Manassas History

The Town of Manassas was born on April 2, 1873, when the Virginia General Assembly granted a charter that created a town government to meet the needs of the growing village. In those early days, residents were most concerned with building and maintaining the unpaved roads, building sidewalks, protecting their town from the ever-present danger of fires, maintaining shade trees, regulating saloons, and making sure that livestock did not roam in the streets.

In 1873, about 300 people lived in what was then called the Village of Manassas. Another 1,000 or so people lived in the surrounding Manassas District, now part of Prince William County. Before the Civil War, the area was known as Tudor Hall, named for a home in the area. During the Civil War, with little more than a few homes and a depot at the railroad junction of the Manassas Gap and Orange and Alexandria Railroads, the area was called Manassas Junction.

Although not yet a town, Manassas was known around the world as the place where two major Civil War battles were fought. After the war, many northerners settled here, attracted by the inexpensive price of land. Union veterans like George Carr Round, the first City Clerk and a Town Council member, worked together with Confederate veterans like Robert Carter Weir, the first Mayor.

Education was a priority for the town. By 1870 African Americans established the Manassas Village Colored School. Located first on the corner of Liberty Street, it was renamed The Brown School a year later. Ruffner School, the state’s first public school for White children, was built in 1872. The nationally known Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth, was established by Jennie Dean in 1893.

The town grew rapidly as the Prince William County Courthouse moved to Manassas in 1894, and passenger and freight rail service remained important. The town’s neighborhoods remained largely segregated after a 1917 ordinance regulated where African Americans could live. Many settled in the historically Black areas around Liberty, Douglas, and Prince William Streets.

After World War II, Manassas became more suburban as farmland was transformed by housing and business development. The city continues to be transformed by our diverse population in a way that our founders could never have imagined. Of our 42,708 residents counted in the 2020 Census, 13% are Black or African American, 38% are Hispanic or Latino, and 38% are White.

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