Today’s Fairlingtonians have a large array of commercial, shopping, and service amenities available to them. The first Fairlingtonians, however, were not so fortunate:
“By the summer of 1943, nearly 1,000 families were already in residence, with another 150 moving in every month. They arrived to find no schools, no stores, no paved streets, inadequate garbage pickup and almost no public transportation… The proposed shopping center was nowhere to be seen…. ‘No matter how you plan, you forget an item or two,’ one Fairlington resident complained. ‘I even bought a bike to ride back and forth to the store – but there isn’t any store to ride to.’”*
The Shirlington Shopping Center, intended to serve the new residents of Fairlington and also of Park Fairfax, then being built across Shirley Highway, began construction in 1943 and opened its first store a year later.** Following shortly afterwards was the Fairlington Shopping Center, along Fern Street and Quaker Lane in South Fairlington, and, more than a decade later in 1957, was the Bradlee Shopping Center along King Street.***
As Fairlington’s conversion to condominiums approached in the 1970’s, office and commercial
centers along Leesburg Pike were built: Skyline, built when Metro plans called for a westward line
under Columbia Pike – the line was ultimately located along I-66 – and Bailey’s Crossroads – where
Hachaliah Bailey, of the circus family, bought land in 1837 as the winter home for his circus
In 2000, the Shirlington center was reinvented as an ‘urban village,’ and an arts enclave, with mixed
use apartment and commercial construction, the Arlington Public Library branch, and the Signature
Theater. A decade later, the Bradlee center was updated and a new Safeway grocery store added.
And, there is more to come. The construction of the new Gateway mixed use commercial and
residential project at King and Beauregard Streets is expected to open next year and plans have been
announced for the residential re-development of the office buildings along Ford Road, across King
Street from North Fairlington.
With the built environment around us constantly evolving and changing, Fairlington continues to be
an oasis. Our buildings and grounds, though renovated, reinvented, and converted from rental to
condominium homes, are still used for their original purposes.
- *Catherine D Fellows, Fairlington at Fifty. The Fairlington Historical Society, 2012.
- **Fairlington-Shirlington Neighborhood Conservation Plan, FCA, 2013.
- ***“After the War Alexandrians Flocked to Shopping Centers,’ Alexandria Times, May 23, 2013.
- ****“Skyline House: The History of Bailey’s Crossroads (Adapted from a History by Susan Flimmer)”. Falls Church, Virginia: SHUOA: Skyline House Unit Owners Association. June 2, 2014.