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Letter: Internship Program Focuses on Great Falls History

Letter to the Editor

It has happened only too often that a property is on the verge of demolition when the question is asked: Is this property historically significant? This question was asked when the Toll House was about to be demolished on Georgetown Road, as well as just before Thelma’s Store was demolished on Colvin Run Road, and now the question is being asked about the "purple house" on Walker Road. Many Great Falls residents have asked us this question about their own homes.

This summer, The Great Falls Historical Society’s summer internship program will focus on how to determine the historical significance of a local property. There are two historic maps that provide us with important data points for this research, namely, the property boundaries noted in the 1760 and 1860 maps of Fairfax County. The 1860 map, available at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/histcomm/1860maps.htm, shows property boundaries of 1860 laid over the property boundaries in 1976 – this makes the location of the 1860 properties recognizable to us today. An earlier map of Fairfax County dated 1760 provides a starting point for the intern to begin to research what has happened to the property over the last 250 years.

The intern will complete a template that logs information to (1) determine the value of buildings on each property over time, using such sources as property tax records, court cases, etc.; and (2) determine the chain of title over the centuries using various online databases, microfiche in the Virginia Room, local newspapers, census records, deed books, maps, and wills, available online. Based on the results of the research investigation, and what is learned about the occupants of the property and their connection to the culture and economic activities of their day, the intern will be able to identify the elements that define the historical importance if a property.

During this internship, the interns will be coached and guided on the best research sources and techniques. By the end of the June/July session, the intern will be able to identify whether a property has historical significance, and be able to write up a draft nomination for consideration and review by a project mentor, if historical significance becomes apparent.

All residents who have an interest in learning how to evaluate the historical significance of a property are invited to participate. To sign up, or to obtain additional information, please e-mail Internship@gfhs.org.

The GFHS Oral History interviewing and filming program will continue during June and July by appointment.

Kathleen Murphy

Great Falls Historical Society