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Regional History



Area of Study

Historical Communities



Map of Floris's approximate location superimposed on Dulles Airport's current borders.

Floris began as Frying Pan, the site of a failed copper mining experiment headed by Robert Carter II in 1725. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Frying Pan existed as a small agricultural community located around Frying Pan Run and centered around the intersection of Ox Rd and Frying Pan Rd, along which existed the Frying Pan Baptist Church, constructed in 1791. Floris's land primarily originated from a 762-acre tract of land claimed by Carter in the mid-1700s and a 3,242-acre tract of land claimed by John Tayloe in 1740. [1][2][3]

During the American Civil War, Confederate Battalion Commander John Singleton Mosby led several violent skirmishes in the area and was aided by local spy and ladyfriend of Mosby's, Laura Ratcliffe. Mosby is said to have occasionally used Ratcliffe's home as a base. Other times, Ratcliffe left money and concealed information under a boulder atop Squirrel Hill, just north of the church. Following the war, Ratcliffe lived farther north at the Merrybrook estate until her death in 1923.[4][5][6]

Frying Pan Baptist Church

The Bowman Store, Floris's post office and general store during the 20th century.

Frying Pan was officially renamed "Floris" in 1892. It was around this time that the village experienced most of its growth. The majority of Floris's edifices present before 1958 were constructed during the progressive era. Notable establishments at the vlilage's center included the Bowman Store and Methodist Church, both constructed in the 1890s.[7][8]

A number of schools made their home in the Floris area. The first Floris School was established in 1876, until a two-room building replaced it in 1901, and a larger schoolhouse was constructed in 1911. A decade later, a three-storey vocational high school was built in its vicinity. In the 1950s, the vocational school was torn down and a newer elementary school was constructed along the west side of Centreville Rd. Following the Civil War, a segregated schoolhouse built to serve Floris's newly free black community was constructed at the southwest corner of today's intersection of Frying Pan and Centreville Rds. In the 1930s, a larger segregated school was built. Students from several neighboring villages were bussed to Floris throughout the 20th century. Transportation in the area improved as the 19th-century Frying Pan Rd was straightened and replaced with today's Centreville Rd.[9][10]

Floris Vocational School

The c.1895 Floris Methodist Church building today, standing beside a dwelling of the same era.

Agriculture at Floris continued on through the 20th century but declined following the construction of Dulles Airport, which resulted in the complete or partial closure of farms in the Floris area and the demolition of historic edifices. Among these was a farm owned by Joseph Beard. Predicting the fall of agricultural tradition in the Floris area, Beard headed efforts to preserve its rural heritage through the establishment of Frying Pan Park in 1961. The park, still open today, preserves the workings of a 1920s-era farm.[11][12][13]

In the 1980s, the majority of Floris's large-scale farms were sold off for the development of multi-family tract-housing subdivisions which dominate the Northern Virginia's landscape today. Commercial enterprise has more recently made its way to the Floris area, with the development of several local shopping centers and business parks housing offices for numerous local aerospace, finance, and tech firms.

Floris's methodist church and 1911 school remain today. The Frying Pan Baptist Church (now known as the Spring Meetinghouse) was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and remains standing beside Centreville Rd, now an even further-straightened four-lane highway. Merrybrook, as well as a large boulder under which Laura Ratcliffe hid money and information for Colonel Mosby remain today as well. Ratcliffe is buried at a nearby family cemetery located adjacent to the Worldgate Marriott Suites parking lot.[14][15]


  1. Margaret Peck, Stories From Floris (Herndon, VA: Floris Friends, 2000), 7- 8.
  2. Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, "Master List: Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites," March 9, 2010, http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov (accessed January 2, 2011).
  3. Original Land Grants & Current Roads. Map. Leesburg, VA: Loudoun County Office of Mapping & Geographic Information, 2009. http://www.flickr.com/photos/omagi/3726236799/in/set-72157619283256388/. (accessed 01-20-2011).
  4. "Merrybrook, Home of Laura Ratcliffe," last modified 08-11-2009, http://www.lauraratcliffe.org/laura.htm.
  5. Maggie MacLean, "Laura Ratcliffe," Civil War Women Blog, September 3, 2006, http://www.civilwarwomenblog.com/2006/09/laura-ratcliffe.html.
  6. Nancy Jennis Olds and Kathryn Jorgensen, "Confederate Spy Laura Ratcliffe's House Has Friends," Civil War News, March 2007, accessed January 20, 2011, http://www.civilwarnews.com/archive/articles/07/ratcliffe.htm.
  7. Peggy D. Vetter, "Floris Evolves from Dairy Farms, Summer Homes," Herndon Observer, 2000, accessed January 6, 2011, http://archive.observernews.com/stories/archives/history/floris.shtml.
  8. Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, "Master List: Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites."
  9. Peck, Stories From Floris, 187-190.
  10. "Master List: Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites."
  11. Hugh C. Miller, Historical and Archaeological Survey Report, Washington Dulles International Airport, Loudoun and Fairfax Counties, Virginia, Virginia Department of Historic Resources, October 18, 1989.
  12. "Franklin Farm History, " last modified September 5, 2002, http://www.franklinfarm.com/Summary.htm.
  13. Frying Pan Staff, "Come Celebrate Frying Pan Farm Parkís 50th Birthday, January 29 2011," fryingpanpark.org, December 29, 2010, accessed January 6, 2011.
  14. "National Register of Historical Places - VIRGINIA (VA), Fairfax County," last modified July 21, 2010, http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/VA/Fairfax/state.html.
  15. "Mosby's Rock Marker," last modified August 5, 2008, http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=9957.