A historical marker that stands at the new Ballston Point complex near the crossroads states:
This intersection has been a focal point since about 1740, when two roads were developed, one from the future site to Alexandria to the mouth of Pimmit Run, the other from Awbury’s Ferry (at the site of Rosslyn) to the Falls Church. The first came to be known as the Glebe Road because it passed the glebe of Fairfax Parish and in order to distinguish it from other roads to the Falls. The second was eventually named Wilson Boulevard in honor of President Wilson. The intersection became known as Ball’s Crossroads when Ball’s Tavern was established here in the early 1800s.
In 1896, an electric trolley line was constructed north of the crossroads along the present route of Fairfax Drive, whose name derives from that of the trolleys' final destination, Fairfax City. Construction of the trolley line, which branched at Clarendon to serve both Rosslyn and downtown Washington, D.C., temporarily shifted much the area's development away from the crossroads. A historical marker that stands near the northwest corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Stafford Street, one block east of the Ballston Metrorail station (which is at the former site of the Ballston trolley station) states:
By 1900 a well-defined village called Central Ballston had developed in the area bounded by the present-day Wilson Boulevard, Taylor Street, Washington Boulevard, and Pollard Street. More diffuse settlement extended westward to Lubber Run and southward along Glebe Road to Henderson Road.
The track of the Washington, Arlington, and Falls Church Electric Railroad ran along what is now Fairfax Drive; the Ballston Station was at Ballston Avenue, now North Stuart Street. Here Clements Avenue, now Stafford Street, divided to pass on either side of an old Ball family graveyard.
On November 4, 1951, the Parkington Shopping Center opened at the intersection formerly known as Balls Crossroads, on the site of the present Ballston Common Mall. Parkington was anchored by the headquarters location of the Hecht Company and was reputed to have the largest parking garage in the U.S. when it opened. For some time afterward, Ballston became commonly known as Parkington.
Ballston entered a period of decline in the 1960s and 1970s, but grew and changed considerably after the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority opened the Ballston Metrorail station (originally to be called the "Glebe Road" station) on December 1st, 1979. The construction of the station necessitated the relocation of the Ballston Volunteer Fire Department located at 911 North Stuart Street. As a condition of the sale of the fire station the volunteer firefighters insisted the name be changed from "Glebe Road" to "Ballston," thus reviving the "Ballston" name which had all but faded into history.
Ballston is home to tall modern apartment complexes and condominiums, the Ballston Common Mall, and many restaurants and bars. Ballston also boasts a number of parks, trails and open outdoor spaces and a number of people can be seen engaged in some sport on any given evening. These features as well as its proximity to Metro have led to many young adults calling Ballston home -- and have made Ballston a model of transit-oriented development and smart growth.
Ballston is also home to several U.S. government agencies and organizations including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, DARPA (the funding agency for the original Internet research), and the Office of Naval Research, as well as non-profit groups, such as The Nature Conservancy. Additionally, many government contractors and high tech companies have offices in Ballston such as CACI, SAIC, as well as the headquarters of ESI International.
The Washington Capitals professional ice hockey team has recently built the Kettler Capitals Iceplex on the eighth level of the Ballston Common Mall's public parking garage. The facility includes two full-size rinks for the Capitals' practice and for paid public use. The rinks offer about 8,100 hours of ice skating annually. The facility holds 1,200 seats and a conditioning center for the Capitals. It also houses the organization's front office staff. In addition, the facility houses a conference room that is available for public use without charge when the organization is not using it for its own purposes. The Mall's owners hope that the facility will bring in additional revenue for the Mall, which did not become a big money maker after the owners constructed a multiplex movie theater there with the same type of anticipation.
Ballston is also home to a satellite campus of Marymount University.