Burke is an unincorporated section of Fairfax County, Virginia. Along the boundaries of adjoining Fairfax Station, Burke Lake Park is an 888-acre park centered on a 218-acre recreational lake. The park contains a 4.68-mile jogging trail, campsites, numerous picnic and sports areas, an 18-hole par three golf course with driving range, a disc golf course, miniature golf course, boat rental, amphitheater, ice cream parlor, carousel, and miniature train ride.Burke is named after Silas Burke (1796–1854), a 19th-century farmer, merchant, and local politician who built a house on a hill overlooking the valley of Pohick Creek in approximately 1824. The house still stands.
When the Orange and Alexandria Railroad was constructed in the late 1840s, the railroad station at the base of that hill was named "Burke's Station" after Burke, who owned the land in the area and donated a right-of-way to the railroad company. The community that grew up around the railroad station acquired a post office branch in 1852. The railroad tracks located on the same historical line are owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway and form part of the Manassas line of the Virginia Railway Express commuter rail system, which has two stations (Rolling Road and Burke Centre) in the Burke area. The original Burke Station building can still be seen in the community, turned 90 degrees from its historical footprint.
During the Civil War, the railway station was garrisoned by Union troops. The Bog Wallow Ambush occurred nearby in 1861. On December 28, 1862, Confederate cavalry under General J.E.B. Stuart raided the station. Stuart seized supplies from the area, destroyed a nearby bridge, monitored Union messages passing over the telegraph lines, and then famously sent a telegram to Union Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs complaining of the poor quality of the mules he had captured. Further action was seen in the neighborhood in 1863.
In 1903, the name of the post office was changed from Burke's Station to "Burke" by Henry C. Copperthite, who bought the Burke House and 241 acres to build a racetrack for trotting and pacing horses. Copperthite was the largest non-governmental employer in Washington, D.C. In 1914, his factory in Georgetown was producing 50,000 pies a day, earning him the nickname the "King of Pie". He built four hotels, stables, and expanded the general store in Burke. Burke soon became a summer getaway from the city's heat for people from all walks of life who came to Burke to attend fairs, see horse races, foot races, motorcycle races, exhibition boxing and baseball games. Special trains ran to Burke from Union Station in D.C., Alexandria, Prince William and Loudoun counties and as far away as Richmond. Copperthite installed the first phones in Burke, and his stables housed the horses of President McKinley and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt. The site of the racetrack was marked by a historic marker erected by Fairfax County in 2016.
The area remained predominantly rural well into the mid-20th century. After World War I, population grew as federal government workers moved into the area, commuting to Washington by train.
In 1951, the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Administration announced plans to condemn 4,520 acres of land in Burke to construct a second airport to serve the Washington metropolitan area. After a lengthy lobbying campaign by area residents, the government in 1958 selected a different site near Chantilly, Virginia, which would become Washington Dulles International Airport. Land that had been purchased to build the airport was later developed into Burke Lake Park and the planned community of Burke Centre.
The first large subdivision in the vicinity, Kings Park, was constructed beginning in 1960, and was followed by many others over the next two decades, converting Burke into a densely populated suburban community.
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Data last updated: Apr 14, 2021 6:51:pm.