The Manassas station is, perhaps, one of the oldest stations in our service territory, and if it could talk, it would no doubt have plenty of stories to share. The first inhabitants of the Manassas area were Algonquian-speaking Native Americans located near the mouth of the Occoquan River, and Siouan-speaking Mannahoaks located west of the Fall Line. The region was not a priority for colonization until the 1700s, as most initial colonial settlements were established near navigable rivers. It wasn’t until 1722 that the Treaty of Albany restricted the Iroquois to west of the Blue Ridge, and “King” Carter issued grants to acquire thousands of acres in the area that later developed into Manassas. It became an agricultural region with scattered farms until the 1850s, and wasn’t chartered as a town until after the Civil War in 1873. The first railway in Prince William County (the Orange and Alexandria line, which ran from Alexandria, through the Manassas area to Gordonsville) began in Alexandria in 1850. By October, 1851, the railroad had reached Manassas, and it was completed to Culpeper in 1852.
Two railroads, the Manassas Gap and the Orange & Alexandria railroad intersected here and the area became known as Manassas Junction. During the Civil War, Manassas Junction was strategically important to both the Union and the Confederacy as a supply depot and for military transportation.
Early May 1861, Col. Philip St. George Cocke arrived here to refine plans for the fortification of Manassas Junction, which had already begun. Confederate President Jefferson Davis had directed General P.G.T. Beauregard, the “Hero of Fort Sumpter” to take command of the forces here and direct the construction of the fortification. In three months, thirteen earthwork forts, numerous rifle pits, and a network of connecting trenches were built to protect the railroad and the army's base surrounding the junction.
On August 24, 1862, Confederate General Robert E. Lee sent General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and his forces on a sweeping march north and east around Union General John Pope's right flank to cut the Federal supply line and force Pope out of his defenses. Lee followed with General James Longstreet's command. A day and a half later, Jackson arrived at Bristoe station, a few miles west of the station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad where he tore up track, destroyed the bridge over Broad Run and derailed two Federal supply trains. He then launched a night attack on Manassas Junction, capturing 300 Union prisoners and 200 railroad cars loaded with delicacies. His hungry men swarmed through this area, ate their fill of biscuits, cheese, ham, bacon, coffee, sugar, tea, fruit, brandy, wine, whisky, and oysters and loaded their knapsacks with coats, blankets, shoes, socks, pants, boots, shirts and caps and burned everything else that remained.
Learning that Pope was marching toward him, Jackson led his men to the old Manassas battleground and took up a strong position to await Lee and Longstreet. And the rest, as they say, is history. (More information can be obtained by visiting the Manassas Museum located right across Prince William street from the station).
The first Manassas railroad depot was a small log building located east of the present site and on the north, or town side of the tracks. This building probably also housed the post office. The first depot on the present site was a long frame building constructed in the late 1880's. This frame depot was dismantled in 1904 and replaced by a brick passenger depot. On June 25, 1912, a fire broke out in the baggage room and the depot burned, leaving only the foundation and walls. The third and present structure was completed in 1914 incorporating the walls of the original burned out depot.
Several railroads have owned and operated this historical track over the years but it is presently owned by Norfolk Southern. The present depot was donated to the City by Norfolk Southern Corporation in 1995. In 1997 it was rehabilitated through funding from the Federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, the Potomac & Rappahannock Transportation Commission, and the City. The station today has been transformed into a multi-use facility. It currently has a waiting room, a staffed visitors center, rest rooms and a covered pavilion across the street that has ice skating during the winter months and concerts during the summer. It is also home to the offices of Historic Manassas, Inc., the Historic Manassas Visitor Center and the James and Marion Payne Railroad Heritage Gallery and is a familiar stop for daily commuters on the VRE.