Washington Street: Middleburg, Virginia


Despite doubling as a major U.S. highway and the epicenter of commerce and entertainment in historic Middleburg, Virginia, Washington Street successfully balances through-traffic and pedestrians while holding onto its 18th century character.

Designated Area

Six blocks between Jay Street to the east and Reed Street to the west.

The annual Christmas in Middleburg parade celebrates the town's equine and foxhunting culture. Dressed in traditional hunting attire, riders lead a procession of hounds down Washington Street. Photo courtesy of Cindy Pearson.

Planning Excellence

Despite doubling as a major U.S. highway and the epicenter of commerce and entertainment in historic Middleburg, Virginia, Washington Street successfully balances through-traffic and pedestrians while holding onto its 18th century character.

Responding to a state proposal to widen 20 miles of U.S. 50 to a four-lane highway and construct a bypass around Middleburg, citizens organized the Route 50 Corridor Coalition in 1995. Concerned about the adverse economic impacts of rerouting traffic away from Washington Street, the coalition proposed and eventually obtained approval for an alternative — a comprehensive traffic-calming plan designed to increase pedestrian safety and invite through-traffic to linger, not speed, through town.

A casual stroll down Washington Street still evokes a pleasant feeling of stepping back in time. Much of the streetscape and its architecture remained as they were when the town was founded in 1787. One of two main streets in Leven Powell's original town plan, Washington Street is lined with historic buildings – some listed in the National Register of Historic Places — containing shops and restaurants at street level and living quarters on the upper floors.

Washington Street also reflects the local equine culture in the heart of the Virginia Piedmont horse-and-hunt country. Each December thousands of spectators line the street to watch the annual "Christmas in Middleburg" parade where a "huntmaster" on horseback and dressed in a red jacket leads a procession of fox hounds and riders, also clad in traditional hunting attire, through the center of town.

Although it doubles as US Route 50, Washington Street features traffic-lights, well-defined crosswalks and parallel parking. These traffic-calming techniques have helped sustain businesses along Washington Street, such as Middleburg's most famous and historic landmark, the Red Fox Inn (seen on the left). Photo courtesy of Cindy Pearson.

Defining Characteristics, Features

Historical Character

  • Leven Powell, a Revolutionary War officer and Federalist leader, established the town in 1787, purchasing the land for $2.50 an acre from Joseph Chinn, first cousin to President George Washington, the street's namesake
  • Nine-hundred-acre Middleburg Historic District added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982
  • Most famous landmark is the Red Fox Inn (Madison and Washington streets), built in 1728 and added to National Register in 1997; Inn visited by George Washington in 1748, served as headquarters and hospital for Confederates during the Civil War, and was site of a President Kennedy press conference in 1961
  • Lined with many historical buildings: Emmanuel Episcopal Church (1843) exemplifies early Gothic Revival architecture; Neo-Classical style U.S. Post Office (ca. 1850) is an example of adaptive reuse; Middleburg United Methodist Church (1856) and Middleburg Country Inn (1820) both lie on the south side of the street

Design Guidelines

  • Adopted in 1980, Historic District Overlay governed by the Historic District Review Committee (HDRC) ensures the street's architectural integrity is maintained; construction and building alterations within street-level view must be approved by the committee
  • Street-front buildings are similar in scale with two or three stories
  • Capital fund created in 2003 using money collected under fee-in-lieu of parking option for businesses ($15,000 per required parking spot); funds slated for public parking; use of funds for sidewalks being considered
  • Town ordinance requires all signs to be congruent with historical streetscape
  • Town tree ordinance helps maintain aesthetic streetscape by requiring a 10-foot-wide tree and shrub buffer between sidewalks and adjacent parking lots
  • Zoning ordinance amendments under study to lessen regulations affecting  adaptive reuse of historic buildings, sidewalk networks within commercial core surrounding Washington Street, and use of density credits

Community Involvement

  • The Route 50 Corridor Coalition secured $13 million in federal funds in 1998 for traffic-calming along 20 miles of highway; crosswalks painted and pedestrian signs installed in Middleburg in July 2008; implementation of other measures along Washington Street — bulb-outs at four-way intersections, brick-textured on-street parking lanes, raised intersections at Madison and Pendleton streets — awaiting additional funds
  • Go Green for Middleburg group in process of switching Washington Street lighting to energy-saving LED lights that meet historic guidelines
  • Middleburg Community Center, 300 W. Washington St., is a popular meeting space;  provides variety of classes (horseback riding) and services (daycare)

Charming boutique shops are pressed right against the brick sidewalks along Washington Street. Photo courtesy of Cindy Pearson.