Springfield was founded as a station of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad in 1847. The station was named for the estate of Henry Daingerfield on whose land it had been built. Daingerfield was an Alexandria businessman and sat on the board of directors of the railroad. Springfield originally denoted an area to the north of the current center near what is now the Backlick Road Virginia Railway Express station off Route 617 (Backlick Road) where the station and later a post office was established as Springfield Depot August 28, 1866. This post office closed in 1868.
In 1877, Richard Moore petitioned for a post office, which he named Moor, located about a little over a mile south of the station near the intersection of Fairfax (now Old Keene Mill) and Backlick roads. The post office name was changed in 1881 to Garfield to honor the late President James A. Garfield, who had been assassinated that year. In 1907, the Garfield post office closed and a new postal station named Corbett (for the current landowner) opened back near the railroad station. Finally the name returned to Springfield on June 27, 1910, and has remained since that time although the name Garfield continued to appear on maps at least through the 1930s.
Springfield remained a rural crossroads until Edward Carr decided to subdivide the area for suburban development in 1946 along the recently opened Henry Shirley Highway (now I-95/I-395). Carr, a realtor, believed this to be the last easily accessible tract within 12 miles (19 km) of Washington, D.C. Ready access to Washington via the Shirley Highway spurred tremendous growth in the area in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1950, the area had an estimated population of 1,000. Growth led to the building of Robert E. Lee High School in 1957. By 1960 the population was reported as over 10,000 and grew to more than 25,000 by 1970 with the North and West Springfield neighborhoods.
The opening of the Springfield Mall in 1973–1975 (the second regional shopping center in Northern Virginia after Tysons Corner), as well as the Springfield and Brookfield shopping centers, made Springfield a major retail destination. The area through the 1980s and 1990s until the Franconia-Springfield Parkway in 1996, and the Franconia-Springfield Metro and Virginia Rail Express Station in 1997, led to the expansion of retail and high-density housing in the area. Plans now are to revamp the mall from an indoor facility into a town center with a mixture of shopping, office, and residential development.