Roanoke, Virginia facts for kids
Downtown Roanoke from atop Mill Mountain.
|Nickname(s): The Star City of The South or Magic City|
|County||None (Independent city)|
|• Independent city||43 sq mi (110 km2)|
|• Land||43 sq mi (110 km2)|
|• Water||0.3 sq mi (1 km2)|
|Elevation||883–1,740 ft (269–530 m)|
|• Independent city||97,032|
|• Density||2,257/sq mi (871/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|ZIP Codes||24001–24020, 24022–24038, 24040, 24042–24045, 24048, 24050, 24155, 24157|
|GNIS feature ID||1499971|
Roanoke is the largest municipality in Southwest Virginia, and is the principal municipality of the Roanoke Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which had a 2010 population of 308,707. It is composed of the independent cities of Roanoke and Salem, and Botetourt, Craig, Franklin, and Roanoke counties. Bisected by the Roanoke River, Roanoke is the commercial and cultural hub of much of Southwest Virginia and portions of Southern West Virginia.
- See also: Timeline of Roanoke, Virginia
The town first called Big Lick was established in 1852 and chartered in 1874. It was named for a large outcropping of salt which drew the wildlife to the site near the Roanoke River. In 1882 it became the town of Roanoke, and in 1884 it was chartered as the independent city of Roanoke. The name Roanoke is said to have originated from an Algonquian word for shell "money". The name for the river was that used by the Algonquian speakers who lived 300 miles away where the river emptied into the sea near Roanoke Island. The native people who lived near where the city was founded did not speak Algonquian. They spoke Siouan languages, Tutelo and Catawban. There were also Cherokee speakers in that general area who fought with the Catawba people. The city grew frequently through annexation through the middle of the twentieth century. The last annexation was in 1976. The state legislature has since prohibited cities from annexing land from adjacent counties. Roanoke's location in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the middle of the Roanoke Valley between Maryland and Tennessee, made it the transportation hub of western Virginia and contributed to its rapid growth.
During colonial times the site of Roanoke was an important hub of trails and roads. The Great Wagon Road, one of the most heavily travelled roads of eighteenth century America, ran from Philadelphia through the Shenandoah Valley to the future site of the City of Roanoke, where the Roanoke River passed through the Blue Ridge. The Roanoke Gap proved a useful route for immigrants to settle the Carolina Piedmont region. At Roanoke Gap, another branch of the Great Wagon Road, the Wilderness Road, continued southwest to Tennessee.
Railroads and coal
After the American Civil War (1861–1865), William Mahone, a civil engineer and hero of the Battle of the Crater, was the driving force in the linkage of 3 railroads, including the V&T, across the southern tier of Virginia to form the Atlantic, Mississippi & Ohio Railroad (AM&O), a new line extending from Norfolk to Bristol, Virginia in 1870. However, the Financial Panic of 1873 wrecked the AM&O's finances. After several years of operating under receiverships, Mahone's role as a railroad builder ended in 1881 when northern financial interests took control. At the foreclosure auction, the AM&O was purchased by E.W. Clark & Co., a private banking firm in Philadelphia which controlled the Shenandoah Valley Railroad then under construction up the valley from Hagerstown, Maryland. The AM&O was renamed Norfolk and Western Railway (N&W).
Frederick J. Kimball, a civil engineer and partner in the Clark firm, headed the new line and the new Shenandoah Valley Railroad. For the junction for the Shenandoah Valley and the Norfolk and Western roads, Kimball and his board of directors selected the small Virginia village called Big Lick, on the Roanoke River. Although the grateful citizens offered to rename their town "Kimball", at his suggestion, they agreed to name it Roanoke after the river. As the N&W brought people and jobs, the Town of Roanoke quickly became an independent city in 1884. In fact, Roanoke became a city so quickly that it earned the nickname "Magic City".
Kimball's interest in geology was instrumental in the development of the Pocahontas coalfields in western Virginia and West Virginia. He pushed N&W lines through the wilds of West Virginia, north to Columbus, Ohio and Cincinnati, Ohio, and south to Durham, North Carolina and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This gave the railroad the route structure it was to use for more than 60 years.
The Virginian Railway (VGN), an engineering marvel of its day, was conceived and built by William Nelson Page and Henry Huttleston Rogers. Following the Roanoke River, the VGN was built through the City of Roanoke early in the twentieth century. It merged with the N&W in 1959.
The opening of the coalfields made N&W prosperous and Pocahontas bituminous coal world-famous. Transported by the N&W and neighboring Virginian Railway (VGN), local coal fueled half the world's navies. Today it stokes steel mills and power plants all over the globe.
The Norfolk & Western was famous for manufacturing steam locomotives in-house. It was N&W's Roanoke Shops that made the company known industry-wide for its excellence in steam power. The Roanoke Shops, with its workforce of thousands, is where the famed classes A, J, and Y6 locomotives were designed, built, and maintained. New steam locomotives were built there until 1953, long after diesel-electric had emerged as the motive power of choice for most North American railroads. About 1960, N&W was the last major railroad in the United States to convert from steam to diesel power.
The presence of the railroad also made Roanoke attractive to manufacturers. American Viscose opened a large rayon plant in Southeast Roanoke in October 1917. This plant closed in 1958, leaving 5,000 workers unemployed. When N&W converted to diesel, 2,000 railroad workers were laid off.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 42.9 square miles (111.1 km2), of which 42.5 square miles (110.1 km2) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.8 km2) (0.8%) is water.
Within the city limits is Mill Mountain, which stands detached from surrounding ranges. Its summit features the Roanoke Star, Mill Mountain Zoo, the Discovery Center interpretive building, and an overlook of the Roanoke Valley. The Appalachian Trail runs through the northern section of Roanoke County several miles north of the city, while the Blue Ridge Parkway runs just to the south of the city. Carvins Cove, the second-largest municipal park in America at 12,700-acre (51 km2), lies in northeast Roanoke County and southwest Botetourt County. Smith Mountain Lake is several miles southeast of the city. The Jefferson National Forest is nearby. Roanokers and visitors to the area enjoy hiking, mountain biking, cross-country running, canoeing, kayaking, fly fishing, and other outdoor pursuits.
The city is located in the North Fork of Roanoke winemaking region. The "North Fork of Roanoke" appellation is a designated American Viticultural Area, recognizing the unique grape growing conditions present in the area. Valhalla Vineyards is located just outside the city limits of Roanoke.
The Roanoke River flows through the city of Roanoke. Some stretches of the river flow through parks and natural settings, while others flow through industrial areas. Several tributaries join the river in the city, most notably Peters Creek, Tinker Creek, and Mud Lick Creek.
Though located along the Blue Ridge Mountains at elevations exceeding 900 ft (270 m), Roanoke lies in the humid subtropical climate zone (Köppen Cfa), with four distinct, but generally mild, seasons; it is located in USDA hardiness zone 7b, with the suburbs falling in zone 7a. Extremes in temperature have ranged from 105 °F (41 °C) as recently as August 21, 1983 down to −12 °F (−24 °C) on December 30, 1917, though neither 100 °F (38 °C) nor 0 °F (−18 °C) is reached in most years; the most recent occurrence of each is July 8, 2012 and February 20, 2015. More typically, the area records an average of 7.7 days where the temperature stays at or below freezing and 25 days with 90 °F (32 °C)+ highs annually. The normal monthly mean temperature ranges from 36.6 °F (2.6 °C) in January to 76.7 °F (24.8 °C) in July.
Based on the 1981−2010 period, the city averages 16.6 inches (42 cm) of snow per winter. Roanoke experienced something of a snow drought in the 2000s until December 2009 when 17 inches (43 cm) of snow fell on Roanoke in a single storm. Winter snowfall has ranged from trace amounts in 1918–19 and 1919–20 to 62.7 inches (159 cm) in 1959–60; the largest single storm dumped approximately three feet (0.9 m) from December 16−18, 1890.
Flooding is the primary weather-related hazard faced by Roanoke. Heavy rains, most frequently from remnants of a hurricane, drain from surrounding areas to the narrow Roanoke Valley. The most recent significant flood was in the fall of 2004, caused by the remains of Hurricane Ivan. The most severe flooding in the city's history occurred on November 4, 1985 when heavy storms from the remnants of Hurricane Juan stalled over the area. Ten people drowned in the Roanoke Valley, and others were saved by rescue personnel.
Many residents complain that they are prone to allergies because of pollen from trees in the surrounding mountains. Most famously, the family of Wayne Newton moved from Roanoke to the dry climate of Phoenix, Arizona because of his childhood asthma and allergies. However, there have not been clinical studies to establish that these conditions are more prevalent in Roanoke than in other cities with similar vegetation and climate.
|Climate data for Roanoke Regional Airport, Virginia (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1912–present)|
|Record high °F (°C)||81
|Average high °F (°C)||45.6
|Average low °F (°C)||27.5
|Record low °F (°C)||−11
|Precipitation inches (mm)||2.92
|Snowfall inches (cm)||5.2
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||8.7||9.4||10.4||10.3||12.1||10.8||11.8||9.3||8.4||7.7||8.0||9.0||115.9|
|Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||2.4||2.5||1.2||0.3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0.2||1.7||8.3|
Within its boundaries, Roanoke is divided into 49 individually defined neighborhoods.
Interstate 581 is the primary north-south roadway through the city. It is also the only interstate highway as Interstate 81 passes north of the city limits. Interstate 581 is a concurrency with U.S. Route 220, which continues as the Roy L. Webber Expressway from downtown Roanoke, where the I-581 designation ends, south to State Route 419. Route 220 connects Roanoke to Martinsville, Virginia and Greensboro, North Carolina. The proposed Interstate 73 would generally parallel Route 220 between Roanoke and Greensboro and would likely be a concurrency with I-581 through the city. The primary east-west roadway is U.S. Route 460, named Melrose Avenue and Orange Avenue. Route 460 connects Roanoke to Lynchburg. U.S. Route 11 passes through the city, primarily as Brandon Avenue and Williamson Road, which was a center of automotive-based commercial development after World War II. Other major roads include U.S. Route 221, State Route 117 (known as Peters Creek Road), and State Route 101 (known as Hershberger Road). The Blue Ridge Parkway also briefly runs adjacent to the city border.
Roanoke is divided into four quadrants: Northwest (NW), Northeast (NE), Southwest (SW), and Southeast (SE). The mailing address for locations in Roanoke includes the two letter quadrant abbreviation after the street name. For example, the Center in the Square complex in downtown Roanoke has the address "1 Market Square SE."
Roanoke Regional Airport is located in the northern part of the city and is the primary passenger and cargo airport for Southwest Virginia.
The city was known for its rail history. Into the 1960s the Norfolk and Western and Southern Railway ran three trains a day toward New York City; the trains went to different destinations to the west and south: Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans. Roanoke has not had passenger rail service since 1979. In August 2013, it was announced that Amtrak service as part of their Northeast Regional would be extended from Lynchburg to Roanoke by 2017. Construction of a platform for this new service began in Fall 2016, with trains set to run from Roanoke in Fall 2017. In the meantime, a bus service, the Smart Way Connector, aligns with the Amtrak schedule to connect riders to the Kemper Street Station in Lynchburg. Roanoke would be a stop in the proposed Transdominion Express passenger rail system currently under study by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Roanoke remains a major hub in Norfolk Southern's freight rail system. In 2006, the railroad announced plans to construct an intermodal rail yard in the community of Lafayette, Virginia of neighboring Montgomery County; however, opposition by local residents prompted Norfolk Southern to consider other potential sites. In 2007, former Roanoke mayor David A. Bowers urged Roanoke to offer a site for the yard. Shortly thereafter, neighboring Salem proposed a site in an industrial area of the city. In 2008, Norfolk Southern determined that the Lafayette location was the only practical site. The Commonwealth of Virginia may also upgrade Norfolk Southern's rail line parallel to Interstate 81 from Roanoke through the Shenandoah Valley to encourage more freight to be shipped by rail.
The Valley Metro bus system serves the city of Roanoke and surrounding areas. Nearly all routes originate or terminate at the Campbell Court bus station in downtown Roanoke, which is also served by Greyhound. Valley Metro also offers bus service to Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Lynchburg, and Virginia Tech via the Smart Way and Smart Way Connector services. In addition, several free shuttles connect local colleges to Downtown Roanoke. The Ferrum Express runs between Ferrum College in nearby Rocky Mount and downtown Roanoke, while the Hollins Express connects to Hollins University in Roanoke County.
Transportation Demand Management
Roanoke City is served by RIDE Solutions, a regional transportation demand management agency that provides carpool matching, bicycle advocacy, transit assistance, and telework assistance to businesses and citizens in the region.
|U.S. Decennial Census
As of the census of 2000, there were 94,911 people, 42,003 households, and 24,235 families residing in the city. The population density in 2000 was 2,213.2 people per square mile (854.6/km²). There were 45,257 housing units at an average density of 1,055.3 per square mile (407.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 69.38% White, 26.74% African American, 0.20% Native American, 1.15% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.72% from other races, and 1.78% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.48% of the population.
There were 42,003 households out of which 25.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.1% were married couples living together, 16.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.3% were non-families. 35.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.86.
In the city, the population was spread out with 22.6% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 30.5% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 16.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 88.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,719, and the median income for a family was $37,826. Males had a median income of $28,465 versus $21,591 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,468. About 12.9% of families and 15.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.4% of those under age 18 and 11.3% of those age 65 or over.
Arts, history and culture
EventZone was created in 2003 by the merger of various existing event organizers. EventZone is charged with assisting in the creation of new festivals and activities in the Downtown Roanoke "event zone," defined as bounded by Williamson Road, 6th Street, SW, the Roanoke Civic Center, and Rivers Edge Park.
Roanoke's festivals and cultural events include the Chili Cook-Off, Festival in the Park, Local Colors Festival, Henry Street Festival, Big Lick Blues Festival, Strawberry Festival, and the large red, white, and blue illuminated Mill Mountain Star (formerly illuminated in red following drunk driving fatalities in the Roanoke Valley; temporarily illuminated in white on April 22, 2007 in remembrance of the Virginia Tech Massacre of April 16, 2007) on Mill Mountain, which is visible from many points in the city and surrounding valley.
Center in the Square was opened in downtown Roanoke on December 9, 1983 near the city market as part of the city's downtown revitalization effort. The Center, a converted warehouse, houses the History Museum of Western Virginia, which contains exhibits and artifacts related to the area's history and has a library of materials available to scholars and the public. The Center also houses the Science Museum of Western Virginia and the Hopkins Planetarium. The Science Museum maintains a permanent installation of neon sign art featuring the work of local Mark Jamison, the subject of Slash Coleman's PBS special "The Neon Man and Me."
Formerly housed in Center in the Square, the Taubman Museum of Art has now vacated the Center and opened a new facility at 110 Salem Avenue SE. The art museum features nineteenth and twentieth century American art, contemporary and modern art, decorative arts, and works on paper, and presents exhibitions of both regional and national significance. The new 75,000-square-foot (7,000 m2) facility was designed by Los Angeles-based architect Randall Stout, who earlier in his career worked under Frank Gehry. The new space opened on November 8, 2008. The facility's design sparked debate in the community between those who feel it is a bold, refreshing addition to Roanoke and those who feel its unusual, irregular design featuring sharp angles contrasts too strongly with the existing buildings. Some are also concerned about the facility's cost at a time when many Roanoke area artistic organizations face financial challenges. The Taubman Family, which established Advance Auto Parts contributed $15.2 million to the project. As a result, the museum was renamed The Taubman Museum of Art.
The Virginia Museum of Transportation houses many locomotives that were built in Roanoke, including the Norfolk and Western J class #611 and Norfolk & Western 1218 steam engines, and other locomotives and rolling stock. The museum also houses exhibits covering aviation, automobiles, and buses.
Roanoke's landmark former passenger rail station hosts the O. Winston Link Museum dedicated to the late steam-era railroad photography of O. Winston Link since 2004.
The Harrison Museum of African-American Culture is dedicated to the history and culture of Roanoke's African-American community and is currently located at a former school in the Gainsboro section of Roanoke. Gainsboro, originally Gainesborough for founder Major Kemp Gaines, was originally a separate community that petitioned for township status in 1835. The Harrison Museum will move to Center in the Square after the Center's remodeling is completed.
Roanoke Children's Theatre is Roanoke's professional children's theatre. It can be found within the new Taubman Museum of Art in downtown Roanoke. The theatre delivers four shows a year that are geared towards a family audience. The theatre extends their programming in various arts outreach programs throughout the valley and surrounding areas.
Mill Mountain Theatre, a regional theatre, is located on the first floor of Center in the Square. As the name implies, the theatre was originally located on Mill Mountain from 1964 until 1976 when its original facility was destroyed by fire. The theatre has both a main stage for mainstream performances and a smaller black box theatre called Waldron Stage which hosts both newer and more experimental plays along with other live events.
The Roanoke Civic Center's auditorium and newly renovated theatre, now known as the Roanoke Performing Arts Theatre, host concerts, touring Broadway theatre performances, the Miss Virginia pageant, and other events. The city's first permanent artwork funded by the Percent for Art ordinance stands before the theater. Dedicated in 2008, the 30-foot (9.1 m) stainless steel sculpture, "In My Hands," by Baltimore artist Rodney Carroll is one of more than 100 works in the city's public art catalogue.
The Shaftman Performance Hall, which opened in May 2001 and is located at the Jefferson Center, has become a prominent part of Roanoke's performing arts scene. Shaftman Hall hosts a regular season of concerts and other performances from the fall through the spring as well as other entertainment events and lectures. The Jefferson Center formerly served Roanoke as Jefferson High School and now also houses offices and display spaces for cultural organizations.
In November 2006, the former Dumas Hotel was reopened as the Dumas Center for Artistic and Cultural Development. The hotel is located on a segment of First Street NW commonly known as Henry Street. Located literally across the railroad tracks from the center of downtown Roanoke, Henry Street served as the commercial and cultural center of Roanoke's African American community prior to desegregation. The Dumas Hotel hosted such guests as Louis Armstrong, Ethel Waters, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Nat King Cole when they performed in Roanoke. The renovated Dumas Center houses an auditorium with more than 180 seats, the Downtown Music Lab: a recording studio and music education center for teens, the Dumas Drama Guild, and the offices of Opera Roanoke.
The Roanoke Symphony Orchestra has performances at Shaftman Hall, the Salem Civic Center, and the Roanoke Civic Center. Current conductor David S. Wiley (conductor) and his predecessor Victoria Bond have made the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra nationally respected.
The Grandin Theatre in the Grandin Village of Southwest Roanoke regularly screens art house films, family features, and mainstream movies. The Grandin Theatre was the home of Mill Mountain Theatre from 1976 until 1983.
Virginia Western Theatre has performances in Whitman Auditorium at Virginia Western Community College, and has been performing original and well known theatrical productions since 1968.
Roanoke has also been home to the Showtimers Community Theatre since 1951. The Star City Playhouse began performances in 2007 at its theatre on Williamson Road.
Many businesses and organizations adopted "Star City" in their names, after the Mill Mountain Star. The older "Magic City" is still used, most prominently by Roanoke's Ford dealership. The city's original name of "Big Lick" is often used in whimsical contexts.
Roanoke's status as the largest city in a mountainous area led to the nickname "Capital of the Blue Ridge".
Roanoke has seven sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:
Landmarks and points of interest
- Blue Ridge Parkway
- Grandin Village
- Hollins University
- Hotel Roanoke
- Mill Mountain Star
- Mill Mountain Zoo
- O. Winston Link Museum
- Old Southwest Neighborhood
- Roanoke Historic Farmers Market
- Roanoke Weiner Stand
- Roanoke's Historical Fire Station #1
- St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church, State and National Landmark
- Taubman Museum of Art
- Texas Tavern
- Virginia's Explore Park
Images for kids
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