Falls Church, Virginia: Wikis


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City of Falls Church
—  City  —
City of Falls Church

Coordinates: 38°52′56″N 77°10′16″W / 38.88222°N 77.17111°W / 38.88222; -77.17111Coordinates: 38°52′56″N 77°10′16″W / 38.88222°N 77.17111°W / 38.88222; -77.17111
Country United States
State Virginia
Designated "City" 1948
 - Type City Manager
 - Mayor Robin Gardner
 - Total 2.2 sq mi (5.7 km2)
 - Land 2.2 sq mi (5.7 km2)
 - Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)
Elevation 325 ft (99 m)
Population (2008)
 - Total 11,169
 - Density 5,225.8/sq mi (2,013.4/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 22040, 22046
Area code(s) 703 and 571
FIPS code 51-27200[1]
GNIS feature ID 1495526[2]
Website http://www.fallschurchva.gov
Sister city is Kokolopori, Democratic Republic of Congo

The City of Falls Church is an independent city in Virginia, United States, lying within the Washington Metropolitan Area. The city population was 11,169 in 2008, up from 10,377 in 2000.[3] Taking its name from The Falls Church, an eighteenth-century Anglican parish, Falls Church gained township status within Fairfax County in 1875. In 1948, it was incorporated as the City of Falls Church, an independent city with county-level governance status.[4] It is also referred to as Falls Church City. A broader area around the city has long been considered part of Falls Church, though these areas were not incorporated as part of the current city. These include Seven Corners and other portions of the current Falls Church postal districts of Fairfax County and the area of Arlington County known as East Falls Church, which was part of the town of Falls Church from 1875 to 1936.[5] For statistical purposes, the Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the City of Falls Church with Fairfax City and Fairfax County.



The City of Falls Church is the smallest county-level political subdivision in the United States by area. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.2 square miles (5.2 km²), all of it land. The center of the city is the crossroads of Virginia State Route 7 (W. Broad St./Leesburg Pike) and U. S. Route 29 (Washington St./Lee Highway).

The Tripps Run watershed drains two-thirds of the City of Falls Church, while the Four Mile Run watershed drains the other third.[6].



Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, the area of present-day Falls Church was part of the Algonquin-speaking world, outside the fringes of the powerful Powhatan paramount chiefdom to the south. It was part of the Anacostan chiefdom, centered on the lower Anacostia River near present-day Washington, D.C. (John Smith visited them in 1608); the Anacostans were organized under the Piscataway paramount chiefdom (not part of the Powhatan alliance), which by the 1630s claimed to have had thirteen successive rulers.[7] Tauxenent/Doegs, who had shifted politically from Powhatan's alliance to Iroquois alliances,[8] migrated physically into the Piscataway territories in the 1660s.[9]

One of these settlements (whether Anacostan or Doeg is unclear) was located within the current city limits of Falls Church, on the present day Lee Highway near Columbia Street.[10][11] Just east of Falls Church, on Wilson Boulevard, is Powhatan Springs,[12] where Powhatan is said to have convened autumn councils. [13] Today's Broad Street and Great Falls Street follow long-established trade and communication routes.[14]

In the late 17th century, especially after Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, English settlers from the Tidewater region of Virginia began to migrate to the area. According to an oral source, one of the chimneys of the "Big Chimneys" house (which was located on Annandale Rd. about a block west of Maple Ave.), was inscribed "1699"; based on this claim, 1699 is generally taken as the first European settlement in the immediate vicinity.

Eighteenth Century

The Falls Church, from which the city takes its name, was first called "William Gunnell's Church," built of wood in 1733 to serve Truro Parish, which had been formed two years earlier from a larger parish centered in Quantico. By 1757, the building was refered to as "The Falls Church," as it was located along the main road from Alexandria to the Great Falls of the Potomac River. George Mason became a Vestryman in 1748, as did George Washington in 1763.[15] A brick church designed by James Wren replaced the wooden one in 1769, at which point it became the seat of the newly-formed Fairfax Parish.[16] Following the Revolution, in 1784, the Commonwealth of Virginia enacted disestablishment of the Anglican Church, meaning it was no longer the state church. Shortly thereafter, in 1789, The Falls Church was abandoned[17] and was not re-occupied again until 1836, by an Episcopal congregation.[18] The Wren building remains on the site, between S. Washington, E. Broad, and E. Fairfax Streets.

Nineteenth Century

Falls Church, like many colonial Virginia settlements, began as a "neighborhood" of large land grant plantations anchored by an Anglican Church. By 1800, the large land holdings had been sub-divided into smaller farms, many of them relying on enslaved labor. With the soil exhausted by tobacco, new crops including wheat, corn, potatoes, and fruit were grown for area markets. Most farmers owned slaves.[19] At the same time, the movement of the US Capital from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in 1800 brought a gradual influx of workers to nearby Falls Church.[20] Taverns also opened to serve travelers going to and from the federal district.

By the start of the American Civil War, Falls Church had seen an influx of Northerners seeking land and better weather. Thus the township's vote for Virginian secession was about 75% for, 25% against. The town changed hands several times during the early years of the war. Confederate General James Longstreet was headquartered at Home Hill (now the Lawton House on Lawton Street) following the First Battle of Manassas. The earliest known instance of U. S. wartime aerial reconnaissance was carried out from Taylor's Tavern at Seven Corners by aeronaut Thaddeus S. C. Lowe of the Union Army Balloon Corps. When Confederates took Falls Church, the town became one of the earliest targets of aerially-directed bombardment, with Lowe operating air reconnaissance from Arlington Heights and directing Union guns near the Chain Bridge by telegraph.[21][22]

Following Reconstruction, Falls Church remained a rural farm community. It gained township status in 1875. Its first mayor after this status was Dr. John Joseph Moran, known as the attending physician when Edgar Allan Poe died.[23]

In 1887, the town of Falls Church retro-ceded to Fairfax County the section south of what is now Lee Highway, then known as "the colored settlement."[24]

Twentieth Century

By 1900, Falls Church was the largest town in Fairfax County, with 1,007 residents.[25] Many of the residents at that time had come from the northern states or elsewhere. A 1904 map of the town shows 125 homes and 38 properties from two to 132 acres. The town had become a center of commerce and culture, with 55 stores and offices and seven churches.[26] In 1915 the town had a population of 1,386 (88% white, 12% black).[27]

In 1912 the Commonwealth allowed municipalities to enact residential segregation, and Falls Church's town council soon passed an ordinance designating a "colored" residential district, in which whites were not allowed to live and outside of which blacks were not allowed to live (black property owners already living outside that district did not have to move, but could only sell to whites).[28] The Colored Citizen's Protective League formed in opposition to this ordinance and prevented it from being enforced. The League incorporated as the first rural chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1915. In November 1917 the segregation law was formally nullified by the Virginia State Supreme Court, though the Falls Church City Council did not formally repeal it until February 1999.[29]

In 1948, Falls Church became an independent city in order to control its municipal services, including the school system, which, at the time, was segregated by race and under pressure from rapid population growth.[30][31] With the desegregation crisis following the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, one city school board member pushed to allow black students to attend Falls Church City schools (they attended Fairfax County schools, with the city paying tuition to the county), but others delayed, and the state government's "Massive Resistance" action prevented desegregation of any schools.[32] In the 1959 school board elections, candidates supported by the Citizens for a Better Council (presently known as Citizens for a Better City, or CBC), which lobbied for increased school funding overall, won the majority of the school board. These more "progressive" school board members then allowed "pupil placement" of black students into Falls Church schools (following Arlingon's lead) once Virginia's 1961 "local option" law allowed them to do so. Three students applied for Fall 1961, two for Mason High School and one for Madison Elementary; all were approved and attended city schools that fall. In 1963, one of these Mason students helped gain full desegregation for the State Theatre, on Washington Street, which had previously excluded black patrons.[33]

The greater Falls Church area is home to a sizable Vietnamese-American community that began to develop with immigration from South Vietnam after the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. One visible sign of this community is Eden Center, a Vietnamese-American shopping plaza constructed in 1984 in the southeast corner of Falls Church City, at Seven Corners, and marked by a traditional gateway, guardian lions, and a clock tower modeled on one in Saigon. It houses over 100 restaurants, bakeries, and shops.[34]

Recent History

In 2008, Falls Church elected the state's first openly gay African American into a public office (city council), Lawrence Webb. Webb stated in an interview that he is "emphatic" that neither his race nor his orientation was an issue in the campaign.[35] Most local voters learned of his sexual orientation only after the fact, via the regional and national newsmedia.[36]

In December 2006, a majority of voting members of The Falls Church voted to disaffiliate with The Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) and join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a missionary initiative of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, another member of the Anglican Communion (of which ECUSA is also a member), but one which refuses to recognize ECUSA. In 2009, CANA joined with others to form the Anglican Church of North America, which is not a member of the Anglican Communion.[37][38] The Falls Church members remaining loyal to the Episcopal Church are now known as The Falls Church (Episcopal) and worship at Falls Church Presbyterian Church across the street. National news media have followed the ensuing lawsuit over parish property, including the historic church site itself. In December 2008, courts ruled in favor of the separatist group, citing state laws, but the Diocese of Virginia and the Protestant Episcopal Church have appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia.[39]

Historic Sites

Cherry Hill Farmhouse and Barn This 1845 Greek Revival farmhouse and 1856 barn, owned and managed by the City of Falls Church, are open to the public select Saturdays in Summer.

Tinner Hill Arch and Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation represent a locus of early African American history in the area, including the site of the first rural chapter of the NAACP.

Two of Washington DC's original 1791 boundary stones are located in public parks on Falls Church City boundaries: The West Cornerstone lies in Andrew Ellicott Park, 2824 Meridian Street, south of West Street. Stone number SW9 lies in Benjamin Banneker Park on Van Buren Street, south of 18th Street, near East Falls Church Metro (Banneker Park is mostly in Arlington County, across Van Buren from Falls Church City's Crossman Park).[40]

Sites on the National Register of Historic Places

Site Year Built Address Listed
Birch House (Joseph Edward Birch House) 1840 312 East Broad Street 1977
Cherry Hill (John Mills Farm) 1845 312 Park Avenue 1973
The Falls Church 1769 115 East Fairfax Street 1970
Federal District Boundary Marker, SW 9 Stone 1791 1976
Federal District Boundary Marker, West Cornerstone 1791 2824 Meridian Street 1991
Mount Hope 1790s 203 South Oak Street 1984


Historical populations

1930 2,019
1940 2,576
1950 7,535
1960 10,192
1970 10,772
1980 9,515
1990 9,578
2000 10,377
2005 10,781
2008 11,200

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 10,377 people, 4,471 households, and 2,620 families residing in the city. The population density was 5,225.8 people per square mile (2,013.4/km²). There were 4,725 housing units at an average density of 2,379.5/sq mi (916.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 84.97% White, 3.28% Black or African American, 0.24% Native American, 6.50% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 2.52% from other races, and 2.43% from two or more races. 8.44% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race.

Eden Center, a large mall of Vietnamese specialty stores, is located in Falls Church, and draws Asian consumers from the region. The city also has a very significant population of ethnic Salvadorans, although it's unclear whether this reference includes the Falls Church portion of neighboring Fairfax County.

There were 4,471 households, out of which 30.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them; 47.1% were married couples living together, 8.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.4% were non-families. 33.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 3.01.

The age distribution was 23.4% under the age of 18, 5.1% from 18 to 24, 31.1% from 25 to 44, 28.1% from 45 to 64, and 12.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 94.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $74,924, and the median income for a family was $97,225. Males had a median income of $65,227 versus $46,014 for females. The per capita income for the city was $41,051. About 2.8% of families and 4.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.3% of those under age 18 and 4.1% of those age 65 or over. Falls Church City was the nation's most affluent municipality in 2002.[41 ]

Politics and City Services

Falls Church is governed by a seven member city council, each elected at large for four year, staggered terms. Council Members are career professionals holding down full-time jobs during the day. In addition to attending a minimum of 22 Council meetings and 22 work sessions each year, they also attend meetings of local boards and commissions and regional organizations (several Council Members serve on committees of regional organizations as well).[42] Members also participate in the Virginia Municipal League and some serve on statewide committees. City elections are held every two years on the second Tuesday in May of even numbered years. The Mayor is elected by vote of the members of council. The city operates in a typical council-manager form of municipal government, with a city manager hired by the council to serve as the city's chief administrative officer.

Candidates for city elections do not run under a nationally affiliated party nomination. The dominant organizing force for city politics for many years has been the Citizens for a Better City (CBC) which endorses a slate of candidates for each election. The origin of the CBC relates, in part, to the high number of federal employees in the city falling under the Hatch Act restrictions on partisan political activity. Funding levels for city schools, tax rates, quality of city services, and land use decisions are among the prevalent themes in city elections.

City services and functions include education, public safety and law enforcement, recreation and parks, library, land use, zoning, and building inspections, street maintenance, storm water, and water and sanitary sewer service. Despite its small size, the City has two-full time arborists. Some public services are provided by agreement with the City's county neighbors of Arlington and Fairfax, including certain health and human services (Fairfax); and court services, transport, and fire/rescue services (Arlington).

The City provides water utility service to a large portion of eastern Fairfax County, including the dense commercial areas of Tysons Corner and Merrifield. The City of Falls Church and Fairfax County in 2009 entered into a legal dispute about the areas of coverage that each respective entity should provide. Falls Church has alleged that Fairfax has used undue pressure in connections of new services, and County residents have long complained that the City charges them up to double the rate for services that it charges City residents.[43]

At the federal level, Falls Church is part of Virginia's 8th congressional district, which is represented by Democrat Jim Moran, elected in 1990. The state's senior member of the United States Senate is Democrat Jim Webb, elected in 2006. The state's junior member of the United States Senate is Democrat Mark Warner, elected in 2008.


The city is served by Falls Church City Public Schools:

Of these four Falls Church City Public Schools, only one, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, is located within city limits; the other three are located in neighboring Fairfax County. Falls Church High School is not part of the Falls Church City Public School system, but rather the Fairfax County Public School system; it does not serve the city of Falls Church.

Falls Church City is eligible to send up to three students per year to the Fairfax County magnet school, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology[44]

The city is home to Saint James Catholic School, a parochial school serving grades K-8.


Metrorail Train Entering East Falls Church Station

Although two stations on the Washington Metro subway system have "Falls Church" in their names, neither lies within the City of Falls Church: East Falls Church is in Arlington County and West Falls Church-VT/UVA is in Fairfax County.

  • The Metrorail Silver Line, under active construction in late 2009, will service East Falls Church (EFC) station beginning in 2013. It will run between Stadium-Armory in the east, following the Orange Line route until it reaches EFC, where it will branch off towards the northwest, eventually reaching Dulles International Airport. EFC will be a key transfer point.
  • The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority provides bus service throughout the Washington metropolitan area, including Falls Church.
  • The City, by contract with Arlington Transit, provides a limited-service bus, named GEORGE, to both nearby Metro stations. [45]
  • A small portion of the 45-mile Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park runs through the City. The trail enters the City from the west between mile markers 7 and 7.5 (near Broad Street). The trail enters the city from the east between mile markers 5.5 and 6. The Four Mile Run Trail begins in the city at Van Buren Street. The W&OD and various predecessor lines provided rail transportation from 1860 to 31 May 1951, with exception of a few years during the U.S. Civil War. Freight service was abandoned in August 1968. These trails comprise a major bicycle commuting route to Washington, D.C.

News & Media

The Falls Church News-Press (circulation 36,500) is an independent, politically progressive weekly newspaper focusing on local news and commentary, but also including nationally syndicated columnns. It is edited by Nicholas F. Benton, who founded the paper in 1991[46]; offices are at 450 W. Broad St., Suite 321.

The Falls Church Times is an online community news and opinion outlet founded in 2008.

The area is also served by national and regional newspapers, including The Washington Post and The Washington Examiner.

WAMU Radio 88.5 produces several locally-oriented news and opinion programs.

Culture & Events

Annual Events

Memorial Day Parade. Held since at least the 1950s, with bands, military units, civic associations, and fire/rescue stations, in recent years the event has featured a street festival with food, crafts, and non-profit organization booths, and a 3k fun run (the 2009 race drew some 3,000 runners).[47]

City vehicle during 2007 Memorial Day parade

Tinner Hill Blues Festival is hosted every summer by the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation and the City of Falls Church at locations across the city, including Cherry Hill.

New Year's Eve Watch Celebration, co-sponsored by the City of Falls Church and the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation.

Weekly & Monthly Events

Falls Church Farmer's Market is held Saturdays year-round, Jan. 3 - April 25 (9 am - Noon), May 2 - Dec. 26 (8 am - Noon), at the City Hall Parking Lot, 300 Park Ave., and has received regional attention.[48]

First Fridays of Falls Church features food, arts, and music events at local shops and restaurants across the city the first Friday of every month.

Cultural Institutions

The Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society was originally founded in 1885 and re-established in 1965 to promote the history, culture, and beautification of the city.

The Mary Riley Styles Public Library, 120 N. Virginia Ave., is Falls Church's public library; established in 1928, its current building was constructed for the purpose in 1958 and expanded in 1993.[49] In addition to its circulating collections, it houses a local history collection, including newspaper files, local government documents, and photographs. It is open seven days a week.

The State Theatre, 220 North Washington St., stages performances of every type of live music. Built as a movie house in 1936, it was reputed to be the first air-conditioned theatre on the east coast. It closed in the 1980s; after extensive renovations in the 1990s, including a stage, bar, and restaurant, it re-opened as a music venue.[50]


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. http://geonames.usgs.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  3. ^ US Census Data
  4. ^ Municipal Code of the City of Falls Church: Incorporation and Boundaries
  5. ^ Gernard and Netherton, Falls Church: A Virginia Village Revisited, 65.
  6. ^ The Hills and Valleys of Falls Church
  7. ^ Wayne Clark & Helen Rountree, "The Powhatans and the Maryland Mainland," in Powhatan Foreign Relations, 1500-1722 (Univ. Press of Virginia, 1993), 114 (fig. 5.2), 115.
  8. ^ "Early Virginia (Powhatan's Territory in 1607)," map, Powhatan Museum of Indigenous Arts and Culture
  9. ^ Wayne Clark & Helen Rountree, "The Powhatans and the Maryland Mainland," in Powhatan Foreign Relations, 1500-1722 (Univ. Press of Virginia, 1993), 118.
  10. ^ Melvin Lee Steadman, Jr., Falls Church: By Fence and Fireside (Falls Church Public Library, 1964), p. 3.
  11. ^ Samuel V. Poudfit, “Ancient Village Sites and Aboriginal Workshops in the District of Columbia,” American Anthropologist (Anthropological Society of Washington), 2.3 (July 1889): 243.
  12. ^ "A Pictorial History of Arlington, Area C Neighborhoods" (see Powhatan Springs)
  13. ^ Steadman, Falls Church, p. 2.
  14. ^ History of Falls Church
  15. ^ Steadman, Falls Church by Fence and Fireside, 15, 16-17.
  16. ^ Steadman, 13.
  17. ^ Steadman, 25.
  18. ^ Joan R. Gundersen, Ph.D., "How 'Historic' Are Truro Church and The Falls Church?" 22 Dec. 2006
  19. ^ Images of America: Victorian Falls Church, The Victorian Society at Falls Church, 2007, page 7.
  20. ^ All-American Crossroads, Jean Rust, 1970, p. 11.
  21. ^ "Balloons in the American Civil War," U. S. Centennial of Flight Commission
  22. ^ Gernand and Netherton, Falls Church: A Virginia Village Revisited, 47-48.
  23. ^ Bandy, W.T. "Dr. Moran and the Poe-Reynolds Myth" in Myths and Reality: The Mysterious Mr. Poe. Baltimore: Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1987. pp. 34-5
  24. ^ Darian Bates, "Meeting John A. Johnson: Unsung Hero In Falls Church's 1950s Struggle to Integrate Its Schools," Falls Church News-Press 15.30 (29 Sept.-5 Oct. 2005)
  25. ^ Images of America: Victorian Falls Church, The Victorian Society at Falls Church, 2007, page 101.
  26. ^ Images of America: Victorian Falls Church, The Victorian Society at Falls Church, 2007, page 101.
  27. ^ [Images of America: Victorian Falls Church, The Victorian Society at Falls Church, 2007, p. 125]
  28. ^ [Images of America: Victorian Falls Church, The Victorian Society at Falls Church, 2007,, p. 125]
  29. ^ Darian Bates, "Mary Ellen 'Nellie' Henderson: A Life of Making Differences, Big and Small," Falls Church News-Press, 17 Feb. 2005
  30. ^ The Falls Church NAACP
  31. ^ Images of America: Victorian Falls Church, The Victorian Society at Falls Church, 2007, page 8.
  32. ^ Darian Bates, "Meeting John A. Johnson: Unsung Hero In Falls Church's 1950s Struggle to Integrate Its Schools," Falls Church News-Press 15.30 (29 Sept.-5 Oct. 2005)
  33. ^ Darian Bates, "M.E. Costner Leads First Class of Black Students Following Approval By Falls Church School Board," Falls Church News-Press 15.31 (6-12 Oct. 2005)
  34. ^ [Jessica Meyers, "Pho and Apple Pie: Eden Center as a Representation of Vietnamese American Ethnic Identity in the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area, 1975-2005," Journal of Asian American Studies 9.1 (2006): 55-85.]
  35. ^ Lawrence Webb's win makes him state's first black, gay elected official
  36. ^ Lawrence Webb wins historic election in Falls Church
  37. ^ Michelle Boorstein, "Episcopal Churches To Vote on Departure; Fairfax Congregations Dismayed by Direction," The Washington Post, 4 Dec. 2006, p. A01
  38. ^ Michelle Boorstein, "Trial Begins in Clash Over Va. Church Property," The Washington Post, 14 Nov. 2007, p. B01
  39. ^ Michelle Boorstein, "Judge Rules For Dissidents In Episcopal Property Fight," The Washington Post, 20 Dec. 2008
  40. ^ "Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia"
  41. ^ http://albuquerque.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/stories/2002/07/15/story6.html
  42. ^ Falls Church City Webpage on Council Member responsibilities
  43. ^ Fairfax residents complain about Falls Church Water
  44. ^ Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
  45. ^ Falls Church City Press Release, June, 2009
  46. ^ "The Publisher: Q&A with Falls Church News-Press Owner-Editor Nicholas F. Benton," Out Front Blog, 7 July 2009
  47. ^ Article in Falls Church News-Press, May 2009
  48. ^ Stephanie Willis, "Falls Church Farmer's Market," D.C. Foodies, 2 Feb. 2009
  49. ^ Mary Riley Styles Public Library - History
  50. ^ The State Theatre - History

External links


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