Ballston is a neighborhood in Arlington County, Virginia and is home to the Ballston-MU station on the Orange Line of the Metrorail subway system.
Named after the Ball family (relatives of George Washington), whose family cemetery lies in the neighborhood at N. Stafford Street and N. Fairfax Dr. Ballston began as Birch’s Crossroads and later became Ball’s Crossroads at what is now the intersection of North Glebe Road and Wilson Boulevard. This intersection is one of the oldest crossroads in Northern Virginia.
A historical marker that stands at the new Ballston Point complex near the crossroads states:
This intersection has been a focal point since about 1740, when two roads were developed, one from the future site of Alexandria to the mouth of Pimmit Run, the other from Awbury’s Ferry (at the site of Rosslyn) to The Falls Church. The first came to be known as the Glebe Road because it passed the glebe of Fairfax Parish and in order to distinguish it from other roads to the Falls. The second was eventually named Wilson Boulevard in honor of President Wilson. The intersection became known as Ball’s Crossroads when Ball’s Tavern was established here in the early 1800s.
In 1896, an electric trolley line was constructed north of the crossroads along the present route of Fairfax Drive, whose name derives from that of the trolleys’ final destination, Fairfax City. Construction of the trolley line, which branched at Clarendon to serve both Rosslyn and downtown Washington, D.C., temporarily shifted much the area’s development away from the crossroads. A historical marker that stands near the northwest corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Stafford Street, one block east of the Ballston Metrorail station (which is at the former site of the Ballston trolley station) states:
By 1900 a well-defined village called Central Ballston had developed in the area bounded by the present-day Wilson Boulevard, Taylor Street, Washington Boulevard, and Pollard Street. More diffuse settlement extended westward to Lubber Run and southward along Glebe Road to Henderson Road. The track of the Washington, Arlington, and Falls Church Electric Railroad ran along what is now Fairfax Drive; the Ballston Station was at Ballston Avenue, now North Stuart Street. Here Clements Avenue, now Stafford Street, divided to pass on either side of an old Ball family graveyard.
On November 4, 1951, the Parkington Shopping Center opened at the intersection formerly known as Balls Crossroads, on the site of the present Ballston Common Mall. Parkington was anchored by the headquarters location of the Hecht Company and was reputed to have the largest parking garage in the U.S. when it opened. For some time afterward, Ballston became commonly known as Parkington.
Ballston entered a period of decline in the 1960s and 1970s, but grew and changed considerably after the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority opened the Ballston Metrorail station (originally to be called the “Glebe Road” station) on December 1, 1979. The construction of the station necessitated the relocation of the Ballston Volunteer Fire Department located at 911 North Stuart Street. As a condition of the sale of the fire station the volunteer firefighters insisted the name be changed from “Glebe Road” to “Ballston,” thus reviving the “Ballston” name which had all but faded into history.
Ballston is home to tall modern apartment complexes and condominiums, the Ballston Common Mall, the “Best Burger” in Arlington (made by Big Buns Gourmet Grill), and many restaurants and bars. Ballston also boasts a number of parks, trails and open outdoor spaces and a number of people can be seen engaged in some sport on any given evening.