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Out and About Hickory Farms

Why is There Only One Hickory Farms Home on Burke Station Road?

Hickory Farms was built in three phases:

Properties for these phases were purchased and developed at slightly different times from 1975 to 1981. Where the house at 4306 Burke Station Road is now located was originally supposed to be the entrance off Burke Station Road into Phase I. However, VDOT wouldn't approve the entrance there as it was on the "deadman's curve" by the north end of the cemetery and there was not enough line-of-sight on northbound Burke Station Road. Accordingly, the builder had to come up with a different location, which was put across from the entrance to the cemetery. Since the builder owned the property on Burke Station Road and a road was not be built there, it then made sense to place a home there, too.

Fairfax Memorial Park

Under canon law, Catholics in the 1950s had to be buried in a bishop-approved cemetery, and there was a perceived shortage of such space in Northern Virginia. Cornelius H. Doherty, Sr., attorney to Richmond Bishop Peter Leo Ireton (As in Alexandria's Bishop Ireton High School), addressed the need and purchased the 181-acre O'Roark and Taliaferro tracts near the corner of Burke Station and Braddock Roads. Thus began Calvary Memorial Park. Although Doherty was offered an adjacent 40-acre tract, he decided to take a pass. This tract was purchased several years later by a different entity that developed it as Fairfax Memory Gardens. Calvary Memorial Park was dedicated in July 1957. The initial cost of a cemetery plot was $125 and the first deceased to be buried was one George A. Cunney, who was interred only one week after the cemetery was dedicated. By 1966, Calvary had become non-sectarian, opening its plots to persons of all faiths. Facing the financial burden of paying loan interest and property taxes on still undeveloped property, the cemetery owners in 1974 agreed to sell 95 acres in the southeast corner to Bo-Bud Construction Company, who subsequently developed the Somerset South community of homes. By 1976, having two side-by-side cemeteries didn't seem to make sense, so Fairfax Memory Gardens agreed to be acquired by Calvary. Calvary was interested in the property because it would be an ideal site for a funeral home, which was finally constructed in 2003. The newly combined cemetery was christened Fairfax Memorial Park. Nevertheless, over 30 years later, some maps continue to identify the cemeteries by the old names.

Starting in the 1990s, the cemetery and funeral home industries underwent consolidation as large chains purchased small family owned properties (Service Corp. International, with 2,000+ properties, is the largest). Fairfax Memorial resisted the temptation and, to this day is still run by the Doherty family. Hickory Farms and Fairfax Memorial Park are more than just neighbors. The cemetery owns 4377 Harvester Farm, where the assistant superintendent lives. In the aftermath of 911, the cemetery added a beautiful memorial (near the flower shop) to the victims of these attacks, four of whom reside in the cemetery. Fairfax Memorial Park is the final resting place for a number of notables, including:

George Mason University

Hickory Farms’ biggest and most notable neighbor is nearby George Mason University. Looking at today’s Mason, one of Virginia's largest higher educational institutions with over 35,000 students, faculty, and staff, it is difficult to believe that it began in a humble eight-room elementary school with only 17 students in 1957.

The story of GMU begins in 1949, when Colgate W. Darden Jr., President of the University of Virginia, organized a committee of local citizens to find support for higher education in Northern Va. Responding to that need, the General Assembly established a two-year branch in northern Virginia in 1956. The newly christened University College of the University of Virginia then began a search for a permanent location.

With classes slated to begin in the fall of 1957, the new school leased an old elementary school building at Bailey's Crossroads. Classes began that fall with an initial enrollment of 17. This building served as the home for University College for the next seven years.

In 1959, a permanent location was chosen for a two year UVa extension school, to be known as the George Mason College of the University of Virginia (GMC). The Town of Fairfax donated a large parcel of land for the new college. In 1963, after six years of branch status and classes at Bailey's Crossroads, GMC broke ground at the site of the new Fairfax Campus. By August 1964, the new campus was nearly complete and students and faculty assisted the movers in the transfer of material and equipment from Bailey's Crossroads. In September 1963, the Fairfax Campus opened to an enrollment of 356 students.

In 1966, the General Assembly authorized GMC to become a four-year degree-granting college. Over the next year the student population increased to 1,128 with a faculty of 83. GMC granted its first bachelor’s degrees in 1968 to a graduating class of 52 students. The next year, Governor Godwin signed a deed conveying to GMC 415 additional acres of land, expanding the school to its existing boundaries. In 1972, the Virginia General Assembly enacted legislation which separated GMC from the University of Virginia. Independent George Mason University how had a student enrollment of 4,166.

During the next five years, George Mason's history is characterized by the expansion of the brand-new university's academic programs, physical plant, and infrastructure. Buildings critical to the growth of academics and student life at Mason, such as Student Union I and the Fenwick Library Tower (1974), Robinson Hall (1975), and the first student housing on campus (1977) began to sprout up. Even with the new buildings, George Mason was short of classrooms and had to use other facilities, such as the old Fairfax High School, the current home of St. Paul VI High School (The author attended graduate business school in that building 1976-78).

During George Johnson’s tenure as president (1978-1996), GMU greatly increased its stature. Enrollment climbed from 9,600 to 23,000. The University merged with the International School of Law in Arlington to form the George Mason University School of Law in 1979. The School of Information Technology and Engineering, the first of its kind in the Nation, was formed in 1985. Professor James Buchanan won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1986. The Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study was launched in 1991, and the Center for History and New Media in 1994.

Mason continues to build a national and international reputation. Since 1996, enrollment has jumped from 23,000 to over 30,000 and a significant number live on campus. The Prince William campus was opened. In 2001, Mason started the National Biodefense Center at the Prince William campus, and professor Vernon L. Smith won the Nobel Prize for Economics the following year. The astonishing Men's Basketball team made a history making run to the 2006 NCAA Final Four, only losing in the tournament to the national champion, the University of Florida. And, theRas al Khaimah Campus in the United Arab Emirites, conceived in 2005, has become the University's newest campus. With students from over 140 countries, Mason is one of the most diverse institutions of higher learning in the US.

Mason has indeed come a long way in a short 51 years - from a tiny branch college of the University of Virginia to a major nationally recognized university. We are proud to have it as our neighbor.

Adapted from

Kirk Randall - Mason MBA ’78 (Written 2008)

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