the majority of the children born during the “baby boom” of the 1950s and 60s had graduated high school. As their parents’ generation began to retire and move away, Springfield and its affordable housing became a magnet for new immigrant families to the United States from Southeast Asia and Central America. The ethnically and culturally diverse Crestwood school community we treasure today was a product of these changes, which occurred gradually between 1980 and 2000.

Color aerial photograph of Crestwood Elementary School taken from a drone hovering above Hanover Avenue. The school is pictured from the southeast at an angle. Visible are the new classroom wing, the six trailers along the blacktop, and the large modular classrooms behind the school.
Crestwood Elementary School, November 4, 2012

On the occasion of our school’s 50th anniversary in 2006, the Crestwood community was abuzz with excitement. A new school song was written by teachers Debra Lindsay and Jeff Copp, and students and staff alike were eager to learn about our school’s past. Festivities were held on September 12, 2006, and 42 fifth and sixth graders performed at two assemblies, one during the school day and one during the evening for parents. Reflecting on Crestwood’s long history, cafeteria hostess Eleanor Williams wrote, “Over the past 50 years, the Crestwood community has become a very progressive community in the heart of the Springfield area and educates hundreds of students each year. The mission of Crestwood Elementary School is to offer each student the skills, knowledge, and experiences necessary to be successful students and productive members of society. The staff envisions a school where academic excellence is paramount, the arts are celebrated, cultural and linguistic diversity is honored, and all learners meet their personal academic goals. Over the years ethnic and cultural diversity have brought a unique spirit to the school, as it continues its commitment to academic excellence. Crestwood is a true community school working with parents and children building a better future for the entire Crestwood community.”

Color photograph from our 2003 to 2004 yearbook showing Mrs. Kelly's first grade class. 19 children and two teachers are pictured.
Mrs. Kelly's 1st Grade Class, 2003-04

Crestwood's School History was written with assistance from Robyn Carter.