Historic Overlay District Design Guidelines

Historic Overlay Districts - Fairfax CountyCurrently, there are thirteen historic overlay districts in Fairfax County all of which were established between 1970 and 1986. Each district was created for the purpose of protecting the unique heritage resources of that district. To assist the Architectural Review Board (ARB) in achieving that goal, the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance stipulates that the ARB adopt historic district design guidelines to facilitate its review of applications. Each historic overlay district has its own individual set of guidelines. The guidelines for each district were approved by the ARB in 1992.

Design Guidelines Basis

The Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance stipulates that the ARB adopt design guidelines in order to review applications for rehabilitation, new construction and exterior alterations. Article 7-204-7 of the Zoning Ordinance explicitly states that the guidelines will be based upon standards designed to preserve the historic integrity of the district. These standards include:

  • Retaining historic identity of buildings, both in materials and physical features;
    • Strive to use a building or other structure for its original purpose or one that requires minimal changes;
    • Avoid removing historic features that give character to a building or site;
    • Preserve changes that have occurred to a building during different periods of time;
    • Protect distinctive examples of craftsmanship, finishes, and materials;
    • Repair rather than replace missing features
  • Designing new compatible structures that don't create a false sense of history by attempting to look older than they are
  • Using non-chemical and non-abrasive treatments in restoration;
  • Designing new construction to be compatible and complimentary to the existing character of the historic district
  • Protecting and preserving archaeological resources;
  • Constructing additions that if removed, do not destroy the integrity of the historic property; and
  • Planning site and landscape improvements to complement, not harm, historic structures or sites.

How to Use the Guidelines

Each applicant who is proposing a project in a historic overlay district is required to cite the applicable historic district design guidelines in the application to the ARB. It is important that these guidelines are consulted early in the project planning stages.

The design guidelines for each historic overlay district follow:

BULL RUN STONE BRIDGE DESIGN GUIDELINES - Located on the grounds of Manassas National Battlefield Park, the stone arch bridge over Bull Run was a strategic crossing point during the two major Civil War battles fought nearby. Established 1972

CENTREVILLE DESIGN GUIDELINES - This crossroads village developed in the late eighteenth century and was occupied by both Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War. Established 1986

COLVIN RUN MILL DESIGN GUIDELINES - The mill, built in the 1820s, and the surrounding buildings were an active part of the agricultural economy of Fairfax County throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Established 1972

DRANESVILLE TAVERN DESIGN GUIDELINES - The tavern, built in the 1830s, was a popular stopping place for those traveling the busy Leesburg and Georgetown Pikes during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries until its closing in 1968. Established 1972

HUNTLEY DESIGN GUIDELINES - The house was built about 1820 for Thomson F. Mason, grandson of George Mason. Established 1976

LAKE ANNE VILLAGE CENTER DESIGN GUIDELINES - This award-winning cluster of residential and commercial structures was the heart of the Reston community when constructed in the mid-1960s. Established 1983

LANGLEY FORK DESIGN GUIDELINES - This crossroads village includes residential, school, and church structures dating from the early nineteenth century. Established 1980

MOUNT AIR DESIGN GUIDELINES - The main house, built about 1830, was lost to fire in 1992, but the outbuildings and landscaped grounds remain. Established 1984

POHICK CHURCH DESIGN GUIDELINES - The building was constructed between 1762 and 1772, with the first use of the building in the latter year. Both George Mason and George Washington had pews and attended services at Pohick Church. Established 1970

ROBEY’S MILL DESIGN GUIDELINES - The house and mill were built in the mid-nineteenth century. The mill served local farmers until 1906. Established 1980.

ST. MARY’S CHURCH DESIGN GUIDELINES - The first Roman Catholic church in Fairfax County was built in 1858. It was used by Clara Barton as a hospital after the Civil War battles of Second Manassas and Chantilly. The district includes portions of the nineteenth century railroad community of Fairfax Station. Established 1972

SULLY DESIGN GUIDELINES - The plantation house was built in 1794 for Richard Bland Lee who was the first U.S. congressman from Northern Virginia. He was also the uncle of Robert E. Lee. Established 1970

WOODLAWN PLANTATION AND THE POPE/LEIGHEY HOUSE DESIGN GUIDELINES - Woodlawn was built in 1805 on land owned by George Washington. The property was given by Washington as a wedding gift to his nephew Lawrence Lewis. The district also includes the Woodlawn Friends Meeting House of about 1853, the Washington Grist Mill reconstructed in 1932, and the Pope/Leighey house designed in1942 by Frank Lloyd Wright and moved to the site in 1964. Established 1971


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