Fairfax (formerly Providence) is an independent city in the U.S. state of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 22,565. It is the county seat of Fairfax County. Although it is an enclave of Fairfax County, the two are separate political entities.
Situated in the Northern Virginia region, Fairfax forms part of the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area.
In 2009, Fairfax was ranked No. 3 in the "Top 25 Places to Live Well" by Forbes magazine. 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% nationwide.
The city derives its name from Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, who was awarded five million acres (20,000 km²) in land located in Northern Virginia by King Charles. The area the City of Fairfax now encompasses was settled in the early 18th century by farmers from Virginia's Tidewater region. The town was established as the Town of Providence by an act of the state legislature in 1805.
The town (then described as a village) was the scene of the first land battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Fairfax Court House (June 1861). On June 1, 1861, a Union scouting party clashed with the local militia, though neither side gained an advantage. A second battle was waged two years later on June 27, 1863. At the Battle of Fairfax Court House (June 1863), Union troops were defeated. However, the battle delayed the movements of Confederate cavalry chief Jeb Stuart, with disastrous consequences for Lee at Gettysburg a few days later.
Fairfax was officially renamed the Town of Fairfax in 1874, and became an independent city in 1961 (upon which it acquired its current name, the City of Fairfax).
In 1904, a trolley line was built connecting Fairfax with Washington, D.C.
The former Fairfax County Courthouse is the oldest and most historic building in Fairfax. The first Fairfax courthouse was established in 1742 near present-day Tyson's Corner, and is the namesake for Old Courthouse Road. 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. 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 Tyson's 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, DC. The General Assembly specified that the new courthouse should be located in the center of the county, and was established at the corner of Old Little River Turnpike (now Main Street) and Ox Road (now Chain Bridge Road) on land donated by town founder Richard Ratcliffe. The courthouse changed hands repeatedly during the civil war, and the first officer casualty, John Quincy Marr, occurred on the grounds.
Its design was used as a prototype for many Virginia courthouses built between 1800 and 1850. The first meeting of the Fairfax Court was held April 21, 1800. During the American Civil War the Courthouse was used by the union forces as a military headquarters which resulted in the damage or loss of several records. The original building of the Fairfax County Courthouse was used as the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court until 2009, when that court moved to the expanded main courthouse. The old building is now used for office space.
One of the oldest buildings in the city is what used to be an elementary school. In 1873, the Fairfax Elementary School remains the oldest two-story building the city has ever seen and was built for the outrageous sum of $2,750. This building reflects a new era of free public education in Virginia and the growth of the Fairfax area. Throughout the years the school building was used for housing special education and adult education classes as well as a police academy training center. However, on July 4, 1992, the building was renovated and opened as the Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center.
The Old Town Hall is the social and architectural cornerstone of Fairfax; Joseph Edward Willard had it built in 1900 as a gift to Fairfax. It now houses the Huddleson Library, the Fairfax Art League, and can be rented out for weddings as well as business meetings.
Sites on the National Register of Historic Places