Mayor Betsy Davis flipped through long-ago photos of Jackie Kennedy in Middleburg — she stabled her horse at the Paul Mellon estate, and Caroline and John kept a pony named Macaroni — and reminisced: “Dad was good friends with her and took a lot of pictures but didn’t publish them out of respect for her privacy.”
Soon, though, 93-year-old photographer Howard Allen will share these never-seen shots when he publishes his vast trove of Jackie pictures in “Unforgotten Times.”
This is the historic flavor in Middleburg, a town of 680 nestled in the low-lying hills of Loudoun County in northeastern Virginia.
But numbers don’t truly portray the popularity of living here. More than 1,100 postal boxes, which confer a Middleburg mailing address, are rented, and there’s a waiting list of 75. This makes the post office a town focal point.
“The post office is a de facto community center, a ritual of life here,” said Mark Metzger, proprietor of Highcliffe Clothiers. “I went this morning and said hello to five different people.”
Davis, 60 and in her fourth term, is a lifelong resident. Cindy Pearson, economic development director, is another. Her father was the police chief. Punkin Lee, owner of Journeyman Saddlers, also grew up there. Her dad was the postmaster. “We are the three natives,” Lee said, laughing with the other women one recent morning at the Town Hall.
Storied past: The Virginia General Assembly established the town in 1787. The name Middleburg reflected its location on a stagecoach thoroughfare midway between Alexandria to the east and Winchester to the west.
The main road running east to west through town has many names — Ashby’s Gap Turnpike, John Mosby Highway, Route 50 and Washington Street. Today, it is the commercial corridor and a quaint national historic district.
Diverse architectural styles along the street include federal, Georgian-revival, Romanesque, Italianate, Gothic and Greek revival and Colonial.
“Middleburg looks like a much smaller version of Old Town Alexandria with its brick sidewalks and historic buildings,” said Vicki Bendure, president of Bendure Communications and a transplant from Bethesda.
Davis remembers childhood stories about Confederate Col. John S. Mosby seeking refuge in her family’s attic during the Civil War. The Red Fox Inn was a hospital then and a Confederate meeting place. Today it is a magnet for VIPs. Jackie Kennedy’s handwritten letters of thanks to the proprietor are under glass at the reception desk; JFK’s press secretary, Pierre Salinger, held meetings upstairs; Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber were guests.
Living in the country: The change in scenery is palpable as your car swerves around the first traffic circle on Route 50 six miles out of town. “You hit the country,” Davis said.
The landscape is rural. Low mountains frame gently rolling hillsides lined with wood fences. There’s no commerce, no construction, no trucks. Just large farms with mansions, horses in the fields and cows in the pasture. These are the grand acreages that give Middleburg its cache.
Yet it’s a myth that everyone is famous and rich. “Yes, there are beautiful estates and we’re blessed to have families who can afford to keep them, but for the most part we are ordinary people who live on fixed incomes, raise families and retire here,” Davis said.
Indeed, the houses on residential streets off Washington Street are modest two-
story single-family homes on small lots. Residents carry grocery bags, walk dogs and push strollers. Among the antique and gift shops are also banks, cleaners, a dentist, bakery, barbershop, wine cellar, picture framing shop, plant nursery, carpet store, clothing stores, coffee shops and Safeway. And there is a very low crime rate.
Horses: In the early 1900s, wealthy businessmen discovered Middleburg and its suitability for foxhunts, equestrian games, breeding and showing. Today it is still horse country.
Olympic equestrians train here, there’s a research center and library for horse and field sports, point-to-point hunts are held on weekends, restaurants offer menus for tailgate picnics, the town crest shows a fox and Cuppa Giddyup is a cafe.
But there are also cultural offerings of art, music and film; book and tennis clubs; golf, a farmers market, swimming and ballgames.
Living there: The boundaries are Foxcroft Road to the north, Plains Road to the south, Zulta Road to the west, Sam Fred Road to the east.
Middleburg is a small town of about
1.3 square miles, and much of the market expands into the surrounding communities in Loudoun and Fauquier counties, said Michele Stevens, managing broker of Long & Foster’s Middleburg office.
Sixty-one homes are for sale — 54 single-family houses and seven townhouses — ranging from $225,000 for two bedrooms and one bathroom on 0.36 of an acre to $15.5 million for six bedrooms and six bathrooms on 327 acres.
Twelve homes are under contract — 10 single-family houses and two townhouses — ranging from $299,000 for three bedrooms and two bathrooms on 0.26 of an acre to $16 million for eight bedrooms and eight bathrooms on 350 acres.
From April 2012 through mid-April 2013, 58 houses sold for prices ranging from $152,000 for a condominium to
$2.2 million for a single-family home.
Schools: Middleburg and Banneker Elementary in Middleburg, Blue Ridge Middle and Loudoun Valley High in Purcellville.
Transit: Middleburg is about 45 miles from downtown Washington and is reached via Interstate 66 and Route 50.
Boldface names: Celebrity sightings are common. Actor Robert Duvall ambles through town in a baseball cap. Cisco Systems co-founder Sandy Lerner owns Home Farm Store, the only certified organic and humane market in the country. Sheila Johnson, co-founder of BET, is building a luxury resort in town. Willard Scott of the “Today” show is a resident. And Lee’s tack-and-repair shop helps actor Tom Selleck and Steven Spielberg’s wife, Kate Capshaw. Still, say residents, it maintains its small-town charm.
“People say hello even if they don’t know you,” Metzger said.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.