Herndon is a town in Fairfax County, Virginia, in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area of the United States. The population was 23,292 at the 2010 census. In 2020, the population was estimated to be 24,532, which makes it the largest of three incorporated towns in the county.
The actual dimensions of the town of Herndon are fairly small. However, the United States Post Office treats nearby unincorporated communities in northwestern Fairfax County as part of a Greater Herndon region, including Dranesville, Floris, Franklin Farm, McNair, and Oak Hill. The information below pertains generally only to the town of Herndon itself. See the associated articles for locations outside the town limits.
The early settlement was named Herndon in 1858, after Commander William Lewis Herndon, an American naval explorer and author of Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon. Commander Herndon captained the ill-fated steamer SS Central America, going down with his ship while helping to save over 150 of its passengers and crew. In the 1870s, many Northern soldiers and their families came to settle in the area, taking advantage of moderate climate and low land prices.
Originally part of the rural surroundings of the Washington, D.C. area, the town of Herndon developed into a hub of dairy farming and vacationing for area residents, aided by its presence along the Alexandria, Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad (later to become the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Railroad). When the railroad was converted into a hike-and-bike trail, Herndon capitalized on history and small-town feel (in a major metropolitan region) by converting its train station into a museum and visitors center and by relocating a Norfolk Southern Railway caboose to a nearby site and repainting it in W&OD livery.
The caboose was originally acquired in 1989 by Herndon Historical Society member, George Moore, to whose memory the caboose was dedicated after his death in 2003.