City History

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The City of Fairfax

Farmers from eastern Virginia and Maryland began settling this area in the early 1700s. Fairfax County, named for Thomas, the Sixth Lord Fairfax, whose family's land grant included all of Northern Virginia, was formed in 1742.   The City of Fairfax began as the Town of Providence in 1805, a community built around the Fairfax County Courthouse, completed in 1800 at the corner of Little River Turnpike and Ox Road.

The area was a crossroads of conflict during the American Civil War with hardships and disrupted lives for everyone.  On June 1, 1861, the first land engagement of the American Civil War was fought here resulting in the death of Captain John Quincy Marr, the first Confederate officer killed in the war. Confederate Major John S. Mosby and his partisan rangers' raid and capture of a sleeping Union general--Edwin Stoughton--here on March 9, 1863 did not change the Union control of the area; but the bold act remains one of the war's most-fabled stories.

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From a crossroads of conflict, the area became a crossroads of commerce in the late nineteenth century.  the dairy industry propelled economic rebirth and the building of schools, churches, homes, barns, and businesses though along racially segregated lines.  In 1874, the Town of Providence officially became the Town of Fairfax following Culpeper's name change from Fairfax to Culpeper.

 The early twentieth century, ushered in a myriad of technological ad transportation changes and the emergence of civic organizations, sports clubs, a Town police unit, and a volunteer fire company.  Travelers bound for Washington, D.C. and George Washington's Mount Vernon found accommodations in the motels and restaurants that sprang up along today's Routes 50 and 29.  Fairfax High School, the Town's first four-year high school, opened in 1935. 

World War II spurred rapid growth across the region in housing, business ventures, and population.  Fairfax quickly changed from a rural to a suburban community.  In 1959, the Town of Fairfax deeded a 150-acre tract of land to the University of Virginia to establish a permanent home for what is now George Mason University, an innovative leader in higher education.

In 1961, the Town of Fairfax was incorporated as the independent City of Fairfax; a new City Hall was completed in 1962.  The City built schools, established a bus service, expanded services to residents, and created a downtown historic district.  Today, the City--through its elected officials and citizen involvement--continually strives to meet the changing and challenging needs of an increasingly and multi-cultural community.

Rich in history and heritage, residents and visitors enjoy a small-town atmosphere and an abundance of cultural and recreational pursuits in the midst of a bustling metropolitan area.  As the City's first mayor, John C. Wood said in 1962: "Fairfax has a wonderful past and present and an even greater future."