Ballston, named after reputed relatives of George Washington, the Ball family, began as a crossroads intersection that has been a focal point of the area since about 1740. One of the oldest crossroads in Northern Virginia, what began as Birch’s Crossroads and later became Ball’s Crossroads, this intersection was between roads that led to what became Alexandria and one to Awbrey’s Ferry at Rosslyn.
Development of the area was triggered when, in 1896, the electric trolley line began operating near the crossroads. In the span of four years, the village of Central Ballston had developed. Railway competition and further development of the industry allowed for expansion of the community.
From humble, two-road beginnings, Ballston has become a highly urbanized, highly active area. Within its general boundaries, Ballston contains tall commercial and residential buildings, the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, several U.S. government agencies, university facilities, and the Ballston Common Mall. Much of Ballston’s commerce is centered around Fairfax Drive, but the neighborhood displays a more suburban character a few blocks out. Typical of the area, there are many rowhouses, single-family homes, and charming, tree-lined streets.