This historic Falls Church farmhouse was constructed in several stages starting in 1845 and was located on the south side of the Leesburg-Alexandria Turnpike. The property's second owner, Joseph E. Birch, raised the roof to add a full second story in the 1850s. He also built additions in the 1870s and the wood trim on the front-facing gable is a Victorian-era feature that survives to this day. Birch was a blacksmith and grew the property into a 150-acre farm by the mid-nineteenth century. The Birch House was home to three generations of the family. In 1968, the granddaughter of Joseph E. died at the home and her sibling who inherited the property decided to deed the house and surrounding lot to Historic Falls Church, Inc. in 1976. The Birch House was listed on the Virginia Landmarks and National Registers in 1977. After protective easements were put in place, the home was sold to private owners.
Backstory and Context
The original portion of the Birch House is a farmhouse constructed before 1845 on the south side of what was then called the Alexandria-Leesburg Turnpike. The original house was a 1-1/2 story Greek Revival simple structure. The house took on its current appearance by the 1870s; the roof was raised to create a full second story in the 1850s, and in 1870 it gained an addition with a tall front-facing gable decorated with Gothic-style bargeboards. The home is named for its long-time owner, Joseph E. Birch, who was part of the effort to incorporate Falls Church as a town in 1875 and served on the first Town Council. Birch helped form the Jefferson School on the opposite side of the turnpike, the lone school in the town; many of the early schoolteachers resided with the family. He was a leader in the local Methodist Church (Fairfax Chapel, now Dulin Chapel) and aided in establishing a local public burial ground, Oakwood Cemetery.
The farmhouse was already standing on the lot when Joseph E. Birch acquired the land in 1849 in a court case concerning the southeast corner of the John Trammell patent. Birch was a blacksmith; his shop was on the northeast corner of his property (now the front yard of a neighboring lot). Before acquiring the Birch House property, Birch leased a portion of nearby Winter Hill where he set up a blacksmith shop. Birch expanded his landholdings by purchasing parts of Winter Hill to the south of the home from landowners including his father-in-law, Orrin Orton, creating a 150-acre farm. The property was shown on a Civil War map from 1862 with an internal roadway from the turnpike between the house and barn.
The first wife of Joseph E. Birch, Delphina Orton, died childless in 1853. He remarried in 1855 to Mary Elizabeth Speer. Their eight children included four boys, one of whom, Frank List (1858-1939), lived much of his life at the location and also operated a nearby dairy farm in the early 20th century. Frank had married Flora Belle Crossman in 1882. The couple had four children. Flora outlived her husband by 17 years, dying at the Birch House in 1956. The last of their children to live in the house, Essie, died in 1968. Milton Birch, a resident of Fairfax City and the last surviving child of Frank and Flora, deeded the house to Historic Falls Church, Inc. in 1976 just days before his death. The deeded lot was the last 2.46 acres of his grandfather's 150-acre farm.
A sun room has been added onto the home which has one interior fireplace. A large water tank in the attic once provided gravity flow for water pumped from a well in the side yard. The yard formerly contained farm outbuildings including a barn, chicken coop, and smokehouse as well as outdoor privies.
The home has been restored and then sold with protective historic easements and still overlooks the turnpike, now busy Route 7. The Birch House is a private home and was listed in the Virginia Landmarks and National Registers in 1977.
Brockman, Henry H. and Paul R. Brockman. NRHP Nomination form for Birch House, 312 E. Falls Street, Falls Church, VA. NPS No. 77001534. Falls Church, Inc., Falls Church, VA. 1977.
Virginia Department of Historic Resources. 110-0010 Birch House. Historic Registers, Falls Church (Ind. City). April 4th 2018. Accessed November 16th 2019.
Wikimedia Commons; Wikipedia article on the Birch House.