A decade ago, when the Kingsbridge neighborhood was being built on the edge of tiny Purcellville in western Loudoun County, the new subdivision was the talk of the town, residents recall.
Kingsbridge embodied the changes that explosive growth was bringing to long-rural Loudoun County. It meant about 90 houses were being added to a small place with a long history. In 1764, 12 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed, James Dillon, the first known settler in western Loudoun County, began farming in the area that now includes Purcellville. The town was named in 1852 after Valentine Vernon Purcell, who had established a town store and post office. Purcellville went on to become the largest commercial center in the western part of the county, but it was never very large.
In the 1980s and 1990s, though, tens of thousands of people moved to Loudoun County. It was in neighborhoods such as Kingsbridge, the largest subdivision in Purcellville, where all those residents found houses.
But Kingsbridge turned out to be more than just blocks of four-bedroom colonials with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It turned out to be home.
"We wanted to get ourselves planted, rooted," said Rhonda Walker, a seven-year resident of Kingsbridge, which is about 40 miles west of Washington.
"We felt at once a part of the community," said Tracy LeBlanc, a two-year resident. "As a military family, having moved enough, you realize how rare that is." When her family moved in, she said, the neighbors introduced themselves and one brought over homemade brownies.
Walker had a similar experience, except in her case it was a plate of cookies. "That will be one of those [acts of kindness] that I'll always remember forever. . . . That's what made it very special for us."
"In the wintertime the neighbors come to shovel the snow," said Alene Rand, who has lived in Kingsbridge for nearly 10 years. "It's contagious. Those that come to live here from other places . . . fall right into the groove," she said.
"It gives you a feeling of security to know that those that are there to help you are so eager to do so in any way they can," Rand said. "It's just a real nice place to be."
Kingsbridge is only a short walk from downtown Purcellville, a town with about 1,100 homes, a population of 2,813, one stop light and one flashing traffic light.
The town may be small, but there is plenty to do there. Walking, biking, in-line skating and horseback riding all are popular on the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park Trail, which parallels the northern boundary of Kingsbridge.
The W&OD Trail runs along a 45-mile stretch of old railroad tracks that have been paved over. The trail stretches from the Potomac River in Arlington to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Adjacent to the trail for 30.5 miles is a gravel bridle path for horseback riding.
Nearby Franklin Park has nine ball fields, two tennis courts, an in-line skate hockey rink, swimming pool with water slides, and gardens.
Most people who live in Kingsbridge work in Leesburg, along the Dulles corridor or in Reston, said Lars Henriksen, a real estate agent at Century 21 New Millennium in Ashburn. The Greenway has enabled commuters to significantly cut down their travel time, he said.
"A lot of people have discovered this is a great place to live, and that's why we're growing by leaps and bounds," Rand said.
Heritage Day was created to bridge the gap between the newcomers and old-timers. The older residents have an opportunity to talk about the town's history, and the newer residents have an opportunity to get to know each other and have a little fun.
Newcomers eventually turn into old timers.
"There's a real sense of community here," LeBlanc said.
Kingsbridge residents are kept up to date by the neighborhood association newsletter, which announces new babies and welcomes new neighbors. Those who run it serve as Kingsbridge's voice in the larger community, Walker said.
Association dues are a low $5 per month. The association is in place to protect neighborhood standards and to maintain the tot lot and an open field that the community voted to keep as it is, Walker said.
Part of that sense of community comes from the commitment residents have made to keeping things running, Walker said.
"We don't have a lot of paid services here," she said. From coaches and Girl Scout troop leaders to schools and the fire department, many important services are staffed by volunteers. "The town is really built on a lot of volunteerism."
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WHERE WE LIVE
BOUNDARIES: Route 7 Bypass to the north, Business Route 7 to the south, Route 287 to the east and Loudoun Valley High School to the west
HOME SALES: Twelve homes sold in 1999, ranging in price from $180,000 to $240,000, said Lars Henriksen of Century 21 New Millennium of Ashburn
SCHOOLS: Emerick Elementary, Blue Ridge Middle and Loudoun Valley High
MEDICAL FACILITIES: There's an emergency care center in Purcellville, but the closest hospital is Loudoun County Hospital of Lansdowne.
WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Downtown Purcellville, with shops, library and old firehouse
WITHIN 15 TO 20 MINUTES BY CAR: Leesburg Outlet Mall, Washington & Old Dominion trail and Franklin Regional Park. Kingsbridge also is near the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Potomac River to the north and the Shenandoah River to the west provide excellent fishing.
CAPTION: Alene Rand, left, enjoys the snow this week with her Kingsbridge neighbors Rhonda Walker and Walker's children Jessica, background, and Benjamin.
CAPTION: Alene Rand, in her Kingsbridge house, moved to the Loudoun County neighborhood in historic Purcellville 10 years ago.