THE DAY THAT SHOOK BAILEY'S CROSSROADS
[November 29th] -- I was thinking about the Senators the other day, and got to thinking about my time growing up as a kid in an area from roughly T.C. Williams High School (it wasn't there yet) to Seven Corners Shopping Center. I saw a lot of things happen from 1960-1974 -- some I remember, some I don't. But I do remember that day in March, 1973.
The Skyline Apartments in Northern Virginia is today one of the most attractive complexes that were built in the mid 1970's. It has been renovated several times to keep up with the times, and provides a warm and attractive place to live
I doubt that many people know today that one of its buildings collapsed, killing several workers.
The construction of the Skyline Towers began in the early 1970's. The site was just north of Bailey's Crossroads in Northern Virginia, on the site of the old "piper cub airport." It had a more proper name, the "Washington-Virginia Airport." It sat on a prime piece of real estate that bordered both Seminary Road and Rout 7. Because of it's location, the Pentagon often used it for helicoptor and small aircraft trials. I remember the Goodyear blimp landing there sometime in the early to mid 1960's, and heard about some old WWII planes dressed up as Japanese fighters landing there on their way to stardom in the movie "Tora Tora Tora." By 1970, however, the encroachment of housing and telephone lines made it difficult for pilots to safely land there, and the airport that was built on Mary Cornelius’ property during World War II was sold to developers for apartment construction.
I lived on the 7th floor of the Woodlake Towers Apartments, and once the building's construction reached the third floor, I could see the towers grow from our balcony. By my senior year, 1974, the skeleton for the first building had just about reached its apex. Although the buildings began to loom over the area, we didn't give them much thought.
That is, until "that" day.
I was riding school bus #724 home from J.E.B. Stuart High School when a police car whizzed by, siren on, very unusual in Fairfax County. Within a few moments, another squad car shot past the bus heading down Columbia Pike towards Bailey's Crossroads. Suddenly, the local fire company blared its siren and its fire engines and emergency vehicles shot in the same direction. We knew something was happening, but we weren't sure what.
I entered my apartment, turned on WTTG channel 5 and made my favorite post school-day snack, a cheese sandwich with sesame crust bread. I lounged on the couch for a couple minutes and then walked by the balcony and glanced in the direction of the Skyline Towers. Something seemed different. Instead of just one building, there were two. I didn't understand. I pointed my telescope towards the building and the story became painfully clear. Part of the top floor caved in, in turn forcing each concrete slab down on the lower floor, beginning a downward domino effect that tore the building in two. Dust was still in the air and helicopters were circling the building. It was horrendous.
If memory serves, 11 men died when the concrete floors pancaked on their way down. A few months later, it was determined that the general contractor used substandard materials and to make matters worse, didn't use enough rebarb in the poor quality concrete. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
Today, the towers are beautiful and serve their tenants well. But 30 years ago, the first building suffered a loss of both integrity and lives. I'd bet this story would come as a surprise to most living in the community today.
"Screech's Best Friend" From "Nats 320" left a comment that said in part, "There is a Burke & Herbert Bank located on Seminary Road, which, at the time of the airport's existence--was on the south side of the runway. ToyRUs was on the North Side of the runway on Rte 7--Leesburg Pike. Even today, that Burke & Herbert Bank has the RED RUNWAY LANDING LIGHTS on top of its building--lining up with the NW-SE Runway that existed at that time. TRU later moved back--onto the site of the actual runway, and still exists there today." There you go, Screech. I found pictures of the bank showing the landing lights. Thanks for pointing that out.
I had no idea that had happened. I swear if it weren't for you and Screech's Best Friend I'd have no idea of what went on before I moved to the area in 1996.
Oh, and you'd be surprised how many more tall buildings are going up nearby. Also, a brand new T.C. Williams is being built right next to the existing T.C. Williams. It's massive.
You'll be pleased to know that the Seven Corners and Bailey's Crossroads areas are still firmly entrenched in the 1960s and 70s...kind of run down at this point, actually.
As amazing as it may seem--My brother, Michael and I were at the Jack In The Box with some TC WIlliams/Hammond HS friends, less than 500 yards away, east of RTE 7, when the building collapsed. The sound was EARTHQUAKE LIKE. That Jack In The Box, is now a Popeyes Fried Chicken.
There has been rumors for years that 2 bodies were never found and their ghosts haunt the parking deck under the East Tower. Never believed it.
Yes, and its true, Baileys CrossRoads and Seven Corners are just part of the strip mall set the area has become.
I haven't been home since 1986. I play with google satellite all the time, and I can navigate the old haunts very easily from 7 corners to Bailey's Crossroads. Once I go beyond that area, I have a tough time distinguishing any landmarks.
But help me on this, I thought the building that collapsed was actually part of what today is the Skyline PLAZA condo complex, on George Mason Drive at Rt 7, instead of Skyline Towers apartment buildings on Seminary Rd at Carlin Springs road. Wasn't Skyline Plaza the first of the four complexes to be built on the site? I know mine was built in 1982, and that was one of the later ones.
Would Malek have spent more -- done more -- initially then the Lerners? Absolutely. But I think they are using their real estate "sense" on the Nationals; that is to build a solid foundation and make choices based on the long-term. Sure, it's driving me crazy today, and tomorrow, and next year. But three or four years from now, this business plan will likely have made sense.
-Ron from Nationals Nation
The vast majority of my life from ages 8-18 happened from just north of that old Piper Cub Airport to 7-Corners shopping center.
Though it's been 35 years since I lived there, I can close my eyes and picture every building, every home, every stoplight from 7-Corners to Bailey's Crossroads.
I don't want to be young again, but love those memories.
One thing that's been there forever that I can't remember what it was about, is the windmill thingie in the intersection. What is that?
Grew up in Annandale, went to church at Glencarlyn Baptist, moved away in the early 80s and just came back. Typing this from Skyline Plaza (the exact part that fell down, in fact).
I never understood why there were run way lights on that bank untill now.
Jimmy Arnold was never the same he was used as the scape goat And died a very sad man he was procecuted but it was through the lack of engineering and proper inspectors that the building dropped it is the reason for a nation building code know as theshold inspection or the for stripping of concrete structures all concrete now must have engineers stripping letter stating that concrete has achieved 75% of design strength before stripping and must be post shored for full 28 days after or that 100% strength is met which is 28 days for design strength.
I had always heard that it was the fact that the concrete had not set enough to build on top of it. Wasn't it the Fairfax Journal that did a lot of reporting on the story? There was a lot of speculation that the owners pushed to get the towers up too fast, as I remember.
My dad has run the shoe repair shop @ Bradlee Shopping Center for the last 55 years (first in the Cleaners and now in its own spot.) I remember as an 11 year old when he came home and tried to explain what happened that day.
Ironically, he now lives in the South Building.
I ended up working at Skyline for several years in one of the buildings and "lucked" out by being sick a few years ago when they had the Anthrax scare...
The area has definitely changed quite a bit over the years, but I still get down there about once a month or so...
My curreent interest in the accident was brought about by a Popular Mechanics Book "Debunking 9/11 Myths. The progressive collapse of the towers duplicated what happened there. The Bailey's Crossroads accident was initiated by the premature removal of supports from the poured concrete top story.
There was a parking deck on the same site whose second story floor also pancaked down from the shock of the copllase. The supporting columns remained standing with the deck having slid down them.
I also remember a student pilot landing a bit short of the nearby airport runway. He ended up on top of a delivery truck at an adjacent soft drink botteling plant.
I now live near Charlotte NC. Moved down here in the 70s after spending six hours trapped in traffic on the beltway I figured there had to be a less stressful place to live. Told the local folk that we yankees couldn't really drive in snow either. Also acknowledged that the roads worked both ways. Great folks down here.
Richard L. Pearson Sr.
I remember that day the building collapsed as well. It was a clear day and I felt a thunderous boom and a shaking of the ground, then siren after siren going in the same direction. Sometime later that night or the next, Dad took us to see it. George Wilson was with us...There we were in the strip mall across from it at the Old Montgomery Wards/strip mall parking lot. I remember the huge floodlight illuminating the building from the ground up, and knowing that people died there made it most ominous.
Does anyone remember the parking lot on top of the Montgomery Ward's building at 7-Corners? My dad would pull into the parking lot and drive up this ramp and there we were, on top of the building.
I thought that was about the coolest thing in the world.
they were shoveling debris in a truck,all just kids in our 20's.
drug store vibrate. Then I had many customers buying camera film to take pictures, at the end of the day all our film was sold out. It is sad that people lost their lives because the project was rushed.
It didn't collapse in 1974. It collapsed on Mar 2, 1973.
It was not the first building constructed. It was actually building 3. The first set of 2 buildings was completed and building 1 was already occupied with building 2 about to be occupied. (This I know because I was dating a girl who lived in building 1 and I'd visit her for lunch).
It was said that 11 men died. It was really 14. 3 men were in the garage that collapsed. Of the 11, a company called Mayfair Drywall from Rockport MD lost it's entire crew on site that day. They were working on the 5th floor and never heard any warnings from all the workers scrambling to get out.
Someone else said they were stripping the concrete from the top floor. Then top floor was the 23rd and was the one being poured. the 22nd floor was the one being stripped. The labor crew for Robert Miller Concrete Constr. had been on the 20th floor that morning stripping under the 21st floor which they finished just before lunch. It was Friday afternoon just after lunch when they moved to the 21st and began cutting the steel column bands. It was then that they noticed the concrete columns holding up the still uncured 22nd floor had started to expand and the ceiling was sagging. They evacuated. The crane operator (last name Taylor, but no relation to me) noticed the crane was beginning to list to the side and climbed down. As everybody on the top floor ran one way, Mr Taylor and a labored named Butch ran in the other direction. The building then collapsed in the middle, leaving the 2 of them atop the now skinny tower that now had no stairway. They spent close to man hour on that swaying tower before a helicopter from Ft Belvoir picked them off the top.
I also remember half of a stairway surviving intact with my foreman Martin "Shorty" Lawton crawling out from it alive and covered entirely in gray concrete dust from head to toe. It was just weird to look at.
After the head count at our trailers. I wandered over to the FairLanes bowling alley next door to make a phone call to my family up in the Boston area because they were sure to hear it on the news that night. A waitress walked up to me as I was dialing, put a cold beer in my hand, and said, "This is on me".
The rest of the story would take hours to retell, so I'll just leave it that.
I see people referring to Miller and Long Construction Co, but I still remember the name Robert Miller Concrete Constr. Maybe I'm wrong or maybe it was a division of Miller and Long.
The crane operator's name was Joe Taylor. Besides myself and Joe, there was another Taylor on the job. Charlie Taylor was the job's building superintendent for Charles E Smith.
"I lived in Golden Gate apartments from January 1973 until May 1974. I worked at People's Drug Store on the front cash register. On the day of the Skyline accident, I remember hearing a loud boom and saw the window of the
drug store vibrate. Then I had many customers buying camera film to take pictures, at the end of the day all our film was sold out. It is sad that people lost their lives because the project was rushed."
I worked at that People's Drug Store too, 1974 I think. Steve Stacks took over the store and brought me with him from the 7-corners store where he was an assistant. I loved working there.
On a better note, I loved the pony rides and Hot Shoppes and always wondered who lived in the lovely stone home at Bailey's Crossroads.
Does anyone know of a site where it lists all that died in the collapse?
Farid (the story writer)
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