Rt 7 and 50 Renaming/Purcellville Memorial Pike Request

The request to rename historic Routes 7 and 50 was approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in March to help remove symbols of Confederacy and racism in Loudoun County by reinstating the highways’ original names.

On February 15, the state board approved the renaming of Routes 7 and 50, which was researched and debated on until the county settled on the highways’ previous names, Leesburg Pike (Rt. 7) and Little River Turnpike (Rt. 50). Since 2020, county supervisors have increased efforts to locate local symbols associated with the Confederacy and racism, which is reflected in the county’s decision to rename the highways.

The Town of Purcellville used the renaming as an opportunity to propose another name for the section of Route 7 that passes through the town limits. A week prior to the agreement for the names of Route 7 and 50 in Loudoun County, the state board approved Purcellville’s request to rename their two-mile stretch of Route 7 the Billy Pierce Memorial Pike. Some county officials and first responders view this decision as a potential safety concern.

Loudoun County Fire Chief Keith Johnson says, “Loudoun County does not support this action of an official name change for Leesburg Pike in the Town of Purcellville, as it will negatively affect the safe and efficient delivery of public safety services.”

Because Purcellville’s segment of Route 7 is so short, officials fear that a sudden, unnecessary change in the road’s name may result in confusion among first responders when responding to a 9-1-1 call.

“The change in street name at a jurisdictional boundary will be confusing to 9-1-1 callers, who may be unaware of the name change and provide incorrect information when calling for emergency services,” said Johnson. 

“Loudoun County Fire and Rescue nor Loudoun County has no issue or concern with the specific name of Billy Pierce Memorial Pike and certainly understand the desire by the Town of Purcellville. The concern is centered around public safety.”

A native to the town of Purcellville, Billy Pierce was a dancer and choreographer in the early 20th century, who also invented the Black Bottom dance, which rose in popularity during the 1920’s. The proposed highway memorial is intended to serve as a reminder of Purcellville’s history. Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser is firm in his stance regarding the town’s request.

“Our original intent was not to half-step this process,” Mayor Fraser stated. “We wanted the road to be identified as Mr. Pierce road, not just a marker, because we can put a marker anywhere in the Town of Purcellville.”

Fraser, as part of his efforts to discover a solution, suggested that Chief Johnson and others research ways to incorporate the “Billy Pierce Memorial Pike” name into the Computer-Aided Dispatch system (CADS). Though Johnson plans to research solutions through CADS, he stated, “It will take significant time and effort to cross-reference names in the Computer-Aided Dispatch system, which is burdensome, may not catch all instances of concern, and is not data that is available to all responding agencies.”

Representatives from Loudoun County and the Town of Purcellville will meet again soon to discuss possible solutions or compromises for the issue.