Fairfax Virginia Walking Tour
This tour begins at Fairfax's Farr Homeplace and moves west along Main Street. The tour includes stops at various historic landmarks, historical markers, and museums/visitors centers along Main.
This historic marker designates the place where Arlington's trolley met the Arlington-Fairfax railroad line. The local trolley line was supported by the city government after attempts to create a privately-owned streetcar line failed. The trolley line started at the present-day corner of Route 123 and Main Street and traveled northeast through the county to the town of Vienna. The marker is near the original starting place of the Arlington-Fairfax rail line, completed in 1904. The railroad connected Fairfax and Washington until 1939. A railroad depot was located near this location but was later destroyed by fire, an event that convinced railroad managers to continue the track to the present location of Chain Bridge Road.
This two-story brick home in Fairfax was constructed in 1835 and is best known as the location of one of the most interesting captures of an officer in the Civil War. The home belonged to Dr. William Presley Gunnell but was being occupied by Union Brigadier General Edwin Stoughton and his men. While they slept on the night of March 8th-9th, 1863, later-Colonel John Singleton Mosby, known as the Gray Ghost of the Confederacy, led a contingent of twenty-nine soldiers silently through a gap in the Union lines and moved undetected into Fairfax. There they captured many Union officers, including General Stoughton, who woke to the site of Mosby next to his bed. Dr. Gunnell moved to Waco, Texas, after the war, and, in 1882, his Fairfax home was purchased by Zion Episcopal Church - now Truro Anglican Church - for use as a rectory. It remains an office building for the church today. The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 as part of the City of Fairfax Historic District.
The Ford Building in downtown Fairfax is part of the city’s historic district and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built circa 1835, this Georgian Revival home (now a commercial building) holds high regard for its historic role in the growth of Fairfax and for the many events that it endured. The Ford Building was also the site of one of the most famous espionage and love stories coming out of the Civil War. Its most iconic resident, Antonia Ford, served as a Confederate spy following the Union occupation of Fairfax in 1861. For the information that she gave, Antonia was designated as an honorary aide-de-camp in October 1861. However, in 1863, she was betrayed by a Union counterspy, arrested, and incarcerated in Washington DC. She was released from the Old Capitol Prison soon after but was re-arrested in Fairfax by Union Major Joseph Willard, who she fell in love with and later married.
The Fairfax County Historic Courthouse is one of the oldest buildings in Fairfax. Since it was constructed in 1799 to serve as the government seat of Fairfax County, this courthouse has been the focal point of public affairs. It was central in events ranging from local civil disputes and legal matters to the Civil War, changing hands several times between Union and Confederate troops. Much like other courthouses in early America, the Fairfax Courthouse was necessary for the economic, social, and political growth of the town and county. What makes this courthouse exceptionally historically important, however, was the role it played during the Civil War. The Fairfax County Historic Courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. It is now home to the Fairfax County Circuit Court Historic Records Center; in addition, on one Friday each month, the Circuit Court uses the Historic Courthouse to conduct civil motions. The jail, located behind the courthouse, was built in 1885 and added to the National Register in 1981.
Born from a marriage between a Union Major and a Confederate spy, the Virginia House of Delegates representative and Fairfax resident, Joseph Edward Willard, commissioned the construction of this building in 1900 and donated it to the city of Fairfax in 1902. Willard went on to serve as Virginia's Lieutenant Governor from 1902 to 1906 and later as U.S. Ambassador to Spain in 1913. The building has served as social gathering space for more than a century. As well, the building is now home to the collections of the Hudleson Library and the Fairfax Art League. The building was renovated in the 1980s and 1990s, and holds a number of special events throughout the year.
Located within the Fairfax County Library is the Virginia Room, a local history center that holds one of the most comprehensive collections in the region of materials related to Northern Virginia history and genealogy. The library holds original and microfilmed records from the leading families and founders of Virginia, as well as original manuscripts from churches and county officials, city and school records, cemetery surveys, photographs, newspapers, and a wealth of other historical resources. The Virginia Room staff also supports the exploration of history through online research guides and other resources.
The Ratcliffe–Logan–Allison House, also known as Earp’s Ordinary, is a historic home located in Fairfax, Virginia, completed in 1810 with an addition finished in 1830. It is the oldest residence in Fairfax, although it also served as a stagecoach shop. The house mainly stands as a monument to Richard Ratcliffe who donated the land now known as Fairfax, and benefited economically in doing so. He served in various public service jobs for more than fifty years for the city and county, starting before the U.S. Revolutionary War.
The second-oldest home in Fairfax, this two-story Federal Style home was completed in 1821 and first occupied by Simeon and Catherine Draper. Simeon Draper was the community physician and dentist for the Town of Fairfax, then called Providence, and used ran his practice out of the home with space for an examining room and office in addition to living quarters. The home is now private property and not available for tours. However, the Draper House is located near the oldest home in the city, the Ratcliffe-Allison House, which is often open to the public for tours on Saturday afternoons during the summer.
The Fairfax Public School (Old Fairfax Elementary School Annex) consists of two sections built in 1873 and 1912. The school stands as a monument to a movement away from one-room schoolhouses to uniform public education. However, the building also provides a window into racial divisions that held firm in Fairfax during the many decades following the Civil War, including once functioning as the home to a newspaper published by the Klu Klux Klan. Today, the building is home to the Fairfax Museum and Visitors Center.
This stately brick home was built in 1880 by Richard Ratcliffe Farr at the site of his previous home that was set aflame by Union soldiers after he fired upon the federal troops. Farr was only 14 at the time of the incident. He would go on to serve as a delegate to the Virginia General Assembly, U.S. Marshall, and Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Virginia. The home is often referred to as "Five Chimneys" in recognition or its most unique feature, five chimneys built in the shape of a cross.