Northern Virginia Communities: Ballston

When I first moved to the DC area in 1978, Ballston was an area of homes, seedy shops, and an aging mall. Now, 30+ years later, it’s a teeming business area of Arlington, Virginia. I thought I’d find out a little about it’s background and growth, and this is what showed up in Wikipedia.

Named after the Ball family (relatives of George Washington), whose family cemetery lies in the neighborhood at N. Stafford Street and N. Fairfax Dr. Ballston began as Birch’s Crossroads and later became Ball’s Crossroads at what is now the intersection of North Glebe Road and Wilson Boulevard. This intersection is one of the oldest crossroads in Northern Virginia.

In 1896, an electric trolley line was constructed north of the crossroads along the present route of Fairfax Drive, whose name derives from that of the trolleys’ final destination, Fairfax City. Construction of the trolley line, which branched at Clarendon to serve both Rosslyn and downtown Washington, D.C., temporarily shifted much the area’s development away from the crossroads.

On November 4, 1951, the Parkington Shopping Center opened at the intersection formerly known as Balls Crossroads, on the site of the present Ballston Common Mall. Parkington was anchored by the headquarters location of the Hecht Company and was reputed to have the largest parking garage in the U.S. when it opened. For some time afterward, Ballston became commonly known as Parkington.

Ballston entered a period of decline in the 1960s and 1970s, but grew and changed considerably after the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority opened the Ballston Metrorail station (originally to be called the “Glebe Road” station) on December 1, 1979. The construction of the station necessitated the relocation of the Ballston Volunteer Fire Department located at 911 North Stuart Street. As a condition of the sale of the fire station the volunteer firefighters insisted the name be changed from “Glebe Road” to “Ballston,” thus reviving the “Ballston” name which had all but faded into history.

Ballston is home to tall modern apartment complexes and condominiums, the Ballston Common Mall, and many restaurants and bars. Ballston also boasts a number of parks, trails and open outdoor spacesand a number of people can be seen engaged in some sport on any given evening.

Ballston is home to several U.S. government agencies and organizations including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, DARPA (the funding agency for the original Internet research), and the Office of Naval Research, as well as non-profit groups, such as The Nature Conservancy. Additionally, many government contractors and high tech companies have offices in Ballston such as CACI, SAIC, and Accenture.

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