Marcia Fuqua, a middle school physical education teacher, said her grandfather told her, "If you can't see the mountains, you're living in the wrong place."

Therefore, she says, the Loudoun County town of Lovettsville is the place for her.

"I look over my back yard at the Short Hill Mountains, and parades pass in front of my house," said Fuqua, who recently popped into the town hall for a spur-of-the-moment chat with the mayor about fence regulations. "I have it all here."

Lovettsville, established in 1836, was once the domain of farmers, railroad workers and skilled craftsmen. Like the hearty German immigrants who moved there in the 1700s, prompting the area's designation as the "German Settlement," these laborers were known for their adaptability and self-reliance.

Now, retirees and former urbanites searching for space and an old-fashioned community spirit are changing the atmosphere that first attracted them to the small town in the far northwestern corner of the county.

Of Lovettsville's homes, 25 percent were built before 1939, and more than half have been constructed since 1970, when annexation of surrounding property quadrupled the community's acreage.

Development on the town's western edge, including plans for a mixed-use town center, is expected to more than double Lovettsville's population of 900 in the next three to five years, generating both excitement and apprehension among residents.

A description of then-rural Loudoun County in the 1973 BBC television documentary "Alistair Cooke's America" lured Mort Libarkin and his wife, Barbara, to explore the area nearly 30 years ago. The eldest of their four children was just starting junior high, and the family fell in love with an 18th-century farmhouse on six acres along a gravel road in Lovettsville's rolling countryside.

In the beginning, the Libarkins found that city folk like themselves were seen as odd ducks, providing the locals with much amusement.

"We did stupid things," Mort Libarkin said. Once, to provide their new pig with comfortable roaming room, the Libarkins built a wire fence in part of their pasture -- but the wire was too thin.

"The pig walked right through it," said Mort, then a supervisor with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington.

An old-timer, hearing the story, exclaimed, "Why are you worrying about what makes a pig happy?"

It was not long before the Libarkins developed great respect for the resourcefulness of the locals. "They would fix something until it couldn't be fixed anymore, then cannibalize the parts for something else," Barbara Libarkin said.

"They are very generous about passing on their craft," she added.

The Libarkins soon learned how to raise goats, castrate a calf and fend off crows from their garden. Their eldest son enjoyed taking his Washington friends on tractor rides. Their youngest daughter, while home alone one day at the age of 9, capably handled the birth of a nine-pound goat.

Today, denim-clad workers and citified dapper dressers trade local news at the post office. Newcomers, upon announcing where they live, are regaled with the history of their property.

Downtown Lovettsville, occupying less than a square mile, is a visual hodgepodge of dilapidation and renovation. There are abandoned, rickety stables and sagging porches, as well as tidy new residences and meticulously restored 18th-century houses. Next to properties cluttered with castoff autos, carefully tended lawns and gardens flourish.

The local mini-mart, where customers can rent videos, stock the pantry, feast on towering soft-swirl ice cream cones or peruse the bulletin board for information on lost pets, is housed in a World War II Quonset hut on a quiet residential street.

The store is popular for its practicality. Owner George Griffith laughed as he recalled a patron asking for capers. "This isn't a caper kind of place," he said.

Nearby, Lovettsville native Bill Walden, a chef who worked for years at L'Auberge Chez Francois in Great Falls, does run a caper kind of place, the upscale French country restaurant La Fleur de Lis. His childhood home is across the street from the restaurant; when he was young, it was known as the Village Inn, and he worked there as a busboy.

Antiques dealers Ed and Marcia Pascarelli live in an 1830s house with stairs so narrow they had to hoist furniture for the second floor through an upstairs bathroom window. The house is diagonally across a narrow lane from a local pizza restaurant. "When our order is ready, they just holler," Ed Pascarelli said.

At the restaurant, cash placed in a large pickle jar is shared with employees each month, and the names of people who bounced checks at the shop are displayed on a sign propped against a telephone pole outside for all to see. Repeat offenders are rare.

Mayor Elaine Walker, a Lovettsville native, said town officials are determined to preserve this village atmosphere, even though dramatic change is coming. In August, the town council approved plans for a 61-acre town center, which will include housing and 120,000 square feet of retail and office space. A square with a perimeter of houses and a network of pedestrian and bike paths will tie the old and new areas together. Just south of the center, a retirement community is planned.

This week, Loudoun County gave final approval to new slow-growth zoning that dramatically curtails the density of development allowed in much of the western part of the county. Development instead is encouraged in areas that already have infrastructure, including Lovettsville.

Lovettsville picked Elm Street Development Co. of McLean to spearhead its project because of the developer's willingness to retain Lovettsville's rural feel, Walker said.

"We're not interested in chain or anchor stores," Walker said. "We listed the things we wanted. If it's not on the list, it's not going in."

Kingfish Everhart, 89, a self-described jack-of-all-trades who has lived around Lovettsville all his life, said he is concerned about the upscale nature of the proposed town center.

"We need the basics -- a drugstore, a hardware store and doctor's offices," Everhart said.

Everhart and his wife, Dorothy, say they drive 10 miles to medical facilities in their pristine 1997 Dodge Diplomat, which has logged just 40,000 miles. They go just across the Potomac River to Brunswick, Md., for groceries.

"We would hope that the development that is planned will maintain our small-town, rural character; promote our heritage; and, most of all, add quality, not quantity," Walker said.

From left: Former resident Julian W. Posey is returning to town, where he can walk to church in a "friendly, quiet community." Alpha Williams chats with her son and daughter-in-law from the porch of her 1994 rambler. And Mayor Elaine Walker, who says town officials are determined to preserve a village atmosphere in Lovettsville, stands in front of her childhood home.