Roanoke has always been a gathering place since its days as Big Lick, when animals would gather to partake of nutrients found in naturally occurring salt licks. Hunters would also gather near the salt licks.
The area was surveyed by Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson’s father) in the 1750s. Their map showing the Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia through Virginia to the Yadkin River was used by thousands of settlers in search of free or cheap land. Big Lick was a stop along the Great Wagon Road and was also where travelers could choose to follow a fork through Southwest Virginia that would come to be known as the Wilderness Road.
Travel and transportation are the catalyst for Roanoke’s growth. When the first rails bypassed Big Lick, the town moved to the rails. The early railways connected farmers to outside markets then eventually linked the mountains to larger cities, which were interested in the region’s coal deposits. In 1882, the city was renamed Roanoke, which is an Algonquin word for shell “money.” Railroads continued to grow, merge, and grow again. Norfolk and Western’s Roanoke Shops were famous for manufacturing steam locomotives. These iron horses were known industry wide for their excellence. As a result, the N & W was the last railroad to convert to diesel engines in the 1960s.
Railroads lead to huge population jumps. In fact, the city was growing so quickly that it took on the moniker “Magic City” for a time. The heart of the city is found in its center – it’s where business is done and people gather. The City Market was the foundation of Roanoke’s center. Established in 1884, farmers and makers gathered to respond to the city’s needs. In 1922, a larger more modern city market was constructed. It’s still a gathering place for local producers, artists, and restaurant goers.
The city’s second wave of growth sits on Jefferson Street. It’s where you’ll find the building that now houses the Mast General Store. Built as Thurman & Boone Furniture, its retail history is long and storied and includes businesses owned by two of the city’s most successful entrepreneurs.
Summer Camp at Home
You've mastered being a teacher. Now it's time to pick up a different mantle – camp counselor. Whether you're “hosting” a day camp, overnight camp, or just a weekend experience camp, this blog has ideas for “programming” to keep your campers engaged and happy.Read More
We Arrived on April 30, 1980
On a cool spring day in 1980, April 30 to be exact, a young family arrived in the mountains of North Carolina. After a long drive from Florida in a UHaul and a pickup truck, they were about to begin their lives' work in an old general store. In this short video blog, you'll hear what their first impressions were ... in Faye's own words.Read More
Boredom Buster #3
Who's ready for another diversion or two? By now, our new routines are, well, routine. Get up, make coffee, fix breakfast, send the students to school in one corner of the living room and set up the office on the kitchen table. We don't know about you, but it sure is hard to get the 250 steps per hour now because the coffee pot is a lot closer (and so is the restroom). This week's Boredom Busters will revisit a skill that many of us have let slip in the days of GPS (but it's still important), offer up a few podcasts for your enjoyment, and send a jigsaw puzzle or two your way.Read More
Many people will ask, "Why did it take you so long to come to Downtown Roanoke?" The answer is we were waiting for just the right time and for a building that was crying out to have its story told, retold, and added on to. That building is at the corner of South Jefferson Street and Church Avenue. We can't wait to share its story and to add on to it with each and every new visit.Read more