A Historic McDonald’s?

A Historic McDonald’s?

Fairfax County Has One

The original McDonald's on U.S. 1 in Hybla Valley.

The original McDonald's on U.S. 1 in Hybla Valley.

Northern Virginia has many historic treasures like Mount Vernon, Arlington House and Gadsby’s Tavern; but McDonald’s? The popular fast-food eatery rarely makes any list of historic attractions.

The McDonald’s restaurant at 7614 Richmond Highway in Hybla Valley, which opened on July 29, 1957, and is still there today, was the very first McDonald’s in Fairfax County. After opening that one, Oscar Goldstein and John Gibson, owners of the Gee-Gee Food Corporation, went on to build the largest franchise operation of the McDonald’s chain in the nation until the legendary Ray Kroc bought them out in 1967. 

On Nov. 26, 2023, Chris Barbuschak outlined McDonald’s’ California origins and the restaurants’ spread in the Washington area and around the globe for 60 rapt attendees at a Burke Historical Society meeting in the Pohick Library. Barbuschak, a Burke native, is the Archivist/Librarian for the Virginia Room of the Fairfax Regional Library.

Chris Barbuschak, the November 26 speaker, and Ray Kroc photo


The Gee Gee Food Corporation built the Richmond Highway McDonald’s in three months for $15,000. Barbuschak speculated that they chose the site because U.S. 1 was a major north-south artery, pre-Beltway, pre-Interstate highways. Customers ordered a hamburger for 15 cents at a walk-up window. The company placed ads in several local yearbooks, including the former Groveton, Fort Hunt and Mount Vernon High Schools. 

By 1959, Goldstein and Gibson had built five McDonald’s and were “doing a booming business,” Barbuschak said. In 1960, they opened four more, including one in Baileys Crossroads and one on Duke Street. In 1961, they opened one in McLean, one in Springfield and their first one in Washington, D.C. At the Washington opening, Undersecretary of Agriculture Charles Murphy gobbled up the chain’s 500th million burger. In 1965, their filet of fish “went nationwide,” remarked Barbuschak, “to keep Catholic customers happy on Fridays.” 

By September 1962, the Northern Virginia restaurants were open seven days a week and “Gee Gee was making a killing,” with $3 million in profits a year, said Barbuschak. By this time, their customers had consumed over one million pounds of meat and 100 railroad car loads of potatoes in one year. Gee-Gee owned the restaurants’ land and their business had become “the most successful McDonald’s franchise in history.” McDonald’s now has 25 restaurants in Fairfax County. 

Many original restaurants had distinctive mansard roofs, but over time, most, including the Hybla Valley one, were remodeled and became what Barbuschak called “another boring gray box.” 

Earlier this week, on Nov. 26 at 1:20 p.m., 20 cars were lined up in the drive-through lanes and business was bustling inside that “gray box,” with people loading up Big Macs, quarter pounders, French fries, chicken McNuggets and happy meals. 

Bozo the Clown

In 1960, at the Duke Street McDonald’s opening, thousands cheered Bozo the Clown, a. k. a. Alexandria native Willard Scott. Scott and Ed Walker had started the popular “Joy Boys” WRC comedy radio show in 1955 (“We are the Joy Boys of radio. We chase electrons to and fro!”). 

In 1959, Bozo had become a Channel 4 television phenomenon, a spunky, wide-eyed, McDonald’s’ salesman, imploring, “Kids, get Mom and Dad to take you to McDonald’s!” 

“Bozo made McDonald’s trendy and sales skyrocketed,” remarked Barbuschak. Bozo highlighted 15 more openings.

In 1962, WRC television canceled Bozo and McDonald’s asked Scott to create another mascot, who became Ronald McDonald, “the hamburger happy clown,” with a paper cup nose, flaming red hair, white painted face and a ketchup- and mustard-colored suit. His hat was a tray and he balanced a meal on his belt. 

California Beginnings

Barbuschak traced McDonald’s origins to two brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald, who started with a Depression-era hot dog stand in California and their first McDonald’s restaurant in 1940 in San Bernardino, with car hops and no indoor seating. In 1954, Kroc, a multi-mixer, milkshake machine salesman, joined them and over time built a vast franchise system, what some say is the most successful fast-food company in the world. In 1961, Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers. By 1968, McDonald’s had sold over five billion burgers.

Former President Bill Clinton made headlines for deviating from his jogging route to grab a Big Mac. Former President Donald Trump served over 300 McDonald’s burgers and fries to college football champions in the White House in 2019. 

Today the 1950s 15-cent burger is a Big Mac costing $5.58 on average, the Washington Post reported on Nov. 25.