Welcome to the Burke community, which the 2000 Census recognized as the largest community in Virginia (excluding counties and incorporated cities.) Burke is the home to 57, 737 people with a median age of 38. The children of Burke attend eight different elementary schools and two secondary schools. The community includes stores, businesses, parks, recreation areas and houses of worship. Also, Burke is rich with history.
The earliest residents were Algonquin Indians who met Capt. John Smith as he sailed from Jamestown up the Potomac River in 1608. The Algonquians are long gone, but their presence is remembered when their arrowheads and tools are unearthed. By 1650, England and the Colony of Virginia were awarding land grants. Thomas, second Lord Culpeper acquired most of the shares of the Northern Neck Proprietary, which would have included Fairfax County today. In 1719, his grandson Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax inherited the property. Also, others such as Fitzhugh, Keen, Coffer, Simpson and Carter, received land grants in the area.
After the American Revolution, residents recognized the need for improved transportation and communication. Silas Burke, a local farmer, donated land for the right-of-way for the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and encouraged his neighbors to do likewise. This railroad, which was chartered in 1848, eventually connected Alexandria to Orange County, Va.
Throughout the Civil War, the Burke area became a crossroads for the Confederate and Union armies. In 1862, Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and his men raided Burke Railroad Station, where they captured mules and supplies. Evidence of Civil War encampments in the area is still visible today.
Starting in 1908, Burke attracted visitors from D.C. and Alexandria to the hotel and race track that the Copperthite family operated. Lumber and grist mills, dairy farms and general stores also dotted the landscape. Burke was a quiet, rural community until the 1950s when the federal government made plans for the area.
Burke had been selected as the site of a new airport. In June 1951, the government condemned 4,520 acres in preparation of building the airport. No one expected the Burke residents to fight back, but organized resistance began almost immediately. By 1959, the community had won the battle and the airport (Dulles) was built in Chantilly instead.
During those eight years of struggle, many Burke residents had relocated. In 1959, some of the once-condemned property was auctioned off and purchased by developers. As a result, new suburban areas like Kings Park and Lake Braddock were built. Burke was no longer a rural community, but suburbia.
In these new suburban areas, there were community meetings in the fire house, parades for children, swimming pools and visits from the library bookmobile. Stay-at-home moms welcomed the library bookmobile. In a one-car family, dad drove the car to work since there was no public transportation .
The Burke community has continued to grow over the years, but it still retains some of its early roots. Today, one can see the home of Silas Burke on the top of the hill on Burke Lake Road and read the historical marker about Stuart’s raid near the Taco Bell.
— Mary Lipsey
The author is a former resident of Burke and retired history teacher from Lake Braddock Secondary. Her source material was: Burke, Virginia Wikipedia encyclopedia on the Internet; “Memories of Beautiful Burke, Fairfax County, Virginia, A History.”