Why Is It Named Tysons Corner?

We’ve been thinking about writing this post for quite some time. The mall in Tysons is currently the 13th largest in the United States and was one of the earlier giant shopping malls before the era of the super malls like the Mall of America in Minnesota.

The area we call Tysons Corner, or just Tysons now, was once a sleepy rural intersection. That is, until the Fairfax County County Board of Supervisors approved the development of the then-new shopping mall in 1962 at a cost of $20 million. (Washington Nationals ower Ted Lerner was one of the primary developers — certainly a contributing factor to why he could afford to buy them.) The main shopping center of that time was at Seven Corners (which, by the way was built on top of land once owned by a former slave).

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Tysons Corner 1936
Tysons Corner 1936

Source: Annandale Chamber of Commerce

The land on top of which the mall was first constructed was once owned by William Tyson, a native of Cecil County, Maryland (the northeast most part of the state). He bought the land from former Congressman A. Lawrence Foster of New York who had moved to a farm on the property in 1844 after he was out of Congress. Before Mr. Tyson purchased his land there, the area was called Peach Grove. Tyson settled in and became the postmaster of the Peach Grove Post Office, which was established on April 22nd, 1851.

The area formerly known as Peach Grove eventually came to be known as Tysons Crossroads and then Tysons Corner after William Tyson.

In the 1850 U.S. Census, William was still listed as living in Cecil, Maryland with his wife Susan, and children.

William Tyson family in the 1850 U.S. Census
William Tyson family in the 1850 U.S. Census

We found the 1860 U.S. Census record with William Tyson’s family. It’s very difficult to make out, but if you click on it, you’ll get a larger version. It says he was born in 1818 and was living on the property with his wife Susan, and children Catherine (17), Lydia (14), Francis (13), Amelia (7), Haney (4), and Bessey (2).

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William Tyson household in 1860 U.S. Census
William Tyson household in 1860 U.S. Census

In the 1880 U.S. Census, the family was listed as living in the Providence District, currently one of nine magisterial districts in Fairfax County. William was also listed as being either sick or disabled and unable to work.

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William Tyson household in the 1880 U.S. Census
William Tyson household in the 1880 U.S. Census
February 19th, 1897
February 19th, 1897

Combing through old newspapers, we stumbled upon a brief mention of the Tysons in the Alexandria Gazette and Virginia Advertiser, printed on February 19th, 1897. In the Fairfax Notes section, Susan Tyson of Lewinsville was said to have died the previous Sunday, and William Tyson was very sick.

Finally, we found William in the 1900 U.S. Census. His wife Susan had passed away in 1897 and he was living with two of his daughters, Amelia and Bessie, and a servant in Wheaton, Maryland.

William Tyson in the 1900 U.S. Census
William Tyson in the 1900 U.S. Census

William Tyson died at the age of 86 on May 21st, 1903 in Washington, D.C. and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Falls Church.

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1861, by D. McClelland, Blanchard & Mohun, Hugh B. Sweeny, and Thos. Blagden, in the Clerks Office of the District Court of the District of Columbia.

Incredible 1850s Map of Washington

Now this has to be one of the best maps we’ve come across recently. It …

  • Cherisse Rivera

    love this…. i need to find a before and after shot of the area

  • Love the website. For Tysons, there is a great book from Connie Pendleton Stuntz, “This Was Tysons Corner, Virginia”. Great history!
    Enjoy, Dean