Marshall is focused on increasing walkability of the town.
By Aimee O’Grady
The iron is hot in Marshall. This small town in northern Fauquier is one of nine service districts in the county. It is geographically relatively small, bordered at the west at Free State Road and at the east at Belvoir Road, and just north and south of Main Street. The town, originally called Salem, dates to 1797 and today has fewer than 1,500 residents. Leaders are vigilant about preserving the original characteristics of Marshall, while allowing it to grow as needed. As well as its traditional main street, Marshall has grown with the addition of a large plaza with restaurants, a grocery store, and farm/livestock supply store. A brick-paved sidewalk, complete with lamp posts and benches, connects the plaza to the traditional main street. “This is just one example of how we are increasing the walkability of the town,” says Marshall District Supervisor Mary Leigh McDaniel.
Since the tenure of Marshall Supervisor Harry Atherton over a decade ago, supervisors have stayed the course and managed growth while preserving the countryside that is characteristic of the region. Today, McDaniel seeks to do the same, “We want to make Marshall a destination, without erasing its character. We want Marshall residents to come back in 20 years and recognize the area.” Resident Chris Robinson, pastor with Grace Baptist Church, can attest to this effort, “We have lived in Marshall for 25 years and raised our children here. While it has grown over the years, it has also maintained its rural integrity.”
Robinson is the president of the Marshall Business and Residents Association. Members of this group serve as a voice for the people of Marshall and help to showcase its unique community. “Although we are not an incorporated town and the county seat in Warrenton has the final say in what happens in Marshall, the planning commission and supervisors give us great consideration and listen to our feedback,” says Robinson.
The town has become a hotspot for new businesses in recent years. Holder Trumbo, Fauquier native and Marshall business owner, believes that Marshall is not suitable for every type of business, but that there are certain businesses that will thrive there. He feels that Marshall is ideal for the “millennial maker.” He said “the millennials are becoming known for their craftsmanship, and a town like Marshall is the sort of place where an artisan will succeed. We offer a traditional Main Street and a walkable community that are a boon to the town. Our proximity to two major highways [Routes 17 and 66] make us very accessible to the metro area, but thanks to our careful growth, Marshall has maintained its charm over the decades and will continue to do so.”
Gwynanne Rogers, owner of Little Foxes Java & Gifts, is one such business owner. Rogers’ son Matthew manages the shop. “Almost three years ago, my father decided to move our trash business’ home office to a remote location and this house on Main Street became available. They established the office upstairs and, after consideration, opened a coffee shop in the downstairs. Little Foxes not only offers great coffee, but carries unique gifts as well, featuring many local artists. Matthew suggests that entrepreneurs who are interested in opening a business consider Marshall. “The town has great energy and is very receptive to new businesses.”
On March 1, 2017, a Fox News crew set up camp at the Old Salem Café to film a segment about support for President Trump, one month following his election. Old Salem Café owner Donna Armstrong felt “it to be a great honor for the restaurant to be selected out of all the new restaurants in Marshall.”
Another local business owner with roots in the community is Anne Michael Greene, with Marshall Real Estate. Greene, who grew up in Marshall and graduated from Fauquier High School, credits the two Route 66 exits for the town’s potential. “Our accessibility to 66 makes the town easy to reach for residents, businesses, and tourists, which will add to its appeal to the greater Washington region,” she says.
In the future, McDaniel envisions hotels and accommodations for tourists to cater to Great Meadow events, but a lot is happening right now for people who want to call Marshall home. “We have two Van Metre developments underway. The first is on the Route 17 North approach into Marshall, and the second is at the west end of the service district,” McDaniel explains. The development on this stretch will include trails and paths to Main Street. “We don’t want residents of those developments to jump on interstate 66 and head to work or activities without coming to our main street area. The ability to walk to Main Street will help ensure new residents are staying in town and enjoying Marshall’s restaurants and shops. That is the amazing thing about Marshall; you can buy a home here, raise your children here, and even retire here.”
McDaniel herself has deep Marshall roots. Her grandfather was Samuel Athey, who founded the Marshall Baptist church in the 1880s. He fought in the Civil War, was a prisoner of war, and continued to be a circuit rider when the war ended.
As more of the greater Washington area gets wind of the uniqueness of the town of Marshall, nestled among the wineries, orchards, and farms at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, one can expect even more pride for the residents of Marshall as well as among many of their neighbors. Trumbo suggests that residents keep their eye on Marshall. “There are a lot of great things coming to town that will positively add to the character and interest in Fauquier County.”