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Bristol, Virginia
State Street in downtown Bristol, Tennessee (left) and Bristol, Virginia (right)
State Street in downtown Bristol, Tennessee (left) and Bristol, Virginia (right)
Flag of Bristol, Virginia
Official seal of Bristol, Virginia
The Birthplace of Country Music
A Good Place to Live
Country United States
State Virginia
County Independent city
 • Type Council-manager
 • Total 13.00 sq mi (33.66 km2)
 • Land 12.87 sq mi (33.34 km2)
 • Water 0.12 sq mi (0.32 km2)
1,680 ft (512 m)
 • Total 17,219
 • Density 1,324.5/sq mi (511.56/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP code
24201, 24202
Area code(s) 276
FIPS code 51-09816
GNIS feature ID 1492633
State Street separates Virginia (left) and Tennessee (right).
Bristol VA TN Double Yellow Line State Street
Double yellow line on State Street, separating Virginia from Tennessee with a bronze marker embedded in pavement.

Bristol is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2020 census, the population was 17,219. It is the twin city of Bristol, Tennessee, just across the state line, which runs down the middle of its main street, State Street. It is surrounded on three sides by Washington County, Virginia, which is combined with the city for statistical purposes. Bristol is a principal city of the KingsportBristol–Bristol, TN-VA Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is a component of the Johnson City–Kingsport–Bristol, TN-VA Combined Statistical Area – commonly known as the "Tri-Cities" region.


Evan Shelby first appeared in what is now the Bristol area around 1765. In 1766, Shelby, moved his family and settled at a place called Big Camp Meet (now Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia). It is said that Cherokee Indians once inhabited the area and the Indian village was named, according to legend, because numerous deer and buffalo met here to feast in the canebrakes. Shelby renamed the site Sapling Grove (which would later be changed to Bristol). In 1774, Shelby erected a fort on a hill overlooking what is now downtown Bristol. It was an important stopping-off place for notables such as Daniel Boone and George Rogers Clark, as well as hundreds of pioneers’ en route to the interior of the developing nation. This fort, known as Shelby’s Station was actually a combination trading post, way station, and stockade.

By the mid-nineteenth century, when surveyors projected a junction of two railroad lines at the Virginia-Tennessee state line, Reverend James King conveyed much of his acreage to his son-in-law, Joseph R. Anderson. Anderson laid out the original town of Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia and building began in 1853.

Samuel Goodson, who owned land that adjoined the original town of Bristol TN/VA at its northern boundary (Beaver Creek was the dividing line), started a development known as Goodsonville. Anderson was unable to incorporate Bristol across the state lines of Tennessee and Virginia. In 1856, Goodsonville and the original Bristol, Virginia were merged to form the composite town of Goodson, Virginia.

Incorporation for Bristol, Tennessee and Goodson, Virgina occurred in 1856. The Virginia and Tennessee Railroads reached the cities in the late summer of 1856. Due to having two different railroads companies, two depots served the cities; one in Bristol, Tenn. and the other in Goodson, Va. However, the depot located in Goodson continued to be referred to as Bristol, Virgina. In 1890, Goodson, Virgina once again took the name Bristol.

The Grove, Solar Hill Historic District, and Walnut Grove are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Bristol is located in southwestern Virginia at 36°36′N 82°11′W / 36.600°N 82.183°W / 36.600; -82.183 (36.6111, -82.1762). It is bordered to the west, north, and east by Washington County, Virginia, and to the south by the city of Bristol in Sullivan County, Tennessee.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.2 square miles (34.1 km2), of which 13.0 square miles (33.7 km2) is land and 0.15 square miles (0.4 km2), or 1.07%, is water. Little Creek and Beaver Creek flow south through the city; Little Creek flows into Beaver Creek two blocks south of the state line in Tennessee. Beaver Creek is a tributary of the South Fork Holston River.

The city is served by Interstates 81 and 381, and by U.S. Routes 11, 19, 58, and 421. I-81 leads northeast 149 miles (240 km) to Roanoke, Virginia, and southwest 113 miles (182 km) to Knoxville, Tennessee. Interstate 381 (I-381) is a spur from Interstate 81 that provides access to Bristol, Virginia, United States. It runs for 1.7 miles (2.7 km) from the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue (State Route 381) and Keys/Church Streets in Bristol at exit 0 north to Interstate 81. The I-81 interchange, the only one on I-381, is signed as exits 1A (I-81 north) and 1B (I-81 south). US 11 and US 19, running parallel to I-81, lead northeast 15 miles (24 km) to Abingdon, Virginia. US 11 splits into routes 11W and 11E in Bristol; US 11W leads west-southwest 23 miles (37 km) to Kingsport, Tennessee, while US 11E and US 19 lead south-southwest 25 miles (40 km) to Johnson City, Tennessee. US 58 runs with I-81 northeast for 17 miles (27 km) before splitting off to the east just beyond Abingdon; US 58 and 421 together lead west 27 miles (43 km) to Weber City, Virginia. US 421 leads southeast 33 miles (53 km) to Mountain City, Tennessee.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 1,562
1890 2,902 85.8%
1900 4,579 57.8%
1910 6,247 36.4%
1920 6,729 7.7%
1930 8,840 31.4%
1940 9,768 10.5%
1950 15,954 63.3%
1960 17,144 7.5%
1970 14,857 −13.3%
1980 19,042 28.2%
1990 18,426 −3.2%
2000 17,367 −5.7%
2010 17,835 2.7%
2020 17,219 −3.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010 2020

2020 census

Bristol city, Virginia - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010 Pop 2020 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 16,099 14,652 90.27% 85.09%
Black or African American alone (NH) 1,000 1,008 5.61% 5.85%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 49 55 0.27% 0.32%
Asian alone (NH) 121 159 0.68% 0.92%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 4 4 0.02% 0.02%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 24 36 0.13% 0.21%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 317 850 1.78% 4.94%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 221 455 1.24% 2.64%
Total 17,835 17,219 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.


Despite its relatively small size, Bristol, Virginia, boasts one of the more advanced broadband networks in the country. Bristol Virginia Utilities (BVU) started planning a fiber optic deployment in the city in the late 1990s. By 2001, BVU had been granted approval by the city council for a full deployment of a Fiber to the premises (FTTP or FTTU, fiber to the user) project. This project was to offer competition to local incumbents and provide broadband Internet, cable TV, and telephone service to the residents of Bristol. This deployment was one of the first of its kind in the United States and was widely watched by the telecommunications industry. A system known as Passive optical network (PON) was successfully deployed to over 6,000 customers in a matter of two years.

In 2003, in the relatively isolated city of Bristol, Virginia, Bristol Virginia Utilities (BVU), created a nonprofit offshoot called "Optinet", a municipal broadband Internet service that covers Bristol as well as the Southwest portion of the state of Virginia. Serving around 12,500 customers, BVU is recognized as the "first municipal utility in the United States to deploy an all-fiber network offering the triple play of video, voice and data services". On October 29, 2009, BVU received USD 3.5 million in grant funding from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. With these funds BVU will build "an additional 49 miles of its OptiNet fiber-optic backbone from Abingdon up I-81 to Virginia Route 16 from Marion into Grayson County". This will also allow for BVU to make a second connection with Mid Atlantic Broadband, increasing communication between different businesses in Northern Virginia. The Virginia Tobacco Community funded this project because it provided their business with more connections in crucial areas of the southwest and southern part of Virginia.

The U.S. Department of Commerce also funded BVU. On July 3, 2010, it was reported that they gave USD 22.7 million in stimulus funds to Southwest Virginia to create a "388-mile optic backbone through an eight-county region". This project will service over 120 institutions, such as schools, hospitals, government buildings, and many more besides. This new municipals broadband service will also be within a two-mile distance of over 500 different businesses. This project also created 295 new jobs. BVU Optinet continues operate a strong municipal broadband Internet service for Bristol and many other counties in Virginia.

Today, Bristol Virginia is still one of only a few FTTP deployments in the country with a significant number of customers online. Bristol's twin city in Tennessee is deploying an FTTP system similar to its neighbor across the state line.


"Birthplace of Country Music"

Bristol was recognized as the "Birthplace of Country Music", according to a resolution passed by the US Congress in 1998; residents of the city had contributed to early country music recordings and influence, and the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is located in Bristol.

In 1927 record producer Ralph Peer of Victor Records began recording local musicians in Bristol to attempt to capture the local sound of traditional "folk" music of the region. One of these local sounds was created by the Carter Family. The Carter Family got their start on July 31, 1927, when A.P. Carter and his family journeyed from Maces Spring, Virginia, to Bristol, Tennessee, to audition for Peer who was seeking new talent for the relatively embryonic recording industry. They received $50 for each song they recorded.

Since 1994, the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance has promoted the city as a destination to learn about the history of the region and its role in the creation of an entire music genre. The Alliance is organizing the building of a new Cultural Heritage Center to help educate the public about the history of country music in the region.

Professional sports

Bristol hosts the Bristol Pirates baseball team of the Appalachian League.

Former NASCAR driver Kelly Denton is from the city.

On the Tennessee side, Bristol is home to Bristol Motor Speedway, the "world's fastest half mile", which hosts two races per year on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, two races per year on the NASCAR Xfinity Series circuit, one race per year on the Camping World Truck Series circuit, and various other racing events. The complex includes the Bristol Dragway, nicknamed "Thunder Valley", referencing the hills that echo the engine noise back toward the crowd.



  • WCYB-TV in Bristol, VA (NBC Channel 5)
  • WEMT-TV in Bristol, VA (Fox Channel 39)
  • WJHL-TV in Johnson City, TN (CBS Channel 11; ABC on DT2)


  • Bristol Herald Courier


  • WEXX 99.3 FM
  • WAEZ 94.9 FM
  • WXBQ 96.9 FM
  • WKJV 106.5 FM
  • WZAP 690 AM
  • WFHG 980 AM
  • WOPI 1490 AM
  • WBCM-LP 100.1


Top employers

According to Bristol's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 City of Bristol 676
2 Electro-Mechanical Corporation 600
3 OfficeMax 500
4 Sprint PCS 428
5 US Solutions 367
6 Strongwell 350
7 Commonwealth of Virginia 250
8 Shearer's Foods 225
9 Ball 218
10 Aerus 201
11 United Parcel Service 193


In 2007 and 2008, Bristol was named one of the Best 100 Communities for Music Education

The city school division, Bristol Virginia Public Schools, operates Virginia High School and Virginia Middle School, together with four elementary schools: Highland View, Stonewall Jackson, Van Pelt, and Washington Lee. Three private schools — St. Anne Catholic, Sullins Academy, and Morrison — are operated within the city. Bristol was formerly home to two post-secondary institutions, Sullins College and Virginia Intermont College, but these colleges closed in 1978 and 2014 respectively.


Air transport

The Tri-Cities Regional Airport, with approximately 195,000 annual passengers, is 19 miles to the southwest of Bristol.


U.S. Route 11, U.S. Route 19 and U.S. Route 421 run through the city.

In the vicinity, to the northwest, is Interstate 81, which takes travelers northward to Roanoke, about 150 miles (240 km) away and southward to Knoxville about 113 miles (182 km) to the south. Nashville is 293 miles (472 km) southwest.


Until 1970 the Southern Railway ran a couple of trains through the city, making stops at Bristol station. The last trains being the Birmingham Special and the Pelican. Until 1968 the Memphis-bound Tennessean made a stop in the city.

A local coalition began advocating for Amtrak service around 2010, and local interest grew following the extension of Northeast Regional service to Roanoke in 2017. A study in 2019 concluded that a further extension to Bristol via Wytheville and Christiansburg could be financially viable but would require $30 million in track improvements between Bristol and Roanoke. In 2020, Gov. Ralph Northam described Amtrak service to Bristol as a "logical step" but said that it would be conditional upon the replacement of the Long Bridge with a higher-throughput rail crossing of the Potomac River.

See also

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