Burke is named after Silas Burke (1796–1854), a 19th-century farmer, merchant, and local politician who built a house on a hill overlooking the valley of Pohick Creek in approximately 1824. The house still stands. When the Orange and Alexandria Railroad was constructed in the late 1840s, the railroad station at the base of that hill was named "Burke's Station" after Burke, who owned the land in the area and donated a right-of-way to the railroad company. The community that grew up around the railroad station acquired a post office branch in 1852. The railroad tracks located on the same historical line are owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway and form part of the Manassas line of the Virginia Railway Express commuter rail system, which has two stations (Rolling Road and Burke Centre) in the Burke area. The original Burke Station building can still be seen in the community, turned 90 degrees from its historical footprint.
Burke Centre is a 1,700-acre (690 ha) planned community that was formerly part of the Burke CDP but is now a separate census-designated area. It is located west of Burke and is divided into five subcommunities: The Commons, The Landings, The Oaks, The Ponds and The Woods. Other notable communities in the Burke area include Rolling Valley West, Burke Village I & II, Lakepointe, Longwood Knolls, Burke Lake Meadows, Edgewater, Lake Braddock, Signal Hill, Crownleigh, and Cherry Run along with Burke Station Square.
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