The year is 1861. The American Civil War is beginning. The Orange and Alexandria Railroad has built a railroad line that runs west of Alexandria, Virginia to supply Union troops as they are about to begin their campaign against the Confederacy in Manassas. Along this line, Devereux was established as the southernmost post for the Union army. While here, camps were set up along a nearby creek, soldiers were housed, and small battles were fought.
When the war was over, a man by the name of Harrison Otis purchased the station. He first tried to plant vineyards, but he was unsuccessful. He later built a hotel, and it became a retreat for Washington’s wealthy. Saloons and houses were built making it into a town that would be named Clifton.
Today, the railroad line still passes through Clifton although it no longer stops there. A big red caboose sits next to the railroad crossing at the spot the station once stood. It still remains an out-of-the-way town with no traffic lights or a major roadway passing through. As you walk through this town, it still has that small town feeling. You do not even realize that you are in a major metropolitan region. Most of the original structures that were built in the 1860’s still remain although the hotel is now the Hermitage Restaurant, and the famed Buckley Store is now the Heart and Hand Restaurant. Another notable structure is the high school, the oldest in Fairfax County. Most of the students came to the school by train. The town was also the first town in the county to have electricity.
Along with the structures, many famous people visited the town. Actress Helen Hayes had her summer retreats in the town. Another notable person was screenwriter Jeff Arch. It was in this town where the screenplay for Sleepless in Seattle was written. The house where it was written is located on Main Street, and you can see it on the Walking Tour.
Clifton, Virginia is about five miles southwest of Fairfax. It is accessible from Virginia Route 123 and from Route 620. You can learn more about the town and it many events at http://clifton-va.com.