Where We Live

Taylorstown's Still-Rural Radius

By M.J. McAteer
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, August 30, 2008

People who live in Taylorstown have made their choices: scenery over shopping, deer over drive-throughs.

The historic enclave, although not untouched by the building boom that exploded in Loudoun County before so dramatically going bust, remains largely rural, with all the benefits and inconveniences that entails.

"It's far from everything," Tara Linhardt, president of the Taylorstown Community Association, said with a smile. The bluegrass musician has lived in Taylorstown since she was a child in the 1970s. Clearly, she views its remoteness as an asset.

Taylorstown wasn't always out of the way. In the 19th century, it was one of the busiest and most heavily populated areas of Loudoun, thanks to milling, mining and agriculture. Its population dwindled, however, when mining and milling became history.

Taylorstown now is unincorporated, with the county divvying up its residents among the surrounding jurisdictions of Lovettsville, Waterford, Lucketts and Leesburg. Officialdom aside, the locals consider themselves residents of Taylorstown if they live within about a three-mile radius of an old store at the junction of Taylorstown and Loyalty roads.

The store, shuttered in 1998, is a passionate cause in Taylorstown. A nonprofit group with grass-roots backing is spearheading its reopening as a "very green" business and recently installed a new septic system. But the day that the store will again be able to sell popsicles, bread and local produce "won't come anytime soon," said Anne Larson, an artist and long-time Taylorstown resident.

It's a matter of money, of course, and the store's boosters are pursuing grants. Meanwhile, the store hosts occasional community gatherings, such as craft fairs and lectures on topics of area interest such as Lyme disease. Lyme disease, carried by deer ticks, is perhaps Taylorstown's No. 1 problem.

"Deer are so comfortable here," Linhardt said, "that most people have had it twice."

Richard Brown, a Quaker, founded Taylorstown in the 1730s when he built a mill on the banks of Catoctin Creek near where the store is now. Although Brown's mill is long gone, the surrounding area has been designated a historic district and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976. It is the site of two of the oldest stone houses in the county, Hunting Hill and Foxton Cottage, as well as a mill later built by town namesake Thomas Taylor.

The three-mile radius that extends from the store now encompasses about 1,500 households, said Tami Carlow, vice president of the Taylorstown Community Association. These households sit on land that is alternately rolling and open or steep and wooded.

A good number of the oldest structures got their start as "patent houses," explained historian and Taylorstown resident Rich Gillespie. In colonial times, construction of a 16-by-20-foot cabin was a requirement for obtaining a patent or land grant.

Taylorstown owes much of its bucolic beauty to its still-abundant farms. On a summer day along Loyalty Road -- named in honor of Taylorstown's Unionist sympathies during the Civil War -- fields are dense with green corn or punctuated by round bales of hay waiting to be collected. Placidly grazing cattle and horses are everywhere.

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