Burke Centre, VA (BCV)
Burke Centre is located approximately 20 miles west of Washington, D.C., in south-central Fairfax County. The station is nestled in a corner of heavily forested Pohick Park.
Amtrak /VRE Station
10399 Premier Court
Virginia Railway Express Station
Burke, VA 22015
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2020): 5,688
- Facility Ownership: Virginia Railway Express (VRE)
- Parking Lot Ownership: Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County
- Platform Ownership: Virginia Railway Express (VRE)
- Track Ownership: Norfolk Southern Railway
Considered a desirable suburb of the nation’s capital, Burke Centre is located approximately 20 miles west of Washington, D.C. in south-central Fairfax County, VA. Burke Center is one of the original stops on the Manassas Line of the Virginia Railway Express (VRE), a commuter rail service inaugurated in 1992 to link the urban centers of Northern Virginia with downtown Washington. On October 1, 2009, Amtrak Virginia, a partnership between Amtrak and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, expanded daily round-trip service between Boston and Washington, D.C. southward to Lynchburg. Four months later, Burke Centre was officially included on Amtrak’s national timetable as a stop on the new service.
Nestled in the northwestern corner of the heavily forested Pohick Park, the station consists of a concrete platform, with some areas covered by a canopy to protect passengers from inclement weather. In summer 2008, a multilevel parking garage and bus bays opened adjacent to the platform. Funding for the $28 million improvement project was obtained through the Federal Transit Administration’s Bus and Bus Facilities program and the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Enhancements and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement programs. Local busses stop at the station and cyclists may take advantage of the numerous bike racks in the garage. A paved trail passes through Pohick Park to link the station with the residential neighborhood to the south.
Jamestown, Va., was founded in 1607 as the first permanent English settlement in what later became the United States. Over the next few decades, the Virginia colony attracted thousands of immigrants in search of land and new beginnings. One of those people was William Fitzhugh who arrived in 1670. Fifteen years later, he purchased approximately 21,000 acres in what is now Fairfax County, which at the time was on the far northern fringes of the more settled areas along the Rappahannock, York, and James Rivers. Known as the Ravenswood tract, Fitzhugh’s land holdings included present day Burke Centre. In line with his growing affluence, Fitzhugh also served as governor of the College of William and Mary and as a member of the House of Burgesses.
Like many of the landholders in Virginia, Fitzhugh focused on tobacco cultivation to keep up with high demand for the plant in England and continental Europe. Tobacco was so important to the economy of early Virginia that it was often used as a form of currency. In the 1730s, the colonial legislature decreed that tobacco warehouses be erected on the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers to facilitate the inspection and storage of the dried leaves. The proximity of these facilities to Ravenswood greatly benefitted the Fitzhughs. The accumulated wealth of succeeding generations allowed family descendents to build grand manor houses in the late 18th century, but only one property—Oak Hill—remains standing in Fairfax County. Along with families such as the Washingtons and the Masons, the Fitzhughs belonged to an influential class of landed gentry that would play important roles in the Revolutionary War era and in the formative years of the new United States.
Part of the Ravenswood tract was purchased by Silas Burke in 1824. A farmer and merchant, he constructed a house called “Woodbury” overlooking Pohick Creek. In the course of a distinguished career, Burke served the county in many capacities, including as road surveyor, commissioner of schools, court justice, and sheriff. One of his most lasting impacts on the region resulted from his role as a director of the fledgling Orange and Alexandria Railroad (O&A). Chartered by the Commonwealth of Virginia in March 1848, the line was to run from Alexandria, a port on the Potomac River opposite Washington, D.C., to Gordonsville, located northeast of Charlottesville in Orange County.
Construction began two years later, and Burke donated a right-of-way through his property as the line moved west towards Tudor Hall (present day Manassas), which it reached in 1851. Within four years of breaking ground, the O&A was completed to Gordonsville where it met up with the Virginia Central Railroad. An extension to Lynchburg completed in 1860 provided access to the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad and its southern markets. The O&A cut what had been a three day journey between Washington, D.C. and Lynchburg to just eight hours, and gave farmers and manufacturers throughout northern and central Virginia a more efficient means to ship their products.
The stop adjacent to Burke’s property took the name “Burke’s Station,” and a depot was constructed in the early 1850s. In addition to railroad functions, it also housed telegraph and post offices. Burke’s Station was thrust into the national spotlight during the Civil War. With its excellent infrastructure between Washington, D.C., Richmond, and southwestern Virginia, the O&A was an important asset fought over by both Union and Confederate forces. Many of the stations close to Washington were garrisoned by Union troops, who also held the port of Alexandria. On December 28, 1862, Confederate cavalry under the command of General J.E.B. Stuart raided Burke’s Station and captured needed supplies, including a group of mules. A famous story recounts that Stuart sent a telegram from the station to Union Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs in which he complained about the poor quality of the animals!
Although the O&A underwent emergency repairs during the war, serious reinvestment was needed after 1865 to restore the line and replace rolling stock. Unable to finance all of the improvements itself, the company came under the control of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1873, but by 1894 it was incorporated into the Southern Railway. Residents around Burke’s Station returned to agricultural pursuits and Fairfax County became known for its corn and wheat as well as fruits such as pears, peaches, and apples. Most of the harvests were shipped a short distance away to the growing national capital.
In the early 20th century, the Southern realigned the tracks through the area and constructed a new station a few blocks to the north of its predecessor. The signs on the building read “Burke” rather than “Burke’s Station,” since in 1903 the post office had decided to use the abbreviated version for the area. The depot was a one-story wood frame structure covered in clapboard. It sported a hipped roof with deep eaves supported by simple brackets. A large water tower stood nearby from which steam engines could replenish their supplies.
A 1907 guide to Fairfax County noted that Burke was an “enterprising and promising village” that could boast of three stores, a school, and saw and grist mills. Agriculture, dairy farming, and lumbering were the chief occupations of local residents. Around 1900, the old Silas Burke house and about 600 acres of surrounding farmland were purchased by Henry Copperthite, a Washington, D.C. based merchant who owned the successful Connecticut Pie Baking Company. After fighting for the Union in the Civil War—which brought him to Virginia—Copperthite returned to his home in Connecticut and learned the baking trade. According to family history, he and his wife honeymooned in the nation’s capital in 1870. During that trip, Copperthite came to believe that the expanding city might be a lucrative place to open a business distributing baked goods.
In 1885, Copperthite finally returned to Washington for a trial run in which he sold his pies from a wagon on the day before Thanksgiving. The financial success of this experiment convinced him to start a business in the Georgetown neighborhood. By the turn of the century, his operation had grown to include bakeries across the city that produced more than 50,000 pies a day in 29 different varieties. He later expanded the business to also cover Baltimore, Richmond, and Newport News. Through quality products and extensive advertising, Copperthite appealed to a middle class whose growing wealth allowed it to spend money on prepared and processed foods such as fancy cakes and pies.
Copperthite purchased the Burke farmstead primarily to raise dairy cows for his business. An additional 5,000 acres to the north in Loudon County were obtained for growing fruits. With an eye for business opportunities, Copperthite also envisioned a pleasure ground on his Burke land since it was easily accessible via railroad from Washington and Richmond. In the hot and humid summer months, a park in the countryside offered city dwellers a chance to have fun while also enjoying cooler temperatures and fresh air.
A race track was built to hold 2,000 spectators while the attached stables accommodated up to 75 horses. Four hotels housed overnight guests who could pass the days with horse races, and later, motorcycle and car races, sporting events, picnics, and dances. The fame of the resort meant that it could draw big names such as Ty Cobb who played in an exhibition baseball game. Copperthite’s pleasure ground remained a popular destination for a few decades until widespread automobile ownership and changing consumer habits opened up other forms of mass entertainment.
Burke remained a small country town into the early 20th century, although some residents began to use the railroad to commute to jobs in Alexandria and Washington. During the Great Depression and World War II, the area entered a dramatic period of growth as the population of Fairfax County skyrocketed. The federal government created numerous agencies to address relief efforts during the Depression, and they in turn attracted new residents to the nation’s capital. The mass organization needed to run a war that spanned four continents also brought on another influx of workers, many of whom needed housing. New government facilities such as the Pentagon rose in Northern Virginia, and related defense industries relocated there following the war. Between 1930 and 1950, the county population quadrupled to approximately 100,000 residents; by 2000 that number reached more than one million.
The housing crunch led to the development of suburbs, a trend that was further spurred on by the completion of the Capital Beltway in 1964. New communities, generally accessible only by automobile, were constructed on former farmland. Just as the area entered an intense period of growth that would span the next two decades, commuter rail service ended in 1967. The Southern Railway station was later demolished.
Burke Centre, established in 1972, was the creation of lawyer-turned-developer John T. Hazel and partner Milton Peterson. Hazel had been instrumental in the acquisition of the land for the Beltway, and therefore had an intimate understanding of the land and the best sites for future growth. The scope of Hazel and Peterson’s collective work is staggering: a 1989 estimate indicated that one in six Fairfax County residents lived in one of their developments. Burke Centre’s heritage and diversity are celebrated each fall during a community festival. The two-day event includes amusement rides, kids’ activities such as face painting and puppet shows, an arts and crafts display, food tents, and live musical entertainment.
Northeast Regional service within Virginia is funded in part through grants made available by the Commonwealth of Virginia
Platform with Shelter
- Quik-Trak kiosks not available
- No ticket sales office
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- Bag storage not available
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- Same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight parking is available; fees may apply
- Accessible platform
- No restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- No accessible waiting room
- No accessible water fountain
- Accessible same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Accessible overnight parking is available; fees may apply
- No high platform
- No wheelchair
- Wheelchair lift available