It's best to corral your cows, pigs and chickens in Hillsboro because the northwest Loudoun County town has an ordinance forbidding farm animals from running in the streets.

The fine: 50 cents.

Although roaming animals are not an everyday problem, the small-town flavor has attracted everyone from artists to retired rocket scientists to Hillsboro, a former mill town and no-stoplight village at the base of Short Hill Mountain. Located 55 minutes from Washington on Route 9, about 110 people call Hillsboro home.

"It's the lure of the history, the old homes, that's what got us interested in this area," said Gaston Choiniere, a retired government worker who 13 years ago moved to Hillsboro from Centreville.

"We wanted to buy an old home and get out of the growing urbanization," said Choiniere, who runs Hayloft Antiques with his wife, Audrey.

The Choinieres settled in a brick and stone Federalist home, built in 1833, with four bedrooms, three baths, and four fireplaces. Susan Koerner Wright, mother of the Wright Brothers, lived there as a child.

"People stick very much to themselves, it's not an over the fence community at all," Choiniere said of the town, the second smallest in Virginia. "You know everybody, you say 'hi.' Other than that, everyone leads pretty much their own lives."

The Choinieres' daughter Jennifer, 15, attends Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville. The family dines out occasionally at restaurants in nearby Hamilton or Lovettsville. A couple of times a year, they travel to the Kennedy Center for a performance.

Most Hillsboro residents do their grocery shopping in Purcellville and Leesburg, but for staples they visit the Hill-Tom Market, which doubles as Hillsboro's post office and lone gasoline station. Former mayor Glenn Roberts works there, filling tanks, ringing up groceries and sorting mail, much as he did when he was mayor.

The Hill-Tom's bulletin board holds news of importance: a report on the town's latest water analysis, an advertisement for a lost Jack Russell terrier, or a note from the Mayor Tom Horvath thanking citizens for their support.

Customers go there to swap tales of the bear up on the mountain or to peruse the racks of fishing sinkers, Vanillaroma air fresheners and cans of Sweet Sue chicken and dumplings. There also is a boxed set of his and her silver wedding bands in a display case. In keeping up with the latest trends, the store sells Bart Simpson T-shirts.

With the exception of a few log homes, most houses in Hillsboro are 18th-century stone and siding, and sell for $132,000 to $400,000, according to local real estate agents. Crime is virtually nonexistent, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff's Department.

"Oh man, the biggest thing I can remember is a couple months ago a truck parked on Route 9 ... was broken into and tools were stolen," said department spokeswoman Carol Showalter.

School-age children attend Hillsboro Elementary School, just south of town, and Blue Ridge Middle School and Loudoun Valley High School in nearby Purcellville. At Christmas, the Hillsboro Community Association sponsors a homes tour, while on the Fourth of July, the Old Stone School is host to a traditional celebration.

Hillsboro is developing an increasing artistic presence, and among the newest transplants are architect Michael Oxman and his wife, Laney, a ceramic artist. They moved from Reston 2 1/2 years ago, and Michael Oxman recently was elected to the town council.

"They just saw the house one day and fell in love with it," said son Zachary Oxman of the family's 100-year-old Victorian house, which backs up to the Catoctin Creek. The Oxmans have two pugs, Ashley and Melanie.

Former Oakton renters Kathy and Joshua Margolis moved to Hillsboro in 1987 to open the Inn Between the Hills, the town's only bed and breakfast.

"We looked all over Loudoun County," Kathy Margolis said. "We walked into the kitchen, saw the big stone fireplace, and the real estate agent didn't have to do much work after that."

Joshua Margolis, 31, also was recently elected to the town council. He works for an environmental consulting firm in Washington and endures a two-hour daily commute on the MARC rail. Two months ago, Kathy, 30, quit her job at the Environmental Protection Agency to devote her time to the inn.

Hillsboro has changed in recent years, with old-timers moving to smaller accommodations, such as town houses in Leesburg, or back to where they were raised.

"I'd say there's been a significant turnover in the last three years toward younger couples," Kathy Margolis said. "It used to be a lot of older folks, but now there are several babies in town."

Horvath and artist Art Donahue have had an affinity for Hillsboro since they moved from Reston seven years ago. They now co-own Royal Tidewater Art Gallery, a business in their home.

"You have all the benefits of being right in the mountains yet you have a feeling of having neighbors," said Donahue, a sculptor and painter.

In a town where the mayor likes to joke that "just about everybody in town has been a former mayor," traffic is a key concern.

Beginning early in the morning and throughout the day, the town's major artery fills with a sometimes steady stream of West Virginians on their way to work in Virginia and sightseers heading west to Harpers Ferry and the race track in Charles Town.

The council also hopes to upgrade the town's water main, which flows from a spring atop the mountain. Many residents rely on bottled water because the town's is highly chlorinated and some complain that the town has been slow to improve the system.

When a resident is in the hospital, the town council often sends a bouquet of flowers.

"Everyone is independent yet we all look out for one another," said Horvath, who grew up in a small Indiana town. "There's a feeling of security here."

Donahue, a former New Yorker, said he never goes to the District. Instead, he considers Leesburg "the big city."

"I hope to die here," he said. "I love the town."