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The small-town character of Purcellville and its setting
in the scenic Loudoun Valley countryside make it a welcoming place to live,
work, play and visit.
and character are among its strongest
Rich in history, Purcellville has evolved from a
crossroads settlement on the Leesburg and Snickers Gap Turnpike into a
thriving 20th-century agricultural center for western Loudoun.
Today, Purcellville is one of the fastest-growing suburbs
of the Washington, D.C., metro area, and Loudoun is among the
fastest-growing counties in the nation.
With its 750 businesses, Purcellville is the growing
commercial hub of western Loudoun, but is dedicated to promoting community
pride and awareness of the historical and natural resources, as well as
enhancing the town through preservation and beautification.
“We have a great community. You could say this is,
indeed, small-town America,” says Robert W. Lazaro Jr., who has served as
the town’s mayor the past 4½ years.
W. Lazaro, Jr.
He adds, “Purcellville has changed a lot through the
decades but has retained its small-town flavor and charm. We are all working
hard to keep it that way.”
The phases of historic change in
the town were driven by agriculture, business and transportation.
One of the community’s highlights was in 1874, when
Purcellville became a stop along the Washington & Old Dominion rail line,
which carried goods and supplies to and from the rural countryside and
points east. Families also traveled by rail to visit western Loudoun County
during weekends, vacations and summers.
The rail line, which ran from Alexandria to Purcellville,
ceased operations in 1968. The rail bed was replaced with a trail used by
residents for hiking and bicycling.
A series of disastrous fires, the first in 1900 and then
two more in 1914, virtually wiped out the town’s business district and
eradicated much of its early architectural heritage. After the fires, many
of the areas were rebuilt and the Downtown Business District has expanded
considerably over the years.
Today, many of the older structures remaining in the town
reflect the Victorian architecture popular around 1900.
From its beginning, the town’s dependence upon
transportation links to the more populous eastern sections of Northern
Virginia has remained strong, and is now more important than ever.
Purcellville’s traditional dependence upon agriculture as its primary source
of income has diminished as more and more residents are employed outside of
The challenge is to accept this change without the town
losing its historic identity and those small-town amenities that have
developed over its long history.
The Purcellville Preservation Association is taking the
lead in keeping the charm of the town alive.
Thomas, Purcellville Preservation
Association president, is writing a book
about the town. She is pictured in front of
White Palace Restaurant.
“Through our events and programs
we share the rich and colorful history of Purcellville with hopes that, by
feeling a connection to our past
— for example, learning the story of a building
a person passes every day — there grows a sense of pride and the desire to
preserve what is historically significant to us,” says Meredith Thomas,
Thomas is writing a book, Images of America:
Purcelleville, due out in the summer. “In the short 10 years here I have
discovered there are lots of stories in this town. It’s important to me that
others know these stories too and understand what has helped make this town
tick from the late 1700s to today,” says the 47-year-old Thomas.
The town now has a mixture of old and new businesses and
even offers 50-50 grants to new businesses that improve the appearance of
the front of their establishments.
The first to take advantage of the offer was Scott
Kinney, 43, who has opened Shamrock Music Shoppe on 21st Street.
“I’ve always dreamed about owning
a business in a small town like Purcellville,
and this location has turned out to be perfect for me,” says Kinney, who
offers a selection of accessories for traditional and band instruments as
well as music lessons. Scott is the brother of Jeff Kinney, author of the
popular Wimpy Kid book series.
Scott is proud of his brother for following his dream and
as a small-business owner is seeking his own dream-come-true.
A Retail Institution
Across the street is Nichols Hardware Store, which has
been an institution in the town since its doors opened in 1914.
It is still owned by the Nichols family, and offers
hardware, paint and furnishings, with sales tallied on handwritten receipts.
Kenneth Nichols, 80, is president of the company that has
16 long-time employees.
“We have the reputation of helping our customers any way
we can. They know that even if it is a rare, hard-to-find item we probably
have it, or will help them find it,” says Nichols.
Darryl C. Smith, Sr. ,
Crime is rare in the community, and Police Chief Darryl
C. Smith Sr. and his 14 officers work tirelessly to keep the town safe.
“I enjoy working in the town
because of the closeness of the community.
It’s a place where people want to know and
communicate with their neighbors. We have a lot of youth activities, and I
like to get involved with them,” says Smith, who has been a policeman for 31
years and chief at Purcellville for the past five.
Catoctin Creek — Loudoun County’s first distillery since
prohibition — is owned and operated by Becky and Scott Harris.
“This area of Virginia has many wineries to draw
tourists. We are hopeful that trying to be a little bit different will prove
to be profitable for us,” says Becky Harris, CEO and production manager.
Catoctin Creek produces small-batch, handcrafted
whiskeys, gins, spirits, brandies and liqueurs.
“All of our products are made completely from scratch.
Each step of the distilling process, from mashing to bottling, is done by us
entirely by hand. Sure, it is more difficult to produce this way but the
results speak for themselves. We are only a year old but have already won
several awards,” Becky adds.
Joseph Cox, Jr., left, helps Ray Charah,
rural carrier, load up his mail truck.
One of the busiest men in Purcellville is Postmaster
Joseph Cox Jr., who oversees delivery of mail to the growing community of
“My job is to see that the 20 employees who cover 11
routes deliver the mail accurately and on time every day,” says Cox. He has
been a postal employee for 38 years and in Purcellville since 1990.
With so many young people living in the town,
Purcellville Library is also a busy spot.
Leah E. Bromser-Kloeden, branch manager, makes sure
everything is running smoothly at the facility.
“I’ve really enjoyed my 15 years — the last 9½ as manager
— working here. It’s always a pleasure to be able to help a customer get
what he or she wants or to answer a question,” says Bromser-Kloeden, who
oversees a staff of 22.
Like so many of Purcellville’s
David Swartz is a native who likes to volunteer
his time with the rescue squad and is its captain.
A firefighter medic at Dulles Airport, Swartz has been
with the Purcellville department for 19 years and estimates he spends
upwards of 100 hours of volunteer work each month, helping to make emergency
“I’m particularly proud of the unit because we have grown
from 40 volunteers to more than 100,” he notes. The rescue and fire
departments share a modern, new building.
See It on Foot
A historic walking tour of the town is available, and a
brochure listing the highlights is published by the Preservation
Included on the tour is the
Purcellville Train Station; Loudoun Valley Milling, now Magnolia’s at the
Mill Restaurant; 21st “Depot” Street, where businesses set up soon after the
railroad came to town; Hampton’s Hall, built in 1908, which now houses White
Palace Restaurant, western Loudoun’s longest-running eatery that opened in
1929; and the Bush meeting grounds, where Purcellville Prohibition and
Evangelical Society held its “Bush Meeting” each summer from 1870 to 1931,
attracting thousands of
visitors. It is now the Tabernacle/Skate Rink,
which also houses special social gatherings.
Purcellville Train Station can be rented for
a meeting or a social event.
The Tabernacle and Train Station are now listed on the
National Register of Historic Places.
“We are blessed to live in a community that respects its
history. As such, it was with great pride when we learned that both the
Train Station and the Tabernacle were both accepted for listing. It’s
another plus for our wonderful town. It is what makes Purcellville a great
place to live and raise a family,” Mayor Lazaro concludes.