Drive through Fairfax County in Virginia and you’ll find a strong economy backed by a population of more than a million. As the largest county in Virginia, Fairfax offers a variety of attractions, shopping, events, and accommodations. While booming now, Fairfax came from humble beginnings. In the early 1700s, farmers from eastern Virginia and Maryland settled in this area. The county would soon get its name from the Sixth Lord, Thomas Fairfax, whose family possessed a land grant that covered all of northern Virginia. In 1805, the City of Fairfax started as the Town of Providence, a community built around the County Courthouse at the corner of Ox Road and Little River Turnpike.
Conflict and War
During the American Civil War, Fairfax was the scene of several noteworthy events. It was where the first land battle of the Civil War occurred. On June 1st, 1861, a Union scouting party went up against the local militia at the Battle of Fairfax Court House, resulting in the death of the first Confederate officer killed at war, Captain John Quincy Marr. Two years later, a second Battle of Fairfax Court House was waged and Union forces suffered defeat.
Developing a City
From 1750 to the end of the 18th century, Fairfax County experienced a number of significant changes. Forests were cleared to make more room for farmland. Roads were built to increase industry. Slaveholding increased with more than 41 percent of the county’s population owning slaves. In 1752, the Fairfax County Courthouse moved from Tysons Corner present-day location to Alexandria. Much of the county was still covered in wilderness and the majority of wealth came from slave labor and tobacco. While tobacco was a crucial crop in the 18th century, it damaged the soil in Fairfax resulting in an economic decline.
In 1859, Fairfax was officially renamed the “Town of Fairfax”. In 1874, it was incorporated as a town, and then later as a city by court order in 1961. While Virginia law went on to separate the city from Fairfax County, it remains the county seat. The city later moved to create the historic district downtown which is now home to the original Fairfax County Courthouse, the Old Town Hall, and the original Fairfax Elementary School. The Courthouse was occupied until 2009 and is now used for municipal office space. The Old Town Hall is now the Fairfax Art League and Huddleson Library, and the old elementary school was renovated and is now a Visitor Center and Museum.
Today, Fairfax’s historic landmarks and buildings are physical reminders of the area’s rich culture and heritage. Fairfax City is home to more than 24,000 people surrounded by a growing economy with unemployment rates lower than the national average. It also has a thriving small and medium business community and convenient access to many major airports and interstates. With a diverse population, growing economy, and strong history, the residents of Fairfax have one of the highest standards of living in the world.
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