Few factors have influenced Fairlington more than the need to get around. From the 1770’s and
John Carlyle’s horse breeding at his Moven plantation (located roughly at 30th and South Columbus
Streets) – to the 2018 vote by Fairlingtonians living along I-395 and its King Street exit about
whether sound barriers should be constructed as HOT lanes are extended toward the District of
Columbia – transportation has been a continuing preoccupation.
The Carlyle plantation and its surroundings remained largely rural into the late 1870’s. When the
plantation was sold to Courtland Hawkins Smith in 1879, it was renamed Hampton, but the
tradition of horse breeding continued with stables standing about where the Fairlington firehouse
In the decades before Fairlington was built, part of what is now South Fairlington was used as a
landing field. “One patch in South Fairlington was used as a landing field: “It wasn’t much of a
landing field. Didn’t have a hangar or a name.” The field ceased being used as an air strip around
1934 when “the residents of nearby Seminary Hill banned local flying activities after a fatal crash.”
When construction began in 1942, Shirley Highway (now I-395) ended at Fairlington and, as the first
residents arrived, transportation continued to be a concern. “Housewives had to walk up to threequarters
of a mile along unpaved streets and across muddy fields, children in tow, to the town’s only
bus stop, there to wait for one of the two buses a day that linked the community to downtown
Alexandria; all that to buy even as little as a quart of milk… Those who worked at the Pentagon or
other government buildings had to tramp through the same muddy streets and fields and wait in
long lines, sometimes for hours, for the same overcrowded buses; it took them up to two hours
sometimes to travel the few miles to work.”
By the time of Fairlington’s conversion to condominiums in the mid-1970’s, significant
transportation improvements had been made. The construction of Metro, the addition of bus
routes to the Pentagon and Ballston Metro stations, and the addition of express lanes on I-395 all
contributed to greater choices – if not to greater speed – in getting around and in to the District.
More recently, a bus terminal was constructed in Shirlington; bicycle lanes have been added as street
repaving occurred; rental bicycles were offered; and an electric car charging station was installed in
North Fairlington. All in the interests of advancing the choices for getting around.
- All quotations from Catherine D Fellows, Fairlington at Fifty. The Fairlington Historical Society, 2012.
- Photos courtesy National Archives