In many ways the history of the greater Vienna regional area, and Fairfax County as a whole, is a reflection of the history of the entire United States.Ê Although the county was not formally created until 1742, the history of English settlement on the land that is now Fairfax County spans the early 1600s to the present.Ê Such familiar Fairfax County names and places as George Washington, George Mason, Mount Vernon, Bull Run -- even Washington Dulles International Airport -- have played or are still playing important roles in the lives of Americans everywhere.
In 1649, King Charles II of England granted five million acres, known as the Northern Neck Proprietary, to seven noblemen. The grant lay between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers. In 1719 this land came into the possession of Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax, and became the Fairfax Proprietary, later named Fairfax County after recognition by the Virginia Assembly in 1741. In 1749, he hired George Washington, age 17, to survey land in the area. The land proved to be ideally suited for agricultural pursuits.
From the 1750s to the end of the 18th century, changes abounded in Fairfax County's lifestyle and character.Ê Perhaps the first settler within the present-day town limits was Colonel Charles Broadwater. In the 1760s, John Hunter married Broadwater's daughter and succeeded the colonel as the area's principal landowner. In 1767, Hunter built the first house of record within the town; he called it Ayr Hill after his native Ayr County, Scotland, and soon the village also assumed the name Ayr Hill.
During that century, things remained quiet in Ayr Hill, there were scarcely eight houses in the town itself. In the late 1850s, a Dr. William Hendrick agreed to settle in Ayr Hill if the name of the village was changed to Vienna, after his hometown in upstate New York. The change was made willingly. The railroad reached Vienna in 1858 and provided impetus for growth into a real village.
When the Civil War broke out, Vienna became alternately a camping ground and a scavenging territory for the contending forces. Residents found it difficult to tell friend from foe, and the area changed hands so often that many families moved away for the duration of the war. Rebel troops were located in the western area, while Union troops were positioned in the northern and eastern areas, near Alexandria.Ê Troops from both sides crisscrossed the county, often wreaking havoc and destruction on private property.Ê
Several minor battles were fought in Fairfax County itself.Ê On June 1, 1861, there was a Union cavalry raid on the Fairfax County Courthouse in which several casualties occurred.Ê John Quincy Marr died during this skirmish, becoming the first Confederate officer to be killed in the war.Ê Later that month a bloody battle, the fifth skirmish of the First Battle of Manassas, broke out between Union and Rebel troops at the Town of Vienna near the Park Street railroad crossing.
A year or more after the war was over, troops were still encamped in the village, and bugle calls awakened the town at an early hour. Within the next three years, many northern families moved into and around Vienna. These new residents were not carpetbaggers or office seekers, but chose to make Vienna their permanent home because of its milder climate, the fertility of its soil, and its proximity to the nation's capital.
Among the newcomers was Major Orrin E. Hine, Freedman's Bureau agent, radical Republican, farmer, and real estate agent, who settled in Vienna in 1866. By 1885, he owned almost 6,500 acres in the vicinity. In 1890, when the village of 300 persons became an incorporated town "in order to improve its public schools and ...streets," he was elected Vienna's first mayor and remained in that post until his death in 1900. At the end of the century, he was widely acknowledged as having accomplished much rebuilding and constructive redirection of the county so torn by war decades earlier.
The town's first library, only 29 square feet in space and the first in Fairfax County, was originally located on Library Lane but was later moved to a lot donated by Hine. It can still be seen on the grounds of the Freeman House, while a nearby modern library serves area needs. Hine was also a leading advocate of public education and testified in favor of the State Public School Law of 1870.
In 1868 or 1869, the first black public school, which also served as a Baptist church, was established in Vienna. The first white public school followed in 1872. At the time, town businesses included sawmills and gristmills, blacksmith shops, wheelwright shops, a tomato-canning factory, a limekiln, a wood and coal yard, and a broom factory. There were also dairy farms within the town limits. In 1881, Howard Money founded an undertaking business; today, Money and King Funeral Home is Vienna's oldest continuous business.
The Vienna Volunteer Fire Department is the oldest in Fairfax County. Established in 1903 by Leon Freeman, it started with a small hand-drawn chemical engine that was housed under Freeman's porch to prevent it from freezing in cold weather.
The horse-and-buggy days ended when a trolley line came to Vienna in 1903, furnishing hourly transportation to and from Washington, D.C. The trolley quickly gave way to the automobile age. The speed limit was 12 miles per hour. By the early 1940s the population was still only 1,200, and life was leisurely under the big trees on Maple Avenue. The town clerk worked part-time and the post office operated with four employees. Most residents still made their living selling produce to Washington markets or in some other line of agriculture.
On August 10, 1944, leaders of the world's free nations gathered under an old locust tree in front of the house at Wolf Trap Farm just outside Vienna. The informal meeting was a prelude to the Dumbarton Oaks Conference that resulted in the organization of the United Nations. The town began to take on a new look in the 1950s when many of the businesses moved from the old commercial section on Church Street to Maple Avenue. The post-war rush to the Northern Virginia suburbs added 10,000 new residents to Vienna alone.
Over the next fifty years, the greater Vienna regional area exploded into a nationally recognized leading area for living, trade and commerce. In areas such as technology, bioscience, telecommunications, and information technologies, a combination of industry-leading businesses, favorable political and economic environments, and a top-notch labor force have made the Vienna regional area second to none.
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