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Victorian Society at Fall Church P.O. Box 7436

Falls Church, VA 22040

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Historical Timeline of Victorian Falls Church

1837 - When Queen Victoria ascends to the throne, the Village of Falls Church, settled in 1699, is a community of small farms scattered around the Middle Turnpike (now Broad Street) and Old Courthouse Road (now Lee Highway) near The Falls Church.

1840's - The few businesses include a blacksmith, an ordinary (tavern/inn) and at least one general store and a Methodist chapel.  Northern immigrants, attracted by the temperate climate and cheaper land prices, move into the Village and diversify crops and farming practices.  Many fruit orchards are established.  In 1849, a Post Office is established in the Village.

1850's - Washington, D.C.'s rising population demands more fresh foods thus increasing farm profits;  as a result land values quadruple.  Northern immigrants establish two new congregations, Presbyterian and Baptist.  The Baptists establish a school for boys and girls similar to a high school.  Both Baptists and Presbyterians support abolition; there is a small free black community founded by members who had purchased or had been given their freedom.  In 1859, the Alexandria, Loudon, and Hampshire Railroad links Falls Church to Alexandria, and west to Leesburg.

1860 - Thirty-one families reside within what is today the 2.2 square mile Falls Church City area.  The average age of the head of the household was just over 40.  Twenty-two household-heads were from the north with about half from New York; the rest were born in the District of Columbia or Virginia.  Residents included 19 farmers, 4 merchants, 3 blacksmiths, 2 carpenters, and a physician, wagon maker, and a shoe maker.

1861 - Union troops occupy Taylor's Tavern (now Koon's Ford location). and the surrounding high ground to construct a cannon battery as part of a ring of forts around Washington.  On June 24, 1861, the civilian balloonist Thaddeus S.C. Lowe launches his balloon from Taylor's Tavern to observe the Conderate cavalry - the first aerial reconnaissance in American military history.

1861 - 1865 - Following a brief occupation by the Confederates, Falls Church village is taken by Union Troops.  Confederate Col. John Mosby's raiders are active in the area.  The village voted for seccession, but residents are split between "Seccessionist" and "Unionist".  Many of both sympathies leave if they can; the remaining residents move out on two or three occasions of threatened violence and each time fewer return so that by war's end, the population has decreased by almost two-thirds.  The Falls Church is used as a Union hospital and stable.

1865 - 1869 - New residents from the North begin to populate the Village; freed slaves settle in what is now called Tinner Hill and the James Lee area.  The Second Baptist Church is established by the black population.

1870's - Federal workers begin commuting by train to Washington, D. C.  In summer, people move from the humid environment of Washington to the Village to avoid malaria and yellow fever that are prevalent in the City.  Some make Falls Church their permanent home and commute year-round.  The Village becomes a stronghold of the Women's Temperance Movement.

1875 - The town of Falls Church is incorporated; the first public school is established; in the aftermath of the Civil War destruction of trees, the town charter gives the Town Council authority "to provide and protect shade trees".

1879 - There are over 100 residences, 11 commercial structures, and 8 churches, including the newly built First Congregatonal Church.

1880's - Falls Church continues to thrive, with more residents employed by the Federal Government.  At least two dairies exist.  Frederick Foote is elected as the first black town council member.  James Whitcomb Riley, a favorite poet of the era, vistis his Uncle Joseph Riley (owner of Cherry Hill Farmhouse), while in Washington, to read his poetry to President Harrison.

1882 - The Jefferson Institute, a two-story brick building with six classrooms and a prominent belfrey, becomes the first public school building in the town.  Three teachers preside over as many as 193 students in seven grades.

1885 - The Falls Church Village Improvement Society (VIS) is founded to beautify and benefit the culture and prosperity of the town.

1890 - Falls Church has a population of 792.

1892 - Conservationist Birdsey Northrup visits Falls Church and inspires the Village Improvement Society to hold the first Arbor Day in Virginia.  The first public library is established.

1897 - Electric trolley service connects Falls Church to Washington, D.C.

1898 - Army Camp Russell A. Alger (now a National Memorial Park Cemetary) is established during the Spanish-American War, increasing local activity and prosperity.

1899 - Miss Mattie Gundry opens the Virginia Training School for mentally retarded children; the only one of its kind in the south and later to become the second largest in the United States.    The first public Falls Church library is established.

1904 - There are over 124 residences, 54 commercial structures, 3 post offices, 2 schools, 2 lunch rooms, a hotel, and a meeting hall in the City of Falls Church, as well as trolley and train stations at each end of town.