Molly Henneberg Nagel had been searching for a family home for two years when she found a house online that she thought was perfect.
It was a few blocks from Tuckahoe Elementary School in the East Falls Church section of Arlington — not far from the city of Falls Church, where her parents and two of her three siblings live.
“I felt like it was a great location for us,” she said. “It was feeling like we were part of a neighborhood and close to family.” Their daughter, Jacquelyn, 3
Though Henneberg Nagel, 41, a journalist-turned-full-time mother, knew the area, she said she didn’t realize “how Mayberry this neighborhood was.”
“It has all the comforts of a small little town,” she said, though Interstate 66 runs through it and the East Falls Church Metro station is reachable on foot.
The high-quality schools also drew Blanche Kirchner and her husband and five children to the community more than 50 years ago. They moved there so their oldest son, who was entering high school, could walk to Bishop D.J. O’Connell High School.
At that time, I-66 had not yet cut through the area and the Metro system did not exist.
Change was to come to the neighborhood, but the location and the house with plaster walls drew Kirchner, now in her 90s, to East Falls Church from South Arlington. “We moved here to put our children in high school,” said Kirchner, who has worked as an artist and still teaches art in her home studio.
From dairy farms to parks: The East Falls Church section of Arlington is made up of several neighborhoods, according to Anne Collins, secretary of the Arlington-East Falls Church Civic Association, who has lived in East Falls Church since 1990. She and her husband raised three sons in the neighborhood.
Long before the Metro stop opened in 1986, East Falls Church was, for more than 60 years, part of the town of Falls Church, now the city of Falls Church. East Falls Church petitioned to rejoin Arlington County and made the move in 1936, according to Arlington County’s Web site.
Some East Falls Church homes date to 1876, and several were built around 1900, but the majority of the single-family homes were built in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. When the stretch of I-66 from the Capital Beltway through East Falls Church into the District was completed in 1982, the main part of the East Falls Church central business district was demolished.
In the early days, dairy farms dominated the area. Part of that history still stands in East Falls Church, including the George Crossman House at 2501 N. Underwood St., a residential property built in 1892 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was originally situated on 60 acres that included two barns.
Until 1935, North Underwood Street was known as Crossman Street, according to the county Web site. These days, parks dot the neighborhood though traffic rushes near the Metro station.
Not yet walkable: At this point, those who live close enough to the Metro stop walk while others ride their bikes. A half-mile is typically the distance people are willing to walk to the Metro, said Zachary M. Schrag, a history professor at George Mason University and author of “The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro.”
Residents aren’t yet able to walk from their homes to shopping. For those who commute by Metro, routine grocery shopping means heading home and getting into their cars, said Richard Tucker, a principal planner for the county. The Arlington County Board, at the request of the Arlington-East Falls Church Civic Association, created a citizen task force in 2007 to develop recommendations on land use and transportation options for transit-oriented development in the East Falls Church area.
The East Falls Church Area Plan, completed in 2011, proposed ideas that would be “sensitive to the residential neighborhoods,” Tucker said.
The plan refers to the area closest to the Metro station as the East Falls Church Neighborhood Center District, and it aims to preserve single-family areas and historic and natural resources and create open spaces and retail, including a grocery store in lower-density mixed-use development. Building heights would be limited to four to six stories. East Falls Church is not expected to become like Rosslyn or Ballston with their towering high-rises.
Community plans tend to look 20 to 30 years ahead, so time will tell how the neighborhood will develop.
Development “is inevitable,” said Anne Collins. “It doesn’t make sense not to do it when you’re encouraging mass transit.”
Yet, so far, “there have been a number of redevelopment proposals that have run into some stumbling blocks, and they haven’t gone forward,” Tucker said.
Living there: In the past year, 84 properties have sold in the Arlington-East Falls Church Civic Association’s boundaries, according to real estate agent Rosemary B. Melnick of Century 21 New Millennium, at prices ranging from $360,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condominium unit to $1,737,000 for a new five-bedroom, four-bath single-family home.
Eleven properties are on the market, ranging from a two-bedroom, two-bath condo priced at $399,000 to a new five-bedroom, five-bath single-family home at $1,399,000.
Schools: Tuckahoe Elementary, Williamsburg Middle, Swanson Middle and Yorktown High.
Transit: The area is served by the East Falls Church stop on Metrorail’s Orange and Silver lines, as well as several Metrobus and Arlington County Transit bus lines.
Crime: In the past year, according to the Arlington County police, nine burglaries have been the only significant crimes reported within the boundaries of the civic association.
Harriet Edleson is a freelance writer.