- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2006

Prince William County, formed in 1730 from parts of Stafford and King George counties, covers 345 square miles of Northern Virginia. During Colonial days, Prince William County functioned first as a link between the Northern and Southern Colonies. The county became the site of some of the Civil War’s fiercest battles.

From the Civil War into the present day, Prince William has grown from a primarily rural community with pockets of industry into a rapidly growing residential community with a thriving local economy.

While Prince William was once considered a distant area from the District, today the county is viewed as a thriving suburb with commuters traveling by the Virginia Railway Express and Routes 66 and Interstate 95 to jobs within the county, in nearby communities in Northern Virginia, and into the District.

The county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau Web site (www.visitpwc.com) reports that the county was named for William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, a son of King George II of England.

The first county courthouse was built in 1731 on the bank of the Occoquan River in what is known today as Woodbridge. The town of Dumfries, the Web site reports, was chartered in 1749 and functioned as an active shipping port to rival Boston and New York.

During Colonial times, the Web site reports, the Potomac Path, or King’s Highway, became a major transportation route between the Northern and Southern Colonies.

Political visitors such as George Washington traveled the route, stopping at the Woodbridge plantation of George Mason, and Rippon Lodge, the home of Col. Richard Blackburn, the oldest standing Colonial-era home today on the Potomac River.

Today’s Route 1 follows a similar pattern to the Potomac Path.

Other prominent Colonial residents of Prince William County include Henry Lee III, known as “Light Horse Harry,” who lived on the Leesylvania Plantation north of Dumfries and was the father of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The John Tayloe family, owners of the Neabsco Iron Works, provided iron for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

Perhaps the most significant historical events that took place in Prince William County are the Battles of First and Second Manassas, two of the most important battles of the Civil War. The Manassas National Battlefield Park draws visitors to the region and to the nearby museums of historic Old Town Manassas.

The town of Occoquan also attracts visitors to its antiques shops, restaurants and arts-and-crafts fairs in the spring and fall. The town began as an industrial area with an iron furnace, forge, sawmills and a gristmill, according to the Prince William County Web site.

The town of Quantico, the county convention and visitor’s bureau Web site reports, grew after the creation of the Quantico Marine Corps Base and was incorporated in 1927. The Marine Corps Air-Ground Museum draws visitors to this part of the county, and the area near Quantico continues to thrive with defense contractors located in the area near the base.

SURVICE Engineering Co., a military contractor, recently leased additional space in the Quantico Center building and will be adding up to 20 new employees there.

The Prince William County Economic Development Authority Web site (www.pwcecondev.org) reports that the county’s major employers include Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors, Micron Technology Inc., General Dynamics Land Systems Inc., Aerojet-General Corp., U.S. Foodservice Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Comcast Corp., BAE Systems Inc., American Type Culture Collection Inc., Government Micro Resources Inc., America Online Technology Center, Western Aerospace and Defense Group, Pulte Home Sciences, USA Deck Inc., Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative, Martin-Brower Co. LLC, Vertis, Arban & Carosi Inc., AHC Inc., McLane Food Service Distributors, Atlantic Coast Cotton Inc., Universal Dynamics Inc., Eli Lilly and Co., NKI Systems, Progeny Systems Corp., Century Stair Co. Inc. and EG&G.;

Prince William County may be known for its military history during the Civil War and as the home of the Quantico Marine Corps Base, but the peaceful pursuits of golf and shopping also draw people into the county.

Potomac Mills Shopping Mall, one of the 10 most-visited tourist attractions in Virginia, according to the county convention and visitor’s bureau Web site, brings throngs of shoppers into the Woodbridge area every day. Other smaller shopping centers around the county also stay busy.

The President’s Cup, held for the fourth time at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Manassas in September 2005, brought national attention to the county’s course, which includes 12 public golf courses and three practice facilities, the convention and visitor’s bureau Web site reports.

Prince William County has more than 48 miles of shoreline along the Occoquan and Potomac rivers, and its land encompasses more than 50 federal, state, county and city parks, the county convention and visitor’s bureau Web site says. Parks include the Manassas National Battlefield Park and the Prince William Forest Park.

The Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge offers an outdoor entertainment venue for a wide variety of musical acts from the spring into the early fall each year.

New attractions for the county are planned, including the Harbor Station Hotel and Conference Center on the Cherry Hill peninsula next to the Potomac River. The conference center will include an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, anticipated to open in 2007.

The National Museum of the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Heritage Center are expected to open later this year, and the Belmont Bay Science Center is anticipated to open in 2007.

The transformation of Prince William County with this array of recreational amenities and variety of major employers has encouraged the development of a wide range of housing styles to accommodate the rising demand for housing in the area.

The current county population is 354,383, according to the county convention and visitor’s bureau Web site.

Planned communities have developed along the Interstate 66 corridor in areas such as Manassas, Haymarket and Gainesville, along the Prince William County Parkway and along Interstate 95 from Woodbridge to Quantico.

Many of the planned communities of new housing in this county are centered around golf courses, including Toll Bros. Inc.’s Dominion Valley Country Club near Haymarket, a gated, guarded community centered around an Arnold Palmer Signature golf course.

Residents can enjoy a sports pavilion, basketball courts, swimming pools, tennis courts, a clubhouse, hiking and biking trails, playgrounds, ball fields, and acres of open space. Single-family homes and patio town homes are available. An active adult community known as Regency at Dominion Valley features single-family homes with first-floor master suites, condominium homes and patio town homes.

The gated community of Piedmont includes the private Tom Fazio-designed championship 18-hole golf course and clubhouse, and a community center with an athletic club, an aquatic center, tennis courts and a business center.

At the Parks at Piedmont, Ryan Homes, Engle Homes and NVHomes are building single-family homes, town homes and condominiums. In addition to their own private recreation center, business center, athletic club and swimming pool, residents of Parks at Piedmont also enjoy access to the Piedmont Golf Club. Condominiums, town homes and single family homes are available at the Parks at Piedmont.

At the planned community of Lake Manassas in western Prince William County, buyers can choose a custom home design or choose from the portfolio of homes offered by the community’s builders. Recreational amenities include a golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts and hiking trails, plus the Stonewall Club House.

Custom single-family homes may be built by National Capital Homes, Nelson Construction, Castle Rock Homes Inc., Petra Builders Inc., Sorensen Homes, Stonewall Homes, Quaker Custom Homes and Entre Builders. Custom home lots are almost sold out. The custom homes range from the $800,000s to more than $2,500,000. The Airston Group Inc. and Quaker Custom Homes have single-family home models available for viewing, with a small number of homes still available.

Near Lake Manassas, Brookfield Homes Corp. is developing Morris Farm, a community with a variety of parks including a wild bird park, a trail system, a swimming pool and clubhouse, and a community elementary school. In addition to Brookfield Homes, Craftmark Homes Inc. and Ryan Homes are building single-family homes. Brookfield Homes is also offering a variety of town homes and carriage homes.

Miller and Smith Inc.’s Victory Lakes community off Interstate 66 and Route 29 features a clubhouse with an activities director, basketball courts, volleyball courts, swimming pools, tennis courts, hiking trails, soccer fields, a dog park and the opportunity to take dance and yoga classes and more. Both town homes and single-family homes are available at Victory Lakes.

Along the Interstate 95 corridor, the planned community of Port Potomac will include an 18,000-square-foot clubhouse, where a social director plans clubs, classes, parties and concerts. The clubhouse includes an aquatic center with indoor and outdoor pools, a business center and athletic club. A variety of single-family homes and town homes are available at Port Potomac from Engle Homes, Drees Homes, M/I Homes Inc., Ryan Homes, Sorensen Homes and NVHomes.

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