It is obvious when you look at the large overhead signs, I-95 is the interstate running outside the beltway and I-395 runs inside the beltway to DC. However if someone asks you how to get to DC and you say take Shirley Highway then you know you are a "native" of Northern Virginia. Officially Shirley Highway runs from the Pentagon to just north of Route 1 in Woodbridge. The start of the construction of the highway started in 1941 and lasted until 1952 when the four lane road was completed. Originally known as the Fort Belvoir bypass the road was renamed for Henry Shirley who was the first the first highway commissioner in Virginia.
Our first family home was just outside DC on Shirley Highway in the Parkfairfax neighborhood. Built in 1941 as an apartment complex to alleviate a housing shortage for government workers the neighborhood today is thriving condominium complex known for it's hilly streets, landscaped courtyards and ease of commuting back to the city.
Parkfairfax-Two Past Presidents Called it Home and So Could You
A few more miles down Shirley Highway is the famous or is that the infamous Springfield Interchange? Before there was a need for 50 ramps and 20 lanes to get commuters past Springfield there was an airport instead. In 1945 part of the area that is now part of the north bound lanes of Shirley Highway (I-95) was the unpaved 3000 foot runway that was part of Springfield Airport.
Even after the airport disappeared in the early 1950's Springfield was still a rural community just being discovered by families. With new homes in central Springfield starting at $16,000 it was the perfect place to move and still be able to work in the city. Families flocked to the area and over the years the small sleepy area grew and spread into North Springfield, West Springfield and even though there isn't officially an East Springfield development went that direction as well.
As prices in closer in areas in Fairfax County began to escalate and families started looking for bigger and newer the migration further south on Shirley Highway to Prince William County began. Commuting options began to expand and along with it the neighborhoods of Lake Ridge began to grow. Starting in the late 1970's when the visitor center opened at Old Bridge and Harbor Drive until today Lake Ridge has been a popular choice for anyone who wanted to live in large community with a "small town" feel.
Now Shirley Highway is a thing of the past. The small green signs are still there if you look for them. They are dwarfed by the the large signs for I-95 or I-395 headed north and south from DC into Virginia. Your GPS won't direct you to take Shirley Highway but a native of the area may. Don't be alarmed they haven't lost their minds it is just a habit that is hard to break.
If you are interested in learning more about any of the neighborhoods along the 17.3 mile stretch of the original Shirley Highway give me a call at 703-346-2213. No hassle, no pressure just straight talk about whether now is the right time for you to buy a new home in Northern Virginia.