The City of Fairfax's historic buildings and landmarks are tangible reminders of local heritage and the important role the town played as a major crossroads and judicial center in northern Virginia. Most historic sites are located within the city's historic downtown area. In 1987, the City of Fairfax Historic District was named to the National Register of Historic Places. The district includes a variety of building types and styles, including:
- The Fairfax Court House (1800)
- Ratcliffe-Allison House (1812), William Gunnell House (c.1835)
- Joshua Gunnell House (c.1830)
- Ford House (c.1835)
- Fairfax Elementary School (1873)(Converted in 1992 into the Fairfax Museum & Visitor Center)
- Old Fairfax Jail (1885)
- Old Town Hall (1900)
- The Marr Monument (1904)
Historic properties outside the Historic District illustrate the area's 19th-century rural heritage and 20th-century transformation into a suburb of Washington, D.C. Historic Blenheim, the c.1859 brick farmhouse on Old Lee Highway, is famed for its 120+ inscriptions from Union soldiers when the Fairfax Court House area was occupied intermittently from 1862-1863. Historic Blenheim hosts the annual Fairfax Civil War Day. Tastee 29 Diner, built in 1940 on the Lee Highway commercial corridor, is also individually listed in the National Register.
Historic Fairfax City, Inc. (HFCI), a non-profit organization, helps the city interpret historic sites and raise funds for building preservation. HFCI is the advisory board to the City of Fairfax Office of Historic Resources, charged with managing the operation of City-owned historic properties. The City Council appoints the HFCI board. Members are always welcome; for information, call 703.385.8415, or visit Historic Fairfax City, Inc. website.
The five City-owned historic buildings are Fairfax Elementary School, Old Town Hall, Ratcliffe-Allison House, Historic Blenheim and Grandma's Cottage.
Old Town Hall
Old Town Hall is the social and architectural cornerstone of the City. Joseph E. Willard presented the Hall as a gift to the citizens of Fairfax in 1900. Built by Arthur Thompson, a local contractor, the classical revival style Hall retains much of its original woodwork. Old Town Hall's second level houses the Huddleson Library and is home to the Fairfax Art League. The Hall is available for rental for wedding receptions and other gatherings. For information about reserving the Hall, email or call 703.385.7858
Ratcliffe-Allison-Pozer House and Kitty Pozer Garden
Built by Richard Ratcliffe in 1812, this house is one of the city's oldest residences. This house-museum interprets the daily activities of some of its twelve owners and occupants, illustrating commercial and domestic change along Main Street during the 19th and 20th centuries. The last two owners were Kate Waller Barrett, a prominent social reformer, and her daughter, Kitty Pozer. Following her mother's death, Kitty purchased the house with her husband, Charles Pozer, and joined a new 1927 prefabricated house to the earlier brick structure. A respected gardener, Mrs. Pozer deeded the house to the city in 1973. Following her death in 1981, the City purchased her extensive property that extended to North Street to create the Kitty Pozer Garden, a passive park showcasing her plantings.
Fairfax City realized a vision of a central downtown location for citizens and visitors to gather on a daily basis and during yearly special events when they opened Old Town Square, an extension of the land that encompassed the original garden park. Old Town Square combines attractive landscaping and hardscaping with water features, benches, and a pergola/stage area. The Kitty Pozer Garden is directly behind the 1927 house and includes carefully chosen plantings to emulate Kitty Pozer's gardening tastes intertwined with meandering pathways, and benches beneath a tall tree cover. A wayside sign interprets the life and achievements of Kitty Pozer-- a true preservationist.
The Ratcliffe-Allison-Pozer House is open to the public for free tours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays from April through October, during many city special events, during walking tours and by appointment; email or call 703.385.8414.
3610 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 22030
Hours: 10 am to 3 pm Tuesday through Saturday; Free guided tours offered at 1 pm Tuesday through Saturday
Closed Sunday and Monday
The City of Fairfax purchased the Historic Blenheim estate in early 1999 to preserve and develop into a Civil War house museum and open-air park. Blenheim is a c.1859 central-hall-plan brick farmhouse on 12 acres located at 3610 Old Lee Highway.
The site hosts the Fairfax Civil War Day held annually either the last Saturday in April or the first Saturday in May. The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in early 2001. It is nationally significant for the 120+ signatures, art, and poetry created by Union soldiers during their occupation of the Fairfax Court House area in 1862-1863. The house contains one of the most voluminous and best-preserved examples of Civil War graffiti in the nation, a "diary on walls" providing insight into typical soldier life during the Civil War.
The site also includes the Civil War Interpretive Center recently constructed that features a gallery with Civil War exhibits. The highlight is a replica attic that shows the most pristine soldier signatures that remained undisturbed by several generations of family living in the house until 1997. Special talks and presentations occur in our multi-purpose room.
The Civil War interpretive center is ADA-accessible and is available for rental and has capacities of 110 standup, 72 seated, or 190 for an outdoor tented occasion. For rental information call 703.385.7858.
Grandma's Cottage is significant both for its architecture and history. The Cottage was occupied for much of its history by Margaret Conn Willcoxon Farr, the daughter of Rezin Willcoxon, owner of the Willcoxon estate (later named "Blenheim"). Margaret Farr is buried in the Blenheim cemetery. The Cottage likely dates to the 1830s or 1840s and is important for its combination of log-wall construction and rare hewn timber framing with brick infill between the studs in the oldest portion of the house.
The Cottage's original location was near the corner of Main Street and Old Lee Highway where the Main Street Marketplace shopping center stands. It was relocated from there to a location on Old Lee Highway near Layton Hall Drive in 1962. The Cottage was moved to the Blenheim estate in 2001.
Grandma's Cottage Move
The move of the city-owned historic building lasted from 6-10am June 9, 2001. Spectators were allowed at Van Dyck Park only due to safety precautions in moving overhead wires along the route on Old Lee Highway. The house was moved on a flatbed trailer by Expert House Moving Company. William Patram, city resident and renowned house mover (now retired), was a consultant for the project. The relocation was paid for by Basheer & Edgemoore as a result of a proffer from construction of the Farrcroft development. With support of Basheer & Edgemoore and the generous support of the Robert Lewis family which donated the cottage to the city, the cottage will be preserved as an important component of city history.
Fairfax Elementary School (Fairfax Museum & Visitor Center)
See Fairfax Museum & Visitor Center