Ashburn Magazine

The Legacy of AOL — a look back at the company’s impact locally

For Steve Gaitten, it all started with some tears.

In 1996, America Online announced that it would move its headquarters from Tysons to the former British Aerospace building, just east of the Broad Run creek that often acts as the border between Ashburn and Sterling.

Gaitten, an AOL employee, was one of the first to drive to the new site to take a look. He wasn’t impressed. Once he passed Reston, all he could see were cedar trees and open farmland. He pulled over, put his face in his hands and wept. His office would soon be in the middle of nowhere.

But that, of course, didn’t last.

“I could never imagine what it’s become today,” said Gaitten, who now lives in Round Hill and runs a digital marketing company.

Photo: Loudoun County Economic Development

Back then, few could have envisioned the bustling suburban community that is Ashburn and Sterling and Dulles and beyond. Neighborhoods as far as the eye can see. Office buildings. Shopping centers. Restaurants and stores. High-end car dealerships. Heck, there are even a couple of Metrorail stops.

And the data centers. The old chestnut that a majority of the world’s online traffic flows through the area each day is true.

And all this happened – in large part – because America Online came to town.

To read about what originally drew AOL to Loudoun County, what those early years were like, how it grew and how it all came to an end — click here and head over to the Ashburn Magazine website for the full article.

(Image at top courtesy of David Rothbard)