Did You Know?
The School Trustees of the Dranesville District purchased the lot that Forestville School would be built on for $50 on Oct. 7, 1889.
Forestville School was opened in 1890 as a one-room schoolhouse. The school year began in late September and finished in early May in time for children to help with farm work. Older boys often didn’t start school in the fall until the harvest was complete.
The school became a two-room school in 1911 when the Floris Elementary School building was moved and added to the west side of the schoolhouse.
“Through the collective efforts of many individuals and organizations in Great Falls, the ‘Old Schoolhouse’ was rescued from destruction and sold to the Fairfax County Park Authority. On April 28, 1984, the ‘Old Schoolhouse’ was officially dedicated and thus preserved as a lasting reminder of earlier times in Great Falls.”
Source: Great Falls Historical Society
The process already proves Jorge Adeler’s vision.
“Nothing matches an eye-to-eye conversation, nothing matches a hug, a laugh, a handshake. Those are certain things that a community should never give up,” said Adeler.
Representatives from a dozen Great Falls organizations met last Thursday, Oct. 22, to rejuvenate commitment of making the Great Falls Grange the centerpiece of the community, as founding Great Falls farmers envisioned almost a century ago.
“It’s possibly one of the biggest transformative events in the community the last 10 years,” said Adeler.
After learning that the Park Authority is willing to give the key to the Grange for the community to use, Adeler held the meeting Thursday to see if a consortium of community groups is ready to assume responsibility for managing the building for community use.
“The potential is extraordinary,” he said. The possible activities for community use, for youth, senior citizens, adults, artists, musicians, non-profits and the entire community are “endless.”
THE SAME REPRESENTATIVES met a few years ago and pitched their vision of making the Grange and the Old Schoolhouse a campus for the community to use.
“A really impressive group of community organizations got together and signed a letter to me basically asking for more access to these facilities,” Dranesville Supervisor John W. Foust said during debates this election season. “The proposal was that I would get the Grange made ADA accessible and they would come forward with a proposal that community groups would take responsibility for these two buildings.”
“And eventually if the community groups come together the way I think they might and the way it was initially proposed, I see something more grand here with the Grange and the Schoolhouse as a community facility,” he said.
“It is a magnificent building full of history in the heart of the community,” Adeler said last Thursday. “It was intended to be the heart of the farming community.”
FOUST FULFILLED his promise.
On Saturday morning last March 7, about 75 members of the community gathered to celebrate the renovations to the 1929 building and grounds that now make it accessible to all of Great Falls.
“For far too long, it was not accessible to our residents with disabilities and to our senior citizens,” said Foust, who helped secure $350,000 for the $503,000 project from County carry-over funds in 2013. The Fairfax County Park Authority funded the balance of the project.
“Great Falls has many assets, but one thing it does not have is an official community center,” Foust said at the celebration. “The Grange is our de facto community center.”
The Great Falls Grange Hall was the first grange hall built in Virginia and one of five granges built in Fairfax County, said Great Falls Historical Society President Kathleen Murphy.
Last spring, Murphy and Cindy Jordan brewed hot apple cider; the Difficult Run String Band filled the hall with banjo, bass, guitar and fiddle music; vendors with the Great Falls Community Farmers Market filled the hall with produce; and many of the patrons gathered and talked before and after the day’s event.
“It is time to begin to have conversations to bring our community center to life,” Murphy said that day. She is also president of the Great Falls Community Farmers Market.
"Now that the Grange has been brought up to code, the question is what are we going to do with it?” said Jorge Adeler. “I hope the effort won’t stop here.”
“We can do a lot more to bring the community together. Come join us,” said Eric Knudsen, president of the Great Falls Citizens Association.
A SMALL GROUP BRAINSTORMED last Thursday, with Adeler chairing the conversation and asking the group “if the community has the stomach, the desire, the dedication to take it on to sustain and maintain the place.”
Groups represented included the Optimists Club, the Great Falls Business and Professional Association, the Great Falls Friends and Neighbors, Great Falls Studios, Amadeus Orchestra, Great Falls Citizens Association, Great Falls Historical Society, Great Falls Farmers Market and others.
“If we could convince the community organizations and work as a team,” he said, “we can sustain the use of the Grange and the School House and, with our own efforts, we have a united front to present to our county supervisor.”
Adeler told the group that the Park Authority is willing to give the key to the group to manage the building.
“They want to give us the key. Do we take it or not?”
— Jorge Adeler, Great Falls
“They want to give us the key. Do we take it or not?” said Adeler.
“If I give you the key to two wonderful buildings along a road that 20,000 people pass each day, and tell you you don’t have to pay anything, you would have people jumping in the window,” said Adeler.
THE DEVIL is in the details, of course, and the group worked hard to concentrate its discussion Thursday on interest, tabling details such as property management, insurance, schedule planning, liability and finances for rentals and other details for future meetings.
“Then the real work will start, where every single detail will have to be addressed,” said Adeler.
“The Park Authority is willing for us to manage it. The question is, ‘What does that mean?’” said Knudsen.
“None of us is strong enough to run the place seven days a week, but as a group maybe it is a different circumstance,” said Adeler. “This type of effort cannot happen unless every organization is involved.”
“Are we interested?” said Adeler.
Based on initial response, the representative group affirmed the vision of their historical predecessors eight and a half decades ago.
“If we build it, they will come,” said Ralph Lazaro, of the Great Falls Business and Professional Association.