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Purcellville, Virginia

Top: Older, Victorian homes are numerous in Purcellville. Bottom left: A scene from the Christmas Parade. Bottom right: The W&OD trail attracts cyclists, joggers, and hikers. Photos Courtesy of the Town of Purcellville.

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The incorporated town of Purcellville is located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Loudoun County, Virginia, approximately nine miles from Leesburg, the County seat, and conveniently 50 miles west of Washington, D.C. Purcellville’s ideal position in the heart of western Loudoun and the scenic Loudoun Valley allows evolving opportunities for a mix of professional services and commerce. Purcellville businesses extend eastward to the D.C. metropolitan area, including access to Dulles International Airport, and westward to the Route 81 corridor. Historic downtown Purcellville offers diverse retail stores, antique shops, restaurants, and one of the oldest hardware stores in the country.

First settled in the 1700s, Purcellville is a welcoming place to live. Many older, Victorian homes line the tree-lined main streets; the turn-of-the century architecture adds to the charm of this growing community. Population estimates at the end of 2009 within Purcellville’s corporate limits is topping 7,000, nearly double the 2000 census figure of 3,584.  Purcellville’s residents, planners, civic, and church groups, such as the Purcellville Business Association, the Purcellville Women’s Club, and the Purcellville Preservation Association, among others, work to preserve the small-town character of this historic town, even in the face of unprecedented growth. Purcellville welcomes new businesses that are compatible with existing, long-standing farms, including light industrial manufacturing and start-up technologies, health and medical practices, home-based entrepreneurial enterprises, b&bs, and more.

2010 estimates show the town limits to be 3.18 square miles. Significant growth has occurred within the town’s limits, as well in the new subdivisions surrounding town. An elected town council with six seats and a mayor govern the town limits of Purcellville. According to Mayor Bob Lazaro’s State of the Town address at the beginning of 2010, Purcellville’s budget is fiscally strong. Lazaro reported, “Less than 1% of the municipalities of our size in the entire nation have an award-winning Annual Financial Report. Purcellville is the smallest jurisdiction in Virginia to receive a Distinguished Budget Award.”

Mayor Lazaro is Chairman of the statewide Environmental Quality Policy Committee. As chair, Purcellville’s Mayor is also a member of the Virginia Municipal League (founded in 1905), a non-profit, non-partisan association working with all city, town and county governments in the state. Lazaro’s “Go Green” leadership guides many projects securing critical infrastructure to meet the demands of growth, sustainably. In addition to securing water resources to meet the community’s needs well in to 2048, the Town Council voted to place a conservation easement on the 1,271 acres of the town’s watershed, protecting it from development forever. Lazaro stated, “The easement is the largest easement recorded in Loudoun and the first by a government in our County.” Purcellville won First Place in the statewide “Go Green” environmental competition, reflecting the commitment of its town public works, wastewater, and water departments to protect the Town’s environment for present and future generations.

The current Downtown Streetscape Project grew out of multiple citizen charrettes and meetings about the revitalization of Purcellville’s historic downtown business district. Aesthetic and safety upgrades of sidewalks, raised table crosswalks at intersections, and new LED lighting that will save taxpayers more than $40,000 over a ten-year period, are all part of the Town’s commitment to safety and quality of life for its residents.

Eugene Scheel, Loudoun historian, describes how Purcellville began along an old ox cart track, winding west from Leesburg during the late 1700s, later called the “Great Road.” This route became a turnpike in 1785, extending from Alexandria to Snicker’s Gap, then westward to Berryville and Winchester, increasing travel through the small village.  By the late 1790s, Valentine Vernon Purcell established a store and post office, and the village became known as “Purcell’s Store” until it was renamed “Purcellville” on July 9, 1853. By 1874, the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad extended to Purcellville, increasing both tourism and commerce.

Purcellville officially incorporated on March 14, 1908. Scheel points out that the town withstood the marches of the Civil War, but three fires, one in 1900, and two more in 1914, had a disastrous effect on the town’s business district and architectural heritage. Just after the third fire, a few days before Christmas, Edward Nichols and Paul Warner opened Nichols Hardware, the oldest retail store in the Virginia Piedmont, still owned by its founding family, and an anchor in downtown Purcellville today. According to locals far and wide, “If Nichols doesn’t have it, you probably don’t need it.”

The Purcellville Preservation Association (the “PPA”) works with the town to identify historically significant sites, pursuing preservation and re-use whenever possible. The PPA created the popular Historic Walking Tour, as well as a Plaque Program for properties at least 75 years old, to help support PPA’s ongoing programs. During 2010, the National Register of Historic Places designated both the Purcellville Train Station and the Bush Tabernacle (skating rink), a former Temperance League meeting ground during the 1870s, to its list, following placement on the Virginia Landmarks register. The old W&OD railroad tracks are now part of a multi-use recreation trail that runs 45 miles from Arlington, Virginia into Purcellville, attracting cyclists, joggers, and hikers from all over the world.

A premier venue for music, art, dance and theatre in western Loudoun is the County’s Franklin Park Performing and Visual Arts Center, built on the site of an old dairy barn between Purcellville and Round Hill.  After more than ten years of dedicated community effort, Franklin Park opened its doors to the public in February 2008. Local families also enjoy annual community events. In May, local and regional historians gather on Heritage Day to celebrate Purcellville’s rich history, followed by Safety Day, encouraging community awareness. The well-attended Purcellville Vintage Auto Show is the first weekend in June.

On July 4th, residents of all ages enjoy the Fireman’s Parade.  During the summer of 2010, Purcellville hosted, for the fifth time, the Babe Ruth World Series at its Fireman’s Field.

The town holds Remembrance Day on 9/11, and has received approval from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to receive a piece of steel from the World Trade Center, to be incorporated into the First Responders Memorial at Fireman’s Field. Every year at the height of fall, during the 2nd week of October, bargain shoppers flock to the Town-Wide Tag Sale. 

Purcellville was an Emancipation Town holding parades and special events celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation. After several years without celebrations, the town resumed the tradition at the newly renovated Carver Center, which was the segregated school in town until 1968. Emancipation Day is a proud heritage for Purcellville, attracting notable speakers and guests, including Dr. Madeleine K. Albright in September 2009. Beginning a new tradition in 2010, The Purcellville Police Department, working with the Purcellville Women’s Club, hosted the first annual Miss Purcellville Police Scholarship Pageant at Patrick Henry College in town, recognizing young ladies from western Loudoun for outstanding community service and scholastic achievement.

The first Sunday in November, this community turns out in full force for the Turkey Trot 5K and Fun Run. Festivities of “Christmas in Purcellville,” the 2nd weekend of December, start off with the popular Christmas Lights Trolley Tour through the neighborhoods, a town Christmas Parade, Breakfast with Santa, a Lego Train Display, ornament making and other activities for children. Saturday night is the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at the “Teardrop,” in the center of town.

Purcellville has three public schools within the corporate limits: Emerick Elementary, Blue Ridge Middle, and Loudoun Valley High School. (Students living in the Purcellville’s outlying areas attend Mountain View Elementary, Harmony Middle, and the new Woodgrove High School.) All of these schools are part of the Loudoun County Public Schools System of superior educational programs that rank with the best in Virginia and in the nation, providing well-run programs for Gifted Students, Vocational and Alternative Education, as well as Special Education. Additionally, Patrick Henry College, a private, Christian, liberal arts college, was founded in Purcellville in 2000. Students and college staff often volunteer with local events, enjoying a good relation with the town.

Elizabeth Smith, Vice President of the Purcellville Women’s club, has lived in Purcellville since 2003, and her husband, Michael, has worked as an attorney in town since 1991, and is current president of Home School Legal Defense Association, the organization that built Patrick Henry College. The Smiths moved from California to this area, and by coincidence discovered that Michael’s great, great, great-grandfather, George Washington Adams Smith, lived just outside of town on Hogback Mountain. According to Leesburg Courthouse records, Michael’s ancestor was married in 1817.

Elizabeth described what many Purcellville residents feel. “People are more trusting and friendly in a small town. When there’s traffic, folks just stop and let you in. When there is a town event, everyone supports it. Our parades are a fun chance to visit neighbors. You are sure to know someone in the parade!  Purcellville is a safe place to live. I can walk my dog at 10:00 p.m. and never think twice about it. In a small town like Purcellville, people care for each other. If someone is having a hard time, others gather around to help and console. The people who live here care about the town because no matter what happens, it’s our town and it affects each one of us.”

Population Trends

Between 2009 and 2014, the population in this area is projected to increase about 23%. In comparison, Loudoun County population is expected to grow 23.5%. The population of Virginia is projected to increase 5.5%.

Racial Characteristics

Between 2009 and 2014, the White population is expected to grow by 20%, the African American population by 13%, the Asian population by 76% and Hispanic population by 71%.

Race/Ethnicity% of population% of population (VA)
White 85.79% 69.69%
African American 6.63% 19.67%
Asian 2.34% 4.86%
Hispanic 5.24% 3.2%
Age Distribution

purcellville virginia demographics age distribution

Household Composition

purcellville virginia demographics household composition

Household Income

The median household income for this area is $83,294, compared to a state median of $60,690, as estimated for 2009.

Income Category% of households% of households (VA)
Less than $25,000 9.16% 17.87%
Less than $50,000 27.48% 40.94%
Less than $75,000 43.3% 60.5%
Less than $150,000 86.64% 88.89%
More than $150,000 13.36% 11.11%
Housing Type
Type of unit% of units% of units (VA)
Single family - detached 70.05% 62.6%
Single family - attached 18.3% 9.96%
2-unit/duplexes 1.32%% 1.92%
Apartments 10.33% 19.11%
Mobile/manufactured 0% 2.75%
Other types 0% 0.12%
Data source: Policymap.com with Claritas. Data are for census/town/district/city/zipcode boundaries for which demographic information is typically available. Data may include areas outside the recognized community boundaries; for example, the data for a community could include the entire zipcode if that is the smallest area available from which to draw data.