HISTORY OF THE GRANGE
The Grange Hall
Built in 1929 by the local farmers and their families as Grange Hall #738 for the Great Falls chapter of the Fraternal Order of Husbandry, this Craftsman style public assembly hall has been the site of private and community gatherings throughout its history. The building itself is a 1 ½ -story American Craftsman style brick building with a gable front and concrete pillars support its front porch.
The Grange movement began after the Civil War to give farmers a voice with state legislatures, lower shipping rates charged by railroads and in favor of rural free mail delivery. The first Grange was founded in 1869 in Fredonia, NY and still exists today. The Great Falls Grange is a product of the Grange Movement that swept rural America shortly after the turn of the century. The Grange was built as a symbol of commitment to community involvement and progress. The Grange Movement was founded by Oliver Hudson Kelley in 1867 in western New York and was an international organization by 1906. The Grange was a supporter of the women's right to vote and one of the first nongovernmental organizations to provide international assistance to those in need. It is still the political voice of the American farmer, provides social activities and educational instruction for its members. The Great Falls, then Forestville, chapter was founded in 1920.
Prospective members bought "shares" into the organization. For several years, the chapter met in the loft of a local sawmill and then the Forestville Schoolhouse while they raised money for land purchase and the construction of a meeting hall. In 1929, the Grange was built for $12,500 and featured the latest in kitchen and heating equipment. It was one of five grange halls that served the dairy farming
community. Dairy farming was the predominant form of agriculture in the county, and Fairfax County was the leading Virginia producer until 1933.
The spacious, naturally lit upstairs room has hardwood floors, barrel-vaulted bead board ceiling and many of the original fixtures. A raised, fully curtained stage is at one end of the room. Wood for the bead board ceiling and wainscoting is thought to come from the local sawmill. The lower level has a small office area, and a plain, but well lit meeting room with a pass-through to the large country kitchen from which dinners at community socials would be served. Built-in glass fronted cabinets flank either side of the pass-through. The Grange was the focal point for all community life, hosting ice cream socials, dances, carnivals, theatrical productions and other special events.
With declining membership and the dairy farms giving way to suburban development, the Grange and its grounds were sold to the Park Authority in 1981.
The Great Falls Grange is the last standing unaltered grange hall in Virginia and is listed on the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites, with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built in 1889 as a one-room school it was expanded in 1911 to include the Floris School. Ultimately, the school closed in 1922. From 1922 to 1959 it was a private residence, then the Great Falls Post Office from 1959 to 1982, and a commercial bank. In early 1980s the building was put up for sale. Community members were concerned that it would be demolished and replaced with a strip mall. In response, Great Falls residents pooled their resources and purchased the building, eventually donating it to the Fairfax County Park Authority. The building is a wood-framed, “L”-shaped structure covered in weatherboards and topped by a metal cross-gable roof.
Parks Authority Ownership
In the 1980’s Great Falls Heritage Inc. was founded by Don Ziegler and Phil Stone to preserve the Forestville Schoolhouse and the Great Falls Grange buildings. The community worked together to raise funds to preserve both buildings. Thankfully, their efforts were successful and three years later Great Falls Heritage transferred ownership to the Fairfax County Parks Authority. “As a co-founder of Great Falls Heritage, I very much appreciate your efforts to continue the mission of preserving the sense of community that defines Great Falls. From painting the "thermometer" in front of the schoolhouse every two weeks to communicate (fundraising) progress to handing over of the "keys" to the County three years later was an investment so many made and have since enjoyed,” wrote Don Ziegler.
The Grange Hall and Historic Schoolhouse are both buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA).