Fairfax County, Virginia facts for kids

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Fairfax County, Virginia
Seal of Fairfax County, Virginia
Map
Map of Virginia highlighting Fairfax County
Location in the state of Virginia
Map of the USA highlighting Virginia
Virginia's location in the U.S.
Statistics
Founded June 19, 1742
Seat Fairfax1
Largest town Herndon
Area
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

406 sq mi (1,052 km²)
391 sq mi (1,013 km²)
15 sq mi (39 km²), 3.8%
PopulationEst.
 - (2015)
 - Density

1,142,234
2,813/sq mi (1,086/km²)
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Website: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/
Named for: Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron
County flag Flag of Fairfax County, Virginia
County logo Logo of Fairfax County, Virginia
1 Administrative and court offices are located in unincorporated areas in Fairfax County

Fairfax County, officially the County of Fairfax, is a county in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

As of the 2010 census, the population was 1,081,726, in 2015, it was estimated at 1,142,234, making it the Commonwealth's most populous jurisdiction, with 13.6% of Virginia's population. The county is also the most populous jurisdiction in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area, with 19.8% of the MSA population, as well as the larger Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA Combined Statistical Area, with 13.1% of the CSA population. The county seat is the City of Fairfax, though because it is an independent city under Virginia law, the city of Fairfax is not part of Fairfax County.

Fairfax was the first U.S. county to reach a six-figure median household income and has the second-highest median household income of any local jurisdiction in the United States after neighbor Loudoun County.

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 seven Fortune 500 companies, including three with Falls Church addresses.

History

Piney Branch Mill
Piney Branch Mill, southeast of Fairfax city, Historic American Buildings Survey
CIA New HQ Entrance
CIA headquarters in Langley

At the time of European encounter, the inhabitants of what would become Fairfax County were an Algonquian-speaking sub-group called the Taux, also known as the Doeg or Dogue. Their villages, as recorded by Captain John Smith in 1608, included Namassingakent and Nemaroughquand on the south bank of the Potomac River in what is now Fairfax County. Virginian colonists from the Northern Neck region drove the Doeg out of this area and into Maryland by 1670.

Fairfax 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 Fairfax family name is derived from the Old English phrase for "blond hair" – Faeger-feahs.

The oldest settlements in Fairfax County were 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 nearby. Modern Fort Belvoir is partly on the estate of Belvoir Manor, built along the Potomac by William Fairfax in 1741.

Thomas 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 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 is the border between Fairfax and Prince William Counties. Other areas of activity included Minor's Hill, Munson's Hill, and Upton's Hill, on the county's eastern border, overlooking Washington, D.C.

The federal government's growth during and after World War II spurred rapid growth in the county and made the county increasingly suburban. Other large businesses continued to settle in Fairfax County and the opening of Tysons Corner Center spurred the rise of Tysons Corner. 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 nation's wealthiest counties.

Geography

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 406 square miles (1,050 km2), of which 391 square miles (1,010 km2) is land and 15 square miles (39 km2) (3.8%) is water.

Fairfax County is bounded on the north and southeast by the Potomac 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.

Most of the county lies in the Piedmont region, with rolling hills and deep stream valleys such as Difficult Run and its tributaries. West of Route 28, the hills give way to a flat, gentle valley which stretches west to the Bull Run Mountains in Loudoun County. Elevations in the county range from near sea level along the tidal sections of the Potomac River in the southeast portion of the county to more than 500 feet (150 m) in the Tysons Corner area.

Adjacent jurisdictions

Geology

The Piedmont hills in the central county are made up of ancient metamorphic rocks such as schist, the roots of several ancestral ranges of the Appalachians. The western valley is floored with more recent shale and sandstone. This geology is similar to adjacent bands of rocks in Maryland and further south in Virginia along the eastern front of the Appalachians.

An area of 11 square miles (30 km2) of the county is known to be underlain with natural asbestos. Much of the asbestos is known to emanate from fibrous tremolite or actinolite. The threat was discovered in 1987, prompting the county to establish laws to monitor air quality at construction sites, control soil taken from affected areas, and require freshly developed sites to lay 6 inches (150 mm) of clean, stable material over the ground.

For instance, during the construction of Centreville High School a large amount of asbestos-laden soil was removed and then trucked to Vienna for the construction of the I-66/Nutley Street interchange. Fill dirt then had to be trucked in to make the site level. Marine clays can be found in widespread areas of the county east of Interstate 95, mostly in the Lee and Mount Vernon districts. These clays contribute to soil instability, leading to significant construction challenges for builders.

Demographics

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1790 12,320
1800 13,317 8.1%
1810 13,111 −1.5%
1820 11,404 −13.0%
1830 9,204 −19.3%
1840 9,370 1.8%
1850 10,682 14.0%
1860 11,834 10.8%
1870 12,952 9.4%
1880 16,025 23.7%
1890 16,655 3.9%
1900 18,580 11.6%
1910 20,536 10.5%
1920 21,943 6.9%
1930 25,264 15.1%
1940 40,929 62.0%
1950 98,557 140.8%
1960 275,002 179.0%
1970 455,021 65.5%
1980 596,901 31.2%
1990 818,584 37.1%
2000 969,749 18.5%
2010 1,081,726 11.5%
Est. 2015 1,142,234 17.8%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000

As of 2010, there were 1,081,726 people, 350,714 households, and 250,409 families residing in the county. The population density was 2,455 people per square mile (948/km²). There were 359,411 housing units at an average density of 910 per square mile (351/km²). The ethnic makeup of the county was:

  • 62.68% White
  • 9.17% Black or African American
  • 0.36% Native American
  • 17.53% Asian (4.1% Indian, 3.8% Korean, 2.7% Vietnamese, 2.4% Chinese, 1.4% Filipino, 1.0% Pakistani, 0.3% Thai, 0.3% Japanese, 0.2% Bangladeshi, 0.2% Nepalese, 0.2% Cambodian, 0.1% Laotian, 0.1% Tibetan, Burmese, other Asian ethnic groups.)
  • 0.07% Pacific Islander
  • 4.54% from other races
  • 3.65% from two or more races.
  • 15.58% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race. (4.0% Salvadorian, 1.7% Mexican, 1.7% Bolivian, 1.2% Peruvian, 1.1% Honduran, 1.0% Guatemalan, 0.8% Puerto Rican, 0.5% Colombian, 0.3% Nicaraguan, 0.2% Argentinean, 0.2% Chilean)


Circle frame.svg

Ethnic structure of Fairfax County      White (62.7%)     Asian (17.5%)     Black (9.2%)     Other (6.5%)     Two or more races (3.6%)     Native (0.4%)     Pacific islander (0.1%)

In 2000 there are 350,714 households, of which 36.30% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.40% were married couples living together, 8.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.60% were non-families. 21.40% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.74 and the average family size was 3.20.

The age distribution was 25.40% under the age of 18, 7.50% from 18 to 24, 33.90% from 25 to 44, 25.30% from 45 to 64, and 7.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 98.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.20 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $81,050, and the median income for a family was $92,146; in a 2007 estimate, these figures rose to $102,460 and $120,804, respectively. Males had a median income of $60,503 versus $41,802 for females. The per capita income for the county was $36,888. About 3.00% of families and 4.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.20% of those under age 18 and 4.00% of those age 65 or over. A more recent report from the 2007 American Community Survey indicated that poverty in Fairfax County, Virginia had risen to 4.9%.

Judged by household median income, Fairfax County is among the highest-income counties in the country, and was first on that list for many years. However, in the 2000 census it was overtaken by Douglas County, Colorado. According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2005, it had the second-highest median household income behind neighboring Loudoun County, at $94,610. In 2007, Fairfax County reclaimed its position as the richest county in America, in addition to becoming the first county in American history to have a median household income in excess of $100,000, though not the first jurisdiction. In 2008, Loudoun County reclaimed the first position, with Fairfax County a statistically insignificant second. In 2012, the median household income in Fairfax County was $108,439.

Fairfax County males have the highest life expectancy in the nation at 81.1 years, while females had the eighth-highest at 83.8 years.

Arts and culture

Annual festivals include the "Celebrate Fairfax!" festival held in June at the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax City, the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival held in May at the Reston Town Center in Reston, and the International Children's Festival held in September at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, which features a performing arts center outside the town of Vienna.

Fairfax County supports a summer concert series held in multiple venues throughout the county on various nights. The concert series are called Arts in the Parks, Braddock Nights, Lee District Nights, Mt. Vernon Nights, Nottoway Nights, Spotlight by Starlight, Sounds of Summer and Starlight Cinema.

The EagleBank Arena (originally the Patriot Center), on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University just outside the City of Fairfax, hosts concerts and shows. The nearby Center for the Arts at George Mason is a major year-round arts venue, and the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia includes studios for artists, event facilities for performing groups, and gallery exhibitions. Smaller local art venues include:

  • Alden Theater at the McLean Community Center
  • ArtSpace Herndon
  • Center Stage at the Reston Community Center
  • Greater Reston Arts Center
  • James Lee Community Center Theater
  • Vienna Arts Society

Transportation

Roads

Several major highways run through Fairfax County, including the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495), Interstate 66, Interstate 95, and Interstate 395. The American Legion Bridge connects Fairfax to Montgomery County, Maryland. The George Washington Memorial Parkway, Dulles Toll Road, and Fairfax County Parkway are also major arteries. Other notable roads include Braddock Road, Old Keene Mill Road, Little River Turnpike, State Routes 7, 28, and 123, and US Routes 1, 29, and 50.

The county is in the Washington, D.C. metro area, the nation's third most congested area.

Northern Virginia, including Fairfax County, is the third worst congested traffic area in the nation, in terms of percentage of congested roadways and time spent in traffic. Of the lane miles in the region, 44 percent are rated "F" or worst for congestion. Northern Virginia residents spend an average of 46 hours a year stuck in traffic.

Major highways

I-395 in Fairfax County, Virginia
I-395 South in Northern Virginia
  • I-66.svg Interstate 66
  • I-95.svg Interstate 95
  • I-395.svg Interstate 395
  • I-495.svg Interstate 495 (Capital Beltway)
  • US 1.svg U.S. Route 1
  • US 29.svg U.S. Route 29
  • US 50.svg U.S. Route 50
  • Virginia 7.svg State Route 7
  • Virginia 28.svg State Route 28
  • Virginia 123.svg State Route 123
  • Virginia 193.svg State Route 193
  • Virginia 236.svg State Route 236
  • Virginia 237.svg State Route 237
  • Virginia 243.svg State Route 243
  • Virginia 267.svg State Route 267 (Dulles Toll Road)
  • Virginia 286.svg Virginia 289.svg State Route 286 and State Route 289 (Fairfax and Franconia-Springfield Parkways)
  • George Washington Memorial Parkway

Air

Washington Dulles International Airport lies partly within Fairfax County and provides most air service to the county. Fairfax is also served by two other airports in the Washington area, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Manassas Regional Airport, in neighboring Prince William County, is also used for regional cargo and private jet service.

Public transportation

Fairfax County has multiple public transportation services, including the Washington Metro's Orange, Blue, Yellow, and Silver lines. The Silver line, which runs through the Tysons Corner and Reston areas of the county, opened in 2014 as the first new Washington Metro line since the Green Line opened in 1991.

In addition, the VRE (Virginia Railway Express) provides commuter rail service to Union Station in Washington, D.C. with stations in Fairfax County. The VRE's Fairfax County stations are Lorton and Franconia/Springfield on the Fredericksburg line, and Burke Centre, Rolling Road, and Backlick Road on the Manassas line.

Fairfax County contracts its bus service called the Fairfax Connector to Veolia Transportation. The county also is served by WMATA's Metrobus service.

Parks and recreation

The county has many protected areas, a total of over 390 county parks on more than 23,000 acres (93 km2). 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 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.

Trails

The 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 (14 km) of the Mount Vernon Trail runs through Fairfax County along the Potomac River.

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 county's northern end 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.

Communities

Fairfax County Virginia Incorporated and Unincorporated Areas
Map of Fairfax County showing incorporated cities and CDPs.
CIT Building Herndon Va
Herndon
USA Today building
McLean
Route267vausawiehle
Reston

Three incorporated towns, Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna, are located entirely within Fairfax County.

The independent cities of Falls Church and Fairfax were formed out of areas formerly under the jurisdiction of Fairfax County, but are politically separate, despite the status of the City of Fairfax as county seat.

It has been proposed to convert the entire county into a single independent city, primarily to gain more control over taxes and roads. The most recent such proposal was made June 30, 2009.

Other communities within Fairfax County are unincorporated areas. Virginia law dictates that no unincorporated area of a county may be incorporated as a separate town or city following the adoption of the urban county executive form of government. Fairfax County adopted the urban county executive form of government in 1966.

As of the 2000 census the thirteen largest communities of Fairfax County are all unincorporated CDPs, the largest of which are Burke, Reston, and Annandale, each with a population exceeding 50,000. (The largest incorporated place in the county is the town of Herndon, its fourteenth-largest community.)

Census-designated places

The following localities within Fairfax County are identified by the U.S. Census Bureau as (unincorporated) Census-Designated Places:

Many of these areas have addresses in Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax City.

Other communities

Sister cities

  • South Korea Songpa-gu, South Korea (2009)
  • People's Republic of China Harbin, China (2009)
  • Turkey Keçiören, Turkey (2012)

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