Falls Church, Virginia

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The Falls Church community developed around The Falls Church, which was founded in 1734 and whose congregation has included President George Washington and Virginia statesman George Mason. The name “The Falls Church” came from its geographical location. Among the very few, widely separated churches in the parish, this church was identified as the one that was “near the falls” of the Potomac River.

Falls Church dates back to the late 1600s as an early Colonial settlement shared with Native Americans. The community was established around The Falls Church (Episcopal) that was founded in 1734. Falls Church became a township in 1875, and an independent city in 1948, when parents successfully obtained its separation from Fairfax County. Just over two miles and nicknamed “the Little City,” Falls Church is known for its urban village feel, a nationally ranked school system, environmental activism, a wide range of community activities, and a year-round farmers market.

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Top Photo: JBG Smith

The Little City

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Northern Virginia, before Europeans explored it, was firmly governed by the Iroquois Confederacy—a consortium of Native American nations. Local inhabitants considered the Little Falls of the Potomac River as highly significant—it is the first “cataract”, or barrier, to navigation on the river. The word “Potomac” is Native American for “gathering place”.

Captain John Smith of England was the first European to explore the Potomac as far as Little Falls. The Colony of Virginia grew out of these explorations, and English settlers may have established themselves at the site of modern-day Falls Church as early as 1699.  Indian trails meandered past the site of the 1699 cabin—an east-west one generally following the route of modern Broad Street, and one branching off from it to the Little Falls of the Potomac—today’s Little Falls Street. By the 1730s these trails became important transportation routes.

In 1734 The Falls Church—as it came to be known—was founded at its present site adjacent to the intersection of the important Indian trails. At that time churches were outposts of government as well as worship. Not only was the Church of England—the official church of the Colony—wishing to make inroads in the vast wilderness of Northern Virginia, but the Colony’s leaders wished to establish a beachhead of civilization as well.

Two acres were purchased from John Trammell, a local landowner, and a carpenter named Richard Blackburn built a wooden church. This stood until 1769, when the present brick church was designed and built by architect James Wren.  Originally called “the crossroads near Michael Reagan’s”, the site of the church first appears on a map dated 1747, and is labeled the “Upper Church”. It was also called “the church up at the falls”, and then eventually, The Falls Church.

The American Civil War was a turning point for the city. Following the war, local African-Americans established prosperous communities in an area then called South Falls Church. Frederick Forrest Foote, Jr., a local black man, served as a Falls Church town council member from 1880–1889. Tinner Hill Arch and Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation are examples of early African American history in the area, including the site of the first rural chapter of the the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

A View of Falls Church

Annual Falls Church Special Events

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Farmers Market

Open every Saturday, year-round at City Hall.

Valentine’s Day Tea

Special tea hosted by a costumed docent at the Cherry Hill Farmhouse.

Celtic Music Concert

A lively evening of acoustic Irish music in the Cherry Hill Farmhouse parlor.

Leaf Mulching Day

City of Falls Church staff use heavy equipment to load open bed vehicles with leaf mulch.

Cherry Hill Ice Cream

Cherry Hill celebrates the start of its open house season with family fun and homemade ice cream!

Easter Egg Hunt

Easter EGGStravaganza spring event for kids of all ages.

Spring Community Clean Up

Clean up the City and keep litter out of our waterways. Great for individuals, groups, and families.

Arbor Day

The City celebrates Arbor Day with a ceremony followed by a tree planting in the neighborhood.

Mothers Day Tea

Special tea hosted by a costumed docent at the Cherry Hill Farmhouse.

Bike to Work Day

Join 20,000 other bicycle commuters in this regional event!

Falls Church Civil War Encampment

A community event that tells the story of the people who lived in the small farming village of Falls Church during 1861-1865.

Memorial Day Parade & Festival

For more than 30 years, the City has hosted an annual Memorial Day Festival and Parade on Memorial Day.

Concerts in the Park

The series features local musicians of various genres every Thursday evening in the Summer.

Tinner Hill Music Fest

The Tinner Hill Music Fest is the only three-day event in Falls Church.

Sunset Cinema

Outdoor movies at Cherry Hill Park.

July 4th Celebration

Independence Day celebrations.

Falls Church Festival

Features live entertainment, pony rides, amusement rides, crafters, businesses, civic organizations, and cuisine from local kitchens.

Farm Day

This family event features blacksmith demonstrations, horse-drawn hayrides, pumpkin painting, scarecrow making, and a petting zoo.

Fall Community Clean Up

Clean up the City and keep litter out of our waterways. Great for individuals, groups, and families.

Fall Recycling Extravaganza

Recycling Extravaganzas are special collection events held in the spring and fall at the Falls Church Recycling Center.

Halloween Literary Evening

Join Cherry Hill Farmhouse for their annual Halloween Literary Evening.

Halloween Carnival

For children 11 and under at the Community Center.

Veterans Day Ceremony

Every year the City honors veterans with a ceremony at the City of Falls Church Veterans Memorial.

A Very Victorian Christmas

Start your Christmas season off with a visit to Cherry Hill Farmhouse to see how Christmas was celebrated during the 1860s.

Holiday Craft Show

More than 50 crafters and merchants show their wares at the Community Center selling unique handmade items, baked goods, and more.

Children’s Holiday Shoppe

Just across the park from the Holiday Gift & Craft Show, children can purchase and wrap inexpensive gifts, aided by volunteers.

Watch Night

New Year’s Eve Celebrations in downtown Falls Church.

Falls Church, VA Events

Places to Explore in Falls Church

  • The Cherry Hill Farmhouse, with its adjoining barn, is a historic family farm built in 1845. Cherry Hill Farm was once a thriving 73-acre farm and survived the Civil War despite being repeatedly overrun, raided, and requisitioned. The City of Falls Church now owns Cherry Hill and maintains the household’s authentic 18th- and 19th-century furniture and period tools in the 1856 barn. Tours are available.

  • The State Theater opened in 1936 and operated as a popular movie house until the late 1980s. A multi-million dollar restoration in the late 1990s turned it into a venue for live music and private events.

  • The Eden Center is an Asian center with over 100 stores located on Wilson Boulevard at Seven Corners. The Eden Center Clock Tower, an exact replica of downtown Saigon, was erected for the thousands of immigrants who settled in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. The Center is the heart and soul of the Vietnamese-American Community for the entire East Coast. Eden Center continues to grow and hosts an annual Tet festival and an annual Moon Festival.
  • Galloway Methodist Church was founded in 1867 by Harriet and George Brice, who longed for a place in which they could freely worship. Together with a small group of newly emancipated community of ex-slaves, they created the first African American church, school and cemetery for ex-slaves and their families in the village of Falls Church.

  • ArtSpace Falls Church is a little center for the arts – housing a 95-seat theater and an art gallery. Creative Cauldron is the nonprofit arts organization that manages and operates ArtSpace. Creative Cauldron’s mission is to make the arts affordable and accessible to everyone, offering year-round educational programs in the arts as well as professional performances of live theater, music and dance for adults and for children.

  • The Falls Church, an historic Episcopal church, was originally a wooden structure known as “William Gunnell’s Church,” designed and built by Colonel Richard Blackburn. By 1762, the wooden structure had fallen into decay and a new brick building, designed by James Wren, was completed in 1769 on the same site. Extensively renovated in 1959, improvements included adding galleries from Wren’s original design that were never were installed, and a new chancel. It is one of the oldest church structures in the United States.
  • The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation hosts several cultural events every year, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Day March for Unity on Jan. 15, and the annual Tinner Blues Festival.

Fun Facts For Your Next Trivia Night

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1. At 2.11 square miles, Falls Church is the smallest incorporated municipality in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the smallest county-equivalent municipality in the United States.

2. During The American Revolution, George Washington and George Mason served as vestrymen at The Falls Church, which still holds services today.

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