- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 6, 2005

In Colonial times, the fastest growing section of Northern Virginia was Alexandria, a bustling port city filled with merchants, ship owners and sailors. Today, the fastest growing county in Northern Virginia is Loudoun County. The road that links these two communities, Route 7, also connects the 19th century to the 21st century.

Along Route 7 are historic cities and towns such as Alexandria and Leesburg, as well as Berryville and Winchester farther west. Each has grown and changed through the years, but each retains a historic district with landmark buildings.

Between Alexandria and Leesburg are high-tech centers in Tysons Corner, Falls Church, Reston and Sterling, each of which has grown from a bedroom community into an economic center of its own.

The well-worn path of Route 7, known as Harry Byrd Highway in Loudoun County, Leesburg Pike in Fairfax County, Broad Street in Falls Church and King Street in Alexandria, replaced Vestal’s Gap Road in the early 1820s as the main link between Alexandria and points west.

Vestal’s Gap Road is likely to have begun as an animal trail that was later used by indigenous American Indians.

During Colonial times, the path became an important transportation route. Remnants of the old road are designated by historic markers near Dulles Town Center as well as at Keyes Gap — formerly Vestal’s Gap — on the Virginia-West Virginia state line on Route 9, northwest of Leesburg.

Route 7 now veers west from Leesburg, diverging from the old Vestal’s Gap Road, skirting the Loudoun County villages of Purcellville and Round Hill. It crosses the Blue Ridge at Snickers Gap into Clarke County, where a bridge carries it across the Shenandoah River, heading west past Berryville and into Frederick County, where it ends at Winchester.

Leesburg Pike eventually was widened to accommodate increasing commerce between the farms of Loudoun and Fairfax counties and the port of Alexandria. Tobacco and other products were delivered to the port along this road.

The quaint streets of Old Town Alexandria, lined with antique stores, shops and restaurants, draw thousands of tourists each year to such sites as Gadsby’s Tavern and Christ Church. Art lovers also visit Old Town Alexandria in throngs, sampling the art in small galleries and in the Torpedo Factory, where working artists’ studios can be observed.

While merchant ships no longer ply the Potomac River, pleasure boats can be found in abundance at the marinas of Old Town. Eighteenth-century homes have been preserved and enhanced with modern amenities and now are often valued at more than $1,000,000. Newer homes can also be found in and near Old Town Alexandria, where the residents can often walk to work, shop and dine.

Ryan Homes is building new luxury homes just beyond the eastern end of Route 7 at Collingwood Estates, a wooded community near Mount Vernon in Alexandria. Six homes will be built, priced from the $1,410,000s. Call 703/347-6472 or visit www.ryanhomes.com.

NVHomes is building eight homes at Mount Vernon Chase in Alexandria. Priced from the mid-$900,000s and built on third-acre lots. Call 703/360-4787 or visit the Web site (www.nvhomes.com).

Shopping appears to be the main focus of Seven Corners, the original downtown of Fairfax County before the construction of the Capital Beltway in the 1960s.

Seven Corners, where Route 7 intersects with Wilson Boulevard, Lee Highway (U.S. Route 29), U.S. Route 50 and Sleepy Hollow Road, includes retail centers and service businesses along with office buildings, including the area’s first regional mall, Seven Corners Shopping Center.

Just off Route 7 near Seven Corners is the resort-like community of Lake Barcroft, where diplomats, politicians, lawyers and other professionals live in homes surrounding a lake with beaches and boating.

West of Seven Corners is Bailey’s Crossroads, which earned its name as the winter home of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Government contractors and federal offices dominate the high-rise office buildings in this part of Fairfax County, which includes Skyline City, a mixed-use development of offices, residences, retail shops, movie theaters and a fitness center.

Farther west, the 300-year-old community of Falls Church has gradually been transformed from a dairy farm community to a high-tech center, yet the neighborhood still has a strong historic identity.

Victorian-style homes line the quiet village streets of Falls Church, an incorporated city that provides its own police department and school system.

Carrhomes Inc. is building seven single-family homes, priced from $1,400,000 at Chestnut Hill in Falls Church, nestled on wooded homesites placed on a cul-de-sac. Call 703/689-3719 or visit www.carrhomes.com.

Restaurants, shopping centers and entertainment venues are found along Route 7 leading into the bustling section of Fairfax County known as Tysons Corner.

Primarily a commercial and retail center, Tysons Corner is Virginia’s largest market for office space and one of the United States’ leading business centers. Small shopping centers, two regional malls, hotels and restaurants fill the Route 7 corridor, while high-rises with more than 20 million square feet of office space occupy the rest of the area.

Luxurious condominiums and a small number of town homes and single-family homes provide residential space in this area.

NVHomes is selling 92 town homes at Tysons Reserve in Tysons Corner, with prices starting at $1,000,000 and up. Nearby, 14 single-family homes priced from $1,500,000 and up will be built at the Crossing at Tysons Corner.

At Tysons Forest in Falls Church, six single-family homes will be built on third-acre homesites, priced from $1,700,000 and higher. Call 703/893-8180 for all three communities or visit www.nvhomes.com.

West of Tysons Corner, Route 7 crosses the Dulles Toll Road, a dividing line between commercial and residential development. Instead of high-rise offices and shopping centers, the few businesses on this stretch of Route 7 are mostly garden centers and farms.

Upscale residential developments in McLean and Great Falls to the north of Route 7, and in Vienna and Reston to the south include custom mansions in a variety of styles from Colonial to contemporary. Residents and visitors from throughout the Washington area flock to Wolf Trap for summer outdoor concerts and theater, and to the Barns at Wolf Trap for more intimate musical performances in the cooler months.

Great Falls, known for its large homes and equestrian centers, is also home of Great Falls Park, where the Potomac River rushes through a mile-long gorge. Wooded homesites and meadows with horses grazing are common sites on the winding side roads of Great Falls, which also has a village center with shops and restaurants.

Some of the most expensive homes in the Washington area are found in Great Falls, where most properties are valued at more than $1,000,000.

New developments in Great Falls include the Gulick Group’s community at Grovemont. The estate homes are placed on homesites with up to 2 acres, with some backing to parkland. Prices begin in the $2,000,000s. Call 703/856-3755 or visit www.GulickGroup.com.

At Marquette in Great Falls, Keswick is building custom homes on 2-acre homesites, priced from $2,700,000. Call 703/288-3020 or visit www.BrookfieldWashington.com.

On the southern side of Route 7 is Reston. Now more than 40 years old, this planned community is home to more than 62,000 residents and has more than 53,000 jobs.

The “live, work and play” motto of the community is met by the wide variety of home sizes and styles, high-rise and low-rise commercial development, and recreational amenities including lakes, swimming pools, tennis courts, ball fields and miles of walking trails.

The urban-style Reston Town Center includes a movie theater, shops, restaurants of every variety and an outdoor ice rink that becomes a summer concert venue.

Homes in Reston run the gamut from condominiums both affordable and upscale, town homes of all sizes and prices, and single-family homes in Victorian, Colonial and contemporary styles.

As Route 7 travels from Fairfax County into Loudoun County, commercial and residential development expand. Shopping centers, service businesses and offices line Route 7 in Dulles and Sterling, including the Cascades Marketplace and the Dulles Town Center shopping mall, which opened in 1999.

A campus of the Northern Virginia Community College is located in Sterling just off Route 7, and the area is home to such well-known high-tech employers as America Online, MCI and Orbital Science Corp.

Beginning with the construction of Washington Dulles International Airport in the 1960s, the Sterling/Dulles area of Loudoun County has continued to attract commercial, retail and residential development.

Some of the area’s largest planned communities, which include a variety of housing styles and an array of recreational amenities, are located on either side of Route 7 in Loudoun County between Sterling and Leesburg.

Ashburn Farm, Ashburn Village, Cascades and Lowes Island have been joined in recent years by the golf course communities of Belmont Country Club, Lansdowne on the Potomac and River Creek.

The active adult community of Leisure World of Virginia, also located in this area, includes low-maintenance condominiums with views of the Potomac River and a variety of activities and recreational amenities for its residents.

Belmont Country Club includes an 18-hole Arnold Palmer-designed Signature Golf Course that provides vistas for many of the 2,157 homesites in the community.

In addition to the golf course, a focal point for the development is the Belmont Clubhouse built adjacent to the renovated Manor House on the property. The Manor House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1799. The nearly 31,000-square-foot addition to the Manor House includes rooftop and private dining, a full-service business center and concierge services. A separate full-service recreation center has also been built to provide indoor aerobic and fitness facilities along with swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts and a volleyball pit.

Toll Bros. Inc., the developer of the community, builds several different types of homes in separate villages around the golf course, priced from the mid-$400,000s to the upper-$500,000s for town homes and from the $600,000s to more than $1,000,000 for single-family homes. Condominiums are priced from the upper $300,000s.

Call 703/858-GOLF or visit www.belmontcountryclub.com.

The homes at Lansdowne on the Potomac, which will include 2,155 attached and detached homes, are being built by Centex Homes Inc., Beazer Homes Corp., Brookfield Homes, Van Metre Homes, Basheer & Edgemoore Homes LLC and NVHomes.

Lansdowne is adjacent to the Lansdowne Resort and borders on Goose Creek and the Potomac River. Lansdowne residents have the opportunity to become golf members of Lansdowne Resort and Golf Club. Lansdowne’s Potomac Club, Lansdowne Resort and the National Conference Center offer recreational amenities including indoor and outdoor swimming pools, fitness centers, clubrooms, ballrooms and meeting rooms.

Lansdowne opened its second golf course (a Greg Norman championship course), golf clubhouse and second pool complex this summer. In addition, Lansdowne Development Group will start construction of the Lansdowne Town Center later this year. The Town Center will be a main street-style community with restaurants, coffee cafes, retail, commercial and residential units. Prices range from the $600,000s to $800,000s for town homes and from the $600,000s to more than $1 million for single-family homes.

Call 703/726-0417 or visit www.LansdowneonthePotomac.com.

The guarded, gated community of River Creek in Leesburg occupies a prime location on the banks of the Potomac River and Goose Creek, with 70-foot bluffs and an Ault Clark and Associates-designed golf course winding through the development.

The luxury homes within River Creek have views of the 18-hole golf course, the woods, lakes and the river. The 30,000-square-foot main clubhouse at River Creek features formal dining rooms, dining balconies and decks with panoramic views of the Potomac. The Swim and Tennis Club includes a pro shop, exercise facility and traditional grill room with a fireplace, plus a swimming pool, children’s wading pools and lighted tennis courts.

More than 50 percent of the property is undeveloped open land. The concierge staff brings the neighborhood together with planned events and outings and assists in organizing the many clubs that residents have started.

Town homes priced from the $800,000s to more than $1,000,000 are available from Michael Harris Development, NVHomes and WCI Renaissance Housing Corp. Single-family homes priced from $1,100,000 to $1,700,000 are available from Mitchell & Best Homebuilders LLC.

Call 703/443-2800 or visit www.river-creek.com.

Not far off Route 7 close to the Dulles Greenway, Toll Bros. is building one-, two- and three-bedroom condominiums at Stratford Club.

The homes include spacious rooms, private patios or balconies with scenic views, designer baths with oversized soaking tubs and double vanities, and some include lofts.

Community amenities will include a resort-style swimming pool, a fitness center, a cyber cafe, a clubroom with billiards and a bar, lounge areas with a fireplace, a business center, a picnic pavilion, an outdoor grilling area and landscaped walkways, all within a gated community. Base prices begin in the mid-$200,000s. Visit www.StratfordClub.com.

Between Dulles Town Center mall and Leesburg are a satellite campus of George Washington University and, closer to Leesburg, a number of shopping centers including the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlet Shops.

In historic Leesburg, tourists stroll the brick and cobblestone streets and visit the Loudoun Museum and other local landmarks, along with antiques shops, modern stores and restaurants.

The developments along Route 7 from Leesburg to Old Town Alexandria each reflect the taste and style of the time in which they were created, including the 18th century buildings of Leesburg and Alexandria, the 18th and 19th century homes of Falls Church, the 20th century high-rises in Skyline City, Seven Corners, Tysons Corner and Reston, and the 21st century developments taking shape in Loudoun County.

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