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Leesburg, Virginia
Town of Leesburg
Center of Leesburg in 2012
Center of Leesburg in 2012
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Coordinates: 39°6′55″N 77°33′52″W / 39.11528°N 77.56444°W / 39.11528; -77.56444Coordinates: 39°6′55″N 77°33′52″W / 39.11528°N 77.56444°W / 39.11528; -77.56444
Country  United States
State  Virginia
County Loudoun
Founded October 12, 1758
Government
 • Type Town Council-Manager
Area
 • Total 12.47 sq mi (32.29 km2)
 • Land 12.40 sq mi (32.11 km2)
 • Water 0.07 sq mi (0.18 km2)
Elevation
341 ft (104 m)
Population
 (2010)
 • Total 42,616
 • Estimate 
(2019)
53,727
 • Density 4,333.17/sq mi (1,673.07/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
20175-20178
Area code(s) 703, 571
FIPS code 51-44984
GNIS feature ID 1498505

Leesburg is the county seat of Loudoun County, Virginia. It was built in 1740 and is named for the Lee family, early leaders of the town and ancestors of Robert E. Lee. In the War of 1812, it was a refuge for important federal documents evacuated from Washington, DC, and in the Civil War, it changed hands several times.

The town is situated at the base of Catoctin Mountain and adjacent to the Potomac River, 33 miles (53 km) northwest of Washington, D.C., for which it has largely become a commuter suburb. Its population was 42,616 as of the 2010 census and an estimated 53,727 in 2019. It is Virginia's largest incorporated town within a county (rather than being an independent city).

Etymology

Leesburg was named to honor the influential Thomas Lee and not, as is popular belief, his son Francis Lightfoot Lee who lived in Loudoun and brought up the bill to establish Leesburg, nor as is sometimes thought, Robert E. Lee (his great-grandnephew).

History

Historical Collections of Virginia - Central View of Leesburg
"Central View of Leesburg" c. 1845
Wheat Building-Leesburg VA
The Wheat Building
Carlheim in snow Dec2009J
Carlheim, also known as the Paxton mansion.
Loudoun County Courthouse in Leesburg,Virginia
The historic Leesburg courthouse serves as the seat of government for Loudoun County, Virginia

Prior to European settlement, the area around Leesburg was occupied by various Native American tribes. John Lederer (1670) testified that the entire Piedmont region had once been occupied by the "Tacci, alias Dogi", but that the Siouan tribes, driven from the northwest, had occupied it for 400 years. In 1699, the Algonquian Piscataway (Conoy) moved to an island in the Potomac in the environs of Leesburg, and were there when the first known Europeans visited what is now Loudoun.

What would become known as the Old Carolina Road (present day U.S. Route 15) was a major route of travel between north and south for Native tribes.. The date of this conflict is unknown, but it seems the Lenape and Catawba were indeed at war in the 1720s and 1730s.

European settlement of near Leesburg began in the late 1730s as tidewater planters moved into the area from the south and east establishing large farms and plantations. that Minor laid out. Leesburg was renamed to honor the influential Thomas Lee and not, as is popular belief, his son Francis Lightfoot Lee who lived in Loudoun and brought up the bill to establish Leesburg, nor as is sometimes thought, Robert E. Lee (his great-grandnephew). When the post office was established in Leesburg in 1803 the branch was named "Leesburgh"; the 'h' persisted until 1894.

During the War of 1812, Leesburg served as a temporary haven for the United States Government and its archives (including the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution and portraits of early American leaders like Benjamin Franklin) when it was forced to flee Washington, D.C. in the face of the British Army. When reconstruction began on the Capitol, Potomac Marble from quarries just south of Leesburg was used.

Early in the American Civil War Leesburg was the site of the Battle of Balls Bluff, a resounding Confederate victory. The battlefield is marked by one of America's smallest national cemeteries. The town frequently changed hands over the course of the war as both armies traversed the area during the Maryland and Gettysburg campaigns. The Battle of Mile Hill was fought just north of the town prior to its occupation by Robert E. Lee in September 1862. Leesburg also served as a base of operations for Col. John S. Mosby and his partisan Raiders, for whom the Loudoun County High School mascot is named (the Raiders). Some people consider the local courthouse among the few courthouses in Virginia not burned during the Civil War (1861–1865); though it was not built until 1894.

In the 20th century, Leesburg was the home of World War II General George C. Marshall, architect of the famous Marshall Plan that helped re-build Europe after the war, and radio personality Arthur Godfrey, who donated land for the town's first airport.

Today Leesburg continues to serve as the center of government and commerce for Loudoun County. The town's Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and cited as one of the best preserved and most picturesque downtowns in Virginia. Downtown merchants have recently labeled themselves "Loudoun's (or, Loudoun County's, depending on the audience) Original Town Center," largely in response to the growing number of mixed-use shopping in proximity. As of 2007, the town had been county seat for 249 of the previous 250 years.

Historic sites

The Leesburg area contains 21 entries on the National Register of Historic Places, including:

At least 63 historic markers are located in and near Leesburg.

Symbol

On September 14, 2008, The Town of Leesburg celebrated its 250th birthday. During that celebration, the town unveiled its new flag.

Colors: Red is the color from the Lee Family Coat of Arms.
White is from the Lee Family Coat of Arms.
Blue is from the Lee Family of Virginia Coat of Arms.
Yellow is from the Lee Family Coat of Arms.

Symbology: This flag represents the coat of arms that was in use by the Lee Family of Virginia when Leesburg was founded in 1758. The blue and yellow checkerboard band on the red back ground represents the Lee Family Coat of Arms at which Leesburg is named for and the white Cinquefoil (five petal flower) on a blue background comes from the Astley Family Coat of Arms. The coats of arms were quartered like the flag is showing. The white cross indicates Leesburg as a crossroads.

Geography

Leesburg is located at 39°7′N 77°33′W / 39.117°N 77.550°W / 39.117; -77.550 (39.109, -77.558).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 12.5 square miles (32.3 km²), nearly all of it land.

Leesburg is located in the northern Virginia Piedmont at the base of the easternmost chain of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Catoctin Mountain. The town is an area of the Piedmont known as the Culpeper Basin (an inland sea during the Jurassic period) and is also in the valley of the Potomac River, so that the overall relief is much less dramatic than other Virginia Piedmont towns, though portions of western Leesburg along the foot of Catoctin Mountain may be considerably higher. The principal drainage for the town is Tuscarora Creek and its northern branch, referred to as the Town Branch, which empties into Goose Creek just east of the town.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 1,691
1860 1,130 −33.2%
1870 1,144 1.2%
1880 1,726 50.9%
1890 1,650 −4.4%
1900 1,513 −8.3%
1910 1,597 5.6%
1920 1,545 −3.3%
1930 1,640 6.1%
1940 1,698 3.5%
1950 1,703 0.3%
1960 2,869 68.5%
1970 4,821 68.0%
1980 8,357 73.3%
1990 16,202 93.9%
2000 28,311 74.7%
2010 42,616 50.5%
2019 (est.) 53,727 26.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
2018 Estimate

Census estimates as of July 1, 2018, showed the population of Leesburg at 53,917 people. According to the 2010 census, there were 42,616 people including 14,441 households, and 10,522 families residing in the town. The population density was 3,673 people per square mile (1,418.2/km2). There were 15,119 housing units at an average density of 1220.2 per square mile (471.1/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 71.1% white, 9.5% African American, 0.4% Native American, 7.1% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 7.5% from other races, and 4.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 17.4% of the population.

Of all households, 44.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.8% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.1% were non-families. 21.1% were made up of individuals, and 4.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.93 and the average family size was 3.42.

By age, the population was 30.7% under the age of 18, 5.5% from 18 to 24, 32.9% from 25 to 44, 23.4% from 45 to 64, and 6.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33.3 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.6 males.

The median income of the households in the town was $68,861, and the median income of the families was $78,111 (these figures had risen to $87,346 and $105,260 respectively as of a 2007 estimate). Males had a median income of $51,267 versus $35,717 for females. The per capita income for the town was $30,116. About 2.4% of families and 3.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.8% of those under age 18 and 8.2% of those age 65 or over.

Recreational facilities and events

Parks

  • Ida Lee Park - Located near the north side of Leesburg, Ida Lee Park was made possible in 1986 by the donation of Greenwood Farm to the Town of Leesburg by William F. Rust, Jr., and his wife, Margaret Dole Rust. The farm contained 141 acres (57 ha) and was donated to the town for perpetual use as the Ida Lee Park. The Rusts requested that the park be named in memory of Ida Lee, Mr. Rust's grandmother, to preserve the historic link between the Lee family of Virginia and the Town of Leesburg. Ida Lee Rust was the daughter of Edmund Jennings Lee, first cousin of Robert E. Lee. Ida Lee spent her married life at "Rockland"; the Rust family home located near Leesburg, and in her later years lived in a house built by her sons at 113 East Cornwall Street in Leesburg. The Rusts also donated 3 acres (12,000 m2) of land from the original 141 acres (57 ha) for the Rust Library located adjacent to Ida Lee Park. In 1991, the Rusts gave the town $50,000 for the construction of the William J. Cox Pavilion at Ida Lee Park, a public picnic area containing a pavilion and playground.
  • Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail - Hikers, bikers and joggers can travel in and through Leesburg on the trail, a 45-mile (72 km) long rail trail that the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority constructed on the historic W&OD RR's right-of-way.
  • Red Rocks Wilderness Overlook Regional Park - Located east of Leesburg along the banks of the Potomac River, the park, operated by the NVRPA, contains 67 acres (27 ha) of woodlands and over 2 miles (3.2 km) of trails leading to bluffs along the river. Frances Speek donated the land to NVRPA in 1978. The ruins in the park date to 1869. They were part of the estate of industrialist Charles R. Paxton, who is best known in Leesburg for building the Victorian mansion Carlheim.
  • The Rust Manor House and Nature Sanctuary - Located near the west side of Leesburg at the foot of Catoctin Mountain, the sanctuary contains a mansion and a nature reserve that the Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central Atlantic States, Inc., owns and operates.

Events

  • Leesburg's Flower and Garden Festival - Held annually in April in the Historic District, the event includes garden displays, vendors and entertainment.
  • Fourth of July Celebration - Events include a morning parade, a festival at Ida Lee Park and evening fireworks.
  • Classic Car Show - is held annually on the first Saturday in June. This event features dozens of classic cars and hot rods on display in the streets of downtown Leesburg as well as music and food. Proceeds benefit the Graphic Arts and Auto Body programs at C.S. Monroe Technology Center.
  • Leesburg AirShow - is held annually on the last Saturday in September. This event features parachute jumpers, aerobatic routines, warbirds, model aircraft, military vehicles & classic cars on display on the ramp of the airport, as well as music and food.
  • Halloween Parade - Said to be one of the longest-running Halloween parades in the country, the parade includes marching bands from the local high schools, floats made by local businesses, Scout troops and families, etc. Many participants distribute candy to parade watchers.

Education and public services

Leesburg has four public high schools operated by the Loudoun County Public School system: Loudoun County High School, Heritage High School, Tuscarora High School, and Riverside High School.

Leesburg is also served by several private schools, including Providence Academy, a K–8 non-denominational Christian school; Leesburg Christian School, a K–12 non-denominational Christian school; and pre-K-8 Loudoun Country Day School.

The Leesburg Volunteer Fire Company provides fire protection services. The Loudoun County Volunteer Rescue Squad provides rescue and emergency medical services. Both the fire company and rescue squad are volunteer organizations supplemented with partial staffing from the Loudoun County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management. The fire company can trace its roots back to 1803; the rescue squad was formed in 1952.

Leesburg is served by a town police department. The Leesburg Police Department (LPD) has an authorized strength of 90 sworn officers and provides 24/7 patrol service to the town, as well as handling criminal investigations, traffic control, and special operations within the town. The department is completely separate from the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office, which is Loudoun County's primary law enforcement agency and provides security for the courthouse in Leesburg. The LPD was formed in 1758.

Transportation

2019-09-03 13 11 06 View north along U.S. Route 15 and east along Virginia State Route 7 (Leesburg Bypass) from the overpass for Sycolin Road Southeast in Leesburg, Loudoun County, Virginia
View north along US 15 and east along SR 7 on the Leesburg Bypass

The primary highways serving Leesburg include U.S. Route 15, Virginia State Route 7 and Virginia State Route 267.

US 15 enters Leesburg from the southwest, following King Street, then joins the Leesburg Bypass to pass southeast of downtown. It rejoins King Street as it leaves the bypass on the northeast end of town on its way toward Maryland. The old alignment of US 15 is now U.S. Route 15 Business. Via US 15, travelers can reach Warrenton 34 miles (55 km) to the southwest and Frederick, Maryland, 25 miles (40 km) to the northeast.

SR 7 enters Leesburg from the west along Market Street and immediately joins the Leesburg Bypass to pass southwest of downtown. It rejoins Market Street as it leaves the bypass southeast of downtown. The old alignment of SR 7 is now Virginia State Route 7 Business. SR 7 37 miles (60 km) west to Winchester and 35 miles (56 km) southeast to Alexandria.

SR 267 enters Leesburg from the south along the Dulles Greenway and terminates at the Leesburg Bypass (US 15 and SR 7). SR 267 functions as a high speed bypass of SR 7 southeast of Leesburg, but is also a toll road.

Loudoun County Transit provides public transportation services in Leesburg.

Notable people

  • Jonathan Allen, professional football player for the Washington Football Team, raised in Leesburg; went to high school at nearby Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn
  • Russell Baker, author
  • Thomas Balch, historian born in Leesburg
  • Joe Bauserman, former minor league baseball and college football player, who briefly played for the Ohio State Buckeyes, born in Leesburg
  • Chris Cooley, former professional football player for the Washington Redskins, radio personality, artist
  • Westmoreland Davis, 48th governor of Virginia
  • Arthur Godfrey, entertainer, lived in Leesburg. The municipal airport, Godfrey Field, is named after him.
  • Mark Herring, Attorney General of Virginia
  • Fred Hetzel, former professional basketball player
  • Billy Hurley III, PGA Tour golfer
  • Lyndon LaRouche, political activist
  • George C. Marshall, American Chief of Staff and five-star general during World War II, Secretary of State, and chief architect of the Marshall Plan; lived at Dodona Manor
  • Roland Martin, journalist and commentator
  • Stevens T. Mason, politician and first governor of Michigan
  • Lewis Nixon, U.S. naval architect and once leader of Tammany Hall; born in Leesburg
  • Jeremy Roach, basketball player for the Duke Blue Devils
  • Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid (also known as Alex Soueid and Anas Alswaid), Syrian-born naturalized United States citizen indicted on espionage-related charges by federal prosecutors in October 2011
  • John Tolbert, Jr., local education activist and politician
  • Will Toledo, leader of the indie rock band Car Seat Headrest; born and raised in Leesburg
  • Jennifer Wexton (born 1968), former Virginia Senate and prosecutor who represents Virginia's 10th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Joseph Winters (1816–1916), African-American abolitionist
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