At 35 miles per hour, Aldie slips by in less than a minute.

From The Church of Our Redeemer at the eastern edge to the service station on the west, Aldie's downtown stretches less than a mile on Rte. 50.

It was never a booming place. Even in the days when the Aldie mill was thriving, more people passed through town than did business there.

Ashby's Gap Turnpike, now Rte. 50, once an active trade route between Alexandria and Winchester and later the Civil War path of Col. John S. Mosby's Raiders, is now the road many Washingtonians travel to view the famous horse farms, steeplechases and vineyards.

Still, with a population of 1,600 and a healthy tourist trade, the town is able to support eight antique shops, three churches, one general store and an inn.

Aldie is, by nearly all accounts, the quintessential small Virginia town.

But Aldie residents, like those of other small towns, have become preoccupied with what the future holds for them. The town sits just a few miles from one of the hottest commercial and real estate markets in the nation: the Dulles corridor.

Tucker Withers, owner of the Little River Inn and president of the Aldie Citizens Association, said he "sometimes stays up at night wondering what Aldie will look like in 10 years. People here are spending every minute trying to protect it."

If an issue arises that threatens the town, they'll band together, they say, and battle for their cause.

"I don't think we've ever lost a battle, and this goes back quite some time," Withers said.

Since Mrs. Henry Fairfax's 1928 campaign to preserve the double-arched stone bridge that still spans Little River, Aldie has maintained a record of successful activism.

Whether it's housing developments, road expansion, landfills or saving the village school, Aldie has let its opinion be known, even if this means splitting the town over certain issues.

Take the billboard, for example. Erected in 1942, it sat on a hillside west of town for years, at one time welcoming visitors to "Historic Aldie, Virginia," and at other times carrying home town messages, like the one that hailed "our boys in Vietnam" and urged the troops to "give them hell."

Civic boosters supported the sign, but the anti-billboard faction made the case that it was "detrimental to beauty," and reminded the Board of Supervisors that the sign defied a 1959 county zoning ordinance. In 1975, after decades of dispute, the last billboard in Loudoun finally came down.

Family roots run deep in Aldie, and ties to the land are strong. If your family arrived in this century, you're definitely a newcomer.

At the town potluck supper last month, descendants of pre-Revolutionary War settlers turned up. John Tyler is one such descendant. He's called the "TV magician" around town, and has been fixing televisions since TV began. At 72, he still climbs on rooftops to fix antennas.

Tyler doubles as the water manager, a job he holds with great pride. After all, it was his father who installed in the early part of the century the gravity system that once used wooden pipes to carry water.

"The system still runs smoothly, except when it's hot," he said. "Then we have to use the well."

Fritz Hutchison's family was around before Charles Fenton Mercer laid out the town in 1810. His wife Shirley grew up in Aldie, too. As a child, she said, she commuted to school in Washington, but on Fridays, "I got on the Greyhound to go back where I belonged."

Even Withers, who bought the buildings that would later become the inn in 1980, discovered that he, too, belongs in Aldie. Researching his property, he found out that a number of his ancestors had some relationship to Aldie.

His great-grandfather had retired there and was known as "Squire," a title reserved for the "unofficial mayor," Withers said. Now, as president of the citizens association and chief organizer and preservationist in town, Withers is unofficial mayor himself.

Longtime residents who had gathered around a picnic table at the potluck agreed that change is bound to come to Aldie, but no one's quite sure what to expect.

Fritz Hutchinson points to a pristine hillside south of town and says the owner has plans for a restaurant and lodge. "I'd rather see a restaurant than condos," he said. "Condos don't do much for you; a restaurant would give kids jobs."

Farming, once the main industry in Aldie, is now considered too expensive. The Hutchisons sold most of their acreage recently because, as Fritz reasons, "at $9,500 an acre, who can afford farming?"

There seems to be unanimous support for the revival of one local institution: the Aldie mill. Built by Mercer between 1807 and 1809, the mill was operated by the Douglass family for six generations. Tyler remembers enjoying the "tinkling of bells from the teams of horses bringing wheat to the mill."

"It was a rather important place in the economy of the village," he said.

The mill closed in 1971, and 10 years later the Douglass family donated it to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, which is restoring the building and hopes to reopen it as a working mill by the end of this year.

Although there is a lot of dinner-table speculation about the long-term future of Aldie, concerned residents troop from town meeting to town meeting almost every week, voicing their position on immediate issues that affect Aldie and other similar communities in the area.

Development is one issue that can stir up an opinion in almost everyone there. Hutchison backs the idea of more light industry in the area "to absorb the tax increase." He said, "Just so long as there's planning, and it's not haphazard."

Withers hopes that development will stay to the east on the Leesburg corridor. "Or else we'll be pushing back the bulldozers," he said.

One important intersection that has been vacant for centuries and could be critical to Aldie's future is Gilbert's Corner. Just outside town at Rtes. 15 and 50, the corner has had only one building on it, a gas station run by the Gilbert family for more than 50 years.

Recently, the daughters of the corner's namesake, Ruth Wright and Eleanor Adams, sold 90 acres to Aldie developer Nancy Reuter who restored the Red Fox Inn in Middleburg. She now owns two of the corners and a total of 250 acres.

"I don't want to do the wrong thing with the corner," Reuter said. "I want to make it architecturally attractive." One of the plans she is exploring is bringing in small convenience businesses. "It's a vital corner. I don't want it to become ugly like parts of Rte. 50."

Ruth Wright still lives by the corner where she helped her father pump gas and make ham sandwiches, which were legendary in Loudoun for years. Her family came to Aldie from West Virginia more than a century ago, and her house sits on a small parcel of that land overlooking the Bull Run Mountains. Developers come to her door periodically advising her to sell "and live the good life," she said.

Little do the men on her doorstep know, she said, but she already does.