Home » Columns »View From the Ridge » Currently Reading:

Purcellville’s Broken Heart

February 5, 2014 by Andrea Gaines filed under Columns, View From the Ridge 9 Comments

It is both interesting and so disheartening to read Wikipedia’s description of the place known as Purcellville.

It describes how in 1764 the town’s first known settler, James Dillon made his way here from Buck’s County, Pa. How an “early ox cart track” stretching west from Leesburg toward the Blue Ridge Mountains served as “the nucleus” of the town. How the first recorded business – “a combined store and inn” – arrived in 1799, followed by Purcel’s Store and Post Office, the town’s first stagecoach delivery (1841), a blacksmith’s shop (1848), and the first public school (1883). And, how on March 14, 1908, the town was incorporated by an act of the Virginia General Assembly.

The language on Purcellville’s official website pays homage to this fascinating and extraordinary history – describing the place as an award-winning town known for its green initiatives, flanked by the historic W&OD Trail and proud of its “historic old-town feel.” “Everybody’s Home Town” so the saying goes. And note, says the website, the town’s restoration and maintenance of its many downtown structures … and how Purcellville is a popular weekend destination for antiquing, entertainment, farmer’s markets and wineries …

Indeed, Purcellville – at least from the outside looking in – is a model for preservation. Its Downtown Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places. The equivalent of royalty in preservation circles, the district boasts an incredible 498 contributing buildings and structures. The Purcellville Train Station, Locust Grove farm house, Rich Bottom farm, and the Tabernacle-Fireman’s Field – historic companions to historic downtown – are also on the National Register. And, Purcellville’s Historic District is also part of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources’ National Historic Landmarks of Virginia program.

So, how could it be – how could it be – that the Purcellville town council has just taken a vote to compromise all of this history by approving the 100,000+ sq. ft. mixed residential/commercial project known as Vineyard Square in the heart of historic downtown?

The vote – and we could all see it coming – has been winding its way toward this fateful conclusion for months, fuel by the developers’ extreme inflexibility and the town council’s feigned hands-off attitude. But, the excuse pushed by the town council, that the developers “had the zoning” is disingenuous at best. Not only did the town overrule its Board of Architectural Review in voting to approve Vineyard Square, Mayor Bob Lazaro and the council put the zoning in place to allow this as a by right development.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, the Town of Purcellville has had seven long years to use its zoning power to protect historic downtown. But, with ambitious and competing plans for an award-winning downtown tourism district, complete with federal and state taxpayer funded grants and infrastructure … it is clear that the town did not want to take any step to protect historic downtown. It had other plans.

When an area or property achieves National Register status, that status imposes no restrictions on what property owners may do with a designated property. Fair enough. But, you’d think that a town like Purcellville, which has promoted its preservation-friendly reputation for all it is worth and basked in all of that glory, would have had the courage to put its money where its mouth is. “Everybody’s Home Town?” No. “Nobody’s Home Town,” now.


  1. David says:

    nuff said: Purcellville will be electing a mayor and three town council members. Candidates need to file a Declaration of Candidacy and a petition with 125 signatures of qualified Purcellville voters.

  2. Karen Jimmerson says:

    It was painfully obvious that the town council went into that session with their decision already made; the public hearing meaningless since all who spoke against (only one friend of the developer spoke in favor) it had their pleas fall on deaf ears.

    Rationalizing that calling this project a monstrosity was “subjective” (Tom Priscilla) and that it was the council’s opinion that it wasn’t was beyond rational thinking. A packed town hall of citizens had the subjective opinion that it was indeed a bad choice.

    Mark Nelis chooses not to live in Purcellvile town limits.
    John Chapman chooses not to live in Purcellville town limits.
    Apparently open space and nature seem to suit their personal tastes.
    Their personal lives and property values see no consequence to development here in town.
    When it lines their pockets, they willing to bulldoze this town, and they are aided and abetted by a council who has been more than willing to quietly change rules and regulations to benefit them.
    Nelis and Chapman claim to care and have a history with Purcellville. But the reality is, neither of them LIVE here. It doesn’t matter who lives here the longest. It doesn’t matter who owns the most land here. it matters that we chose to live here and the reason why we did is being eroded away by those who have no trust vested interest in this town other than what will fill their pocket.

    They bulldoze and profit and the citizens who live here pay the price with increased taxes and heartache. Our Town Council is required to live in Purcellville. It defies logic that they would destroy where they live, or does it?

  3. Publius says:

    Lazaro has faced recall petitions …
    Will a town council changeover fix this mess?
    Can these decisions be unbound?
    Or will they just wait 2 or 5 or 8 more years?
    What other recourse is there?
    I have been here 4 years and would hate to see downtown flattened. Almost seems like an April Fool’s prank or Onion article.

    • David says:

      Last election was decided by a few hundred votes. If memory serves me right- under 1,000 people voted in total. Unseating these people can’t be all that hard when the margins are that close. Last time Kelly Grim, who only started, a few weeks before the election, did well considering a hastily thrown together platform. Lets face it Mr. Fraser has a far better credentials than Ms. Grim and its MONTHS before the elections. WE CAN DO THIS.

      • westLOUDOUNer says:

        2012 Purcellville Election Results:
        4,931 registered voters
        Bob Lazaro was re-elected as Mayor of Purcellville with 560 of 853 votes, despite a strong showing from write-in candidate Kelli Grim. Lazaro got 65% of the vote representing only 11% of registered voters.

  4. Rasputin says:

    Oh will you people get over yourselves. You act like it’s a bloody museum. It will all work out, everything will be fine, step away from the ledge.

    When the “come heres” decide their now “from heres” it’s time to stop all the changes. Get a grip.

    • David says:

      Unless I misunderstood VA law newly arrived residents have the same number of votes than people that have lived here 30 years…wait is that right? Oh good because if that is true I’m using my vote to stop these projects that I..as a tax
      payer..disagree with. Cheers see you in May

  5. Vicky says:

    It is a big deal, when will it stop! I live over on the farm side of Purcellville and moved here from Ashburn because I had enough of the development over there.
    With the wonderful mountain views and all the history here why in the world do we have to build up on 21st street and Hirst Rd. Enough is enough! What is going to happen with all the small business on 21st? Where will they set up shop now? There is a place for everything and big buildings are not what is best for Purcellville.

    If we do not speak up as Purcellville citizens who will?

  6. Andrea Gaines says:

    Thank you for all of your comments. The engagement, however you come down on it is fantastic!

Comment on this article

By commenting, you agree to abide by our Terms of Service.








The Holocene Climate


(Public Input Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, 7 March, 2017) Figure 1 shows the climate variation over the last million years. The low points on the curve correspond to ice ages when glaciers up to a mile thick covered New …

Choosing To Forgive


By Samuel Moore-Sobel “Truly forgiving is the ability to say, ‘Thank you for giving me that experience.’” James Arthur Ray vaulted into fame on the Oprah Winfrey Show back in the mid-2000’s. Stunned hearing these words while watching The Rise and …

Five Key Retirement Questions


Beyond asking yourself where you see yourself and even what your lifelong goal are, effective retirement and longevity planning begs some very big questions. Review the points below and consider how housing, transportation and health considerations all play a role …

Work Woes


By Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. Dr. Mike, I’m a manager at a large tech company and my boss has directed me to fire someone on my team, but as a Christian, I just can’t do it. It’s true that the employee …

Joy or Suffering

Lunde new

By Mary Rose Lunde No one likes to suffer. When given the chance, many people would choose to laugh rather than cry, to sit in silence with their friends rather than talk through their feelings, because not even their friends …

Wage Radio


I will always remember – very fondly – the first time I ever set foot on the property at 711 Wage Drive Southwest in Leesburg, Virginia. It was a warm, sunny July morning in 1997, and I’d driven all the …

Speaking Truth to Power


“With public sentiment nothing can fail. Without it nothing can succeed.” Abraham Lincoln On Thursday evening, February 23, I requested the Board of Supervisors pass a proclamation resolving to support the March for Science on Earth Day, April 22 [1]. …

Student News

Congratulations, Class of 2016

6 Jul 2016


Woodgrove High School’s Class Of 2016 Graduation – By Amanda Clark On June 16, Woodgrove’s Class of 2016 was the 5th graduating class to walk the stage and accept their diploma. The ceremony was filled with anticipation as the chorus, …

(Be the first to comment)

Buckland Earns Degree In Medicine

6 Jul 2016


Molly Buckland, D.O., graduated from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine with a degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine on May 28. While at WVSOM, Dr. Buckland received the Dr. Roland P. Sharp President’s Award and the James R. …

(Be the first to comment)

Adams Promoted To Lieutenant

6 Jul 2016


Lt. James Adams, from Sterling and a Potomac Falls Halls Graduate, earned the promotion to the rank of Lieutenant. Adams is a Navy Week and Executive Outreach Planner for the Navy Office of Community Outreach in Millington, Tennessee. U.S. Navy …

(Be the first to comment)


March 2017
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
February 27, 2017 February 28, 2017 March 1, 2017 March 2, 2017 March 3, 2017


March 4, 2017

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event
March 5, 2017
March 6, 2017 March 7, 2017 March 8, 2017 March 9, 2017 March 10, 2017 March 11, 2017 March 12, 2017
March 13, 2017 March 14, 2017 March 15, 2017 March 16, 2017 March 17, 2017 March 18, 2017

Wine & Chili Weekend

Wine & Chili Weekend
March 19, 2017

Joshua Carr River Safety Foundation Rummage Sale

Joshua Carr River Safety Foundation Rummage Sale
March 20, 2017 March 21, 2017 March 22, 2017 March 23, 2017 March 24, 2017

March Fourth Friday

March Fourth Friday
March 25, 2017 March 26, 2017

Spring Brunch

Spring Brunch

Spring Brunch

Spring Brunch
March 27, 2017 March 28, 2017 March 29, 2017 March 30, 2017 March 31, 2017 April 1, 2017

”Homage to Mother Earth”

”Homage to Mother Earth”

Nebbiolo Vertical Tasting

Nebbiolo Vertical Tasting

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

Old Time Country Ham and Turkey Dinner

Old Time Country Ham and Turkey Dinner
April 2, 2017

”Homage to Mother Earth”

”Homage to Mother Earth”

GALLERY COFFEEHOUSE: Readers Theater, “One Slight Hitch”

GALLERY COFFEEHOUSE: Readers Theater, “One Slight Hitch”
Current Print Issue:
Sign up for our email newsletter:

Recent Comments

  • David on Protecting Free Speech: Constitutionally protected speech is exactly what it sounds like, protected. We all have the legal right to utter nonsensical and...
  • Martha on Protecting Free Speech: Free speech is not a cherished right at the not-quite accredited Patrick Henry College, a religious school that Del. LaRock...
  • Martha Polkey on First Look at Envision Loudoun Results: It remains to be seen whether the direction citizens have provided to the Envision process is actually incorporated into the...
  • David on Protecting Free Speech: Mr. LaRock, I assume that the only reason you weren’t at every School Board meeting in 2005 passionately defending the...
  • LongTimePville on Purcellville Emergency Meeting Postponed to March 10: I bet Kelli Grim flip flops on her conflicts of interest and transparency campaign she ran on and does not...

Steady and NoBull


Sterling Library Moving To New Location

25 Mar 2017


Sterling Library’s current location, 120 Enterprise St., Sterling, will close beginning Saturday, March 25, to prepare for the opening of the new Sterling Library on Saturday, April 15. Patrons can return library materials using the drop box at the new location, 22330 S. Sterling Boulevard. Printer-friendly Related

(Be the first to comment)

Middleburg Gallery Presents Country Pursuits Exhibit

25 Mar 2017

Mr and Mrs Andrews 24x35 59 2016 whelan

The Gallery on Madison in Middleburg is presenting an exhibit of Brian Whelan’s (a London Irish painter now settled in Waterford) ) transcriptions of a gallery of paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Andrews’ through April 2. The exhibit includes 23 paintings, two masks, two graphics, and nine preparatory drawings. Printer-friendly Related

(Be the first to comment)

Loudoun Workforce Resource Center Presents STEM Career Fair March 28

16 Mar 2017

Illustration of STEM education word typography design in orange theme with icon ornament elements

Anyone interested in a career in the rapidly growing field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is encouraged to attend an upcoming STEM Career Fair in Loudoun. The Loudoun Workforce Resource Center, in partnership with Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC)’s Loudoun campus and NOVA SySTEMic Solutions, is holding a STEM Career Fair Tuesday, March 28, from 1:00 to 4:00 …

(Be the first to comment)

Around Virginia

Virginia Schools Kick Off Statewide Campaign To Encourage Safe Teen Driving


More teen drivers in Virginia will be involved in traffic crashes between the months of May and August than any other time of the year, statistics show. To help save lives and prevent such crashes during the high-risk warm weather months, Virginia schools are kicking off a statewide teen safety …

(Be the first to comment)

Protecting Free Speech


By Dave LaRock (R-33) As elected officials and members of the legislature, our most fundamental responsibility is to protect God-given constitutionally protected rights. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the government, including governmental public colleges and universities, from infringing on free speech and the free exercise of …


Walbridge To Run for State Delegate in the 33rd District

Tia walbridge

Tia Walbridge announces her run for the District 33 seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Walbridge is a wife and mother of two daughters and an active member of the Round Hill community. “Like many people in our district, my family has found its prosperity in a Virginia-based small …

(Be the first to comment)


Vikings Runner-Up at the State Championship 

8 Mar 2017


The Loudoun Valley Vikings are the boy’s runner-up at the VHSL 4A State Indoor Track and Field Championships at Roanoke College.  During the 2015-2016 school year, the Loudoun County School Board approved Indoor Track and Field as a Tier 2 (self-funded) sport.  The seven boys competing scored 48 points, second …

(Be the first to comment)

WLVBC U14 Boys Finish 3rd at VA Beach Event

23 Feb 2017


The Western Loudoun Volleyball Club’s U14 Boys Team garnered 3rd place in their first travel tournament of 2017, the Virginia Beach Invitational. This event was held Feb. 18-19 and featured more than 24 teams from the U14 to U18 age group. The team was second on their net on day …

(Be the first to comment)


  • +2017
  • +2016
  • +2015
  • +2014
  • +2013
  • +2012
  • +2011
  • +2010
  • +2009