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The 2023 Holiday Ornament
This year marks the 210th anniversary of Georgetown Pike. To celebrate, the Great Falls Citizens Association has partnered with the Arts of Great Falls to create this year’s commemorative ornament.
The ornament, pictured above, which features a pastoral image of Cornwell Farm, an historic landmark along the Pike, is being sold at Hidden Springs Farm, 438 River Bend Road, Great Falls (Weekends through Dec 3, from 10am to 5pm Saturdays and Sundays through Sun, Dec 3, and at the Great Falls Atelier, 765 Walker Road, Great Falls on Wednesdays from Noon to 4pm, and on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm until Dec. 9. Ornaments will be available at these locations and directly from the sponsors throughout the holiday season for $20 each. Proceeds from the sales will be used to support projects to benefit our community. To learn more about the Georgetown Pike and Cornwall Farm, see below.
In the late 1700s, farmers from Virginia’s Piedmont and Shenandoah regions used the rugged and muddy forerunner to the Pike (some of which was in the area that later became the Pike, but much was not) to move agricultural products bound for the tobacco warehouses in Alexandria and, later, to the one at Little Falls.
In 1813 a group of investors from Georgetown and Virginia chartered the road as the Falls Bridge Turnpike. Their goal was to build a good road to attract farmers from the western counties to haul produce to the Georgetown markets and docks. The Falls Bridge (now Chain Bridge) over the Potomac River opened in 1797, but lacked a good road in Virginia to access it.
The turnpike was designed and engineered to provide the most direct way from the Alexandria Leesburg Pike to the Falls Bridge. Difficult terrain and lack of funding caused many problems during construction and delayed its completion until 1827. It was then opened as a toll road paved with gravel and two auxiliary unpaved dirt roads on either side known as “summer roads.” These side roads were used in dry weather to pass slower vehicles.
Unfortunately, the Falls Bridge Turnpike Company was not financially successful and the road often fell into extreme disrepair. When the original company went bankrupt, another was formed to take over the turnpike.
The road suffered from much hard use during the Civil War. Thousands of U.S. Army troops used it throughout the four years of the conflict leaving it severely damaged. After the war, the ownership of the road was turned over to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and it returned to being a farm to market road.
Keeping the road in good repair proved to be too expensive for Fairfax County. In 1910 it was turned over to one more private company to operate as a turnpike. This company paved the Pike for automobiles and maintained it until 1934 when, like all their predecessors, they too were bankrupted.
The road was then sold at auction. The Madeira School purchased it in order to donate it to the Commonwealth of Virginia and added it to the newly formed Virginia Road system.
Today the Pike is one of only four major Northern Virginia turnpikes built in the early 1800s to remain on its original roadbed. It has been recognized and designated as the first Historic and Scenic Byway by the Virginia Commonwealth in 1974 and later, in 2012, the National Park Service added the Pike to the National Register of Historic Places, deeming it a valued roadway to protect.
Pictured below is the Commemorative sign, located at the western entrance of the Pike near Rt. 7 and Seneca Road.
The property and house suffered much damage when Union troops were camped and quartered there during the Civil War. But the house survived and was repaired by the next owners, Benjamin Franklin and Phoebe Cornwell who bought it in 1868.
They raised their five children there and farmed the 200 acres for the next fifty years. The house by then was a very distinctive landmark on Georgetown Pike and locals referred to it as “Old Brick”.
After the Cornwells died the property was again sold. Several owners later the farm was purchased by the Pells in 1936. They did a complete renovation of the house and added electricity, plumbing and bathrooms. They also built the wing on the east side to add a modern kitchen and servants’ quarters.
The lovely photograph, at left, by Walt Lawrence, captures the significance once held by this historic landmark on Georgetown Pike.
Historical notes provided by GFCA Board Member/Historian Karen Washburn
GFCA Conducts the 2023 Candidate Forum
The Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) hosted the highly anticipated return of the Candidates Forum, an event that has long been a staple of our community. On Wednesday, September 27, 2023, the GFCA welcomed members, friends, and area residents to the Great Falls Grange for a night of engaging dialogue with the candidates seeking to represent our community at both the county and state levels. The GFCA's Candidates Forum brought together a diverse slate of candidates, all vying to represent Great Falls' interests in an ever-changing political landscape. With state-wide redistricting and some retirements, our community now has a brand-new set of faces seeking to lead us forward.
The GFCA is grateful to the volunteers from Herndon Community Television who produced a video of the proceedings. Click here to view their production: HCTV Video 2023 Candidate Forum
To read more coverage of the event from the Gazette Leader, here: Legislative Candidates Tussle in Great Falls Debate, Gazette Leader; Brian Trompeter, 9/29/2023
Our goal is to preserve the semi-rural character of our community while addressing practical concerns like traffic, zoning, retail, schools, parks and the environment where problems arise and solutions must be found.
Since Great Falls is not an incorporated municipality like the Town of Vienna, or City of Falls Church, we lack a town/city government to represent our local interests. The GFCA acts in an unofficial capacity to represent the voices of the citizens of Great Falls on these matters, and works with county, state, and national government to get things done. On Great Falls issues, no other organization has GFCA’s influence with elected leaders at the County and State level, or is as respected by them.
Our charter calls for GFCA to "serve as a community organization to promote all aspects of community interest accruing to a common good and, in general, to preserve the historic, low density, semi-rural character of Great Falls and its natural resources."
GFCA Sept. 1, 2023 EP Committee Presentation on well water, hosted by Committee Co-chair Lisa Schlecht
EP Committee Presentation by Henry Lippincott on the Georgetown Pike Rural Preservation Trust and benefits of Land Conservation Easements
Use & Zoning Committee Chair, Jennifer Falcone's, Video Testimony
before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on zMOD Ordinance
EP Committee Presentation on Fairfax County's recycling Program
Town Hall re: Proposed Dark Sky Preserve at Turner Farm Park Observatory
EP Committee Presentation featuring Tips on Lawn Care from Master Gardener Tony Makara
Town Hall re: Springvale Rd. Bridge Replacement -