The county is home to the
headquarters of intelligence agencies such as the Central
Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and
National Reconnaissance Office, as well as the National
Counterterrorism Center and Office of the Director of National
Intelligence. The county is also home to half of the metropolitan
area's Fortune 500 companies.
County was formed in 1742 from the northern part of Prince William
County. It was named for Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron
(1693–1781), proprietor of the Northern Neck.
The oldest settlements in Fairfax
County were located along the Potomac River. George Washington
settled in Fairfax County and built his home, Mount Vernon, facing
the river. Gunston Hall, the home of George Mason is located nearby.
Modern Fort Belvoir is partly located on the estate of Belvoir
Manor, built along the Potomac by William Fairfax in 1741.
Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, the only member of the British
nobility ever to reside in the colonies, lived at Belvoir before he
moved to the Shenandoah Valley. The Belvoir mansion and several of
its outbuildings were destroyed by fire immediately after the
Revolutionary War in 1783, and George Washington noted the
plantation complex gradually deteriorated into ruins.
In 1757, the northwestern
two-thirds of Fairfax County became Loudoun County. In 1789, part of
Fairfax County was ceded to the federal government to form
Alexandria County of the District of Columbia. Alexandria County was
returned to Virginia in 1846, reduced in size by the secession of
the independent city of Alexandria in 1870, and renamed Arlington
County in 1920. The Fairfax County town of Falls Church became an
independent city in 1948. The Fairfax County town of Fairfax became
an independent city in 1961.
Located near Washington, D.C.,
Fairfax County was an important region in the Civil War. The Battle
of Chantilly or Ox Hill, during the same campaign as the second
Battle of Bull Run, was fought within the county; Bull Run straddles
the border between Fairfax and Prince William County. Other areas of
activity included Minor's Hill, Munson's Hill, and Upton's Hill, on
the eastern border of the county, overlooking Washington, D.C.
The growth of the federal
government in the years during and after World War II spurred rapid
growth in the county. As a result, the once rural county began to
become increasingly suburban. Other large businesses continued to
settle in Fairfax County and the opening of Tysons Corner Center
spurred the rise of Tysons Corner itself. The technology boom and a
steady government-driven economy also created rapid growth and an
increasingly growing and diverse population. The economy has also
made Fairfax County one of the wealthiest counties in the nation.
Fairfax County is bounded on the north and southeast by the
River. Across the river to the northeast is Washington, D.C., across
the river to the north is Montgomery County, Maryland, and across
the river to the southeast are Prince George's County, Maryland and
Charles County, Maryland. The county is partially bounded on the
north and east by Arlington County and the independent cities of
Alexandria and Falls Church. It is bounded on the west by Loudoun
County, and on the south by Prince William County.
According to the U.S. Census
Bureau, the county has a total area of 407 square miles, of which
395 square miles is land and 12 square miles is water.
Parks and recreation
The county has many protected areas, a total of over 390 county
parks on more than 23,000 acres. The Fairfax County Park Authority
maintains parks and recreation centers through the county. There are
also two national protected areas that are inside the county at
least in part, including the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National
Wildlife Refuge, the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and Wolf
Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. The Mason Neck State
Park is also located in Lorton.
Fairfax County is member of the
Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
The Reston Zoo is in Reston,
Virginia. The National Zoo is located nearby in Washington, D.C.
county maintains many miles of bike trails running through parks,
adjacent to roads and through towns such as Vienna and Herndon. The
Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail runs through Fairfax
County, offering one of the region's best, and safest, routes for
recreational walking and biking. In addition, nine miles of the
Mount Vernon Trail runs through Fairfax County along the
However, compared to other regions
of the Washington area, Fairfax County has a dearth of designated
bike lanes for cyclists wishing to commute in the region. On May 16,
2008, Bike-to-Work Day, the Fairfax County Department of
Transportation released the first countywide bicycle route map.
The Fairfax Cross County Trail runs
from Great Falls National Park in the northern end of the county to
Occoquan Regional Park in the southern end. Consisting of mostly
dirt paths and short asphalt sections, the trail is used mostly by
recreational mountain bikers, hikers, and horse riders.
Towns, independent cities, and other
Notable people from Fairfax County