- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2006

The May issue of Inc. magazine ranks Winchester, Va., No. 19 on its list of America’s Hottest Small Cities. The magazine bases this ranking on the fact that job growth has been a healthy 4.8 percent for the past year and a strong 12 percent for the past five years, but longtime residents of Winchester have appreciated the town’s mix of cultural amenities and small-town charm.

The Winchester city government’s Web site (www.winchesterva.gov) reports that the city’s population jumped from 22,460 in 1992 to 24,350 in 2002. However, when you include the surrounding areas that make up the Winchester Metropolitan Statistical Area, the increase is greater — from 71,120 in 1992 to 87,309 in 2002.

New residents are drawn by the reasonable home prices in comparison to prices in nearby Northern Virginia communities. They are willing to commute to enjoy a quieter lifestyle and own a larger home or more land.

However, some new residents are moving to Winchester to work in the thriving local economy. The FBI is relocating its records-management facility to Winchester and will employ 1,500 people in two facilities in the area this year, according to the Winchester Economic Redevelopment Web site (www.winchesterva.gov/econ/innews.php).

Other major employers in Winchester include the Winchester Medical Center, Rubbermaid Commercial Products (a plastics manufacturer), Lear Corp. (an auto parts and supplies manufacturer), Federal Mogul (a brake lining manufacturer), Wal-Mart, Polyone Engineered Films Group (a vinyl manufacturer) and BB&T; bank.

Shenandoah University, another major local employer, is a liberal arts college known for its conservatory of music and offering degrees in nursing and respiratory care; various liberal arts fields, including music, dance and theater arts; education; business administration; and physical therapy.

Winchester has long been known for its abundance of apples. The National Fruit Product Co. Inc., which sells apple products, continues to be a large local employer.

Calling itself the “Apple Capital,” Winchester is the largest apple producer in Virginia and one of the largest apple exporters in the country, according to the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitor Bureau (www.visitwinchesterva.com).

The city celebrates this heritage each spring with the annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. About 250,000 people attend the festival each year, which usually takes place over four days in early May. This year’s festival was the 79th in Winchester’s history, and, as always, it included an arts-and-crafts show, a parade, band competitions and a race.

Old Town Winchester attracts visitors year-round with its shops, art galleries, antique stores and restaurants. The Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall and historic commercial district is home to an eclectic mix of shops set in historic 18th- and 19th-century buildings.

The Patsy Cline Museum, celebrating Winchester’s famous 1960s-era country singing star, is expected to open in September on Loudoun Street. The museum will display Patsy Cline pictures and memorabilia, and visitors will be able to pick up a brochure for a self-guided tour of where she lived and performed in the area.

Tourists also can take guided or self-guided tours of the National Register Historic District in Winchester, where they can visit George Washington’s Office Museum and Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters and Museum.

Information about other historic local sites can be obtained in the Old Town Winchester Welcome Center and the Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center.

Millwood Crossing, a renovated apple-packing warehouse and stone tenant’s house, includes antique galleries and specialty shops with apple products and gifts.

Local residents may appreciate these historic sites and local shops, but they also can enjoy indoor and outdoor recreation at the Jim Barnett Park in Winchester, a 180-acre park with basketball courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a 3-acre fishing lake, lighted softball and baseball fields, racquetball courts, a fitness room, jogging trails and a horseshoe court.

Winchester’s earliest settlers would be amazed at the changes over the centuries in their small settlement, established in 1732 by Pennsylvania Quakers.

The city initially was named Frederick Town after the father of King George III of England; the name was changed to Winchester in 1752 in honor of an ancient English capital, according to the Winchester visitors center Web site.

The Great Western Road, which became U.S. 11, carried travelers from the Philadelphia area south and west and passed through Winchester, which grew in importance as a location for merchants, craftsmen and local farmers to sell their wares.

During the Civil War, this strategic location had a less positive impact on the town, which, according to the Winchester visitors center Web site, changed hands about 70 times. After the Civil War, Winchester suffered economic hardship until a building boom occurred just before the turn of the century, when industrial growth and apple production brought prosperity to the area.

Today’s prosperity is reflected in the thriving real estate market in Winchester, where home builders are creating new communities.

Richmond American Homes Inc. is building six developments in Winchester: Red Bud Run, Lynnehaven, Park Place, Cedarmeade, Rolling Hills Estates and the Overlook at Rolling Hills. The single-family homes in these developments are base-priced from the $300,000s and the $400,000s. Visit www.


Ryland Homes is building single-family homes on quarter-acre homesites at Steeplechase, priced from the upper $300,000s and low $400,000s. Visit www.Ryland.com.

Toll Bros. Inc. is building single-family homes at Twin Lakes Overlook, priced from the $400,000s, surrounded by woods and including lake views. Visit www.tollbrothers.com.

InterActive Builders Inc. is selling homes in three communities in the Winchester area. At Hedgebrook Hills, not far from downtown Winchester, the 2- to 4-acre estate homes are priced from the upper $500,000s. At Whites Mill Estates, 5- to 17-acre homesites with mountain views are available, with homes priced from the upper $500,000s. At Apple Pie Meadows, 5- to 12-acre estate sites are available with mountain views, priced from the $600,000s. Visit www.InterActiveBuilders.com.

Resale prices in the city of Winchester, according to the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc. (MRIS), averaged $271,694 in April, a slight decrease from the average price in April 2005 of $272,742.

A total of 34 homes were sold in the city in April, an increase of 25.93 percent over April 2005, when 27 homes sold.

About 36 resale homes were listed for sale in the city at prices higher than $500,000, with 62 listed with a price between $200,000 and $300,000.

Another 32 homes were listed for sale with prices between $300,000 and $400,000, and 25 more were priced between $400,000 and $500,000.

Buyers in the Winchester area have the option of living within the city limits or creating their own estate in the countryside, but both types of buyers can appreciate the charm of small-city life.

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