How did Centreville, VA get its name?

I often wondered. Anyone know? Is it in the center of something? Maybe the center of Fairfax County? [VA = Virginia]

Being a now-former Virginian, I often wondered that and why the “re” spelling of the name.

It’s hardly the center of Fairfax Co. The City of Fairfax is closest to that, about 7 miles to the east. (The center of the original Fairfax Co. is even further east, since Arlington was once part of it [pre-DC days].)

Maybe it’s the center of Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties; however that triple-point is called Chantilly for mailing purposes.


It’s in the middle of nowhere???

According to this fifth-grader’s essay from 1979, the original name of the village was Newgate, and the name was changed to Centreville in 1792. He presents the theory that the name was changed because of the association with Newgate prison, but he doesn’t say why Centreville was chosen. He suggests that the “re” comes from repeated misspellings.

According to this site:

My guess is that it was the center of commerce and activity for Fairfax County.

You might be able to find out the definite answer by buying the book “Centreville, Virginia: Its History and Architecture” by Eugenia B. Smith. It’s available on the Fairfax County web site (about a third of the way down).

If it was named in 1792, woudn’t that have been before the spelling reforms that gave the USA the ‘-er’ spelling?

Interesting list of publications, JeffB. Thanks!

Isn’t Fairfax City an independent city and thus not actually part of Fairfax County?

“Centre” is not a misspelling. It is a variant of “Center”, so Centreville is equally as correct as Centerville would be.

There are a number of Center- or Centre- villes in the US, as well as things like “Central City”, or just “Center” or “<Something> Center”. Most of them don’t seem to be the center of anything, except maybe their own private universes. I suspect that either fact or optimism had most of them placed as the most important commercial centers in their immediate area at some point in their histories, rather than the names being geographical.

Centreville was a crossroads of some of the most important colonial roads in Northern Virginia, the Sully Road, whatever Lee Highway was called then, and Braddock’s Road, one of America’s first “highways.”

It may have been named as such because it was a “centre” of commerce.

Yes – actually, in many (most?) states, an incorporated city is still a part of the county in which it sits, although it bears its own responsibility for certain municipal services, but in the Commonwealth of Virginia, cities are legally distinct from counties, and an accurate county map would have holes cut out of it to represent the cities located there.


IIRC, there is an “Upperville” a little further west on 50.

Yeah, there is, but Centreville isn’t on 50.

Middleburg, however, is.

Middleburg is a fairly easy guess, too. It’s roughly midway between Alexandria and Winchester, about thirty miles from each. A rider in a hurry could reach Middleburg in a hard one-day ride.

These guys agree with me.

Now that the OP has been answered, I feel an overpowering need to link you to BBQ on the Old Centerville Rd.

I’ve eaten there twice. Make sure yor’re hungry before you go there. And make sure you like country cooking. Get the buffet.

Ben’s Whole Hog Barbecue! Will definitely check it out,
samclem. Thanks! But

I don’t know about that with the traffic I’ve been in there.


I think you’ve misinterpreted my question (or I mis-stated it). Fairfax City, IIRC, is not a part of the County of Fairfax anymore, although (according to my Encarta CD) it still serves as the county seat. It’s called an “Independent City” to indicate that the county government doesn’t have a thing to do with it at all other than just being located there. I’m wondering if there are other cities in the entire state which do fall under the purview of the cunties in which they’re located–the same Encarta CD tells me that “In the early 1990s Virginia had 95 counties, 41 independent cities, and 189 incorporated towns.”

Kind of makes me glad I grew up in Arlington County, VA, which doesn’t bother with having any cities at all.

Ahem. That should be “…under the purview of the counties…” Kind of a funny typo, though.

Centreville doesn’t even have definable borders - all of Fairfax County is “unincorporated” with the exception of Fairfax City and Falls Church City (which are “independent cities” and technically aren’t part of Fairfax County). There are also 3 “towns” in Fairfax County (Clifton, Herndon, Vienna). Everything else are for lack of a better term “communities” - when I lived there briefly last year, I was living in Springfield (that was my post office), but when I mentioned my exact area, some people thought it was Lorton and still others thought it was Newington.

On towns, what is the deal there? I know they use most county services, but they have their own auto stickers, and one (Vienna) uses its own street numbering system, instead of following the standard county plan.

(PS, there is a great used book store in the shopping center at the intersection of Sully Rd and US 50…tons and tons of great books cheap).

Lovable Rogue

I guess my original post wasn’t clear – in Virginia, all cities are legally independent from the counties in which they rest. The City of Fairfax isn’t special in that regard; it’s the same as Alexandria, Richmond and Blacksburg. In many other states, an incorporated city is still technically part of the county surrounding it, but not so in Virginia. To be incorporated, a city must have a population of at least 5,000 within precisely defined borders. (Although if the population falls, the city doesn’t automatically lose incorporation – it exists until dissolved.)

As independent entities, cities do not typically use county police, fire, trash, water, or other services but have their own. Presumably most cities have mutual assistance agreements with the surrounding counties for emergency or hot pursuit situations, and with things like water especially, the city probably taps into the county system but must pay a rental fee. Also, smaller cities do not have their own court systems, but cities over 10,000 people do.

Although each city has its own Charter which enumerates its powers, typically cities in the Commonwealth have the power to tax, hold, and spend revenue; to buy, manage, and sell real property; to borrow money and issue bonds; to sue and be sued; and to enter contracts. These Charters are granted by the state legislature.

Any community of 1,000 or more can apply to be incorporated as a town. Towns usually have the same powers as cities (tax, spend, raise money, enter contracts, etc.) but they are part of the county in which they sit and are not legally independent. As such, towns rely on county services (police, fire, water, trash, etc.) in most cases. The main reason towns incorporate is so they can make their own zoning decisions instead of being subject to county-wide zoning, although since each town is incorporated by its own specific Charter, some have additional powers (such as town-specific street numbers).

BTW, Chesterfield County isn’t a county anymore – it was incorporated as a city.