Welcome back to Where We Live, your bi-weekly tour through neighborhoods in and around the District. This week: Shirlington and Fairlington! For those of you whose understanding of the DC area relies on a Metro map, you might not be too familiar with this area. But you’re missing out! While there’s no Metro station nearby, this is a very cool area filled with plenty to do.
History: First, the names: Fairlington is a combination of Fairfax and Arlington, and Shirlington is a combination of Shirley (for Shirley Highway, aka 395) and Arlington. In 1941, the Defense Homes Corporation (part of the Federal Housing Administration) bought the area that is now Fairlington to be developed into publicly-financed housing for defense workers and their families during World War II. This isn’t just some small neighborhood though– 3,439 housing units were built in the area between 1942 and 1945. In 1947, the housing units were turned into privately-owned rental apartments, and in 1972 they were converted into condos. To learn even more about the history of Fairlington and Shirlington, check out the Fairlington Historic District’s guide.
Neighborhood Character: Fairlington is known for quiet garden-style apartments situated around courts, with lots of sidewalks and trees. Nearby Shirlington is more of a mix, with everything from a theater complex to a library, lots of condominiums, and restaurants. Both areas are easy enough to walk around, but most residents tend to own cars because of the proximity to major highways.
Tiffany, We Love DC editor and former Fairlington resident, says that the area attracts lots of people looking for a starter home: “Most of the people we met in Fairlington (though certainly not ALL), were young singles and couples just starting out. I also frequently saw locally-stationed military personnel. Families tended to be on the smaller-and-younger-children side, simply because of the common house size and proximity to elementary schools.”
Transportation: While Shirlington and Fairlington don’t have a Metro station nearby, they do have other good transit options. The Shirlington Bus Station is a really nice facility that brings together several ART and Metrobus routes that connect with Ballston, Crystal City, and other destinations in the area. The has plenty of Zipcars, and it’s incredibly bike-friendly with access to several local trails. The W&OD trail connects all the way out to Herndon and Purcellville, and the Four Mile Run trail links it with the Mount Vernon Trail.
What to See: Despite the fact that you’ll have to take a bus, rather than the Metro, to Shirlington, it is well worth a visit. Here are some things to check out:
- The Signature Theatre is in the heart of Shirlington, and puts on great shows year round. Mark your calendar– July 17 is their annual free open house.
- If movies are more your thing, head out to the Loews Shirlington 7 for a good selection of new movies.
- Head out to see some history at Fort Ward, the best-preserved fort of the Civil War Defenses of Washington.
- Hungry? You’ve got lots of great options. Capitol City Brewery offers good food and beer (and an awesome Oktoberfest celebration), Bistro Bistro is the place to go for brunch, and check out the Shirlington branches of Cakelove and Busboys & Poets too.
Why We Love Shirlington: This area offers a great balance of a suburban lifestyle, like gardens and trees and access to roads, with the amenities of an urban area. And the best part? You can actually afford to live there! Tiffany says, “It was accessible to us on our condo-sized budget. It was nice to not live in a high-rise; things like having a grill, a garden, pets and such things were a lot easier.”