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Big Stone Gap, Virginia facts for kids

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Town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia
Central Big Stone Gap. Little Stone Mountain is visible in the background.
Central Big Stone Gap. Little Stone Mountain is visible in the background.
Official seal of Town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia
Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Country United States
State Virginia
County Wise
 • Total 5.03 sq mi (13.02 km2)
 • Land 4.93 sq mi (12.78 km2)
 • Water 0.09 sq mi (0.24 km2)
1,535 ft (468 m)
 • Total 5,643
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,039.92/sq mi (401.48/km2)
  U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Population Estimates
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
Area code(s) 276 Exchange: 523
FIPS code 51-07480
GNIS feature ID 1496805
Website Official website:

Big Stone Gap is a town in Wise County, Virginia, United States. The town was economically centered around the coal industry for much of its early development. The population was 5,643 at the 2010 census.


The community was formerly known as "Mineral City" and "Three Forks." The "Big Stone Gap" refers to the valley which has been created on the Appalachia Straight, located between Big Stone Gap and Appalachia. The town had hoped that its coal and iron ore deposits would make it "the Pittsburgh of the South."

The Big Stone Gap post office was established in 1856.

The Christ Episcopal Church, John Fox, Jr. House, Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park, Terrace Park Girl Scout Cabin, June Tolliver House, and C. Bascom Slemp Federal Building are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Big Stone Gap is home to several museums. The June Tolliver House, located on Jerome Street, is home to the Trail of the Lonesome Pine, the official outdoor drama of Virginia.

Southwest Virginia Museum
Southwest Virginia Museum

The Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park is located in the downtown area. Big Stone Gap also hosts the Coal Museum.

Coal Mining Museum
Henry Meador Coal Museum

Federal court

The federal building named for C. Bascom Slemp was built in 1912 and it continues to house a division of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

Wallens Ridge State Prison

Big Stone Gap is home to Wallens Ridge State Prison, a state prison that has been a part of the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Corrections since 1999. Originally opened as a supermax prison, it has recently been downgraded to a "high level" security facility. Construction and maintenance of the facility generated millions of dollars for the local economy, suppressed from a sagging history of coal mining.


Big Stone Gap is located at 36°52′02″N 82°46′28″W / 36.867165°N 82.774471°W / 36.867165; -82.774471 (36.867165, -82.774471).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 4.9 square miles (12.6 km2), all land.

Big Stone Gap is at the junction of U.S. Route 23 and U.S. Route 58 Alternate.

Big Stone Gap is closer to the state capitals of seven other states than it is to Richmond, VA, its own state capital, with regards to highway mileage. The other state capitals are Columbus, OH; Frankfort, KY; Charleston, WV; Nashville, TN; Raleigh, NC; Columbia, SC; and Atlanta GA. Additionally Indianapolis, Indiana is only six miles farther from Big Stone Gap than Richmond.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 1,617
1910 2,590 60.2%
1920 3,009 16.2%
1930 3,908 29.9%
1940 4,331 10.8%
1950 5,173 19.4%
1960 4,688 −9.4%
1970 4,153 −11.4%
1980 4,748 14.3%
1990 4,748 0.0%
2000 4,856 2.3%
2010 5,643 16.2%
2019 (est.) 5,132 −9.1%

As of the census of 2010, there were 5,643 people, 2,034 households, and 1,075 families residing in the town. The population density was 995.9 people per square mile (384.2/km2). There were 2,197 housing units at an average density of 450.6 per square mile (173.8/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 93.68% White, 4.41% African American, 0.14% Native American, 0.45% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.37% from other races, and 0.93% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.60% of the population.

There were 1,995 households, out of which 29.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.7% were married couples living together, 15.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.2% were non-families. 30.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 23.2% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 25.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 86.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.5 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $21,584, and the median income for a family was $34,306. Males had a median income of $26,707 versus $21,915 for females. The per capita income for the town was $13,284. About 22.4% of families and 25.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.5% of those under age 18 and 15.1% of those age 65 or over.


Adriana Trigiani, who wrote the script for the movie Big Stone Gap, lobbied to have the film shot on location. The former gas station that was the setting for Carmine's restaurant in the movie still contains the soda fountain, tables and nostalgic wall posters used during filming. Next to it is the vacant Mutual's Pharmacy, where Ave Marie Mulligan, the main character in the movie, worked.

2008 Tornado

An EF-1 tornado touched down March 4, 2008, on Highway 58, running through downtown. The tornado caused a 300 yard wide, one mile long path of damage. It destroyed six homes, caused major damage to 15 homes, and minor damage to 25 others. The tornado hit an area of the town named Poplar Hill.

Notable people

  • Rufus A. Ayers - Former Virginia Attorney General
  • Leanza Cornett - Miss America 1993
  • John Fox, Jr. - Author
  • Abner Linwood Holton Jr. - Former Virginia governor
  • Julius Jones - Former Professional Football Player
  • Thomas Jones - Former Professional Football Player
  • Carl Martin - Musician
  • Roy Cornelius Smith - Opera Singer
  • CC Swiney - Film Actor
  • Adriana Trigiani - Author
  • Roy Hall, rockabilly pianist

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Big Stone Gap para niños

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