Prior to European settlement, the area around Leesburg was occupied by various Native American tribes such as the Tacci, Siouan and Piscataway. European settlement of near Leesburg began in the late 1730s as tidewater planters moved into the area from the south and east establishing large farms and plantations. Many of the First Families of Virginia were among those to settle in the area including the Carters, Lees and Masons.
The genesis of Leesburg occurred sometime before 1755 when Nicholas Minor acquired land around the intersection of the Old Carolina Road and the Potomac Ridge Road (present day Route 7) and established a tavern there. Despite lack of growth around the tavern, upon Loudoun’s formation in 1757, Minor dubbed the sparse collection of buildings about his tavern “George Town” in honor of the reigning monarch of Great Britain. The village’s prosperity changed the following year when the British Colonial Council ordered the establishment of the county Court House at the crossroads. Accordingly Minor had a town laid out on the traditional Virginia plan of six criss-cross streets.
In the 20th century, Leesburg was the home of World War II General George C. Marshall, architect of the famous Marshall Plan that helped re-build Europe after the war, and radio personality Arthur Godfrey, who donated land for the town’s first airport.
- Dodona Manor, the restored, early 19th century home of George C. Marshall, a general and diplomat who received the Nobel Peace Prize and owned the home from 1941 until his death in 1959.
- Morven Park, the estate of Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis; and
- Oatlands Plantation, a National Historic Landmark.
- White’s Ferry, the only ferry across the Potomac River, has its Virginia terminus just outside the town. It is a cable-guided car and passenger ferry. A ferry has plied the river from this site since 1828.
- Exeter Plantation.