Although the origins of Purcellville go back to an ordinary on the “Great Road” (later the Snickers Gap Turnpike) from Alexandria to the Shenandoah Valley, the community remained small until the Washington and Ohio Railroad (later the Washington and Old Dominion) came though in the 1870s. The area prospered as a summer resort (as did Round Hill, five miles west), and also through large-scale agricultural businesses. Mills, apple-packing houses, slaughterhouses, a stockyard, creameries, and stores sprang up in this strategically located commercial center. The city grew rapidly and incorporated in 1908. Portions of the downtown area were rebuilt after a 1914 fire. The closing of the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad in 1939 diminished the importance of the agricultural trade, but in more recent years the town has become a bedroom community for the metropolitan Washington area.
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