When visiting Purcellville’s historic downtown the vision and creative talents of builder Bruce Brownell are on full display. Now a small tribute to his memory has become a point of contention among Purcellville Council members.
The council is debating whether to assume ownership of a clock that was erected to Brownell’s memory after his death in 2004.
It was Brownell who began the transformation of the 21st Street area in the 1980s, when he restored the former flour mill on the west side, and began plans to restore the train station and Adams Seed Mill on the east side. Those buildings now form the nucleus of Centennial Square, a downtown complex that boasts offices, shops and the Magnolias at the Mill restaurant. The Purcellville Preservation Association partnered with the town to obtain grants to purchase and restore the Train Station, construction of the 21st Street parking lot, and street improvements.
In recognition of Brownell’s contributions, the PPA purchased and installed a four-face clock the Train Station parking lot, with the aid of Brownell’s children, Jason Brownell and Kelly Howard. The clock is located on land owned by the Brownell family’s Western Loudoun Development LLC.
Unfortunately, the clock has worked only intermittently over the past four years and Town Manager Robert W. Lohr Jr. told the council many people assumed it was the town’s responsibility—and want government to do something about fixing the clock.
The clock’s manufacturer is out of business and parts are unavailable. Efforts to make it operational again have been unsuccessful.
Lohr said Jason Brownell was willing to grant an easement and would work with the town to get the clock operational again.
During the council’s June 28 work session, Lohr suggested that the town assume ownership and maintenance, with stipulations.
Mayor Kwasi Fraser was concerned about the cost, and suggested the town should use the clock for advertising—connecting it to the Internet and converting it to a digital signage format.
But the town does not permit digital advertising in the historic downtown, and that idea did not sit well with other council members.
Councilwoman Joan Lehr, for whom the work session was her last meeting, said “I am really concerned. The biggest thing is maintaining the downtown. If we don’t maintain it as a clock, I’d let Jason take it down. I don’t want to see flashing pink lights.”
Councilwoman Karen Jimmerson agreed. “In the eyes of the people, we own it,” she said, suggesting the town partner with Jason Brownell and do a fundraiser with the Purcellville Historical Society. “We need to maintain the historical look; 21st Street needs to maintain integrity.”
The council voted 6-1, with Councilwoman Kelli Grim dissenting, to start the process of securing an easement from the Brownells.