- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Some 35 miles southwest of Washington, the city of Manassas, known for its Civil War past, is fast becoming a vibrant place to settle down.

With a wide array of housing options, cultural and recreational activities, Manassas still resonates history.

At the junction of railroad lines in 1852, Manassas became the link between Northern Virginia and Washington, the Shenandoah Valley and Richmond. The Prince William County/Manassas Convention & Visitor’s Bureau Web site (www.visitpwc.com) reports that the Manassas name, according to legend, was derived either from an Indian source, or possibly from Manasseh, an area innkeeper.

During the Civil War, the junction’s strategic importance led to the battles of First and Second Manassas. First Manassas is considered the first major battle of the Civil War. Rebuilt after the Civil War, Manassas was incorporated as a town in 1873, and it grew through the rest of the 19th and 20th centuries. It was chartered as a city in 1975.

Visitors are now drawn to the Manassas National Battlefield Park, city museums and the popular historic district.

The Manassas Museum is a 7,000-square-foot building with exhibits of Northern Virginia artifacts, documents and images. Plans currently being developed include expanding exhibit galleries, artifact conservation facilities and establishing an education center.

Additional historic sites include the Manassas Industrial School, a 5-acre site that pays homage to the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth founded by a former slave; the Confederate Cemetery, which tells the story of the soldiers who lost their lives during the war; and the Manassas Railroad Depot, built by the Southern Railway in 1914 and renovated in 1997.

The railroad depot is in Old Town Manassas and also houses the city’s Visitor Center.

Commuters can take advantage of daily Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express trains connecting Manassas and the District.

The Northern Virginia Economic Development Coalition touts this independent city of more than 35,000 residents as a diverse community boasting classic neighborhoods along with the latest in town home living.

Stanley Martin Homebuilding LLC is building new homes in the Coles Run Manor subdivision in Manassas. At 2,500 square feet, the smallest home starts at $475,000. The largest home, with 3,400 square feet, has a base price of $575,000.

Golf enthusiasts especially might be tempted by the many custom Colonial and contemporary homes in Lake Manassas, a 640-acre upscale community of wooded and golf course views. The area is bordered by Lake Manassas, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club and the Stonewall Golf Club. Once completed, Lake Manassas will have 700 homes.

Buyers looking for maintenance-free living in Manassas can look to a number of attached housing opportunities, including Chatsworth Village, a new garage town home-styled condominium community. Built by Lennar Corp., two- and three-bedroom floor plans are offered with a price range of $329,000 to $337,000.

In addition to golf, Manassas residents enjoy other recreational activities within the city, including the Freedom Aquatics and Fitness Center. Located on the George Mason University Prince William Campus, the center claims to be one of the largest public recreation and fitness centers on the East Coast.

Families enjoy Splashdown Waterpark in the summer and an outdoor ice skating rink in the winter at the Loy E. Harris Pavilion. During the warmer months, the pavilion features summer-evening dancing, concerts and ice cream socials.

Manassas City Public Schools include five elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. Last year, Mayfield Intermediate School for fifth- and sixth-grade students opened.

Manassas is home to high-tech companies, including Micron Technology Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp., BAE Systems plc, and Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. The city is fast becoming a regional base of operations for defense contracting companies.

The Prince William Health System is another big employer in Manassas, as it added a spacious, new, $26 million emergency room in 2005.

Manassas was among the first in the country to offer broadband Internet service through the power lines (BPL). City officials say business owners enjoy the ease and flexibility offered by delivery through power lines.

The median income of residents in Manassas is $64,000, compared to $46,677 statewide in Virginia, according to figures provided by the Manassas city government. Statistics also show that 27 percent of its residents commute less than 15 minutes to work. An additional 37 percent travel between 15 and 45 minutes to work.

This article originally was published Feb. 16.

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