The National Park Service recently entered three landmark buildings in to the National Registry of Historic Places. The Great Falls Grange and the adjacent Forestville School and the privately held Four Stairs property in Great Falls received the new designation.
Karen Washburn worked on the applications to have the properties added to the register. She said the addition is likely to go unmarked unless someone steps in to put plaques on the buildings designating their new status. “The Park Authority sometimes does it, but it’s usually not unless someone puts one on,” said Washburn.
By Washburn’s calculations, Great Falls has a few other places that may qualify for the register. “There are not a lot, but we have probably about 10 around here,” Washburn said.
The Great Falls Grange and Forestville School are representations of the early social life in the then agricultural community. Great Falls was known as “Forestville” before the name changed. The one-room schoolhouse was built in 1889. It was expanded over time and up until a few decades ago was put to use as the town’s post office.
THE GREAT FALLS GRANGE No. 738 served the farming community as an educational facility, social gathering place and civic meeting station. It is still used today by the community for many of the same functions. The Great Falls Citizens Association holds community meetings at The Grange to decide matters important to the town.
Four Stairs had its beginnings as a one-room log cabin that may have been built as early as the 1730s by a Northern Neck frontier planter by the name of Thomas Simmons. Over the years the home has evolved. The current structure displays several different regional architectural styles, including a Greek Revival frame addition added around 1850. There is evidence of numerous types of materials used to construct the home, as well as a suggestion that slave labor was at one point used in the expansion of the house. Four Stairs is a historical property in Great Falls that has been accurately restored and preserved by its current owner.
Gov. Mark Warner said of the addition of these buildings to the National Register, “These outstanding historic properties have already been added to the Virginia Landmarks Register, and now it is gratifying for the prestigious National Register of Historic Places to recognize their national importance.”
Last year the historic William Gunnel House received an honor even higher than those recently named. According to Washburn, “The one that never got any attention was the William Gunnel House on Innsbruck. It went under easement, meaning it can never be torn down. Protected for posterity is a major, major step.”
National Register status, said Washburn, “can be revoked if you do something not in keeping with the standards.”
Robin Logan, visiting Great Falls from her home in Vienna, said of the Grange and school, “This is so nice to have. It’s a piece of history from the town that stands here for everyone.”