Hisory of the Town of Purcellville, Virginia
Purcellville is one of seven unique small towns in scenic, historic Loudoun County, Virginia. We are situated about 50 miles west of the Nation's Capitol at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountain range.
Our Main Street is an illustration of the history of our small town, and its unique features are testament to the influences that shaped its character.
Main Street began as an ox cart path winding westward from the county seat in historic Leesburg. The first known settler in Purcellville, James Dillon, arrived from Bucks County, PA in 1764 and began a great tradition of agriculture which continues today in the rolling hills of the countryside surrounding the town.
Later, that path became part of the "Great Road", an early turnpike system connecting Alexandria, which lay across the Potomac River from the Nation's Capitol, to Leesburg, then further westward by stagecoach from Purcellville across the Blue Ridge via Snickers Gap and then on to Winchester. As progress moved to Purcellville, beautiful homes and thriving commerce developed along the Great Road.
The railroad that led to Leesburg prior to the Civil War was extended to Purcellville in 1874. Purcellville's agricultural industries and related services thrived as the railroad brought milk from surrounding dairy farms, lumber from the saw mills and other farm products eastward. The train also brought city residents to the countryside wehre they could escape the heat and humidity of Washington summers.
The old W&OD railroad bed is today one of the county's most popular, heavily used parks. In the old days, a bicyclist could be fined a considerable $2.50 for riding on Purcellville's wooden sidewalks. But now thousands of cyclists who travel along the popular 45-mile long linear park come to see the beautiful town and historic train station (preserved by the PPA) that lies at the terminus of the W&OD trail. (See "Save The Trail".)
Although our history dates to the 18th century, the Town of Purcellville was officially incorporated in 1907. (One of the PPA's most recent efforts is its participation in the Centennial Committee - in an effort to plan a celebration of Purcellville's upcoming Centennial Celebration in 2007.)
In 1914, a devastating fire swept through the downtown destroying most of the local businesses (but not the train station). New building codes required that the new structures of block and brick. Those early 20th century buildings still exist today, must the same as they were originally built.