Sterling, Virginia is a census-designated place (CDP) in Loudoun County, Virginia. The population as of the 2010 United States Census was 27,822. It is located northwest of Herndon, east of Ashburn, and west of Great Falls, and includes part of Washington Dulles International Airport and the former AOL corporate headquarters. Sterling is also home to the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office LWX (serving the Baltimore–Washington Metropolitan Area), as well as the Sterling Field Support Center, the National Weather Service test, research, and evaluation center for weather instruments.
In the beginning of 1962, large farms made up the 1,762 acres (713 ha) of what today is called Sterling Park. Route 7, also known as Leesburg Pike, bordered what used to be Jesse Hughes’s dairy farm. Hughes arrived in Loudoun County in the early 20th century and was a longtime head of the county’s Democrats. Fred Franklin Tavenner, who was somewhat related to Benjamin Franklin, operated vast stretches of Sterling Farm at the southwest fringes of Sterling Park. Tavenner had purchased land from Albert Shaw, Jr., who had inherited it from his father Albert B. Shaw, editor and publisher of the American Review of Reviews. One of Shaw’s spreads, totaling 1,640 acres (660 ha), was called “The Experimental Farm” because it was one of the first area farms to receive a U.S. grant for applying “scientific methods”, as Tavenner called them. According to Tavenner, refugees from the Soviet Union ran the farm while Shaw remained in New York City.
Dulles International Airport and the extension of water and sewer lines to the airport began to change the landscape when construction started in 1959. Land prices rose from an average $125 per acre ($310/ha) to $500 per acre ($1,200/ha). During the same year, Marvin T. Broyhill, Jr., and his father made plans to develop land in the airport area under the company M.T. Broyhill & Sons Corporation. In late 1961, they decided to buy and incorporated Sterling Park Development Corporation with his son Marvin T. Broyhill, president, and a cousin, Thomas J. Broyhill, as vice president. Between April 28, and December 29, 1961 of that year, they purchased 1,762 acres (713 ha) in 14 parcels for $2,115,784. For the 226-acre (91 ha) Hughes farm along Route 7, they paid $1,700 per acre ($4,200/ha).
M.T. Broyhill & Sons Corporation learned where the right-of-way for Route 28 (Sully Road) would be, and hoped to develop Sterling Park on both sides of it, so they would not have to build a road through Sterling Park. However, Powell B. Harrison, who was instrumental in planning Route 28, insisted that road be kept generally free of development, for easy access to the airport. Therefore, the Broyhills developed Sterling Park east of Route 28, and had to build their own through road, today’s Sterling Boulevard.
Marvin Broyhill, Jr.’s marketing thoughts were to “put together a prefabricated home marketed by U.S. Steel and sell it for about $17,000 [that is] 3,000 less than a comparable Fairfax County home . . . All homes to have air‑conditioning. Homeowners to have access without membership fees to golf and tennis courts and pools.” Air conditioning was uncommon in homes of that price range at the time. Broyhill’s ideas, except for free golf, are realities today. As selling points, Loudoun’s taxes were less than half of Fairfax’s taxes; Washington was a half-hour away, and the elder Broyhill envisioned commuter trains on the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad, which since 1951, had carried only freight. The railroad tracks were the southern boundary of the present Sterling Park.
Sterling Park residents had to be of the “Caucasian Race”. No board member or speaker before the board raised an objection to the clause, a common one in the United States before the 1960s, when discriminatory housing was outlawed by the Fair Housing Act, which was enacted as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. No African American family moved into Sterling Park until August 1966, when the illegality of the clause became apparent. By then, the population of “The Park”, as it had come to be known, reached 5,000.
The Broad Run Bridge and Tollhouse, Vestal’s Gap Road and Lanesville Historic District, and Arcola Elementary School are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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