You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
16 December 2021
Leaving Middlebrook after satisfying BLT/crab cakes at the King Street Oyster Bar, we're making our way through scenic but time-consuming 'Hunt Country' northwards towards Purcellville.
It's not clear how the name of Purcellville came up on the list of potential destinations for the afternoon, but perhaps the answer will emerge as we proceed.
Was that 'Hunt Country' or 'Horse Country', or are they the same thing?
We're getting to know the extremely rural parts of northern Virginia for sure -- there are worse places to drive through, but it is time-consuming after all.
We're almost there, probably.
Approaching Purcellville, with its tandem kiddy-slides
City streets at last
So it was half an hour well spent -- we got to see the 'Hunt Country', and the 'Horse Country, and now we have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the Purcellville experience.
A bit discouraging, at first glance. We've come into town on Main Street and this is meant to be the historic town centre. We'll park and explore.
We may have an answer to how we've chosen to come here -- we're making a beeline for the consignment store just past the Atoka Properties realtor in the 1909 Pancoast building; it's presently the 'Clothing Closet' (though in the 2018 Google Map's Street View it's the Lucky China restaurant).
Across the street, some welcome civic improvements. We're on N 21st St, just off Main St.
The Dental Arts Bldg . . .
. . . which also hosts, in addition to a couple of realtors, the Hit N Run Sports Cards store on the corner facing onto Main St., along with the Hunt Country Jewelers, and on the right, the Elysium Axe Bar (replacing Piper Dan's Keltic Shoppe -- Irish and Scottish Imports, which has evidently decamped to Winchester since the Google Maps photo of 2017). On closer scrutiny of our photo, however, where the Elysium Axe Bar was we can now see to be empty and for leasing.
Looking back onto Main St., that's the Purcellville Family Restaurant, though its sign hasn't weathered the years all that well, and on the right, the Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, justly famous, by all accounts.
A bit westward up Main St., with Market Burger ('fries & shakes') and The Chocolate Palette, featuring Gruto's soft serve.
This intriguing building is alas evidently in a bad way these days, pretty well boarded up (except for air conditioners on the windows one floor up).
In the Google Maps 360° Street View, dated 2018, this was Jose's White Palace and Cantina, and round the corner . . .
. . . this was Jose's Pub & Grill ('The Best Margarita In Town'). In another Street View, dated 2020, it had been abandoned. One hopes that there's no sad story there.
From Jose's ex-Pub, that's N 21st St in its effulgent glory. We may not be giving Purcellville a fair chance -- this is the town centre, evidently still working on a brushing up, but it is by all accounts a fast-growing town of something over 10,000 residents, many of the most recent of whom seem to be commuters, with 50 eating establishments according to the town's website.
Here's a hardware store that, according to Google's Street View, was actually here in 2018, too, with its . . .
. . . associated adjunct. It appears that this site was first settled in 1764 and a settlement grew up here along the 'Great Road', the old track leading out towards the Blue Ridge. There was an 'ordinary' (or tavern/inn/store) here in 1799, and another in 1804, and 'Purcell's Store' and post office was established at some point, leading to adoption of the name 'Purcellville' in 1853; it wasn't actually incorporated as a town until 1908.
Back across N 21st again, that's the Re-L♥ve It consignment stores. The other members of our party will be so pleased (unless that's not a surprise -- perhaps one of us may already have been impressed by Purcellville and its consignment store opportunities).
The old cart track was transformed into a Turnpike for traders and travelers in 1832, and (according to Wikipedia) the first stagecoach service appeared in 1841. The railroad was extended through here in 1874, though it ceased operations in 1968.
A specialty in 'Vintage Ugly Christmas Sweaters' -- it's a 'thing' now, apparently.
And ugly is not an overstatement.
During the Civil War, both armies passed through Purcellville, but it suffered little damage overall -- only that, on 30 November 1864, the Union's so-called 'Burning Raid' of this part of the state, intended to deny resources to the 'Gray Ghost' John Singleton Mosby's guerrilla partisans ('Mosby's Raiders'), passed through Purcellville, which like must of the region suffered the destruction of nearly all of the barns, mills, hay and grains, and livestsock, with however no loss of homes or lives.
The 'Purcellville Historic District' is nationally registered (since 2007), but after horrible fires in 1900 and again in 1914 destroyed the entire business district, most of the 500 or so registered historic buildings date from the early 20th century, some in 19th centure architectural styles.
Like, still on N 21st St, Magnolias at the Mill, 'a contemporary American restaurant within a restored grain mill specializing in locally grown products', was built in 1905, restored and re-opened as a restaurant in 2004.
Across N 23rd St, that's the Sweet Rose Bakeshop.
The local rail station was built by the Southern Railway in 1904 -- it was operated from 1912 by the Washington and Old Dominion Railway until it stopped operations in 1968; passenger service had been cut off in 1951. A citizens' association with civic and business donations and grants restored the building in 1998-99, and it presently houses a visitors' centre and railway historical display and can be booked for events like wine-tasting.
And, thoughfully, it provides restroom facilities for the many beneficiaries of this section of the W&OD Trail - 'Often called the skinniest park in Virginia, Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Railroad Regional Park is a paved trail between Shirlington [in Arlington] and Purcellville, Virginia. Run, cycle or skate the 45-mile route along the former roadbed of the W&OD Railroad, which runs through the urban heartland and into the Virginia countryside. Equestrians can ride the adjacent 32-mile gravel horse trail.'
A lovely idea, not really uncommon after the country's railroads were abandoned (luckily, we could all transition to automobiles instead) -- recreational facilities for the delectation of the active public, especially helpful in crowded newly-trainless cities. We've got the 18-mile Bearskin Trail in northern Wisconsin, flat as a corpse with trestle bridges over all the swampy bits.
Hunt Country, and Horse Country. And Wine Country!!
Symbolic meanings (known only to the cognoscenti)
More symbolic meanings, also not universally agreed
The Re-L♥ve It turned out not to have anything much to tickle our fancies, as it happens, so . . .
. . . we're pushing our luck across the street, to the It's Bazaar on 21st Street ('vendor & consignment opportunities').
The practiced eye at work, whilst . . .
. . . we antiquarian dimwits wander about overwhelmed.
Hold on! All eleven volumes of Will and Ariel Durant's Story of Civilization (1935-1975), no price tag, maybe negotiable. But wait . . . there are only ten volumes there. Sod it. // Mind you, there's a tattered copy of Hubert H. Humphrey's The Education of a Public Man on the shelf above, and a copy of The Day Christ Was Born. O frabjous day!
$75 for a tin dollhouse. Nice, but the kids being all grown and all . . . sod it.
No, wait, let's not be hasty . . .
But we'd never be able to get that into the car.
Back on the road again. Through 'Hunt Country'.
To the West Park Gardens in Culpeper
Where we've caught the cats planning something clever and subversive
-- Confess, you little rogue felines. We've got you.
-- We're really sorry, mummy and poppy. We've never conspire again.
What's next, then? Alexandria, Virginia