The original Fairfax County Courthouse, built near the present Tysons Corner, likely marked the first European settlement in the Vienna area. Street names such as Old Courthouse Road and Lawyers Road still reflect that origin.
Perhaps the first settler within the present Vienna town limits was Colonel Charles Broadwater, a prominent colonial soldier and public servant, who owned much of the land in the Vienna region and built his home here in 1754. In the 1760s, John Hunter, a native of Ayr County in Scotland, married Col. Broadwater's daughter. Partly by marriage and partly by purchase, he succeeded Col. Broadwater as the Vienna area's principal landowner. It was John Hunter who built the first house of record within the town of Vienna in 1767 and called it Ayr Hill after his native land.
As the village grew, it assumed the name Ayr Hill, by which it was known for a hundred years. Large estates were gradually lessened by sale or gifts. However, few houses were built in the village, and for a hundred years after the building of Ayr Hill there were scarcely more than eight houses in the town itself.
The railroad reached Vienna in 1858 and provided impetus for growth into a real village. Known then as the Loudoun & Hampshire, it started at Alexandria and was planned to extend to the rich coal fields of Hampshire County, but natural barriers and the Civil War prevented the materialization of this plan. At this time, Vienna had one main road, known as the Old Georgetown Road, which twisted and turned to avoid mud holes and rocks.
When the Civil War broke out, Vienna became an alternate camping ground for the two contending forces. This was a confusing time for residents. It was hard to tell friend from foe, and the area changed hands so often that many families moved away for the duration of the war. The fifth skirmish of the war, part of the First Battle of Manassas, took place near the Park Street railroad crossing where the Vienna Community Center now stands. This incident marked the first time in history a railroad was used tactically in battle. A year or more after the war was over, troops were still encamped in the village and bugle calls awakened residents at an early hour.
Vienna in 1940 was still a small, quiet, rural town with a "population of 1,237" and virtually untouched by the metropolitan character of the nation's capital. The town began to take on a new look in the 1950s when many businesses started to move from the old commercial section on Church Street to Maple Avenue. The post-World War II rush to the suburbs brought a burgeoning of population to Northern Virginia, almost 10,000 new residents to Vienna alone, their new houses blending with those of an earlier era.
In 1954, the first of Vienna's modern shopping centers was opened. More shopping centers followed in quick succession along a widened Maple Avenue in an attempt to keep up with the influx of newcomers who bought homes in the town's new subdivisions. Older residents recall with nostalgia the Victorian homes and the maple trees that lined Maple Avenue before it was widened in 1958.
Population around Vienna increased rapidly, leading to the establishment of Fairfax Hospital, the county's first hospital, in 1961; construction of Dulles International Airport in 1962; the opening of Tysons Corner Center in 1968; and opening of the Vienna Metrorail station in 1986. In town, the Vienna Community Center was dedicated in 1966, and in 1971 the Patrick Henry Library opened.
Despite the many changes that have occurred since Vienna became a town over 100 years ago, it has retained a sense of pride in community, and its people have worked successfully to preserve many of the traditions and institutions that provide residents with the feeling of living in a small town.
The Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
Founded by the late Catherine Filene Shouse through a donation of 100 acres of her farmland in Vienna, the Filene Center at Wolf Trap is a 6,800-seat indoor and outdoor theatre. The theatre runs on average 90 performances a year with the center running from the end of May to the beginning of September. Performances include an eclectic selection of opera, dance, pop and country, performance art and multimedia presentations. Wolf Trap serves as a valuable asset in the local and national performing arts communities by providing a wide range of artistic and educational programs, further enhancing out nation's cultural life.