Great Falls Historical Society News

  • Wednesday, January 18, 2017 7:37 PM | Deleted user
    By Caroline Ralston

    Caroline Ralston gives presentation on Wednesday, Jan. 11 on how to find and use historical records to discover more about the lives of the players featured in an 1890 photograph of the local Forestville baseball team.

    A call to young historians: Join ‘The 1890s Baseball Team: "What History Reveals" project.

    Great Falls — My experience with the Great Falls Historical Society (GFHS) began the summer of 2015. I had just finished my first year at the University of Mary Washington and was looking for an internship to gain experience in my field of study. My love of history and archives led me to the Society, where I began an internship researching the history of Colvin Run, as well as some of the area’s historic homes for a National Register of Historic Places application. Completing my internship with GFHS not only made me feel more connected with Great Falls (I’ve lived here my entire life), it also exposed me to deed research, working with microfiche, and working with primary source documents. These skills were invaluable in my classes the next fall and truly strengthened my research skills. Getting real-world experience through this internship provided me with the confidence to apply for scholarships, and the connections I made while interning have really made a difference for me. When it came time for department scholarship applications in the spring, I applied for and received the Milton Grigg Northern Virginia APVA Scholarship by the NoVA Chapter of Preservation Virginia. I believe that the time I spent interning with GFHS the summer before was an important factor in my application that helped me stand out from others.

    Fast forward to summer 2016, when I was invited to join the GFHS Board of Directors as their Co-Chair of Communications, Public Relations, and Website. My time on the board has given me an inside look at how historical societies, and boards in general, operate. As Co-Chair of my committee division, I’ve worked with a webmaster to learn how to develop and maintain our website, and now, I keep the site up- to- date with our latest events, news, and research links.

    Our latest program, a research challenge called “The 1890s Baseball Team: What History Reveals,” has allowed me to share all of the skills I’ve acquired from my internship and from my classes in college with individuals who are interested in history too. On Jan. 11, 2017, I gave a presentation explaining how to find and use historical records to discover more about the lives of the players featured in an 1890 photograph of the local Forestville baseball team. This program, while open to anyone, is targeted towards middle and high school students to engage young people in history and introduce them to what GFHS is all about. It has been very fulfilling to engage in the community through programs like our baseball research challenge. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to intern with and sit on the Board of Directors for the Great Falls Historical Society. I look forward to continuing my work with the society and seeing what the future brings for our community.

    This 1890s Baseball Team challenge to make a player come alive through research program, while open to anyone, is targeted towards middle and high school students who have a genuine love of history. Four students have signed up so far - one from Whitman High School in Maryland who has been doing genealogy research since he was 6 years old; a, gifted one young man in sixth grade who loves history and baseball; and two others. We are reaching out to our community to identify six more gifted young historians who could benefit from a history challenge that will connect him with good research techniques and a lot of support from GFHS members and others devoted to local history. I know that participants will feel what I have felt - that engaging in the community through programs like our baseball team research challenge is a great learning experience that is fun and insightful. The young man who has been doing genealogy for years actually found some sources that he did not know about that will make his research much more productive in the years ahead.

    Caroline Ralston attends University of Mary Washington, Class of 2018, and is a member of the Great Falls Historical Society Board.

    Great Falls Connection, November 18, 2016

  • Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:04 PM | Deleted user

    By Kathleen Murphy, 
    Great Falls Historical Society 

    The 1890s Baseball Team: Front row -- Neal Johnson, Tom Dickey, Walter Follin, Page Sanders, and Sidney Follin Sr., Back row -- Albert Cornwell, Howard Cunningham, Joe Money, George Gunnell, and Harvey B. Cornwell.

    Bringing a local player to life through history.

    Great Falls — At this time of year when family and relatives unite for that uniquely American holiday, Thanksgiving, it is not unusual to dig into the past to see how we all looked and felt and thought in the old days!

    Really old pictures stir up some interesting feelings: They seem really familiar as they may seem more connected with “nature,” but also really unfamiliar, as the dress and facial expressions may seem different than what we are used to. (Did you ever wonder when people discovered that they needed to smile or “say cheese” when they had their picture taken?)

    Take a look at the local 1890 Baseball Team, for example. The team was lined up in front of a fence that may have held their horses while they played. Four guys had bats, one or two guys had gloves, most seemed to be wearing riding boots. At least five were wearing the same type of baseball cap, apparently to show they were on the same team. (1890s Baseball Team, The N.F. Bradford, Sr. Collection, copyright Great Falls Historical Society).

    WHO WERE THESE GUYS? Many have last names that we still recognize today. The 1890s Baseball Team included, from left to right, (front row) Neal Johnson, Tom Dickey, Walter Follin, Page Sanders, and Sidney Follin Sr., and (back row) Albert Cornwell, Howard Cunningham, Joe Money, George Gunnell, and Harvey B. Cornwell. They came from families that owned farms in the area that we now know as Great Falls that may have ranged from 10 acres to over 1,100 acres. The automobile had not arrived yet, so they needed to get together by horse or by foot.

    Here is our invitation and our challenge to you: Please pick one player that you would like to know more about. (You can look up the 1860s historical map that is overlaid over today’s map to find out which team member might have lived on the land where you live today.) Let us know which player’s research team you would like to be on – or form your own team.

    Here is the research challenge: Can you make that 1890s player come alive through research? Where did the baseball player live? Who were the members of his family? What did his family do for a living? What was his life like in a typical week? What kind of education did he have? How did he travel to meet his friends for a game of baseball?

    GFHS will introduce you to others who are interested in working on the same research with you, if you would like. Or you can join a team of others with the same interest. Your team can meet once a week to report on progress and share what you have found, or you can set up your own schedule.

    Each team is invited to share the results of your research in an engaging manner: An engaging video? A re-enactment? A compelling display?

    The deadline for submission of the final work on each of the ten 1890s Baseball Players is Monday, Feb.15. The results will be presented at our March Program on Wednesday, March 9. Participants will also be invited to present the results of their research work and presentation to entire community at Great Falls Day in early May, 2017.

    Prizes will be awarded to the team that does the most thorough research on their players and who does the best job of making the 1890s baseball player come alive through an engaging presentation.

    TO JOIN or form a research team focusing on one of the players, please let us know about your interest by emailing The 1890s Baseball Team Committee at or by calling Sondra Taylor at 703-759-6204.

    We are looking forward to learning about these baseball players who are part of our local past.

    Great Falls Connection, November 23-29, 2016, page 19

  • Wednesday, August 24, 2016 10:28 AM | Deleted user

    By Kathleen Murphy, 
    Great Falls Historical Society 

    The newly established Board of the Great Falls Grange Project. Board members, from left: Linda Thompson (Optimist Club), Kathleen Murphy (Great Falls Historical Society and Great Falls Farmers Market), Steve Dulaney (Great Falls Business & Professional Association), Linda Jones and Laura Nichols, representing Great Falls Studies, however Begonia Morton was elected Board member, Jorge Adeler, Board Chair (BPA & Optimist Club), Judith St. Ledger-Roty (on the Budget Committee, representing the Arts of Great Falls), Doug Cobb (Great Falls Historical Society), Karen Washburn (Turner Farm Events), and Eric Knudsen (Great Falls Citizens Association). (Dean Souleles, photographer, Great Falls Studios, not shown, not on the Board) Photo Contributed

    As we reflect on the many journeys we have taken around the country and the world - whether by photos, film or airplane - memories of historic structures stand out, marking places as unique, special, and even remarkable. Historic structures speak to us and inform us about those who have come before us, creating a sense of place.

    Honoring Significant Historic Structures

    On Oct. 15, 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 was passed, encouraging our nation to keep those historic structures deemed national treasures in tact and to stop demolishing our most important historic and archeological sites.

    Over the last 50 years since that Act, residents of Great Falls have labored to gather the history and survey the standing structures, identifying those with structural integrity of national-treasure importance. They have added Four Stairs, 1737, The William Gunnell House, 1750, The Potomac Canal Historic District, 1786, The Colvin Run Mill circa 1811, The Georgetown Pike 1813, The Cornwell Farm 1831, The John Gunnell House 1852, The Forestville Schoolhouse 1889, and The Great Falls Grange 1929 to the National Register of Historic Places. Further, a Colvin Run Historic District 1880-1943, comprising intact buildings of historic significance along Colvin Run Road – the former location of the historic Leesburg Pike 1732-1943 - as well as the Colvin Run Road itself, has been deemed eligible to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.

    Further, Fairfax County has a List of Historic Sites of local significance that includes an additional 30 sites located in Great Falls. Knowing that those here before us built beauty and established economy makes us proud to live in a place imbued with meaning.

    Repurposing Historic Structures for Our Day

    Woodridge Brown Morton III became one of the initial architects involved in setting up the National Park Service’s Office of Historic Preservation in 1966 and participated in defining the rules of nomination and the process of evaluation and protection. After 50 years as a historic preservation architect, Brown Morton defines historic preservation differently. To paraphrase,

    “Historic Preservation is the dynamic and deliberate process through which we decide what to keep from the present for the future and then work to keep it… It is a process because it is a beginning but should have no end…It is a process in which we decide what to keep from the present for the future…It is always a value judgment… It is an autobiographical undertaking. We paint a picture of ourselves when we decide what we choose to preserve and why…

    “The past, when it was present, was a multi-dimensional reality. Today, we have only the bones that yesterday left behind on our plate.

    “The past is the past and can never be recaptured. A higher and nobler goal must be to recognize the importance of place in successful human development. Place matters. Successful human development requires robust individuals and a safe and healthy environment as well as dignity, celebration, shared remembering, and a sense of belonging for those who live there now. By making a place a good place to grow good people, we must commit to exploring how a place matters in impacting people.”

    Woolridge Brown Morton III, Beyond History – Success and Failure in Preservation, Part 1, Feb 20, 2014, NCPTT,

    Let’s take the Great Falls Grange as an example. Between the time the Grange was formed in 1920 and the building was opened in 1929, the structure already had an impact on the imagination of the Great Falls community. During the years leading up to the Great Depression, local residents held fairs, bingo games and raffles to raise money for the building. Finally, the Grange members took out a loan for $7,500 to get the building built. They could not wait any longer to have a place to gather.

    Walking through the Great Falls Grange today, you can almost feel the Friday night chicken dinners, the Saturday evening dances, the Grange Hall meetings where progress along levels of virtue tied to the seasons guided member discussions and interactions.

    Over the years, the Grange became a place where the community gathered. There was theatre and music and community meetings, Great Falls Day and more. Since the Park Authority purchased the Grange in 1978, use of the Grange has slowly deteriorated as the Park Authority sought to charge fees to cover costs. They are now empty buildings that are rarely used.

    A new community group has just been formed this past Wednesday evening, Aug. 17, 2016 - The Great Falls Grange Project. Its purpose is to search for ways that the community might revive the historic Great Falls Grange Park, a historic district listed on the National Register, which includes the Great Falls Grange as well as the Forestville Schoolhouse.

    Looking at historic preservation from Brown Morton’s perspective, the question of this new entity needs to be, “How can these historic buildings be repurposed so that they contribute to successful human development in Great Falls, making the Great Falls Grange “a good place to grow good people?” How can we offer a “safe and healthy environment” where those who visit and engage part of their lives in activities within its boundaries can experience “dignity, celebration, shared remembering, and a sense of belonging”? The correct call for today is to take the historic structure and repurpose it in a way that honors and inspires our shared humanity – that calls us to a higher way of being.

    The commitment put in place this past Wednesday evening calls us to consider how to form a union that makes each individual entity meaningful and relevant within a larger caring for all of us together, with shared responsibility, shared concerns, and shared delights.

    Neighborhood Storytelling for Tomorrow

    The Great Falls Historical Society was founded in 1977 to “promote community spirit by bringing the past into the present.” This April 2017, GFHS will celebrate its 40th anniversary in service to the mission of bringing people together to gather and celebrate the history of this place where we all live together in community, Great Falls, Virginia.

    After 40 years of dedication to local history, GFHS has a birthday present request, indeed a challenge. Wouldn’t you like to give us a big birthday present? We challenge residents of individual neighborhoods within Great Falls to become historians, crafting the story of their neighborhood: searching the past, describing the realities of the present, and imagining its future.

    Go back as far as you can, but also come fully forward. Include the structures of yesterday, but also include the structures of today. What are the smaller and older structures in your neighborhood? What are the mega-mansions? What works, in terms of growing happy people, and what needs improvement? What is the story that you and your neighbors wish to convey about where you have come from and where you are headed that future generations might enjoy knowing about?

    On Jan. 11 and March 8, 2017, our monthly programs will focus on Neighborhood Stories – a portion of the program is open to any group within Great Falls who has prepared the history of their neighborhood. Participating teams will also be welcome to display their research on Great Falls Day on Saturday and Sunday, May 6 and 7, 2017 at the Great Falls Grange Park. Prizes will be awarded to the best research and storytelling presentations.

    We never know how our story might shape up or where our story might travel. Marge Gersic died this past July. She was an actress, and then a local advocate. Four years ago, she agreed to provide an oral history of her life, including her volunteer activities in Great Falls. Upon her death, we are presenting her oral history on our web site. This is a chance for residents of Great Falls to hear firsthand how things used to be and listen to her willingness to play a part in making our community special through her committed actions, working together with others for the good of the whole.

    We did not know, when GFHS was founded in 1977, exactly what “promoting community spirit” was all about. With the call that Brown Morton has issued to go higher in our aspirations, repurposing historic sites to edify humanity today, we need to take a look at our neighborhood history so as to ensure that, in every way possible, we continue to make our neighborhoods throughout Great Falls, today, a good place to grow good people.

    Newcomers & Community Guide 2016-2017, page 2 (Great Falls Connection, Aug. 24-30, 2016)

  • Sunday, July 24, 2016 2:16 PM | Deleted user

    By Kathleen Murphy, 
    Great Falls Historical Society 

    It was such a delight for GFHS to participate in Celebrate Great Falls’ Fourth of July Parade. We were hoping that our entry into the parade would include a historic car or buggy, but things do not always turn out as planned.

    We are so pleased that Caroline Ralston and Alex Brudno showed up, (two University of Mary Washington history majors from Great Falls) ready to march with our historic sign (that we used to use when the Grange was available for community use a number of years ago) – and were willing to march in the parade on foot!

    The Great Falls Historical Society participated in Celebrate Great Falls’ Fourth of July Parade: Caroline Ralston and Alex Brudno, University of Mary Washington history majors from Great Falls, GFHS historic sign they used when the Grange was available for community use a number of years ago.

    The Local History Trivia Competition

    Back on the Village Green, Greg Haymans and Nancy Christy were all set to lead people through the Great Falls Trivia Competition. 

    The prizes were really great this year: Adults could win a $50 gift certificate to The Old Brogue or Katie’s Coffee, thanks to their generosity. Participants under 18 years could win a $50 gift certificate to EB Games. 

    Many people played the game and all semi-finalists turned up to participate in the finals. Roya Lahmiri, sister of Parsa Lahmiri who won the competition last year, won the final competition and received her prize from Greg Haymans. 

    Roya Lahmiri, sister of Parsa Lahmiri who won the competition last year, won the Local History Trivia competition and received her prize from Greg Haymans.

    The GFHS Election 

    GFHS members assembled on June 15 to elect the new Board of Directors for the 2016-2017 Program Year. The results are as follows: 

    Kathleen Murphy, President; Greg Haymans, Vice President; Nancy Christy, Recording Secretary; Betty Swartz, Corresponding Secretary; Doug Cobb, Treasurer; and Karen Washburn, Historian. The Board of Directors includes: Caroline Ralston (2014-2017), Sondra Taylor (2014-2017); (John Marciano, 2015-2018, previously elected); (Carlos Berrios, 2015- 2018); Jan Schar (2016-2019); Jerry Santos (2016-2019). 

    Program-year Planning Underway 

    The new board is working together to prepare the plan for the year. We have two notable anniversaries to recognize this year: * Oct. 15 is the 50-year celebration of the National Historic Preservation Act and the partnership programs it created, and Oct. 17 is Virginia’s day of celebration of the National Park Service; and The year 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of Great Falls Historical Society, which will be celebrated in April, 2017. Our plans will be posted on our website at

    Great Falls Connection, July 20-26, 2016, page 4

  • Wednesday, June 01, 2016 10:52 AM | Webmaster (Administrator)

    By Kathleen Murphy, 
    Great Falls Historical Society 

    The Great Falls Historical Society has recognized Alex Brudno as the 2016 Volunteer of the Year. Through his consistent, focused and dedicated volunteer efforts, including working as a summer intern to further the Colvin Run Historic District research (more than 100 hours); photo archiving in support of our archive reorganization; running the Great Falls Historical Society’s Publication Sales presence at the farmers market and at GFHS programs independently, including adding new product offerings; serving as associate editor to prepare the book on Thelma’s Country Store, providing citations to establish historic facts, and supporting many other projects as needed, Alex has served with purpose to advance the integrity of local history.

    Alex Brudno first offered his services as volunteer to the Great Falls Historical Society in October 2014. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington with a major in history, GFHS welcomed Alex and immediately found projects for Alex.

    Alex’s first assignment was to take over the GFHS tent at the Great Falls Farmers Market. Alex continues to staff the tent, spending seven hours each and every Saturday at the market, providing a tangible location where newcomers can ask questions about the history of Great Falls, members can renew their membership, and the entire community can purchase gifts or make a reservation for one of our events.

    Alex was initially a “diamond-in-the-raw,” being high on willingness and dedication, but inexperienced at interacting with the public. However, over time and with constructive feedback and lots of interaction with farmers-market regulars and visitors, Alex has grown in sales discipline and humor.

    Great Falls Connection, June 1-7, 2016, p.17

  • Wednesday, April 27, 2016 3:18 PM | Webmaster (Administrator)

    By Kathleen Murphy, 
    Great Falls Historical Society 

    Former award winners, Great Falls Historical Society (GFHS) board and members and many friends of Betty Swartz gathered last Thursday to participate in celebrating Betty's many contributions. Greg Haymans, Chair of the Tibbetts Award Selection Committee conveyed the Award. Karen Washburn, member of the committee, provided the history of the award.

    The Great Falls Historical Society recognized Betty for her many years of work in the fields of education and historic preservation. Betty's accomplishments include: An outstanding outreach program for local school children that conveys local dairy farming history through stories and artifacts; advocacy for the preservation of former dairy farm properties as open spaces; and the dissemination of local history through her coordination of Great Falls Days and Old School Days. For many years, Betty Nalls Swartz has educated and entertained countless people with demonstrations and stories of former times, preserving a valuation part of our local history that will surely live on in our collective village memory for generations to come.

    The Old Brogue catered the event with elegant recipes fitting of a banquet. The Stewart Sisters played country music. In addition to TR Cook, Mara Szabova photographed, while Badri Glonti videotaped the event. Effie Shaw baked the cake which featured the famous cow that Betty brought to many events to show children how to milk a cow.

    Great Falls Connection, April 27, 2016

  • Thursday, April 07, 2016 3:21 PM | Webmaster (Administrator)

    Betty Swartz and Greg Haymans visited the Forestville Elementary School’s kindergarten last Wednesday, and first grade last Thursday to share how Great Falls used to be the most productive dairy farming community in Fairfax County. Swartz and Haymans answered the enthusiastic questions all of the students had on the subject.

    Dairy is a food product that touches a child’s life almost daily. However, it was clear from the questioning that the children were unaware of what milk was, where it came from, how cows eat and digest, what was involved in getting milk from the cow into the carton, etc. Swartz helped them understand how our food is connected to the fields, the grass, fresh air, and healthy animals. 

    The children showed their appreciation and amazement for Swartz’s way of life that is a rarity in the community. 

    The Great Falls Historical Society is honoring Betty Nalls Swartz as the 2016 recipient of the Jean Tibbetts History Award on April 21 at the Great Falls Grange Hall. 

    To participate and attend email or call Jan Schar at 703-759-3940.

    The Great Falls Historical Society was formed in 1977 to bring the past into the present through education programs, research, oral histories, and more.

  • Wednesday, March 23, 2016 12:24 PM | Webmaster (Administrator)

    Click here to read and/or download this article in PDF format

    Great Falls Connection, March 23-29, 2016, page 6

  • Monday, February 29, 2016 3:28 PM | Webmaster (Administrator)

    By Kathleen Murphy, 
    Great Falls Historical Society 

    Many residents of Great Falls have asked on many occasions how to research the history of the Fairfax County home they are living in. Susan Hellman, Architectural Historian, is the author of the research guidelines for researching historic buildings in Fairfax County (, and shared her guidance with on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at the Great Falls Library. Whether researching on the Department of Planning and Zoning website, at the local courthouses, using the land tax books, analyzing physical structures, referring to personal property tax records, consulting historic maps or gathering newspaper articles, Hellman mapped out all the steps to take to gather all the possible clues to uncover the truth about your house. (You may visit at to find a link to Hellman’s presentation.)

    #She gave very important tips: If your house was built before 1940, do not trust the date it may be listed because if the county had no idea of the date, they would just list the property as 1900. Structural features and research of family members provide better clues. When working with the Land Tax books, properties will be listed in alphabetical order, however the properties will not be in order within a letter – (For example, within A, Abbott and Abrams may be listed under A, however Abrams may come before Abbott – you need to examine the entire category.) Hellman warns that Oral Histories should only be considered as a starting point, as people’s memories are not factual -- rather they report impressions and memories that may not be accurate or precise.

    Hellman used to be the Historian at the Virginia Room prior to conducting many historical research studies at the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning. 

    Currently, she is the Historic Site Manager for the Carlyle House Historic Site in Alexandria. The Carlyle House is featured prominently in the new PBS mini-series “Mercy Street.” Hellman is a past Acting Director of the Woodlawn and Pope-Leighey House. A graduate of Duke University, she has a master of Art degree in Architectural History from the University of Virginia. 

    The Great Falls Historical Society’s March Program, Living on the Land (Part 2): “Equestrian” Great Falls will take place on Wednesday, March 9 at the Great Falls Library at 7 p.m. The spacious pastoral setting, uniquely characteristic of Great Falls, provides a vital setting for a wide range of equestrian activities. Hear the stories of how local horse people experience the land. Hear how equestrian families, local barns and riding schools experience oneness with the land as they care for their animals and enjoy their sport. Presenters include Georgia Bay of Lift Me Up!, Sharon Molster of Black Hill Stables, Karen Washburn, equestrian homestead, Weslie Karber, Normandy Farm, and Pam Mc Dormen, Southdown and homestead.

    The Great Falls Historical Society was organized in 1977 to promote community spirit by bringing the past into the present. The March program uncovers residents’ many experiences of a pastoral setting of Great Falls at a time when the community wrestles with such land preservation issues as Brooks Farm and Marmota Farm, some of the last vestiges of an agrarian past.

    Great Falls Connection, February 29, 2016

  • Tuesday, January 19, 2016 3:38 PM | Webmaster (Administrator)

    Dairy farming was the most prevalent economic activity in the Great Falls area from the 1880s, after the Civil War, through to 1989, when the very last functioning dairy farm was sold. From the 1980s to the present, there has been a lot of local activity around mega-mansions, cul-de-sacs, and mowed lawns. However, the mission of our local citizens association, formed in the late-1960s, has been “To preserve and protect the semi-rural character of Great Falls.” The Great Falls Historical Society’s January Program, Living on the Land: Semi-Rural Great Falls, featured five local residents who bring their land into abundant life in remarkable ways, establishing a deep and enduring connection with their land.

    The “Kondnerosa”

    Dave Kondner grew up on a 350-acre cattle ranch in the Maryland countryside. Although there wasn’t much money in small farming, he always loved the natural environment. When he found his 5-acre property in Great Falls, so close to urban amenities but shielded from the urban hubbub, Kondner and his wife bought a five-acre former horse farm with a house and barn, completely fenced, with a pond and lots of untouched countryside.

    Kondner loves the great wildlife around his home including the bald eagle, the red-shouldered hawk, the osprey, even a wild turkey, and lots of wild birds that hang out on his feeder. Kondner’s property is a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Domestic geese and lots of wild geese enjoy his pond. Kondner built a koi pond with a fountain in his front yard. Kondner’s deck overlooks his pasture, making it possible for him to throw food scrapes over the deck for his herd to enjoy.

    Kondner has four goats and seven sheep and, ah yes, meat in the fall. Sheep are lean, but goats are even leaner. The pulse of life around him gives him great joy, delight and a sense of wellbeing.


    Photo by Keyvan Moussavi

    The goat herd of American and French Alpines are bred and kidded annually at the Amalthea Ridge Farm, a three-acre farm on Fringe Tree Road in Great Falls. Some are sold to other farmers and some are kept for milk production, and such artisan products as milk, cheese, lotions and soaps. 

    Growing ‘Kids’ on Fringe Tree

    Keyvan Moussavi and his wife Sarah Wehri manage a herd of up to 30 goats on their three wooded acres next to a 100-year flood plain off of Leigh Mill Road. Their endeavors involve the year-round lifecycle of mating, birthing, weaning, selling or keeping a solid genetic mix of well-fed, well-bred, well-behaved and well-socialized animals who produce outstanding milk for those with milk and cheese shares or for use in luxury soaps and lotions. Sarah, a who holds a Ph.D. and is a biochemist, wrote her thesis on emollience and fashions remarkable soaps right here in Great Falls.


    Photo by Barbara Smith

    The Smith's Historic Raspberry Garden: This raspberry garden is filled with red, yellow, black and purple raspberries – both summer and everbearing – as well as a variety of herbs. 

    The Pleasures of a Semi-Rural Life

    Barbara and Doug Smith live in the historic John Gunnell House on Arnon Meadow Road, built in 1851. An old garden still stands. Barbara has endeavored to locate heirloom bulbs and seeds from the earliest known dates that would have been in keeping with the time the house was built. Barbara noted the heritage trees found on her property as well as a fenced-in raspberry garden from the previous owner. Barbara is experimenting with different kinds of raspberries, both summer and ever-bearing berries.

    New gardens have been built that include a fruit orchard and a deer-proof garden to grow organic vegetables, with a small garden nearby for asparagus.

    Barbara started a wildlife habitat for all kinds of birds, butterflies and other wildlife, and has enjoyed watching the bluebirds building their nests. In the process, she has become particularly concerned about the monarch butterflies and now raises butterflies from the baby caterpillars found on milkweed in her garden, setting them free once they emerge from the chrysalis 10 to 14 days later. Her greatest pleasure is the enthusiasm of their grandchildren – weeding, mulching, planting seeds, picking raspberries, filling the bird feeder, and most of all, seeking and gathering monarch caterpillars and watching with fascination each life stage of these beautiful creatures.

    Farming on Two Great Falls Acres

    Chris and Sara Guerre rent two acres of fertile farmland just off of River Bend Road, where they plant, grow, harvest and prepare organic-equivalent produce for Maple Avenue Market, their boutique food store on Maple Avenue in Vienna, their various farmers markets, and of particular importance, their commitment to getting their organic produce into the public school cafeteria. Getting better food in the cafeteria helps kids eat better, enjoy healthy food, and hopefully change their attitude about food. Feeding school children is clearly Chris’s passion. He has helped kids build a garden at their schools, he has brought them on tours to his farm, he and Sara have brought prepared vegetables and salads to schools to share healthy eating and new tastes. Chris’ eyes sparkled when he reflected on the miracle of a handful of seeds, which cost next to nothing, and the wonderful miracle of the planted seed, and the abundance it gives forth. His amazement with the miracle of earth, seed and water inspires his year-round dedication and commitment.

    Conserving a 13-Acre Garden

    Barbara and Doug Cobb own a 13-acre property on Crocked Crow just off of Georgetown Pike. In Doug’s oral history, he refers to his property as “paradise.” A mix of wild, wooded acres, manicured flower gardens, and vegetable gardens, the land conveys all the lush and wonderful aspects of nature. Barbara and Doug have decided to keep their garden in tact by enlisting their property with the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust. As such, it is permanently protected from being subdivided, and will remain as one single property for generations to come.

    As we have learned and have recorded for future generations, in the year 2016 there were residents living upon our land called Great Falls who were still fully in touch with the full and essential meaning of “semi-rural” and one might say, quite simply, they their simple connection with the land created for them lives of great joy. The presentations have been filmed and may be viewed at our web site (

    The Great Falls Historical Society was organized in 1977 to promote community spirit by bringing the past into the present. Our next program, “Historic Preservation” presented by Susan Hellman will be on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Great Falls Library Meeting Room.

    Kathleen Murphy, President, Great Falls Historical Society, Great Falls Connection, January 19, 2016

The Great Falls Historical Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization

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