Frying Pan Farm Park Marks its 60th Anniversary

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.

an image of a frying pan with a yellow question mark on top of it

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.

a marker for the Frying Pan Meeting House in front of the meeting house. Text reads: The Frying Pan Meeting House, constructed by 1971 on land donated by the Carter family in 1783 was used for Baptist services until 1968.

In the 1890s, the Kidwell farmhouse and the neighboring Ellmore house were built near the Frying Pan Meeting House. Those families were dairy farmers.

a newspaper clipping of Ben Middleton and his family with text below that reads: Ben Middleton and his family are standing in front of the barn at Horsepen Farm in the Floris community. Ben Middleton came to the Herndon area from Yorkshire, England, at the age of seven with his father and brother Brook, age fourteen. From their arrival in 1872 until 1987, Middleton family members owned and operated Horsepen Farm.
a black and white, worn photo of the Herndon train station

Area families took the milk from their farms to the Herndon train station, where it would be taken to market in Washington, D.C.

an old black and white photo of two people working to make apple cider

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.

Floris Sixth Annual Community Fair pamphlet from August 28, 1940

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.

baby animals

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.

an old black and white photo of people watching a horse show

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.

two people riding brown horses while two people stand by for support

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.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news2/social-hub/ for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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