Gillespie’s Pvlle In Brief

We often consider whether place creates or marks human identity, but what of the reverse?  If you had heard Richard Gillespie speak at the 2nd Annual Purcellville Historical Society Guest Speaker event on December 2nd you would become a believer in a Purcellville Identity: a little swank, alot of verve, a fair amount of grit, and far more geographical and human diversity than it’s credited for having.

A gifted speaker, Gillespie walked his audience into the past and allowed us to dabble our toes into all the variances that created Purcellville in the early twentienth century.  During this particular event, Gillespie highlighted some of Purcellville’s most endearing events, if not altogether famous.  You could see the sun through the dust as President Wilson and his new “lady” drove through town, or feel the popcorn in your hand as you either descretely tossed it, or brushed it from your hair at the downtown theater, once located where Hunt Country Jewelers is today.

The fires of 1914 destroyed most of the business district.  The image Geillespie posted of the charred and ruined Purcellville Bank (located roughly where and the back of the Shell Station is today), had us all standing at the corner staring, devestation asaulting our senses wondering, “what next?”  Until he showed the slide of the ‘new’ Purcellville Bank, looking strong, sound, and safe—completed just a year later.  Today that building is owned and operated by Valley Energy.

As Gillespie spun the imagery, the Purcellville Volunteer Fire Department, Company 2 rolled the past into the present.  They arrived with their 1920’s  chemical apparatus and a willingness to share its history and mechanics to all who inquired.  Its ingenuity and finite capabilities brought home how futile early twentieth century fire fighting really was.  Today, the apparatus is on display in the fire house lobby.  

Gillespie closed his discussion reminding us that if we listen closely, Purcellville, with her very own identity will be our best guide to helping her age gracefully.

Richard Gillespie is a former history teacher at Loudoun Valley HS, a former Purcellville volunteer fire fighter, and currently the Executive Director for the Mosby Heritage Area Association.  The Purcellville Historical Society is a proud member of the MHAA.  To learn more about MHAA visit  To follow the PHS visit   For further PVFD updates and events please visit Welcome to Purcellville Vol Fire Company. 

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