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History Trail Through Loudoun

While much of Loudoun’s history is preserved through restored mansions and Civil War sites, other aspects of the county’s 250-year history remain hidden in plain sight, along roads residents travel every day, in parks and in towns. Each area of Loudoun, the Route 7 corridor, along the John Mosby Highway and in Leesburg has it own bit of history that residents can explore and discover for themselves.

<sh>The Suburban East

<bt>Vestal’s Gap Road; Claude Moore Park: This unpaved road was created by the American Indians living in the area before it was known as Loudoun County. It was created as route to the Potomac River for hunting and trading. Two springs near the road provided water, plentiful quartz and quartzite were available for tool making, and the hill along the road served as a place for hunting game such as deer, bear, turkey, elk and various small mammals. During the 1700s, Vestal’s Gap Road connected Alexandria and Winchester, which were among the five largest cities in Virginia. In 1754, with 120 militiamen, Lt. Col. George Washington traveled along Vestal’s Gap Road towards Fort Duquesne to confront the French, which began the French and Indian War.

Lanesville House; Claude Moore Park: The Lanesville House, also known as the Bridges Place and Lanesmoore, was built around the beginning of the 1800s. The house got its name from the Lane family, who owned 1,000 acres of the land upon which the house is situated. Keturah Lane and her husband, John Keene, operated the Lanesville Post Office from this site.

Frogshackle Log Cabin; Claude Moore Park: The log cabin was originally built in the Ryan neighborhood of Ashburn during the mid-1800s. Dr. Claude Moore found the cabin collapsed on a piece of property he had purchased. He moved the logs to the cabin’s current site in Sterling and had it rebuilt. It holds Claude Moore Park’s nature center.

Benjamin Bridges’ Schoolhouse; Claude Moore Park: Currently under restoration, the two-story frame school house was built around 1870 by Benjamin Bridges, a Loudoun justice of the peace and Old School Baptist preacher. The school was open until 1875, when Bridges moved to Greenland, a neighborhood north of Evergreen Mills. An archeological dig and restoration plan for the schoolhouse are already complete.

Janelia Farm; north of Route 7 at Janelia Farm Boulevard: Janelia was the creation of Vinton L. Pickens, a professional artist and civic leader, and her husband, author Robert S. Pickens. It was designed by architect Philip Smith and completed in 1936. According the National Register of Historic Places, where Janelia Farm is included, Janelia is significant because it is one of Virginia's last representatives of the country house ideal, which was fostered in England and spread to the United States in the late 19th century. Janelia Farm is now home to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Broad Run Bridge and Toll House; the intersection of Route 28 and Route 7: The Broad Run Bridge and toll house are one of the only pieces of the road built to connect Leesburg to the Little River Turnpike at Alexandria, following a General Assembly Act of 1809. The road was to be 50 feet wide and was to be paved for only 18 feet. At the beginning of the Civil War, the road was abandoned as a toll road. The bridge, which is reported to have been constructed in 1820, was in use until 1949 when it was replaced by a concrete and steel bridge.

Old Ashburn; Ashburn Road: The section of Ashburn Road known as Old Ashburn has been home to some of the area’s oldest businesses. What is now the Weller Tile building began as J.E. Fadeley’s store, shortly after 1900. The store passed through many owners before being bought by the Nelson and Murrel Partlow in the early 1930s. The building was often called the Masonic Hall because the Ashburn Masonic Lodge met there in an upstairs room until 1925 and then from 1933 until 1989. The Partlow store as it stands today was built in 1946, by the sons of Nelson Partlow, to sell feed and goods. What is now a rented furniture store, was once a running mill. Owned in the 1910s by William Jenkins, the mill was expanded to a steam-powered mill, before converting to electricity in the mid-1920s. In 1944, William E. Fletcher took over the mill, running it until it closed on the last day of 1973.

<sh>The Route 50 Corridor

<bt>Arcola Slave Quarters; Evergreen Mills Road: The slave quarters building is one of five stone slave quarters still standing in the United States and it is the only structure in existence in Loudoun County. The Arcola slave quarters was the home of slaves who worked on the James Lewis farm in the early 1800s. It sits on 4.5 acres of land owned by the county that also houses a farmhouse that dates back to the 1930s. The original Lewis farmhouse was destroyed in a fire. A campaign is in the works to preserve the site of the slave quarters and turn it into a historical destination for tourists and students.

Mount Zion Old School Baptist Church; John Mosby Highway: Few changes have been made to this historic church since it was constructed in 1851. The church served a congregation of approximately 400, including African-American men and slaves. During the Civil War it was used as a field hospital and barracks. The church’s graveyard was a cemetery for war casualties, including 12 Union cavalrymen killed in action, 13 Confederates who died after the war and 63 African-Americans who were slaves or freed men.

Aldie Bridge; John Mosby Highway: Also known as the Little River Turnpike Bridge, the Aldie Bridge is a recent addition to the Virginia Landmark Register. The bridge is still a working bridge, as it has been since it was first constructed in 1826. The Little River Turnpike Company was hired in 1802 to build a turnpike road 34 miles from Alexandria southwest to the Little River and the Aldie Bridge is one of the most distinctive remaining pieces of that turnpike.

Aldie Mill; John Mosby Highway: In 1804, Charles Fenton Mercer obtained the right to construct a mill on the Little River. The mill, now known as the Aldie Mill, was still in operation through the 1970s. The Aldie Mill consisted of the largest gristmill in Loudoun, which sent flour to Europe as well as the East Coast of the United States. The mill is open to visitors to give a feel of what life was like when the mill was open and learn how the mill operated.

Middleburg: Revolutionary War Lt. Col. and Virginia statesman Levin Powell, who purchased the land for $2.50 an acre, established the town of Middleburg in 1787. One of the town’s most famous landmarks is the Red Fox Inn and Tavern, which was created in 1827 out of two almost identical buildings at the corner of Washington and Madison streets. Today, the town’s streets are marked with red, fox-shaped signs pointing the way to the many shops and restaurants that dot the town’s brick-lined streets.

<sh>Leesburg: Center of Loudoun’s History

<bt>Leesburg Court House; 18 East Market St.: The present courthouse, the third built in Leesburg, was constructed in 1895. Construction of the first Loudoun County courthouse began around 1758. The original brick courthouse structure measured 40 feet by 28 feet, with an attached 16-by-16-foot jury room. The Loudoun County court allowed construction of a bell tower on the original structure in 1769, but the belfry was not finished until 1773. The first courthouse served the county for more than 50 years before it was replaced by a larger brick structure around 1811. The courthouse that still stands today was constructed on the same site as the courthouse built in 1811.

Mount Zion United Methodist Church; 2 North St., N.E.: The Mount Zion United Methodist Church is the oldest continuing black congregation in Loudoun. The Mount Zion congregation moved as a whole body from the Old Stone Church in Leesburg. Following the Civil War, the congregation decided to build a church and asked the Rev. William O. Robey to help. The members raised $250 and had the church built in 1867.

Robinson’s Barber Shop; 4 Loudoun St., S.W.: In business for more than 100 years, Robinson’s Barber Shop was opened by Thomas Robinson in 1888, when he moved his family from Baltimore to Leesburg. Robinson ran the shop during a time when it was reserved for white customers, who insisted upon segregation. Robinson served black customers in their own homes. When Robinson died in 1962, his widow sold the shop to two of his barbers, Raymond Hughes and Nelson Lassiter, who immediately integrated the barbershop. The two continue to run the business today.

First Mount Olive Baptist Church; 14 Liberty St., S.W.: The First Mount Olive Baptist Church was formed in 1884 and from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, the church was housed in a former African-American schoolhouse on Liberty Street. After it’s founding in 1913, the African-American Masonic Lodge No. 161, met in the upstairs room at the church. The congregation worshipped in the old schoolhouse until 1953, when a larger building on Loudoun Street was complete.

Leesburg Hospital; 9 and 11 Market St.: During the Civil War the building at 9 and 11 Market St. in Leesburg served as a hospital for sick and wounded soldiers. Both Union and Confederate soldiers were treated there, something uncommon for Civil War hospitals. After the war the building again became a personal dwelling and in 1912 owner Capt. W.E. Garnett leased the building to Dr. William C. Orr, Dr. John A. Gibson and pharmacist Horace C. Littlejohn. The men founded the first hospital in Leesburg. Within two years, the hospital had already outgrown its original building and in 1918 moved to a larger facility west of downtown Leesburg.

Tally Ho Theater; 19 West Market St.: The Tally Ho Theater opened for showings Sept. 21, 1931, with the movie "Sporting Blood" starring Clark Gable. The theater provided recreational activities for the people of Loudoun in the years before televisions entered people’s homes, but remained segregated until 1965. That year a group of African-Americans challenged the segregation policy by sitting downstairs in the area reserved for white patrons. The theater remained open until 2000, when it was closed for renovation. In September 2002, the theater reopened as a combination movie house and performing arts c