The Loudoun County village of Taylorstown largely missed out on the growth boom that swept many outside-the-Beltway communities in the 1970s and 1980s. There's been a gradual increase in population, to nearly 180 households, but much of Taylorstown's traffic is created by outsiders willing to chance the area's dirt roads to save a few minutes on their way toward more populated parts.
Steep slopes, rural zoning and the proximity of slightly better-known communities have combined to keep Taylorstown behind the times. A 15-minute drive north from Leesburg, and at least an hour from downtown Washington by car, the unincorporated community features a slow way of life and an apparent remoteness that deter many would-be home buyers and home builders.
Taylorstown's residents seem to like it that way.
Steeped in history and surrounded by beautiful countryside, the village is an almost-undiscovered gem amid the hills of northern Loudoun. Though longtime Taylorstown residents have a habit of making newcomers feel quite welcome, local residents hope that they don't have too many new faces to greet all at once.
"It's a terrible place to live," said the area's representative on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Betsey Brown, in a half-serious effort to dissuade developers and others from adding significantly to Taylorstown's population. In truth, Brown describes Taylorstown as "one of my favorite" Loudoun communities and one that deserves efforts to preserve it in its current state.
Featuring the quintessential small-town general store and an old mill, the center of Taylorstown is small. To reach its count of almost 180 families, the local civic association defined everything within five miles of the general store as Taylorstown.
The village itself is on the state and federal registers of historic places, mostly because of its preserved older homes, and Catoctin Creek, which flows through the town, has been designated a scenic waterway. Although such attributes are cherished in Taylorstown, they wouldn't necessarily bar a landowner from dividing his or her property into three-acre home sites, which is what county zoning permits by right.
By the standards of the closer-in suburbs, that would be welcome. However, in the minds of those who were born in the village, or who moved to it to get away from city life, such development would be considered a disaster.
"We feel very threatened" by the prospect of many new homes appearing in Taylorstown, said Miriam Westervelt, who moved to the village from Arlington six years ago with her husband, Wesley Henry.
Many of those who come to town buy or restore existing properties, although sites for new homes are carved out of farms or estates now and again. The community is loaded with professionals dependent on one of the area's best-kept secrets: The Train.
Barely 10 minutes away in Point of Rocks, Md., just across the Potomac River in Frederick County, is a station where several trains carry commuters into Washington each morning and back out each night. Run by the state of Maryland, demand for the service fills the parking lot on most weekdays.
"The train is a drawing card in that area," noted Mary Lou Raymond, owner and principal broker of the Raymond Group real estate firm in Leesburg. Taylorstown "is not the fastest growing market in the area," she conceded, but several 10-acre home sites have been sold there in recent years.
Much of the land is too steep or rugged for homes; the village sits on the western slope of the Catoctin Mountain Ridge. The dirt-and-gravel roads that provide some of the access to Taylorstown -- along with some paved roads -- add to the feeling of isolation. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are common, as are winding roads with such names as Hidden Hollow Lane.
A few miles to the west, the incorporated town of Lovettsville is growing rapidly. Just to the south of Taylorstown, the unincorporated village of Waterford, though just a few hundred residents strong, is better known, more prestigious than Taylorstown and siphons off some newcomers who might otherwise give Taylorstown a second look, residents say.
It probably took only one look for some of the region's initial settlers, many of whom were of German descent and wanted to spread out to the south from Pennsylvania.
Longtime village resident Anna Hedrick lives at the center of Taylorstown in a house that was built by Richard Brown, a Pennsylvania Quaker who crossed the river into Virginia in 1734 and built the house and the adjacent mill on Catoctin Creek, she said. In 1784, her research shows, the property was bought by Thomas Taylor, a Maryland Quaker. The crossroads became known as Taylortown and stayed that way until about a century ago when the "S" appeared.
Though the village's pastoral qualities give it a peaceful appearance, Taylorstown has had more than its share of excitement over the years.
Taylorstown, and parts of Loudoun to its west, remained staunchly pro-Union during the Civil War -- so much so that Stonewall Jackson raided it and ordered the nearby bridge at Point of Rocks burned. For a time, a nearby settlement was named Loyalty in recognition of the area's allegiance.
Another big battle came in the 1970s when the Army Corps of Engineers and the Fairfax County Water Authority proposed putting Taylorstown and territory to the south under 90 feet of water as part of a reservoir. Residents quickly mobilized. "Don't Dam Taylorstown" bumper stickers proliferated, and after eight anxious years the community won. The plan was abandoned in favor of better connections among existing reservoirs.
In the late 1980s the village got to work again when residents discovered that one route under study for the proposed Western Bypass of the Capital Beltway would have sliced through or near Taylorstown. In late 1988, that route was rejected as the number of highway alternatives was trimmed from six to three.
No question about it, Taylorstown can be "a real fierce community," said resident Philip Ehrenkranz.
Still, unless a huge development is proposed in the community, the biggest concern some residents expect to face in the near future is traffic. Many motorists "don't respect the speed limit at all," said Selby Williams, who has lived in Taylorstown all his life.
When not bothered by the sounds of cars or planes passing overhead, Taylorstown residents can enjoy listening to katydids and barred owls talking at night, Westervelt said.
That was what initially attracted Westervelt and her husband, and they have not been disappointed since moving to Taylorstown. Their biggest surprise, she said, has been the warm response from the community.
"From the very beginning, we felt welcome here," she stated. "That's the beauty of Taylorstown -- and it's definitely worth preserving."