The area of Fairfax County known as Burke is named for Silas Burke (1796–1854), a 19th-century farmer, merchant, and local politician who built a house on a hill overlooking the valley of Pohick Creek in approximately 1824. The house is still standing. When the Orange and Alexandria Railroad was constructed in the late 1840s, the railroad station at the base of that hill was named "Burke's Station" after Burke, who owned the land in the area and donated a right-of-way to the railroad company. The community that grew up around the railroad station acquired a post office branch in 1852. Currently, railroad tracks on the same historical line are owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway and form part of the Manassas line of the Virginia Railway Express commuter rail system, of which two stations lie in the Burke area. The original Burke Station building can still be seen in the community, turned 90 degrees from its historical footprint.
In 1903, the name of the post office was changed from Burke's Station to "Burke" by Henry C. Copperthite, who bought the Burke House and 241 acres to build a racetrack for trotting and pacing horses. Copperthite was the largest non-governmental employer in Washington, D.C., and he was the "King of Pie". In 1914 his factory in Georgetown was turning out 50,000 pies a day. He built four hotels, stables, and expanded the general store in Burke. Burke soon became a summer getaway from the city's heat for people from all walks of life who came to the Copperthite track and to Burke to attend fairs, see horse races, foot races, motorcycle races, exhibition boxing and baseball games. There were special trains that ran from Union Station in D.C., Alexandria, Prince William and Loudoun counties and as far away as Richmond. Copperthite installed the first phones in Burke, and his stables housed the horses of President McKinley and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt. The site of the racetrack was marked by a historic marker erected by Fairfax County in 2016.
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Data last updated: Oct 26, 2021 12:15:am.