City as ‘Baby Boomer:’ Falls Church Turns 65 on Saturday

Birthday Recalls Era That Launched City’s Educational Priority

The City of Falls Church can rightly be called a “Baby Boomer,” a participant in the post-World War II population boom, that like all the rest born in those days, is now qualifying for the benefits of golden years.

This Saturday, August 3, will mark the 65th birthday of the City of Falls Church, born as an independent city under Virginia’s system of jurisdictional designations in 1948 on the occasion of its exceeding a population of 5,000. Therefore, its connection to the “baby boom” was more direct than perhaps appreciated at the time.

With the national mobilization to prosecute World War II causing an explosion of population growth in the D.C. area, the population inside the 2.2-square mile segment of Northern Virginia that became delineated as the City of Falls Church almost doubled during the war, and continued growing during the “baby boom” after it.

What had been for 73 years the Town of Falls Church, thus part of Fairfax County, became an independent city on August 3, 1948, when its population was found to exceed 5,000, a finding confirmed by an order signed on that date by a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge.

The birthday date has generally gone unrecognized in The Little City in recent decades. But in the early days, major celebrations were regularly held, including a first birthday party when the City turned one year old on August 3, 1949, another one when it turned five years told in 1953, and still another when it turned 10 years old in 1958.

This is according to early City histories compiled at the Mary Riley Styles Public Library, as determined by long-time librarian Brenda Crowley and relayed to City historian and library board member Brad Gernand.

What has evolved into some confusion in recent years wasn’t there during the first decade or so. These days, few seem to know for sure when, exactly, to celebrate the City’s birthday, since there is also the date that the Virginia General Assembly approved the City’s charter, which was April 4, 1950.

When F.C. City Council member Phil Duncan tried to remind his colleagues that the City’s 65th birthday was at hand last week, his announcement fell on deaf ears.

In more recent years, celebrations have focused on other benchmarks in Falls Church’s history, including a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Falls Church’s official designation by the Virginia General Assembly as a “town” that was held in 1975, and, most recently, an extensive celebration of the ostensible 300th anniversary of the (white) settlement of Falls Church held in 1999.

That date was based on the fact that, in what historians ascertained was the earliest settlement inside the current City limits, the Big Chimneys Inn, surviving remnants of one of the chimneys, located at the site of the Big Chimneys Park now, had the date of 1699 carved into it.

As part of that “Tricentennial” celebration in the late 1990s, Gernand and Nan Netherton were commissioned to compile a history of Falls Church, going by the title of “Falls Church: A Virginia Village Revisited.” The City of Falls Church owns the copyright to the hardcover book that includes a vast array of old photos and maps.

In it, the authors note that with its establishment as an independent city in 1948, Falls Church established its own school system the next year, then “built two schools: George Mason Junior-Senior High School west of Haycock Road, and Mount Daniel Elementary at the end of Oak Street; both were opened in 1952. The City purchased Oak Street School from Fairfax County in 1955 and renamed it Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. All school buildings had subsequent additions and renovations. The first section of the brick city hall was opened in 1958, as was the first section of the library building. So were schools, government, and the library served.”

So, the City achieved its independent status to address its top priority, to be able to accommodate the “baby boom” with a high quality, independent school system, and it hasn’t stopped striving to provide that for all subsequent generations to the present day.

The City doubled its population in just eight years to 5,000 then, and today it is growing at a faster pace than any jurisdiction in Virginia, growing to 13,229 as of this July, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Just as when it was founded, it is growing by leaps and bounds now as it has resumed “baby booming,” the result of families who want to enjoy the benefits of its now truly world-class school system.

(For anyone who thinks the City is becoming overpopulated because of all this, consider Union City, New Jersey. In just over half the area of Falls Church, at 1.27 square miles, it is home to 52,977 people.)

Although there is plenty of cause to celebrate, while there are apparently no organized parties on Falls Church’s 65th birthday this Saturday, informal events can be held in local homes, restaurants, parks and pools. All anyone needs is a cake, 65 candles and a willingness to sing a familiar tune.

Beyond that, there’s plenty of time to get something big ready for the big number Seven-O in 2018.