The year 2021 marks the 60th anniversary of Frying Pan Farm becoming a Fairfax County Park Authority site. One of the last working farms in Fairfax County, Frying Pan has been a favorite destination for generations of area residents.
One of the first questions people have about Frying Pan is: where did the name come from? The answer is: there’s no official explanation. There is a nearby stream that has been called Frying Pan since the 1700s, but park staff do not know who named it that, or why.
What is known is that in 1791, the Frying Pan Meeting House was built on two acres of land granted by Robert Carter, III. During the Civil War, it was a field hospital for soldiers wounded in battle.
In the 1890s, the Kidwell farmhouse and the neighboring Ellmore house were built near the Frying Pan Meeting House. Those families were dairy farmers.
Area families took the milk from their farms to the Herndon train station, where it would be taken to market in Washington, D.C.
Back then, farmers raised cows, sheep, pigs and chickens, in part to feed their families, and in part to sell at market to make money. They grew hay and corn to feed their livestock, and fruits and vegetables to feed their families.
Speaking of fruit: in the early 1900s, apple cider was extremely popular in Northern Virginia. In fact, there were five times more apple trees in Fairfax County than there were people! Back then, it took a lot of time and effort to turn apples into a delicious drink.
As technology advanced, machines were invented that made farms more efficient and productive.
During the 1930s to early 1940s, the Herndon-area farming community held fairs at Frying Pan where farmers competed to see who had the best livestock. The fair became a popular annual event after World War II.
But then something happened that ended the farming way of life in Herndon.
In the late 1950s, the construction of Dulles Airport began. Land that had been used for farms and rural homes for hundreds of years was transformed into one of the largest airports in the world.
In 1958 Fairfax County’s agricultural extension agent approached the Fairfax County Park Authority about preserving the school (built in 1911) and buildings at Frying Pan for use as a park and youth center.
The parcel was donated to the Park Authority in 1960 by the Fairfax County School Board and became known as Frying Pan in 1961.
Over the years, the Park Authority bought more parcels, and now Frying Pan is a 135-acre property full of historic buildings and a working farm.
The farm’s mission is to show what agricultural life was like in the early 1900s.
Visitors to Frying Pan Farm Park can take a tractor-pulled wagon ride past the crop fields where hay and corn is grown to feed the farm animals. You can watch a cow being milked and chickens sitting on their eggs.
In the springtime, the pigs, cows, goats and sheep have babies. The baby animals are very popular! At any given time, there are about 100 farm animals that you can see for free at Frying Pan Farm Park.
Frying Pan Farm Park has become one of the most popular parks in Northern Virginia. It has welcomed as many as 750,000 visitors in one year, including those who come for the many horse shows that have been held at Frying Pan’s equestrian center for decades.
During school breaks, Frying Pan Farm Park offers day camps for kids. There’s dozens of types of camps offered, from those held mostly outside like farm camp, to those held mostly inside like theater camp.
The year 2021 has seen a reawakening for Frying Pan after the pandemic. It’s been wonderful to get back to holding camp, classes and other activities in person!
For more information about Frying Pan Farm Park visit our website.
Frying Pan Farm Park is located at 2709 West Ox Road Herndon, VA.
Author Lois Kirkpatrick is the marketing coordinator at Frying Pan Farm Park.