Save the Dates: Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation Announces Upcoming Events

The Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation announces several upcoming events that we are certain you will want to mark your calendar for:  

Events Currently Underway…….

Updated Historic Downtown Roanoke Walking Tours

Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation recently released a new and revised version of our popular Downtown Roanoke Walking Tour.  The tour is available in  both published and digital formats and are available at most local downtown museums as well as at the Hotel Roanoke and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Visitor Information Center (O. Winston Link Museum). Digital tours can be accessed via scanning a QR Code found on postcards also available at these same locations.

Published Tours

The published Roanoke Downtown Walking tour brochure is comprised of three (3) areas of interest – the Commerce Walk, the Community Walk, and the N&W Railway Walk – that combined together provide you with an overall view of our city’s history.

• The Commerce Walk begins with the bustling City Market Building and continues along some of downtown’s most important and scenic commercial streets.
• The Community Walk takes participants past buildings and landmarks central to the daily lives of Roanoke’s citizens.
• The N&W Railway Walk allows participants to get in touch with our city’s railroad heritage and rich history of Roanoke’s Black community.

The published walking tour opens up into a full-size 18″ x 24″ fold-out brochure that also includes several historic photos and brief history of Roanoke’s growth. 

Digital Tours

The digital Roanoke Downtown Walking tour has also been published on smaller post cards that have the same three areas of interest – The Commerce Walk, The Community Walk, and the N&W Railway Walk – but broken down into three (3) separate tours with each tour  providing its own distinctive view of our city: 

Once you scan one of the postcard’s three (3) individual QR tour code, a map of downtown Roanoke automatically appears with the tour’s short walking route highlighted on your mobile device with informational markers along the way showcasing the points of interest you are looking at. By walking on these brief tours, you will learn about our city’s history which in turn will help you understand who Roanoke is today.

Future Events Planned………

Pints for Preservation Pub Crawl – Saturday Sept. 24, 2022

Our annual “Pints for Preservation Pub Crawl” is back with our fall 2022 event. RVPF is partnering for the first time with the Blue Ridge Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The pub crawl is a fun way to learn more about Roanoke’s historic landscape while helping both organizations raise money to further their missions of preserving the valley’s most important architectural and cultural icons. 

When:  Saturday September 24 from 2:00-5:00 p.m. in Downtown Roanoke
Where:  Pub Crawl begins at Hotel Roanoke’s Lobby Bar; ends at Martin’s
Cost: $30/person or $100 for a team of 4
Tickets:  Tickets available through Eventbrite OR contact Whitney Leeson (wleeson@roanoke.edu) to pay by check

About the Event

RVPF and AIA representatives will be at local bars and breweries in downtown Roanoke stamping pub crawl passes and handing out swag from 2:00-5:00 p.m. Compete for prizes by completing your Trivia on Tap Answer Sheet featuring questions about people and places important to Roanoke’s past. No cell phone surfing for answers allowed.

Participants proceed at their own pace and in their own order after checking in at the Hotel Roanoke’s Lobby Bar to pick up their pub crawl t-shirt and sign a liability waiver. Only participants wearing their event t-shirt will qualify for drink and food specials at each establishment on the pub crawl. (No purchase is required to receive a stamp or answer trivia questions.) End your pub crawl by 5:00 p.m. at Martin’s where you will turn in your Trivia on Tap Answer Sheets. RVPF and AIA hosts will tally the scores and results will be announced soon after.

Play for Preservation ‘Croquet in May’ – Saturday, May 20, 2003

Save the date for our second fundraiser of the year during May 2023, Preservation Month: Play Croquet for Preservation – May 2023 

When: Saturday May 20,2023 from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
(Rain date will be Sunday May 21 from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at Mountain View.)
Where: Historic 1907 Historic Fishburn Mansion, located at 714 13th Street SW, Roanoke, VA)
Cost: TBD

About the Event:

Play for Preservation’s ‘Croquet in May’. Wearing your croquet whites and soft-soled shoes is strongly encouraged. Prizes awarded to winners by age bracket as well as best dressed croquet players.

Proceeds will support ongoing preservation projects for the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation and Friends of Mountain View, Inc.

Check back often as future events will be announced when they are finalized.   

The Salem Museum Presents Two Upcoming Programs: Historic Gainsboro Library Talk & Historic Gainsboro Walking Tour

Virginia Y. Lee at the Gainsboro Library

Overview:

Two upcoming programs presented by the Salem Museum will explore the rich history of Roanoke’s Gainsboro neighborhood. On Thursday, July 14 at 7 pm, Megan Mizak will speak on the history of Roanoke’s first public library for African Americans as part of the Salem Museum Speaker Series. On Saturday, July 16 at 10 am, Jordan Bell will lead a tour through the Gainsboro neighborhood, sharing details of historic sites and structures. The tour leaves from the Gainsboro Branch Library. The fee for adults (age 15 and up) is $10. For more information, visit www.SalemMuseum.org.

During the years of segregation, Roanoke’s historic Gainsboro neighborhood was a thriving, predominantly African American community. Its residents, businesses, medical facilities, churches, school, and more, created a vibrant, self-sufficient center of Black culture and commerce. Gainsboro’s Henry Street was notable as the heart of entertainment with restaurants, hotels, and clubs that hosted musical icons like Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Nat “King” Cole, and Dizzy Gillespie.

In the 1950s, “Urban Renewal” decimated the Roanoke City’s Black neighborhoods. City leaders declared large sections of Black neighborhoods “blighted,” which led to properties being bought or condemned, and the leveling of 1,600 homes, 200 businesses, and 24 churches. Today, many important commercial and institutional buildings, as well as private homes, still remain in the Gainsboro neighborhood.

Salem Museum Speaker Series:  Jim Crow and Southern Libraries: The Story of the Gainsboro Branch Library – Thursday, July, 14, 2022 @ 7pm

This talk will be held in-person at the Salem Museum and on Zoom. The Zoom link will be available on the Museum’s website, www.salemmuseum.org, on the morning of the talk.

In the early twentieth century, public libraries began to spread throughout the United States. In the South, however, Jim Crow laws denied African Americans access to public library facilities. While the work of activists did not succeed in integrating public libraries, it did bring funding for African American library branch facilities. The first freestanding public library for and operated by Blacks in Virginia opened in 1921 in Norfolk. The second was in Roanoke. This talk by branch manager Megan Mizak will explore the rich history of the Commonwealth’s second library for African Americans, the Gainsboro Branch Library, from its founding by important community leaders through the tenure of its most beloved librarian, Virginia Y. Lee.

About the speaker:
Megan Mizak has worked at the Gainsboro Branch Library since 2011 and has been branch manager since June of 2021. Since working at the library, Mizak has curated, maintained and preserved the library’s Virginia Y. Lee Collection, which is composed of rare books, historical documents, photographs and reference materials that focus on African American history in the Roanoke Valley. As a dedicated public servant devoted to maintaining community connections and local history, she has sought out and fostered relationships with local community partners regarding the role of Roanoke Public Libraries’ interest in historical preservation.

Walking Tour of Historic Gainsboro – Saturday, July 16, 2022 @ 10am

The Walking Tour of Historic Gainsboro departs from the Gainsboro Branch Library, 15 Patton Avenue NE at 10am.  The tour will be lead by Jordan Bell, who will introduce participants to Roanoke’s historic Gainsboro neighborhood. He will share information about sites and structures, and the many notable individuals who have lived in the neighborhood. The fee for youth and adults is $10, payable to Bell on-site before the start of the tour. Children age 14 and under are free and very welcome. The two-hour tour is cancelled in case of rain.

About the speaker:

Jordan Bell is a Gainsboro resident, community activist, Roanoke City Public Schools teacher, historian, and a Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation board member. Bell has given tours of the historical Gainsboro community to hundreds of people. He is currently working on a book and a documentary about Gainsboro’s history.

Invitation to Dedication of the Colonel William Preston Memorial at Historic Greenfield – Saturday June 11, 2022

On behalf of the multi-organizational team led by the Fincastle Resolutions Sons of the American Revolution and Botetourt County, you are cordially invited to the dedication of the Colonel William Preston Memorial at Historic Greenfield on Saturday June 11, 2022.

This event is located at the Botetourt County Administrative Center, 57 S. Center Drive, Daleville, VA 24083 and open to everyone. Registration begins at 1:00 pm, and the indoor program will begin at 1:30 and last until 3:00 p.m. followed by a flag raising and an optional walking tour of Historic Greenfield. (For information visit www.HistoricGreenfield.org)

Virginia Society SAR President Bruce Meyer and Virginia DAR State Regent LeAnn Turbyfill will be among the distinguished participants in the dedication ceremony that was originally scheduled for 2020. Additional information is available on the Colonel William Preston Memorial by visiting the memorial website.  

It would be a true honor to have you attend this dedication ceremony and hope your schedule will allow you to attend!

Roanoke Higher Education Center Honors Historic Gainsboro Neighborhood with Gainsboro History Project

The Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation is excited to announce and congratulate Board of Trustee member Evie Sloan for her participation in the creation and dedication of the Roanoke Higher Education Center’s Central Walkway Plaza connecting its main building with the Claude Moore Education Complex located on Henry Street a short distance away.  The Walkway Plaza project provides a timeline history walk from 1834 to 1970 that shares the extensive history of the Gainsboro community and Roanoke.  Etched into black granite markers along the brick walkway, pedestrians can read details about the historic Gainsboro neighborhood that was once the center for Black businesses and culture during the time of racial segreation.  Additionally, the most exciting piece of the project was the creation of a mobile web-based APP that accompanies the physical plaza walk that includes many more details and multimedia elements to the walkway experience.  Many, many volunteer hours were provided by Evie and others in the development of this Gainsboro History Project. 

This project is a great accomplishment and RVPF hopes you will enjoy the website/APP by clicking on the following link  https://gainsborohistoryproject.org/.

Please visit the Walkway Plaza soon to enjoy the full Gainsboro History Project experience.

RVPF Pub Talk Showcases Honoring Their Breaths / Announces 2022 Endangered Sites

In recognition of National Preservation Month, the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation (RVPF) held a Preservation Pub Talk at the Gainsboro Library on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.  Foundation President Whitney Leeson welcomed approximately 50 attendees to the event that was kicked off by the Foundation’s Secretary, Anne Beckett, announcing the 2022 RVPF Endangered Sites list.  This year, the Foundation identified three (3) endangered sites in our area as well as a commentary on a trend of social injustice related to destruction of historic Black communities in the name of development.

The 2022 Endangered Sites included the last remnant of an early-19th century community in Salem, VA, a house built by a prominent leader in the Black community of Roanoke, VA, and the stone-pillared entrance to one of Roanoke’s historic neighborhoods. In addition, a commentary was made regarding the possibility of Roanoke County’s Slate Hill Community’s history being lost to development, noting that while the historic buildings of this African-American community may be lost, it is important that the stories of the people who lived there and the community they built are not forgotten.

 

Joe Cobb then explored the history and impact of local urban renewal projects in the 1950s and 1960s that resulted in the removal of bodies from both Old Lick Cemetery and City Farm Cemetery to the Coyner Springs Cemetery.  Over 932 bodies were relocated to property the City of Roanoke purchased in Coyner Springs from the Old Lick Cemetery by city employees to allow construction of the I-581 Orange Avenue interchange in addition to those indigents who were also removed from the City Farm Cemetery, once located on the Virginia Western Community College campus, due to their expansion. 

As part of his dissertation, Joe hopes to learn the names of those relocated to the Coyner Springs Cemetery and honor them accordingly.

Following Joe’s presentation, Richard Fife with the ‘Friends of Old Lick Cemetery’ spoke about the Old Lick Cemetery Project and the group’s efforts to clean the cemetery of trash and brush to increase access to the tombstones for visitors to safely visit and pay homage to the deceased and reflection. They also plan on collecting information on the remaining tombstones and mapping their locations for the archives at the Harrison Museum of African American Culture and First Baptist Church of Gainsboro.

Light refreshments were provided to those in attendance who enjoyed this incredible evening of history.

 

The Documentary…Dreams in Steam: The Extraordinary Vision of O. Winston Link…to Air on PBS

Blue Ridge Public Television has scheduled the Historical Society documentary “Dreams in Steam, The Extraordinary Vision of O. Winston Link” to premiere on its ECHO channel as part of a local block of documentaries. It will air on Saturday, March 12, 2022, at 8 p.m.

The 30-minute film was just completed and partially made possible by an Arts and Culture grant from Roanoke City. Its creators are Steve Stinson, video producer; Tommy Holcomb, audio post-production, and Jim Dudley, narration. On-screen participants are Stephanie Klein-Davis, photojournalist and photography instructor at Roanoke’s William Fleming High School, and Lynsey Allie, the Historical Society’s museums manager.

The video looks at how the internationally known Link captured the lifestyle along the Norfolk & Western (now Norfolk Southern) tracks following the last steam train. It features a wealth of his photos and explains the science behind their creation.

To watch ECHO, people can either watch it over the air using an antenna on local channels 3.5 or 15.5. It will livestream at www.blueridgepbs.org/echo. Blue Ridge PBS does not yet have an agreement with Cox to carry ECHO locally, so if people get their TV via cox, they will want to tune into the live stream online instead.

The Link film will be followed by a 20-minute video on local jazz pianist Lenny Marcus. It will also air live at the same time on March 19 and March 26 and will be available to watch on demand after it airs.

Tom Landon is director of Educational Innovation at Blue Ridge Public TV and the contact for the ECHO channel. It is also hoped the Link video will eventually be available on a statewide educational channel

RVPF Founder and Board Trustee, George Kegley, Passes Away Following a Brief Illness

Founding member of the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation, Inc., George Andrew Kegley of Roanoke, Virginia, passed away in his sleep on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, at Lewis Gale Hospital after a brief illness.

He lived 93 exceptional years, through his writing for the Roanoke Times for 44 years, historical and church publications, and most importantly, volunteering beyond the norm for so many good causes, touching the lives of far more folks than we will ever know. 

After retiring from the Roanoke Times as a business editor with 44 years of service, George became one of the community’s most active volunteers. In addition to his work with the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation, George sat on the Boards of the Historical Society of Western Virginia, the Western Virginia Land Trust, the Rescue Mission, Blue Ridge Literacy Volunteers, and the Catholic Charities & Transitional Living Center; served as editor for the Journal of the Historical Society and the Virginia Lutheran; and coordinated the summer campership program of the Lutheran Cooperative Ministries. He previously served on the Board and as Secretary of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (now Preservation Virginia), the first statewide preservation organization in the nation. George resided at Monterey, a Greek Revival home constructed in 1845, which is protected by a historic preservation easement held by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. It is also the only property in the City of Roanoke protected by a conservation easement held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (115 acres). George was a native of Wythe County and graduate of Roanoke College.

As Robert Frost wrote in “After Apple Picking,” But I am done with apple picking now. Essence of winter sleep is on the night, The scent of apples: I am drowsing off. Dad never knew an apple that wasn’t a friend nor worthy of pressing into cider. Many friends and family assisted with cider making over the years.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 60 years, Louise Fowlkes Kegley. He was also preceded in death by his brothers, James Kegley and Fred Kegley of Wytheville.

He is survived by four children, George Andrew “Andy” Kegley (Nan) of Wytheville, Mary Louise Kegley “Sissy” of Roanoke, Robert Kegley (Melissa) of Wytheville, and Richard Kegley (Kristy) of Atlanta; nine grandchildren, Calder Kegley (Megan) of Charlottesville, Grace Kegley of Charlottesville, Reed Kegley of Little Rock, Arkansas, Nathan Guererro (Francesca) of Arlington, Maria Guerrero of Porto, Portugal, Emma Thomas (Gavin) of Philadelphia, Amy Fleming (Scott) of Suffolk, and Katterine and Clara Kegley of Atlanta; seven great-grandchildren, Sawyer and Finley Kegley of Charlottesville, Sara and Hugo Guerrerro of Arlington, Hazel Louise Thomas of Philadelphia, and Beau and Chase Fleming of Suffolk; nephews, Rick Kegley of Wytheville and Dan Kegley of Chilhowie; niece, Sally Kegley Little of Gate City; and sister-in-law, Nancy Kegley of Wytheville.

The Graveside Service will be conducted at 11 a.m. on Monday, February 21, 2022, at St. John’s Lutheran Church Cemetery in Wytheville, Va. A celebration of his life will be held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church at a later date.

Memorials in George’s name may be made to Blue Ridge Literacy, Roanoke Area Ministries (RAM House), St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, and The Historical Society Western Virginia. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.oakeys.com

Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation Seeking Nominations for 2022 Endangered Sites

Since 1996, the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation (RVPF) has annually announced a list of significant historic, natural, and cultural sites in the Roanoke Valley that are in eminent danger of being lost due to deferred maintenance, demolition, or incompatible development.

Each year in May, the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation announces our Annual Endangered Sites List to call attention to local history, special places, and the possibility that these significant sites are in danger of being lost unless efforts are made to preserve them.

The Foundation is currently seeking nominations for our 2022 Endangered Sites List.  Nominations are due by March 21, 2022.

For additional information, including a 2022 RVPF Endangered Sites Nomination Form, visit our website’s Endangered Sites page.

For questions, please contact Judy Harrison by calling 343-8691 or by email to Judith.Harrison.66@gmail.com.

 

RVPF Supports Effort to Raise Funds for Henrietta Lacks Statue in Roanoke, VA

(Photo courtesy of PBS.Org) 

Who is Henrietta Lacks and why is she important?

In 1920, Henrietta Lacks was born as Loretta Pleasant in Roanoke, Virginia.  Lacks, nicknamed Hennie, was a petite and charming woman. At age 21, she married David Lacks and the couple settled near Dundalk, Maryland, in Baltimore County. They had four children, the last in 1950 at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  In 1951, Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed and died of cervical cancer at the age of just 31. At the time, many hospitals in the US practiced segregating black patients from white patients, which reduced her options for seeking treatment. As such, she ended up at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, in a ‘colored-only’ ward located down the hall from George Gey, a researcher who had been attempting to grow human cells in his lab for decades. Her doctor sent some of her cells to Gey without her consent, changing the course of medicine forever.

Gey discovered Lacks’s cell had the ability to divide and replicate indefinitely outside of the body whereas normal human cells are only able to do that around 50 times.  Lacks cells made it easier for researchers to grow the culture of identical cells quickly. Soon scientists all over the world started using her cell lines for furthering their research.  Her cells were used to carry out research for the first polio vaccine, for in-vitro fertilization, for cancer, and most recently, for studying the effects of SARS-CoV replication in the human body. Scientists began to dub the cell line cultivated from her as HeLa (HE-nrietta LA-cks) in her honor. 

However, for the longest time, her own family was not aware of her contribution. Even though some information about the origins of HeLa’s immortalized cell lines was known to researchers, the Lacks family was not made aware of the line’s existence until 1975. With knowledge of the cell line’s genetic provenance becoming public, its use for medical research and for commercial purposes raised concerns about privacy and patients’ rights that continues to this day.

In 2010, the story of Henrietta Lacks came to the public’s attention in a ground-breaking book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks written by Rebecca Skloot, an award-winning science writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; and many others. Skloot’s book took more than a decade to research and write, and instantly became a New York Times bestseller. It was chosen as a best book of 2010 by more than sixty media outlets, including Entertainment Weekly, People, and the New York Times. It has been translated into more than twenty-five languages, adapted into a young reader edition, and made into an HBO film produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball.  

For additional information on the life of Henrietta Lacks, check out The Maryland State Archives has an extremely detailed account Henrietta Lacks, MSA SC 3520-16887 (maryland.gov).

In July 2021, the City of Roanoke, VA renamed a small park plaza located in downtown Roanoke in her honor.  The Henrietta Lacks Plaza is located in the heart of downtown Roanoke directly across from the Roanoke Municipal Building.  Roanoke’s Vice Mayor, Trish White-Boyd, began spearheading a project to raise $140,000 to make a life-size bronze statue of Lacks to be located on this plaza as reported in this local WSLS television news piece.  

“When people hear the story and understand the significance of it,” White-Boyd stated. “I think they want to be a part of it. I think that’s why we have the traction we have now.” 

How you can help:

White-Boyd’s plan is to partner with the Richmond organization, Hidden In Plain Site, to help create a multimedia project that will honor Lacks for a lifetime.  The first step is to raise $40,000 to develop a virtual reality presentation and there are several ways you can help to support this very worthwhile project:

  1. Make a check made out to the Harrison Museum and mail to P.O. Box 21054, Roanoke, Virginia 24018 with “Henrietta Lacks” written in the memo box, or
  2. Make an ONLINE DONATION through the RVPF website with “for Henrietta Lacks” noted in the comments/notes area and RVPF will make certain your support is received by the Harrison Museum. 

More info:

Check out this brief video created by Johns Hopkins University