Located in northwestern Fairfax County adjacent to the Loudoun County line, the Town of Herndon was once in the heart of one of Virginia’s most important dairy farming regions. Until the 1960’s it remained a relatively quiet country village, largely free of the hustle and bustle of it’s more urban neighbors to the east. It’s history is part of the history of colonial and post-revolutionary America.
The Virginia General Assembly first convened on July 30, 1619, making it the oldest legislative body in North America. Among it’s administrative tasks was the formation of counties (often further subdivided into parishes), the establishment of county courts, and the planning and building of a colony-wide road system.
As early as 1716 British explorer John Fontaine described the area of land that would become Fairfax County as having “the largest timber, deepest mold, and the best grass I ever did see.” English settlers later established large tobacco plantations throughout the area.
Mills for grinding wheat and corn into flour and livestock feed appeared in the Herndon area in the 1700’s, and one was said to be located “here in the hollow where the stream used to run,” between the present locations of Locust and Elden streets. Grain was an important commodity to local farmers and soon after the arrival of the mills several stores appeared to serve the farmers’ needs. This was the beginning of the small community that would become Herndon.
At the time it was incorporated in 1879, the Town of Herndon encompassed 4.25 square miles and had begun to enjoy a new kind of trade thanks to the railroad: city families looking for a country vacation. As a result several spacious summer houses were built in the town and it was noted that “as an aftermath of the advent of good roads and modern conveniences, another invasion of Herndon took place,” in part the result of the general popularity of escape from the crowded cities.
The railroad continued to be the economic backbone of the Herndon area well into the twentieth century. But as the highway system was steadily improved and as truck and auto transport became more dependable, the railroad’s importance began to decline. Commuters could drive to work and farmers and merchants could use trucks to deliver their goods.
Although a major fire destroyed sixteen of Herndon’s businesses on March 22, 1917, Herndon grew steadily from a small village with little more than a railroad station and post office to a thriving dairy farming center. In the 1960’s it began to change and grow once more as the northern Virginia suburbs approached from the east. Herndon is now is a major employment center and offers a wide variety of housing, shopping and services. It’s numerous churches, schools, service clubs and organizations work together to maintain a healthy, happy environment for residents, workers and visitors.