The Society was founded in 1885 as the Village Improvement Society of Falls Church. It was one of hundreds of such societies around the country modeled after the famous Laurel Hill Association of Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
The Society’s early objectives were to improve and ornament the streets of Falls Church by planting and cultivating trees, cleaning and repairing the sidewalks, and carrying out other acts to beautify and benefit the culture and prosperity of the village. The Society planted the street trees we see in historic photos, built the first sidewalks, and organized parades and the town-wide July 4th celebrations with baseball and ice cream socials. It helped to start the first library in Falls Church and initiated the first Arbor Day in Virginia (1892).
The Society was renamed in 1923 as the Falls Church Citizens Association and, after a few decades of intermittent activity, it was reestablished in 1965 as the Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS).
Over the past several decades, the Society:
- Led the effort to create a streetscape design for Broad Street that led to wide brick sidewalks with street trees and plantings;
- Initiated the Excellence in Design Awards, providing plaques for development of homes, buildings, and gardens that are high quality and in keeping with the community character;
- Led the effort to improve the recognition of the City with appropriate entrance signs and plantings, providing the visual standard of quality and avoiding visual clutter;
- Developed a program of live music with the home concert series in the winter and the music in the park in summer;
- Developed the Neighborhood Tree Program in partnership with the City to increase canopy cover with trees on public or private property:
- Actively sponsored the development of Watch Night, the City’s New Year’s Eve celebration, and major sponsor since its inception in 1998;
- Developed and operated the Attic Treasures Sale to encourage reuse of household items, recycling and raise funds for community projects;
- Led walking tours of the neighborhoods and sponsored history symposiums to increase the knowledge of local history; and
- Encouraged civic engagement with public sessions to shape the City’s Comprehensive Plan and local ordinances.
Today, the Society is actively implementing diverse projects to protect and improve the City of Falls Church. Some key activities include:
- Sponsoring and managing the free Summer Concerts Series in Cherry Hill Park;
- Operating the Neighborhood Tree Program that plants trees around the community;
- Managing the RainSmart Program to reduce stormwater runoff and pollution by providing grants to residents for rain barrels and rain gardens;
- Providing ways for people to participate in the community life and recognize individual’s contributions;
- Encouraging the City to require that major new development projects meet environmental and architectural design standards and minimize the negative impact on residential neighborhoods;
- Improving the natural environment and beauty with gardens parks and plantings around the City;
- Working with other organizations, such as the League of Women Voters, to sponsor local candidate forums and meetings on topics of importance to the community;
- Sponsoring events to recognize the rich history of Falls Church and its connection to national history, such as the annual Independence Day Readings since 1984; and
- Supporting environmental education for citizens and students, such as the Operation EarthWatch Program.
The Society welcomes new members and donations: https://donorbox.org/vpis-membership.