Fairfax, Virginia
Fairfax's Old Town section in 2007
Fairfax's Old Town section in 2007
Flag of Fairfax, Virginia
Official seal of Fairfax, Virginia
Official logo of Fairfax, Virginia
Downtown Fairfax, Fairfax City, Historic Fairfax
Location of Fairfax in Virginia
Location of Fairfax in Virginia
Fairfax located in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Fairfax located in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Fairfax City is located in Northern Virginia
Fairfax City
Fairfax City
Fairfax City is located in Virginia
Fairfax City
Fairfax City
Fairfax City is located in the United States
Fairfax City
Fairfax City
Coordinates: 38°51′9″N 77°18′15″W / 38.85250°N 77.30417°W / 38.85250; -77.30417
Country United States
State Virginia
Pre-incorporation CountyFairfax County (none after incorporation – Independent city)
 • TypeCouncil–manager government
 • MayorCatherine S. Read (I)
 • Total6.27 sq mi (16.25 km2)
 • Land6.24 sq mi (16.16 km2)
 • Water0.03 sq mi (0.08 km2)
312 ft (95 m)
 • Total24,146
 • Density3,900/sq mi (1,500/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Codes
Area codes703, 571
FIPS code51-26496[2]
GNIS feature ID1498476[3]

Fairfax, Virginia (/ˈfɛərfæks/ FAIR-faks), formally the City of Fairfax, and colloquially known as Fairfax City, Downtown Fairfax, Old Town Fairfax, Fairfax Courthouse, FFX, and Fairfax, is an independent city in Virginia and the county seat of Fairfax County, Virginia, in the United States.[4] As of the 2020 census, the population was 24,146.[5]

Fairfax is part of both the Washington metropolitan area and Northern Virginia regions. It is located 14 miles (23 km) west of Washington, D.C. Fairfax is served by Washington Metro's Orange Line through its Vienna station, which is a mile northeast of Fairfax. CUE Bus and Metrobus operate in Fairfax, and Virginia Railway Express's Burke Centre station is located three miles southeast of Fairfax.

George Mason University, located in unincorporated Fairfax County along Fairfax's southern border, is the largest public university in Virginia with 40,185 students as of 2023.[6]

Fairfax, Virginia is located in Fairfax


Union Army soldiers on the front lawn and roof of Fairfax Court House during the American Civil War in June 1863

Fairfax was founded on land originally occupied by the Iroquoian Native American tribe.[7] The city derives its name from Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, who was awarded 5,000,000 acres (20,000 km2) of land in northern Virginia by King Charles.[8] The area that the city now encompasses was settled in the early 18th century by farmers from Virginia's Tidewater region.[9] The town of "Providence" was established on the site by an act of the state legislature in 1805.[10]

19th century

On June 1, 1861, the first land battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Fairfax Court House, was fought in Fairfax after a Union Army scouting party clashed with the local militia; the outcome was indecisive with neither side gaining advantage. A second battle took place in Fairfax two years later, on June 27, 1863, in which Union troops were defeated, which delayed the movements of Confederate cavalry chief Jeb Stuart with disastrous consequences for Robert E. Lee at the subsequent Battle of Gettysburg, the Civil War's bloodiest battle, which began several days later.[11]

In 1859, Fairfax was renamed the "Town of Fairfax".[10] It was incorporated as a town in 1874.[10] It was incorporated as a city in 1961 by court order.[10] Under Virginia law the city was separated from Fairfax County yet remains the county seat.[12]

20th century

In 1904, a trolley line connected Fairfax with Washington, D.C.[13]


Piney Branch Mill, part of the Hope Park estate of Edward Payne in the 1800s

The former Fairfax County Courthouse is the oldest historic building in Fairfax. The first Fairfax courthouse was established in 1742 near present-day Tysons Corner, and is the namesake for Old Courthouse Road.[14] It intersects with Gallows Road, which today is a major commuter route, but at the time was the road where condemned prisoners were led to the gallows at the old courthouse.[15]

In 1752, the courthouse was moved to Alexandria, which offered to build the new courthouse at their own expense. The reason the courthouse was moved from the Tysons Corner location was because of "Indian hostilities", as noted on the stone marker at the northwest corner of Gallows Road and Route 123. The courthouse operated there until 1790, when Virginia ceded the land where the courthouse was located for the creation of Washington, D.C. The General Assembly specified that the new courthouse should be located in the center of the county, and was established at the corner of what was Old Little River Turnpike and is present-day Main Street and Ox Road at Chain Bridge Road on land donated by town founder Richard Ratcliffe.[16] The courthouse changed hands repeatedly during the American Civil War. The first Confederate officer battle casualty, John Quincy Marr, occurred on the grounds of the courthouse.[17] The first meeting of the Fairfax Court was held April 21, 1800.[18]: 45 

The oldest two-story building in Fairfax, the Fairfax Public School[a] was built in 1873 for $2,750.[19] In addition to elementary school use, the building has also housed special education, adult education, and police academy training.[20][21]: 144 

On July 4, 1992, the building became the Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center.[21]: 156–157  Joseph Edward Willard built the town hall building in 1900 then gifted it to the then town in 1902.[22]

The Old Town Hall now houses the Huddleston Library and the Fairfax Art League.[23]

Sites on the National Register of Historic Places

Site Built Address Listed
29 Diner[b] 1947 10536 Fairfax Boulevard 1992
Blenheim 1855 3610 Old Lee Highway 2001
City of Fairfax Historic District 1800 Junction of VA 236 and VA 123 1987
Old Fairfax County Courthouse[c] 1800 4000 Chain Bridge Road 1974
Old Fairfax County Jail[c] 1891 10475 Main Street 1981
Fairfax Public School[a] 1873 10209 Main Street 1992
Ratcliffe-Allison House 1812 10386 Main Street 1973


Fairfax is located close to the geographic center of Fairfax County, at 38°51′9″N 77°18′15″W / 38.85250°N 77.30417°W / 38.85250; -77.30417 (38.852612, −77.304377). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.3 square miles (16.3 km2), of which all but 0.04 square miles (0.1 km2) is land.[24]

While the city is the county seat, a small portion of the county comprising the courthouse complex, the jail, and a small area nearby is itself an exclave of the county within the city.[25][26][27] Fairfax County's Government Center is west of the Fairfax.[28]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[29]
1790–1960[30] 1900–1990[31]
1990–2000[32] 2010[33] 2020[34]

2020 census

Fairfax city, Virginia – Racial and ethnic composition
Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos may be of any race.
Race / Ethnicity (NH = Non-Hispanic) Pop 2010[33] Pop 2020[34] % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 13,849 12,911 61.37% 53.47%
Black or African American alone (NH) 1,030 1,052 4.56% 4.36%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 62 44 0.27% 0.18%
Asian alone (NH) 3,403 4,519 15.08% 18.72%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 11 9 0.05% 0.04%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 48 204 0.21% 0.84%
Mixed Race or Multi-Racial (NH) 606 1,129 2.69% 4.68%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 3,556 4,278 15.76% 17.72%
Total 22,565 24,146 100.00% 100.00%


The 2014 July 4th parade's dance group Fraternidad Tinkus Wapury

Old Town Fairfax has undergone an extensive redevelopment, which began in 2005.[35] The redevelopment added a new Fairfax Regional Library, more than 45,000 square feet (4,200 m2) of retail and restaurant space, more than 70,000 square feet (6,500 m2) of office condominiums, and 85 upscale residential condominium units.[36]

In May 2009, Fairfax was rated as No. 3 in the "Top 25 Places to Live Well" by Forbes Magazine.[37] Forbes commended Fairfax for its strong public school system, high median salary, and a rate of sole proprietors per capita that ranks it in the top 1 percent nationwide. According to the magazine, "These factors are increasingly important in a recession. When businesses and jobs retract, as they have nationwide, municipalities with strong environments for start-ups, and those that offer attractive amenities, are better suited to recover from economic downtimes, as there are more business activity filling the void."

Top employers

According to the city's 2022 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report,[38] the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 City of Fairfax 250-499
2 Zeta Associates[d] 250-499
3 Ted Britt Ford 250-499
4 Fairfax Operator LLC 100-249
5 Home Depot 100-249
6 Farrish of Fairfax 100-249
7 Lowe's 100-249
8 Premium Home Health Care 100-249
9 Nova Home Health Care LLC 100-249
10 Ourisman Fairfax Toyota 100-249

Annual events

The 2010 4th of July parade, including the Clifton Horse Society
The annual Chocolate Lover's Festival is held in the heart of Old Town Fairfax during the first full weekend in February. Events have included craft shows, historic building open houses, children's activities, collections of vendors selling various edible chocolate products, and even chocolate sculpture contests.[40]
Every year, during the Spring, a Civil War re-enactment camp is held at the Blenheim estate, a city-owned historical property. The encampment features cultural information about Civil War-era people and practices, military muster, drill, and a firing demonstration.[41]
Each April, Fairfax, in cooperation with George Mason University, Northern Virginia Community College, and Fairfax schools, sponsors the Fairfax Spotlight on the Arts Festival. The festival runs for three weeks and features music, dance, theater, art and choral concerts. Events take place at venues throughout the city and the colleges.[42]
In June, a National Trails Day is held to celebrate the trails, open spaces and parks in the Fairfax.[43]
The largest hometown parade and fireworks celebration in the Washington metropolitan region is held in the Fairfax. The day's events include a parade through Old Town Fairfax, tours of historic buildings and local museums, an Old-Fashioned Fireman's Day at the Fire Station #3, and a live concert and fireworks display at Fairfax High School.[44]
In September, a festival of Irish and Celtic song, dance and music is held in and around Old Town Fairfax.[45]
Each fall, the Fall for the Book Festival features readings, discussions, lectures and exhibits from nationally recognized writers and professionals. Festival events are held in the Fairfax at George Mason University and throughout the Washington metropolitan area. Two community reading programs coordinate with Fall for the Book: "All Fairfax Reads," coordinated by the Fairfax County Public Library, and "Mason Reads" at George Mason University.[46]
A Fall Festival is held in historic Old Town Fairfax on the second Saturday in October. This event includes more than 500 arts, crafts, and food vendors, and is usually held outdoors on the streets of the city. Attendance is about 35,000 to 45,000.[47]
An annual Holiday Craft Show is held at Fairfax High School on the third Saturday and Sunday of November. The event features hundreds of craft vendors. Attendance is about 8,000 to 10,000.[48]
On the first Saturday in December, the city holds a Festival of Lights and Carols. Activities include photos with Santa, caroling, a yule log, hot mulled cider, illumination of Old Town Fairfax, and the lighting of the city Christmas tree.[49]

Local government and politics

As an independent city of Virginia, rather than an incorporated town within a county, Fairfax derives its governing authority from the Virginia General Assembly. In order to revise the power and structure of the city government, the city must request the General Assembly to amend the charter. The present charter was granted in 1966.[10] An exclave of Fairfax County is located within Fairfax.[26][27]

United States presidential election results for Fairfax, Virginia[50]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 4,007 29.72% 9,174 68.04% 302 2.24%
2016 3,702 30.78% 7,367 61.25% 959 7.97%
2012 4,775 41.06% 6,651 57.19% 203 1.75%
2008 4,691 41.16% 6,575 57.69% 132 1.16%
2004 5,045 47.84% 5,395 51.16% 106 1.01%
2000 4,762 49.83% 4,361 45.64% 433 4.53%
1996 4,319 49.39% 3,909 44.70% 517 5.91%
1992 4,333 44.70% 3,884 40.07% 1,476 15.23%
1988 5,576 61.27% 3,430 37.69% 95 1.04%
1984 6,234 65.36% 3,263 34.21% 41 0.43%
1980 4,475 55.91% 2,614 32.66% 915 11.43%
1976 4,174 53.36% 3,464 44.28% 185 2.36%
1972 5,063 67.73% 2,274 30.42% 138 1.85%
1968 2,963 48.70% 2,153 35.39% 968 15.91%
1964 1,924 40.37% 2,835 59.48% 7 0.15%

Elected officials

In November on even-numbered years, city voters elect a Mayor, six at-large Councilmembers, and five at-large School Board members to serve two-year terms. These offices are non-partisan and at-large, and there are no term limits.[10] City voters also elect the two city constitutional officers: Treasurer and Commissioner of the Revenue for four-year terms. Other elected officials who serve the city elected by city and Fairfax County voters include the Sheriff (four-year term), Commonwealth's Attorney (four-year term), and Clerk of the Court (eight-year term). State elected officials who represent Fairfax include the Virginia Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Virginia Senator (34th District), and Virginia Delegate (37th District). Starting with the 2023 election, the city will lie within the 37th Virginia Senate district and the 11th House of Delegates district. Federal elected officials who represent the Fairfax include the U.S. President, U.S. Vice President, two U.S. Senators (six-year terms), and one U.S. Representative, 11th District (two-year term).

Mayor arrested for distribution of methamphetamine

On August 4, 2016, then-Mayor Scott Silverthorne was arrested in a sting operation conducted by the Fairfax County Police Department. After receiving a tip that he was involved in drugs-related activities online, a police detective engaged Silverthorne on an online website "...used to arrange for casual sexual encounters between men."[51] The detective then arranged a meeting with Silverthorne and two other men, in which they agreed to exchange methamphetamine. At the meeting in Tysons, detectives performed the exchange and then arrested Silverthorne along with the two other men. He was charged with felony distribution of methamphetamine and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.[51] He announced his resignation on Monday, August 8, 2016, in a letter to the City Council.[52]

Silverthorne maintains that he was not distributing methamphetamine for sex, and he was not tried for any sexual crimes.[53]


Fairfax, Virginia is located in Fairfax
Lanier Middle School
Lanier Middle School
Daniels Run Elementary School
Daniels Run Elementary School
Providence Elementary School
Providence Elementary School

Primary and secondary schools

Further information: Fairfax County Public Schools

Fairfax High School

The school district for the city is Fairfax City Public Schools.[54] The public schools in the City of Fairfax are owned by the city but administered by the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) system under contractual agreement with Fairfax County. This arrangement began to be in place in 1961.[55] Fairfax schools include Fairfax High School, Lanier Middle School, Daniels Run Elementary School, Providence Elementary School, and Fairfax Academy.[56]

Schools within the city that are not owned by the city government include the Boyd School,[e] Gesher Jewish Day School, Kellar School of Inova Kellar Center,[f] Lee Highway KinderCare,[g] Little Flock Christian School, Northern Virginia Christian Academy, Oak Valley Center,[h] Paul VI Catholic High School (moved in 2020-2021),[i] The Salvation Army University View Child Care Center,[j] Saint Leo The Great School,[k] Trinity Christian School, and Truro Preschool and Kindergarten.[l][57]

Colleges and universities

Further information: George Mason University

George Mason University, the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is located just south of Fairfax's city limits.[58] The university enrolls 33,917 students, making it the largest university by head count in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The university was founded in 1949, and was initially an extension of the University of Virginia named the Northern Virginia University Center of the University of Virginia.[59] Nine years after its founding, in 1958, te Town of Fairfax purchased 150 acres (0.61 km2) for the university, though the property remained within the county when the town became a city. In 1972, following several name changes, the institution became George Mason University.[60] The university is most known for its programs in economics, law, creative writing, computer science, and business.[61] George Mason University faculty have twice won the Nobel Prize in Economics. George Mason University economics professors James M. Buchanan and Vernon L. Smith won it in 1986 and 2002, respectively.[62]

Public libraries

Main article: Fairfax County Public Library

Fairfax County Public Library operates the Fairfax Regional Library in Fairfax. The library includes the Virginia Room, a collection of books, photographs, and manuscripts related to Fairfax County history, government, and genealogy.[63]



The junction of US 29, US 50, and VA State Rt. 237 in Fairfax

The intersection of U.S. Route 50 and U.S. Route 29 is located in the northeast corner of the city. The two major highways join to form Fairfax Boulevard for approximately 2.8 miles (4.5 km) through the city before separating. State Route 123, State Route 236 and State Route 237 pass through the city. SR 236 is named Main Street in the city and then becomes Little River Turnpike once the city line is crossed. Interstate 66 passes just outside the city limits and is the major highway serving the Fairfax region. Connections to I-66 from the city can be made via U.S. Route 50 and State Route 123.

Public transportation


Further information: Burke Centre station and Vienna station (Washington Metro)

A Northeast Regional train at Burke Centre station in August 2010

Although these stations are located outside city limits, trips to and from Fairfax are served by:


E-scooters and dock less mobility

Notable people


  1. ^ a b c was Old Fairfax Elementary School Annex, now the Fairfax Visitor Center and Museum
  2. ^ Tastee 29 Diner
  3. ^ a b Within the county exclave within the city.
  4. ^ now a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin[39]
  5. ^ Montessori School
  6. ^ Special Education School
  7. ^ Daycare / Preschool
  8. ^ Special Education School
  9. ^ Roman Catholic
  10. ^ Christian
  11. ^ Roman Catholic
  12. ^ Daycare / Preschool


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    Hartley, Chris J. (2011). Stuart's Tarheels: James B. Gordon and His North Carolina Cavalry in the Civil War. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-6364-0.: 123 
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