Built around 1884, the Vale Schoolhouse operated until the 1930s, when many small schools in the area merged. Only a few years later, a group of women formed the Vale Home Demonstration Club, and in 1935 the school board granted permission for the club to turn the school into a community center rather than sell it. The club eventually purchased the property in 1938. The club continued to operate and serve as a hub for the community throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. A historical marker was placed at the site in 2009, the 75th anniversary of the club's founding, with a large ceremony involving many members of the community.
Backstory and Context
This one-room wood-frame schoolhouse was built in 1884, with an addition built in 1912. At its founding, the school was in a farming community known as Vale. The Great Depression led to the county closing and consolidating schools, and even though the community petitioned to keep the Vale School open, it was closed in 1931.
Florence Jodzies (1887-1969) and twelve other women founded the Vale Home Demonstration Club in October 1934 for the benefit of educating local women. Along with a dozen other such clubs in Fairfax County, it was affiliated with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service and Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The following June, the club petitioned the county school board that instead of the county selling the property, that they allow the club to use it as a community center. The school board granted permission, and the club began hosting fairs and fundraisers, eventually purchasing the schoolhouse for $270 in 1938. The club hosted a lending library and variety of community activities, including oyster suppers, sing-along concerts, 4-H clubs, fairs, and summer programs for children.
The building did not have electricity until 1940. The original belfry had deteriorated so much by the 1950s that it had to be replaced. Around the same time, a well was added to the site. An dump site on the property dating back to its earliest days as a school holds archaeological potential.
Home demonstration clubs rose in prominence in the middle of the twentieth century but dwindled in its last few decades, though the Vale Club remained strong. In 2001, the club reorganized and renamed itself Friends of Vale Schoolhouse, Inc., and continues to host community events. On the seventy-fifth anniversary of the club's founding in 2009, the Fairfax County History Commission erected a historical marker at the site in a large ceremony involving many community members. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Virginia House of Delegates both offered resolutions in congratulations to the club on this occasion. The National Register of Historic Places recognized the property in 2011.
Cross, Carol. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, November 30th 2010. Accessed January 7th 2020. https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/VLR_to_transfer/PDFNoms/029-5615_Vale_School-Community_House_2011_NRNomination_FINAL.pdf.
Prats, J.J. Vale School/Vale Community House, Historical Marker Database. June 16th 2016. Accessed January 7th 2020. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=38711.
Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Vale School-Community House, Virginia Historic Registers. April 8th 2018. Accessed January 7th 2020. https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/historic-registers/029-5615/.