Reston founder Robert E. Simon Jr. dies at 101

Robert E. Simon Jr. Photo via Reston Historic Trust and Museum
Robert E. Simon Jr.
Photo via Reston Historic Trust and Museum

Real estate entrepreneur Robert E. Simon Jr., who in the early 1960s created the planned community of Reston in Northern Virginia, died Sept. 21 at his Lake Anne home, according to the Reston Association. He was 101.

In an interview last year with The Washington Post on occasion of the town’s 50th anniversary, the self-described “Jewish guy from Manhattan” talked about his original vision for the 6,750 acres in Fairfax County he bought in 1961 and named Reston (the first three letters R.E.S. are his initials) three years later when the first residents started moving in.

“Everything I could think of that I’d seen in the world that appealed to me,” Simon said of what he worked out on a yellow pad. That vision for America’s first modern, post-war planned community, according to The New York Times, “blended the serenity of an Italian hill town, the urban attractions of San Francisco’s Embarcadero and the social equality of a utopia in Finland.”

The community that was purchased by Simon for $800,000 in cash and a $12 million mortgage, has grown to include nearly 60,000 residents and around 60,000 workers. Metro finally reached Reston last year with the opening of phase one of the Silver Line that included the final stop at Wiehle–Reston East within the median of the Dulles Toll Road. When phase two is expected to be completed in 2019 there will be a station also located within the median of the Dulles Toll Road that will be situated approximately 2,000 feet south of Reston Town Center. The station will be named Reston Town Center.

“I was extremely saddened to learn of the loss of our beloved Bob Simon,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told Reston Patch. “To the end of his 101 years, he was a grand man of extraordinary vision, heart, and charm. Most people know Bob as the founder of Reston, but his insistence on making Reston the first racially integrated housing development in Virginia also made him a civil rights pioneer. He was an environmentalist before the term was invented, a patron of the arts, and passionate advocate for social justice. The Northern Virginia region owes much of its character and success to Bob. I feel this loss sharply and shall miss his dedication, his laugh and his friendship. A local giant is gone from our midst.”

Simon was born in New York City on April 10, 1914, one of four children, to Robert Sr. and Elsa Weil Simon. His father was a real estate investor who purchased Carnegie Hall in 1925 from the widow of Andrew Carnegie, according to The New York Times. After graduating from Harvard in 1935 and the death of his father that same year, Simon became president of Simon Enterprises and president and part owner of Carnegie Hall.

Married four times, survivors include his fourth wife of 11 years, Cheryl Terio-Simon of Reston; his daughter, Margo Prescott-Morris; four other stepdaughters, Dr. Karen Terio, Betsy Schulberg, Deborah Lesser and Lucinda Zilk; two stepsons, Tom Langman and Adam Terio; and many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

As of publication, memorial services were still being planned. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Cornerstones (, 11150 Sunset Hills Road, #210, Reston, Va., 20190.

Josh Marks with additional reporting from The Washington Post, The New York Times and Reston Patch.

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