1960-Present: Coming of Age
Suburban development in the Braddock District of Fairfax County exploded with the coming of the Beltway. The availability of open land and the prospect of easy access to Washington, DC and the Pentagon spurred what would become a 30-year boom in building new subdivisions westward throughout the district.
Growth and Development
Developers envisioned whole communities of homes, churches, schools and shopping centers. The typical planned home had three bedrooms, one bath, a carport or garage and sold for $18,000-$23,000. Some natives saw opportunities to sell some of their farmland that was then developed into residential suburbs, shopping centers, and even golf courses. New community growth typically outpaced road improvement necessary to handle growing traffic or the services needed by a rapidly growing population. The new residents were, in many respects, pioneers.
With this population explosion came an increased need for new schools. During the 1960s, at the height of construction, nearly a classroom and half was built each day. One year, the county hired 1,700 new teachers to start the school year. Community residents faced challenges when new schools opened and boundary changes occurred. It was not uncommon for a family to have each of its children graduate from a different high school, even though the family had never moved.
After high school graduation, many students decided to stay close to home and local universities thrived. In 1958, the town of Fairfax purchased land in Braddock District for George Mason University, a branch of the University of Virginia until it obtained independent status in 1972. In 1966, the governor of Virginia established a community college system in Virginia. From a temporary office at Bailey's Crossroads, Northern Virginia College expanded to six campuses built along major transportation arteries, including a branch in Annandale in Braddock District.
Meeting the Challenges
As the suburbs continued to develop, new issues arose, As early as 1941, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors initiated its first zoning ordinance regulating home construction, renovation, and additions. As new subdivisons proliferated, many residents wanted to preserve the rural feeling. Ravensworth Farm residents opposed construction of an industrial area next to their community, but lost. Annandale and Springfield residents fought against construction of a high rise apartment complex and won. Wakefield Park was built on the proposed site instead. Hilly, graveled, tree-lined roads disappeared as roads were graded, widened, and paved.
New residents found activism through their community associations. Preserving green spaces and improving roads and commutes were high priority items. The Beltway was completed in 1964, and the Fairfax County Park Authority adopted a goal to reserve 15 acres of open land for every 1,000 residents.
By 1970, the Fairfax County population reached 457,275. Migration from outside the county accounted for 73 percent of the increase between 1960 and 1970. An increasing share of new residents were immigrants from other countries. County schools began teaching English as a Second Language for the children of immigrant families. More ethnic restaurants and businesses opened. The Washington Post even nicknamed the more than 100-year-old Annandale community Koreatown. The county created multi-language signs, websites and brochures. Translators worked at county meetings. With all these changes, Fairfax County and Braddock District survived the growing pains and continued to prosper.
Written by Mary Lipsey