One spring day several years ago, Ed Calabria was preparing a backyard garden bed for his tomatoes when his tiller dug up a few small metal objects buried among the worms.
“They were Civil War bullets,” said Calabria, who lives on Center Avenue in Old Town Fairfax in Northern Virginia. “But that is not unusual around here. Bullets, belt buckles and other things from that time period often bubble to surface while people are digging in their yards.”
That sense of a direct connection to history, combined with the modern conveniences of Fairfax, are the allure for many who live in the part of Fairfax that is commonly known as Old Town.
A residential and commercial area within the Fairfax limits, Old Town Fairfax is anchored by a centralized retail complex at the intersection of Main Street (Route 236) and Chain Bridge Road (Route 123).
“We had been looking all over Northern Virginia,” said Diane Sartori, who lives in the newly developed Farrcroft community. “We loved the charm of Fairfax ... and we wanted to be part of a neighborhood. This is a unique community because it is a brand-new neighborhood with a pool and other amenities amid the charms of a historic area.”
Initially named the town of Providence by the Virginia General Assembly in 1805, Fairfax has long been a commercial and government hub. President George Washington’s will was filed in the same Fairfax courthouse where Union troops established their headquarters in the Civil War. The courthouse was the site of a surprise raid by Confederate Gen. John S. Mosby and his soldiers, who snuck into the courthouse and captured several Union commanders and troops. Little River Turnpike was the main north-south route during those years, and troop encampments account for the random discovery of Civil War artifacts. While there was little growth in the town immediately after the war, in 1904, a trolley was built connecting Fairfax with Washington, D.C.
Karen Stevenson moved to her 1919 Victorian four-square home in the Cedar Lane neighborhood 25 years ago after searching the area for a historic house that she could renovate.
“I chose this house and this neighborhood because it was on a big lot,” said Stevenson, who serves as president of Historic Fairfax City Inc., an organization that works to preserve historic sites. “I looked everywhere, and the problem with many historic houses is that the lots have been reduced to the size of a postage stamp.”
People seem to move to Fairfax and stay, said Ed’s wife, Sandy Calabria.
 “It seems to be out of the way enough, but still in the middle of everything. You can be anywhere in a few minutes,” she added.
Sandy Calabria’s observation proved to be true for longtime residents such as Gladys Potterton, who has lived in Old Town Fairfax most of her life and remembers riding the trolley to piano lessons in Vienna. Back then, in the 1930s, her parents owned a Chevrolet dealership on Main Street and her grandparents ran the only general store.
“I grew up here and when I got married, my husband bought our first house here,” she said. “We lived in Centreville for a while, but we moved back here. This is my home and I have always felt comfortable here.”

At a glance:

February 2008
Average sold price for homes in the 22030 ZIP code: $479,568.
Average list price for homes sold in the 22030 ZIP code: $524,651.
Average days on the market for homes sold: 113.

February 2009
Average sold price for homes in the 22030 ZIP code: $378,473.
Average list price for homes sold in the 22030 ZIP code: $415,978.
Average days on the market for homes sold: 109.

Top reasons to live in Old Town Fairfax:

Historic location and city amenities: It’s hard to beat the location — the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Metro station and Route 66 make commuting to jobs in Washington, D.C., reasonable. Because Old Town is within the Fairfax limits, town residents enjoy all the city’s services and conveniences but keep the small-town feel appropriate to the town’s population of about 21,000.

Convenient shopping: While there is plenty of wide-open space in Old Town, there are ample places to find everyday needs such as groceries, and excellent shopping at nearby malls.

Active civic associations and a variety of communities: There are several citizens associations that work to increase the quality of life as well as preserve the many historic sites. Although there are many old and historic homes to choose from, there are also several recently developed communities such as Farrcroft homes and Providence Square condominiums that offer a variety of housing options.

Great schools: The city of Fairfax operates its own school district. The two elementary schools as well as Lanier Middle School and Fairfax High School are among the highest ranked schools in the area.