School History

Remembering Our Past

Construction of Stenwood Elementary School was started in the spring of 1963 on a ten-acre site in the Dunn Loring Woods subdivision. The building was not completed in time for the opening of schools the following September, so students were temporarily housed at three area elementary schools, namely Dunn Loring, Flint Hill, and Vienna. Our first principal, William “Bill” Berkeley Martin, worked out of an office at Vienna Elementary School. Our first librarian, Mildred S. O’Neill, travelled to the three schools and circulated books from each library. Stenwood Elementary School was completed and moved into on February 3, 1964.

Newspaper clipping from February 1964, showing a black and white photograph of Principal William Martin holding open the door as students leave after their first day of school. The caption states that the school is located at 2620 Dunn Loring Road, and was completed at a cost of $431,000. The school has 20 classrooms, and a cafeteria which doubles as an auditorium.
The Northern Virginia Sun, February 3, 1964

An Integrated School

Built by the Wayne Construction Company at a cost of $431,000, Stenwood Elementary School was originally designed with 20 classrooms that had folding walls which could be opened during sessions of cooperative teaching. During the first year, enrollment was approximately 400 students. By September 1964, that number had grown to 584 students. One year later, in September 1965, enrollment had swelled to 705 students.

Photograph of Stenwood Elementary School main entrance in early 1964, shortly after the school opened. It is late winter or early spring and the school grounds are exposed dirt.
Stenwood Elementary School, 1964. The property on which Stenwood Elementary School was built was once part of a farm that was subdivided by the Yeonas Realty Company and named Dunn Loring Woods. The school site was donated to the School Board by the Yeonas Company.

Stenwood Elementary School opened at a time when Fairfax County was in the midst of desegregating its public schools. Stenwood opened as an integrated school with nine Black students. In 1966, when Fairfax County Public Schools closed James Lee Elementary School, one of the county’s last all-Black elementary schools, some of its students were reassigned to Stenwood.

Kindergarten Comes to Stenwood

In the 1960s, Fairfax County elementary schools educated children in grades one through six. In 1967, FCPS piloted a kindergarten program in seven schools, which proved so successful that kindergarten was adopted county-wide the following school year. Approximately 8,100 children enrolled in kindergarten classes in the fall of 1968.

Kindergarten class portrait. 21 students are pictured.
Kindergarten Class, Stenwood Elementary School, 1970-71

In February 1978, FCPS Superintendent S. John Davis reported to the School Board that enrollment at Dunn Loring Elementary School had fallen to just 183 students. On March 9, 1978, the School Board voted to close Dunn Loring Elementary School at the end of the school year and reassign its students to Stenwood Elementary School.

Black and white photograph of the front of Stenwood Elementary School from the 1978-79 yearbook.
Stenwood Elementary School, Circa 1979

The Mildred O'Neill Library

In December 1983, the School Board named the library at Stenwood in honor of Mildred O’Neill. Ms. O’Neill was Stenwood’s first librarian. The Board commended Ms. O’Neill, who had recently retired after 25 years of service to Fairfax County Public Schools, for her diligence, professionalism, and for making the school library the “focal point of the whole Stenwood academic program.”

Stenwood Elementary School’s first renovation began during the winter of 1986. One year later, in February 1987, the School Board passed a resolution naming the new gymnasium and addition at Stenwood “The William B. Martin Center.” The Board chose to name the center in honor of Mr. Martin in recognition of his 32 years of service to Fairfax County Public Schools, and for his leadership in encouraging academic excellence and strong community involvement at Stenwood.

Here at Stenwood School in the year 1987, we are fortunate to have a computer lab. It is equipped with seven Atari computers on moveable carts with monitors and disk drives. Currently there is one printer set up. All the students in the school are scheduled some time each week on the computer. They are learning the Logo language, word processing skills, and using software to reinforce their classroom skills. We are certain there will be great progress in this area in the future. ~ From “Stenwood Is Great!”
Collage of the covers of Stenwood Elementary School yearbooks from 1979, 1981, 1997, and 2003. The 1979 yearbook features a black and white photograph of the front of the school. The 1981 yearbook has drawings of a plant leaf, an atom, a butterfly, a pencil, crayon, and ink brush, and math symbols. The 1997 yearbook is a student drawn image of the Earth where the continents spell out the name Stenwood. The Earth is set above an American flag. The 2003 yearbook has a blue / gray cover with an American flag at the center. The Pledge of Allegiance, printed in white, fills the cover.
Stenwood Elementary School yearbook covers from, left to right, 1979, 1981, 1997, and 2003.

The Stenhouse Family

During the construction of Stenwood Elementary School, members of the Dunn Loring locality thought it would be fitting to name the new school after the late Walter A. Stenhouse, who had long been active in community affairs. The Fairfax County School Board rejected the suggestion because, at that time, elementary schools were named for the neighborhoods they were built to serve. The name Stenwood was chosen instead because it was the name of a small neighborhood that had been established by the Stenhouse family across Gallows Road from the school. Only a few of the neighborhood’s homes remain standing today due to the widening of Gallows Road and Interstate 66.

After construction of Stenwood Elementary School was complete, Edna W. Stenhouse, Walter Stenhouse’s widow, planted dogwood trees and azaleas, and had a sundial placed in the elevated circle of the school’s driveway in memory of her late husband. In 1983, during the preparations for Stenwood Elementary School’s 20th anniversary, the sundial’s brick base was rebuilt by three generations of Stenwood supporters, namely Joe Bell; his son, Ted, a Stenwood alumnus; and Ted, Jr., then a kindergartener at Stenwood. The brass sundial was refurbished by Dante Notaro, husband of Antoinette Notaro, a teacher at Stenwood. The Stenhouse memorial was rededicated during the anniversary celebration. Watch this video to learn more about the Stenhouse family.

Camp Alger

Following the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, in May 1898, Secretary of War Russell Alger selected several farms near Dunn Loring and Merrifield upon which to build a training facility for the United States Army. By the end of June some 23,000 troops were stationed in the area at Camp Alger. The land where Stenwood Elementary School stands was used as a campsite by the United States Army’s 13th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. The Army’s 1st Division Headquarters was located a short distance southwest of our school. From July to November 1898, a typhoid epidemic, spurred on by contaminated drinking water, swept through Camp Alger, eventually forcing its closure.

Three black and white photographs showing scenes from Camp Alger. On the left, cavalry soldiers on horseback are formed in a line. One holds a flag showing that the men are from New York. In the center, a group of soldiers stand, arms crossed, facing the camera. Behind them are scores of soldiers at work in the camp. On the right is a photograph of African-American soldiers in kneeling position, guns at the ready, shooting target practice.
Scenes from Camp Alger

Our Principals