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"Dunbarton: Dranesville, Virginia"

Author: Charles Preston Poland, Jr.

Publisher: Fairfax County Office of Comprehensive Planning (1982)


Dranesville Elementary School, and the Dranesville Magisterial District, take their names from one of the five lost towns of Fairfax County. All but erased by the passage of time, the lost towns include Colchester, Dranesville, Matildaville, Union Mills, and Wiehle. These once vibrant communities of homes and businesses played an important role in the history of Fairfax County.


In 1810, Washington Drane moved to what is today the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Leesburg Pike.  He opened an ordinary–a combination hotel, store, and saloon–and named it Drane’s Tavern. Ordinaries provided lodging, food, and drink for travelers, halls for local entertainment, stabling for animals, and meeting places for community members. It was a two-day trip by wagon from Leesburg to Alexandria and Georgetown. Recognizing this, Washington Drane located his ordinary at the halfway point in the journey. Soon the area around Drane’s tavern flourished. A church, a post office, a store, doctor’s offices, residences, and four more taverns opened.  In 1840, the thriving village of Dranesville took on legal status when Virginia recognized it as a town.


During the American Civil War, the town of Dranesville became a battleground when opposing forces of the Union and Confederate armies encountered one another along Leesburg Pike. On December 20, 1861, Confederate Brigadier General J.E.B. Stuart led a force of 4,000 infantry and cavalry north from their winter quarters at Centreville to obtain provisions and to try and learn the whereabouts of the Union Army. That same morning, Union General Edward O.C. Ord led 10,000 soldiers west from the village of Langley, intent on clearing out any Rebel forces that were stationed along Leesburg Pike. At the village of Colvin Run, General Ord divided his forces in half, sending 5,000 troops further up the pike and leaving the rest to protect his army from being cut off from their base at Langley. The opposing armies met at the town of Dranesville.  After a two-hour-long firefight, General Ord’s soldiers forced General Stuart and his army to retreat. The Battle of Dranesville became the first victory of the Union Army in the eastern theater of the war.


The town of Dranesville reached its peak in the 19th century and gradually declined throughout the 20th century.  The creation of the railroad from Alexandria to Leesburg in the 1850s, followed by the invention of the automobile several decades later, slowly faded Dranesville’s importance. The widening of Leesburg Pike in the late 1960s led to the demolition of many of the older buildings in the town.


Product details:

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0007220N6
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Fairfax County Office of Comprehensive Planning (January 1, 1982)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Softcover Binding ‏ : ‎ 128 pages



Dunbarton: Dranesville, Virginia

SKU: FCH7220
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