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What was once a mostly wooded, rural area of Prince
William County is today one of the bright symbols of American capitalism and
This symbol, the growing community of Dale City, is not
actually a city, since it is not incorporated.
However, thanks to the vision of a real estate developer,
the late Cecil Don Hylton, Dale City has become one of the most prosperous
self-contained communities in Virginia and is dearly loved by its
approximately 63,000 residents.
John D. Jenkins serves
as "honorary mayor, councilman and city
manager" for "The Friendliest Little City
It all started in 1968 when Hylton began construction
activities in Dale City. Many myths surround Hylton and his choice of names
for the community. Some erroneously believe Hylton’s middle name was “Dale.”
He actually chose the word because it aptly describes the “hills and dales”
of the rolling countryside where he developed the community. His company,
Hylton Enterprises, began Dale City about a mile east of Interstate 95 and
has continued to build west in Prince William County.
The development has grown into 17 major housing or
neighborhood areas, all of whose names end in “dale,” built in alphabetical
order ranging from the first, “Ashdale,” to the most recent, “Trentdale.”
The streets along Dale Boulevard (the main highway
through the community) generally proceed alphabetically when followed east
to west, with such names as Barksdale, Birchdale, Cherrydale, Cloverdale,
Since the development’s start, Dale City, some 23 miles
south of Washington, D.C., has become one of the best self-contained
communities in the state, and perhaps the whole country.
Today, Hylton’s vision lives on in everything from
excellent schools and churches and sparkling shopping centers to parks and
recreation facilities — anything that modern society asks for.
Since the community is unincorporated, there is no mayor
or city council to govern it.
Like many military
veterans, John Jenkins came to Dale City
because of its affordable housing.
Such duty generally is the responsibility of Prince
William County Board of Supervisors representative John D. Jenkins, D-Neabsco
District, who fills in as “honorary mayor, councilman and city manager.”
Jenkins has served on the board since 1982 and his
district covers most of Dale City. He is a member of numerous regional,
state and national committees and serves in several veterans’ organizations
— including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and Disabled
American Veterans — as well as many other civic community groups. He is an
ardent supporter of youth activities and programs in the area. He reflects
the pulse of the community.
Like so many other military veterans, Jenkins came to
Dale City, he says, “because of its affordable housing.”
The first homes in Dale City sold for less than $20,000;
now they may top a half-million dollars.
“Hylton had a knack for building homes relative to the
economy and he was very proud of what he accomplished. He and his wife,
Irene, were very community-minded and contributed a lot to hospitals,
churches, schools and art centers that bear his name,” says Jenkins, who
also has a park in Dale City named after him.
Hylton began his career as a “huckster,” a young man who
sold farm goods and produce at the farmers’ market in Washington, D.C. He
later began a sod business after several requests from his regular clients.
He ran several dozen trucks and pioneered new technologies in the industry.
After the post-war housing boom began, he moved into the
home-building business. Throughout his career, he constructed apartments,
commercial shopping centers and more than 22,000 homes. Along the way, he
began his own sewer company, Dale Service Corp., Inc. (now Virginia American
Water), as well as the first cable television companies in Prince William
The housing and commercial construction, which began more
than 40 years ago, is still continuing along with active reconstruction work
in the community by Hylton Enterprises. Dale City has a local bus service
that runs through the community and Jenkins has stressed that sidewalks be
built along the roadways to allow for walking, to cut down on vehicular
Terry Collins lives in
Nottingdale, where neighbors are "almost
Terry Collins, who has been a resident of Dale City for
17 years, says “I like living in the Nottingdale area since everyone keeps
his or her property up. As neighbors, we are all almost like family. My home
is also close to Andrew Leitch Park, where my family spent a lot of time
having fun in the outdoors.”
Mickey Clapham has lived in Dale City for 21 years and
loves everything about the community. “We lived in Springfield and were
looking for a larger house. We found what we liked in Dale City and moved
in. It was a great place to raise my children,” she says while working on
the attractive landscape in front of her home.
One of the most popular recreational and educational
youth facilities in the community is the Dale City Boys & Girls Club, which
has a membership of 750.
“We are very family-oriented, wanting to become a vital
part of the community,” says Keeyana Mahoney, interim branch manager, who
has worked at the site for 11 years. “Our goal is help our youth grow up and
become responsible residents of the community.”
Dale City is proud of its schools and the people who
educate its students. Among their ranks is 31-year-veteran educator Karen
Giacometti, principal of Beville Middle School, with 1,050 students.
“I like the diverse population of Dale City. With so many
different nationalities, it brings a wealth of knowledge to the students,
learning from each other. I believe we have the best middle school achievers
in the county,” she says. It is an International Baccalaureate World School.
For indoor recreational and fitness activities, you can’t
beat the Sharron Baucom Dale City Recreation Center, which has as its motto,
“Where Everybody Fits In.”
Holley Young, general manager, says “We have lots of
options under one roof to promote the health and wellness of residents with
the sole purpose of making their lives better.” The center has been serving
the area since 1976 and has proven to be a community-oriented recreation
center, offering swim lessons, massage-therapy services, adult and youth
sports, small group personal training, triathlon training, summer camps and
children’s and adult’s instructional camps.
Jenkins’ wife, Ernestine, is active in nearly every
organization in Dale City, ranging from serving as vice president of the
Dale City Civic Association to a similar position in the Democratic Party.
She also heads up the Dale City Fourth of July Parade, one of the largest in
“I don’t believe there is a more friendly and sincere
community anywhere in the country than Dale City. We are all one big happy
family, with big hearts and the motto of ‘what can we do to help the
community,’ ” she says. She is also active in the Dale City Veterans of
Foreign Wars, whose building serves as the community meeting grounds for
weddings, corporate meetings and other activities.
As the community continues to grow, so does the need for
more up-to-date emergency fire and rescue services.
The newest updated station is Dale City Volunteer Fire
Department Station 10, which replaces the old station down the block,
housing six vehicles to provide fire and rescue services to the area.
Dale City Volunteer
Fire Department Station Battalion Chief
Shawn Crispin at the station.
Battalion Chief Shawn Crispin has been a firefighter for
16 years, starting his career as a cadet in high school.
“This is the occupation I’ve always wanted ... answering
the call to help people. I like the residents of Dale City and the 19 career
staff around me, plus the 30 or 40 volunteers,” he says.
There are six shopping centers, with a variety of
services, scattered throughout the 15-square-mile community. Among those is
Center Plaza Shopping Center on Dale Boulevard, which has housed the popular
Dale City Music since it was founded in 1977 by the late Joseph Parker and
his son Bob, who still owns the facility.
The firm is a mecca for musicians, as all types of
musical-instrument sales, rentals, lessons and repairs are offered.
have come to know — whether they are purchasing a new or used instrument or
want to talk to someone about repairs — we are the place to go,” says John
Colbert, who has been a sales associate for 17 years at the company.
Colbert says he has enjoyed his long stay with the firm,
“because it’s exciting to see young people start their musical careers and
see how they progress through the years.” Some of the instructors at the
shop have been teaching for more than 25 years. The shop supports the local
band and orchestra programs with affordable instrument rentals and prompt
professional repairs on-site.
Upwards of 600 patrons turn out on some days to use the
Dale City Neighborhood Library, which opened in 1986. “We are a small
library, but we have a little bit of everything,” says Sheila Colville,
library section supervisor.
Though operating in one room with only 2,475 square feet
of space, the library offers a service that is conveniently located in the
heart of the community. It contains some 26,000 items including books, audio
books, CDs, DVDs, magazines and its most popular feature — three public
The facility is staffed by three employees and 35
volunteers. According to Colville, “We couldn’t stay open without their
help. The volunteers do the same thing we do — assist the public in helping
them get the information they need. We all enjoy meeting people.”
Focused on Friendly
The motto of Dale City is: “The friendliest little city
around,” and while it isn’t actually a city, you will find its residents to
be indeed very friendly, whether in Hillendale or Mapledale or Queensdale or
one of the other “dales” that dot the changing landscape.