Just off the road that bears its name, Fairfax Station played an integral role in the Civil War and served the community of Fairfax for 100 years.
Considered to be Fairfax County’s “little gem,” Fairfax Station was initially established in 1851 and was known as Lee’s Station during the first year of its existence. The station was constructed on what was formerly known as the Orange and Alexandria Railroad (O&A), that by 1860 stretched all the way to Lynchburg. The O&A Railroad was predominantly built to transport farm products to Alexandria and Washington, while also transporting supplies from these cities to various farms.
Though the station was known as Fairfax Station, the actual railroad station was located about two miles outside of the city. This was mainly due to the fact that residents did not want to be close to the commotion and smoke from the trains. Many residents in the area even donated some of their property for construction of the railroad right from the start.
The original Fairfax Station (1851 depot) was predominantly constructed by the hands of Irish immigrants, many recruited not long after reaching the United States. Most settled in the Fairfax Station area. This influx of Catholics also led to the construction of St. Mary’s Church, located about one-quarter mile from the train station.
Eventually, the 1851 depot was torn down and replaced by another depot on the same site in 1873. Both of these incarnations of the station were eventually torn down. The third rendition of the station was constructed in 1891 and sat just north of railroad tracks, diagonally to the left of the original two stations. There is little information as to why the station was demolished and rebuilt so many times, though one can assume the Civil War played a major role.
The train station became a strategic point during the Civil War for transporting troops and supplies. The O&A was the most direct route from Alexandria to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. The station would play a supporting role throughout the first three years of the war, with many battles being fought over and along the O&A railroad. Most famously, the station was an evacuation point for wounded Union soldiers during the battles of Second Manassas and Chantilly in August-September of 1862.
After the Civil War, the O&A was absorbed by the Southern Railway in 1894. The last incarnation of Fairfax Station was constructed in 1903, and it still stands today. The station would also see a few name changes, being dubbed Swetnam in 1897, and Faircroft in 1918, before becoming permanently known as Fairfax Station in 1921.
With the progression of transportation throughout the early to mid-1900s, the Southern Railway began closing smaller stations along its line. Fairfax Station, the last original operating train station in Fairfax County, closed in 1973 and was set for demolition. Luckily, it was saved and moved 100 yards directly north of its previous site and transformed into the Fairfax Station Railroad Museum by the Friends of Fairfax Station Inc.