Transcript of Harry P. Lehman's speech at the August 19, 2009, dedication of the Beacon Field Airport Fairfax County Virginia Historic Marker:
*****Orville Wright's Birthday - August 19, 1871 !!! ****
We are very honored and proud to be part of this Fairfax County Historic Marker dedication ceremony !
We want to thank Supervisor Jeff McKay == Ms. Linda Waller , BF Saul Centers, members of the Groveton Community, the Fairfax County History Commission == Mr. Jack Hiller, and Starbucks here at Beacon for their support and help. Also want to thank Congressman Connelly for his encouragement and direction. A special thanks goes to County Attorney Mr. Long for his generosity in working for this dedication.
This dedication today is a culmination to a significant historical research project in which Anna Marie and I, poured over an extensive family collection as well as donated materials, map study and conducted interviews to verify the accuracy of the history of one of the oldest private airports in the area. The marker has 100 words and we probably spent 10 hours to validate each word !
Memory is the natural enemy of history ! Whether it be bad memory, no memory, faulty memory or created memory, loss of facts is a dangerous thing. We wanted to capture and record the Beacon history before it was lost - we have do with this marker and the website.
The history of Beacon Field is a story of circumstance and consequence. My grandfather, (born 1879)William Franklin Pierce (W.F.P.) Reid Sr., by 1910 had amassed 204 acres here on this hill top in Groveton. He served on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors from 1908 thru 1939 and he maintained a dairy herd here at his home, "City View". The airport and the cows shared my grandparents cow pasture. After the U.S. Government installed the rotating beacon in the late 1920s for night navigation, my grandfather formalized the airport with the Virginia State Corporation Commission issuing Beacon Field Airport a license in 1932. Beacon Field is named for this beacon light tower. It is the only airport in the U.S. known to have the BEACON name !
Bob and Betty Ashburn, and Jimmy Millan were early airport managers and ran the training operations. Despite the small size of Beacon Field with its sod runways, it had a big impact and influence on the area. Beacon Field was an economic engine for the community, providing jobs, recreation, and pilot training. The Ashburn management lasted for a decade as the on-set of WW II restricted private flying on the east coast.
As a result of World War II, the airport had to cease operations on August 15, 1942 due to security concerns; flight operations moved out to Calverton, VA. to continue flight training. Instead of planes, the airport hosted horse races at the oval track and benefit carnivals for the Penn Daw (No. 11) fire department. These events took place at the current Target site.
Following World War II, my father and mother Harry and Mary Lewis Lehman, and my uncle, Franklin Reid, came home after the war and they formed a large commercial aviation operation to provide pilot training for returning veterans on the GI Bill. Due to the GI bill, the airport activities flourished and training operations went dawn to dust !
While the exact number is unknown, it is safe to say that hundreds of pilots received their certifications and followed a career in aviation including many who became commercial airline pilots for the major carriers including Capitol, Eastern, American,and Alleghany. Beacon Field training influenced others to pursue careers in aerospace engineering, aircraft design and maintenance, and military careers. Beacon Field Airport closed on October 1, 1959, and it went the way of most airports - it became a shopping center.