Fairfax was the first county in the United States to reach a six-figure median household income, and has the second-highest median household income of any local jurisdiction in the United States after neighbor Loudoun County.
The county is home to the headquarters of intelligence agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and National Reconnaissance Office, as well as the National Counterterrorism Center and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The county is also home to half of the metropolitan area’s Fortune 500 companies.
Fairfax County was formed in 1742 from the northern part of Prince William County. It was named for Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1693–1781), proprietor of the Northern Neck.
The oldest settlements in Fairfax County were located along the Potomac River. George Washington settled in Fairfax County and built his home, Mount Vernon, facing the river. Gunston Hall, the home of George Mason is located nearby. Modern Fort Belvoir is partly located on the estate of Belvoir Manor, built along the Potomac by William Fairfax in 1741. Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, the only member of the British nobility ever to reside in the colonies, lived at Belvoir before he moved to the Shenandoah Valley. The Belvoir mansion and several of its outbuildings were destroyed by fire immediately after the Revolutionary War in 1783, and George Washington noted the plantation complex gradually deteriorated into ruins.
In 1757, the northwestern two-thirds of Fairfax County became Loudoun County. In 1789, part of Fairfax County was ceded to the federal government to form Alexandria County of the District of Columbia. Alexandria County was returned to Virginia in 1846, reduced in size by the secession of the independent city of Alexandria in 1870, and renamed Arlington County in 1920. The Fairfax County town of Falls Church became an independent city in 1948. The Fairfax County town of Fairfax became an independent city in 1961.
Located near Washington, D.C., Fairfax County was an important region in the Civil War. The Battle of Chantilly or Ox Hill, during the same campaign as the second Battle of Bull Run, was fought within the county; Bull Run straddles the border between Fairfax and Prince William County. Other areas of activity included Minor’s Hill, Munson’s Hill, and Upton’s Hill, on the eastern border of the county, overlooking Washington, D.C.
The growth of the federal government in the years during and after World War II spurred rapid growth in the county. As a result, the once rural county began to become increasingly suburban. Other large businesses continued to settle in Fairfax County and the opening of Tysons Corner Center spurred the rise of Tysons Corner itself. The technology boom and a steady government-driven economy also created rapid growth and an increasingly growing and diverse population. The economy has also made Fairfax County one of the wealthiest counties in the nation.
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As of 2010, there were 1,081,726 people, 350,714 households, and 250,409 families residing in the county. The population density was 2,455 people per square mile (948/km²). There were 359,411 housing units at an average density of 910 per square mile (351/km²). The racial makeup of the county was:
- 62.68% White
- 9.17% Black or African American
- 0.36% Native American
- 17.53% Asian (4.1% Indian, 3.8% Korean, 2.7% Vietnamese, 2.4% Chinese, 1.4% Filipino, 1.0% Pakistani, 0.3% Thai, 0.3% Japanese, 0.2% Bangladeshi, 0.2%
- Nepalese, 0.2% Cambodian, 0.1% Laotian)
- 0.07% Pacific Islander
- 4.54% from other races
- 3.65% from two or more races.
- 15.58% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race. (4.0% Salvadoran, 1.7% Mexican, 1.7% Bolivian, 1.2% Peruvian, 1.1% Honduran, 1.0% Guatemalan, 0.8% Puerto Rican, 0.5% Colombian, 0.3% Nicaraguan, 0.2% Argentinean, 0.2% Chilean)
The age distribution was 25.40% under the age of 18, 7.50% from 18 to 24, 33.90% from 25 to 44, 25.30% from 45 to 64, and 7.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 98.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.20 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $81,050, and the median income for a family was $92,146; in a 2007 estimate, these figures rose to $102,460 and $120,804, respectively. Males had a median income of $60,503 versus $41,802 for females. The per capita income for the county was $36,888. About 3.00% of families and 4.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.20% of those under age 18 and 4.00% of those age 65 or over. A more recent report from the 2007 American Community Survey indicated that poverty in Fairfax County, Virginia had risen to 4.9%.
Judged by household median income, Fairfax County is among the highest-income counties in the country, and was first on that list for many years. However, in the 2000 census it was overtaken by Douglas County, Colorado. According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2005, it had the second-highest median household income behind neighboring Loudoun County, at $94,610. In 2007, Fairfax County reclaimed its position as the richest county in America, in addition to becoming the first county in American history to have a median household income in excess of $100,000, though not the first jurisdiction. In 2008, Loudoun County reclaimed the first position, with Fairfax County a statistically insignificant second.
Fairfax County males have the highest life expectancy in the nation at 81.1 years, while females had the eighth-highest at 83.8 years.
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The Tysons Corner CDP of Fairfax County is Virginia’s largest office market and the largest suburban business district in the nation with 25,700,000 square feet (2,390,000 m2) of office space. It is the country’s 12th-largest business district, and is expected to grow substantially in the decades to come. It contains a quarter of county’s total office space inventory, which totaled 105,200,000 square feet (9,770,000 m2) at year-end 2006, which is about the size of Lower Manhattan.The area is noted by Forbes as “often described as the place where the Internet was invented, but today it looks increasingly like the center of the global military-industrial complex” due to being home to the nation’s first ISPs (many of whom are now defunct), while attracting numerous defense contractors who have relocated from other states to or near Tysons Corner.
Every weekday, Tysons Corner draws over 100,000 workers from around the region. It also draws 55,000 shoppers every weekday as it is home to neighboring super-regional malls Tysons Corner Center and Tysons Galleria. In comparison, Washington, D.C. draws 15 million visitors annually, or the equivalent of 62,500 per weekday.
After years of stalling and controversy, the $5.2 billion expansion of the Washington Metro Silver Line in Virginia from Washington, D.C. to Dulles International Airport received funding approval from the Federal Transit Administration in December 2008. The Silver Line will add four stations in Tysons Corner, including a station between Tysons Corner Center and Tysons Galleria.
Along with the expansion of Washington Metro, Fairfax County government has a plan to “urbanize” the Tysons Corner area. The plan calls for a private-public partnership. It would use a grid-like street system to make Tysons Corner a more urban environment, tripling available housing to allow for more workers to live near where they work. The goal is to have 95% of Tysons Corner within 1⁄2-mile (800 m) from a metro station.
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Arts and culture
Annual festivals include the “Celebrate Fairfax!” festival held in June at the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax City, the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival held in May at the Reston Town Center in Reston, and the International Children’s Festival held in September at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, which features a performing arts center situated outside the town of Vienna.
Fairfax County supports a summer concert series held in multiple venues throughout the county on various nights. The concert series are called Arts in the Parks, Braddock Nights, Lee District Nights, Mt. Vernon Nights, Nottoway Nights, Spotlight by Starlight, Sounds of Summer and Starlight Cinema.
The Patriot Center, located on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University just outside of the City of Fairfax, hosts a number of concerts and shows. Also the nearby Center for the Arts at George Mason is a major year-round arts venue in Fairfax County. Another major Fairfax County venue is the Workhouse Arts Center, which is located in Lorton, Virginia and includes studios for artists, event facilities for performing groups, and gallery exhibitions. Smaller local art venues include:
- Alden Theater at the McLean Community Center
- ArtSpace Herndon
- Center Stage at the Reston Community Center
- Greater Reston Arts Center
- James Lee Community Center Theater
- Vienna Arts Society