City History




Docents from Historic Fairfax City, Inc. will lead a walking tour of Old Town Fairfax lasting approximately 90 minutes.  The tour  will begin at 10 a.m. in front of the Historic Fairfax County Courthouse, corner of Chain Bridge Road and Main Street, and include a short tour of the Ratcliffe-Allison-Pozer House, 10386 Main Street.   

Cost:  $10/adults; $5/youth, ages 6-12, children 6 and under are free. Family rate (three or more) $25. For reservations, call: Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center at 703-385-8414. All proceeds benefit the preservation of the City of Fairfax’s public historic properties.


The area that now comprises the City of Fairfax was first settled in the early 1700s by farmers migrating from Virginia's Tidewater region for religious and economic reasons. Fairfax County was established in 1742 with the first court house established near present day Tyson's corner at the intersection of Rt 123 and Rt 7. Ten years later the second courthouse was built in the bustling port town of Alexandria.  However, in 1790, with the creation of the District of Columbia, Alexandria and the courthouse became part of the Nation's Capitol. In 1799 Fairfax County with approval from the General Assembly agreed to build the third County courthouse in a more central location. It was established at the corner of what was then called Little River Turnpike (Main Street) and Ox Road, a major regional crossroads both then and now. The little town surrounding the court was then known as Earp's Corner and in 1805, by an act of the state legislature, named the Town of Providence. However, for years it was commonly called "Fairfax Court House" and was officially renamed the Town of Fairfax in 1874.

pparkingFairfax was the scene of several noteworthy events during the Civil War. Captain John Quincy Marr, the first officer casualty of the Confederacy, was killed at Fairfax Courthouse on June 1, 1861. By late 1862, Union forces under the command of Brigadier General Edwin H. Stoughton occupied the town. In an audacious raid led by Confederate Major John S. Mosby in March of 1863, Stoughton was captured while he slept in a house belonging to Truro Episcopal Church.

Also in 1863, Antonia Ford, whose girlhood home was the Ford Building on Chain Bridge Road, was imprisoned as a Southern spy after being accused of aiding Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart. She fell in love with her jailer, Major Joseph C. Willard, who secured her release from prison after seven months. They were married, and their son Joseph built Old Town Hall in 1900. The story of Antonia Ford is told in a special exhibit in Antonia's childhood home, now called the Ford Building, at 3977 Chain Bridge Road. The exhibit is a gift to the city from The Woman's Club of Fairfax.

Two other formerly private residences played a part in Fairfax history. The Ratcliffe-Allison-Pozer House, the oldest residence in the downtown area at 10386 Main Street, is a historic house museum that reflects the changes along Main Street between 1812 and 1981.  It is open seasonally (May- October on Saturdays, 11am-2pm), during walking tours, City special events, and by reservation.  Call (703) 385-8414 for additional information The c.1859 brick house on the city-owned Historic Blenheim estate (3610 Old Lee Highway) housed Union soldiers during the Civil War, and features surviving graffiti written and drawn by soldiers survive on the Willcoxon family farmhouse walls.  The Civil War Interpretive Center hosts  a gallery with exhibits highlighting the soldiers who camped, trained, and recuperated on the farm land and in the house.  The main feature is a replica attic that shows the best preserved inscriptions in the house.  Due to structural issues, visitors cannot visit the actual attic and second floor during tours.   HOURS: 10am to 3pm, Tuesday through Saturday. Guided Tours f first floor of house and site at 1 pm Tuesday through Saturday.   Closed Sundays, Mondays. FREE. Contact:  703.591.0560.

  Through the early 20th century, the Town of Fairfax remained a community of farms and small estates, with a tiny core of commerce, government and society in the few blocks surrounding the courthouse. But in the 1950s and 1960s, Fairfax grew rapidly (including an almost 700 percent increase in population during the '50s). In 1961, the town was incorporated as the City of Fairfax. The city's boundaries expanded in three directions as it grew to its present 6.4 square-miles. New home construction has been on the increase in the late 1990s and early 2000s and has been picking up steadily in the past two years.   The present population is close to 23,000.

Fairfax's residents offer only part of the picture. Incredible growth and activity in and around the city, thriving local businesses, the development in neighboring Fairfax County near the city's border, and the expansion of George Mason University expand the total population of the city during business and school hours to about 100,000. Though this creates a need for more city services, the mix of commercial and residential property means city homeowners generate less than half of the city's revenues. City residents enjoy many advantages that people in neighboring jurisdictions do not, including refuse collection and snow removal by the local government at no additional cost and tax rates as much as 30 percent lower. The residents of the city's 7,824 households have a median age of 33.5 years and an estimated median household income of $59,453 (more than 20 percent higher than the state median). A third of the adult population has a college degree. As of 1998, the average single-family detached home was assessed at $170,100.

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