RVPF Holds 2022 Annual Meeting and Announces Kegeley Preservation Awards

Twelve (12) awards were presented on Tuesday evening, November 15, 2022 during the Foundation’s annual meeting and Awards Reception at the Historic Fire Station No. 1 in downtown Roanoke. The Foundation promotes the protection and stewardship of historic, cultural, and natural resources in the Roanoke Valley through education and advocacy. “Recognition of people, programs and projects that help to promote good stewardship and preservation of these resources is an important part of achieving the mission of the Foundation,” explained Alison Blanton, Awards Committee co-chair. Named in honor of George Kegley, a founding member of the Foundation and Awards Committee Chair for many years before passing away earlier this year, the awards have been presented for more than 25 years. Blanton noted that this year’s list is one of the most diverse in terms of types of projects with an emphasis on heritage education, including five projects that promote a better understanding of local Black History. This year also introduces the Roberts Heritage Education Award for achievements in preserving the Black History of Roanoke. The award is named in memory of Margaret and Alice Roberts for their unrelenting commitment to documenting and preserving the history and achievements of the Black community in Roanoke. The Evelyn Bethel Award was first presented in 2021 to honor Bethels’ advocacy for the Gainsboro community and her role as a former RVPF president. These two special awards will be given when projects or accomplishments specifically reflect the passion of their namesakes.

The 2022 Kegley Preservation Awards announced are as follows:

Kegley Preservation Roberts Award for Heritage Education
Say My Name: The Story of Amanda Jeffers, Roanoke 1864
(Betsy Biesenbach, author)

Long-time Roanoke resident Betsy Biesenbach’s work as a freelance writer for the Roanoke Times and as a real estate examiner sparked an incurable interest in local history, leading to countless hours scouring the archives of libraries and courthouses for answers to many of Roanoke’s architectural and historical mysteries. In 1984, she began researching the property her house stands on, which led her to the three Persinger brothers, each of whom, in the mid-1880s, inherited a large tract of land from their father, John, in what would eventually become Southwest Roanoke. The youngest brother, James, farmed the land that encompassed Betsy’s own Raleigh Court neighborhood. In 2021, Betsy also discovered that an enslaved girl named Amanda Jeffers was born there. Amanda’s parents were part of John Persinger’s estate, and after he apportioned his land between his sons, her entire family – including her father, mother, brother and sister – was divided between the three farms of the Persinger brothers. She and her father became the property of the oldest brother, Jacob, who lived on what is now the campus of Virginia Western Community College. Betsy conceived, researched, and wrote a children’s book, Say My Name: The Story of Amanda Jeffers as a local history lesson to present the truth of what it was like to be enslaved here during the Civil War. As Betsy stated, “The reading level is easy, but the ideas can be heavy and uncomfortable, and the book is best read within the family.”

Kegley Preservation Award for Historic Restoration
Melrose-Rugby Neighborhood Stone Pillar Entrance
(Melrose-Rugby Neighborhood Forum, Inc. & City of Roanoke, VA)

Shirley Bethel of the Melrose/Rugby Neighborhood Forum brought the deteriorating condition of the stone entrance pillars to the attention of RVPF for a 2022 Endangered Site. The Neighborhood Forum had been unsuccessful in finding funds or resources to get the repairs done. Built by Price Francisco in 1916, the historic entrance markers mean a great deal to those living in the neighborhood. The group had used a City grant to repair the pillars once before; however, that program no longer exists. Soon after the Endangered Sites announcement in May, the City responded by repairing the stone entrance pillars. Josh Johnson, with the Department of Neighborhood Services, found a descendant of the original stonemason to complete the work. We are pleased that the City stepped up and took care of the entrance markers so quickly and know that the neighborhood residents are happy to have them restored to their original grandeur.

Kegley Preservation Roberts Award for Heritage Education

Colonel William Preston Memorial
(Fincastle Resolutions Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution & Botetourt County, VA)

The Fincastle Resolutions Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution along with Botetourt County and several other groups dedicated a memorial to Col. William Preston, a Botetourt County Revolutionary War hero on June 11, 2022, at the Botetourt County Greenfield Education and Training Center. According to SAR co-chair, Rupert Cutler, for more than 2 decades the SAR chapter and Botetourt County worked to raise the funds and complete the memorial which outlines Preston’s life and accomplishments in Virginia and the nation’s early history. The county was a full partner in the project, providing the site, some of the funding, co-sponsorship of the dedication ceremony, and perpetual care of the memorial as a county park. Other groups who worked on the project include Hill Studio, the Historic Greenfield Preservation Advisory Council and the William Preston Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The project is a part of a plan to develop a larger historic park to recognize the significance of the area and Greenfield, Preston’s historic plantation and the people who lived and worked there. Daniel Thorp, VT history professor, said the memorial is a way for citizens to recognize Preston’s role in building the nation “He was one of a brave generation that did in fact risk their lives and their fortunes on the treasonous act of establishing the United States.” Thorp continued that the memorial must not only recognize the cost of the contribution of Preston’s family but also the displacement of Native Americans and the work of enslaved people who helped build the area.

Kegley Preservation Award for Adaptive Reuse & Stewardship
Historic Fire Station No. 1
(Old School Partners, LLC, Roanoke, VA – David Hill, Dale Wilkinson, Greg Rhodes, David Spigle)

David Hill, Dale Wilkinson, Greg Rhodes, and David Spigle of Old School Partners II LLC completed the renovation of Roanoke’s iconic Fire Station No. 1 and celebrated its reopening on October 23, 2022. Built in 1908 in the heart of the City Market area, the Georgian-Revival style landmark with its bell tower stood as testimony to the rapid growth and prosperity of the city. I have a question about the façade of the station “What famous building is it modeled after? After 100 years in operation, the fire station closed in 2007 and stood vacant for more than a decade. Old School Partners purchased the landmark building from the City of Roanoke in 2019 and proceeded with a $2.5 million renovation to return the building to public use. Utilizing historic tax credits, the team worked with Hill Studio to carefully preserve5. the interior and exterior of the building – including the brass firepoles, horse-gnawed bricks, decorative tin ceilings, floating stairs, lockers and wood trim throughout – while sensitively providing upgrades to accommodate the new use and meet current building code. Most significantly, Old School Partners donated a preservation easement on the building to the Virginia Historic Resources Board to insure perpetual protection of this local landmark. Today, the iconic Fire Station No. 1 has a new life with retail space for TXTUR, a local furniture company, and a restaurant on the 1st floor as well as lodging on the 2nd floor.

Kegley Preservation Award for Adaptive Reuse & Stewardship
James C. Sears

As President and General Manager of Center in the Square since 1993, Dr. Jim Sears is a well-known and beloved figure in Roanoke and was a driving force in the revitalization of downtown. Sears is a natural promoter of people, places, and institutions. Recently retired, he is recognized for making an undeniable mark on the historic fabric of Roanoke as he saw the potential of combining the rehabilitation of vacant historic buildings with the space needs of the cultural organizations of Center. In 1999, he spearheaded the $5.5 million renovation of the 1911 Shenandoah Hotel for adaptive reuse as lodging and rehearsal space for Mill Mountain Theater. The historic 1905 N&W Passenger Station was renovated in 2003 for the new $6 million O. Winston Link Museum and the Roanoke Valley Visitors’ Center. Sears was also instrumental in seeing that the Grand Piano Building, a gift to Center from the Cartledge family, was developed and restored privately to its former Art Deco grandeur in 2008 as apartments and first floor office space (now known as the Hancock Building). His impact on downtown Roanoke culminated with completion in 2013 of a $30 million remodeling of the Center complex, which includes both the 1914 McGuire Building on Market Square and the ca. 1900 Phelps and Armistead Building on Church Street. Under his leadership, Center has expanded since 1993 to five buildings and 12 organizations. As a nonprofit that is vital to the arts and culture of the valley and the economic growth of downtown, Center is ensured a bright future that will shine on our quality of life – thanks to Jim Sears.

Kegley Preservation Roberts Award for Heritage Education
Gainsboro History Project
(Roanoke Higher Education Center, Roanoke, VA)

In 2022, the Roanoke Higher Education Center completed construction of a Central Walkway and Plaza connecting its buildings that honors the legacy of Gainsboro and shares historical events in seven themed categories from 1835 to 1970. In conjunction with development of a new campus Central Walkway and Plaza, the Roanoke Higher Education Center sponsored, funded, and developed an interactive history and walking tour of the African American influence in the historic Gainsboro Neighborhood in Roanoke, Virginia. With the assistance of the Gainsboro Library, this significant educational accomplishment provides online, web-access to more detailed, extensive information on the rich heritage of Gainsboro via a mobile web application. Recipient of the inaugural Roberts Heritage Education Award, the Gainsboro History Project is recognized for making the rich history of the community and early Roanoke more accessible to citizens locally and nationally.

Kegley Preservation Roberts Award for Heritage Education
NORVEL: An American Hero
(Ken F. Conklin, author)

Ken F. Conklin’s biography, NORVEL: An American Hero, introduces us to one of Botetourt County’s most famous native sons, Norvel Lee, born near Eagle Rock, VA in 1924. During WWII Lee was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen. After the war, he became an Olympic boxer winning the gold medal in 1952 in Helsinki, Finland, becoming the first Black Virginian to win Olympic gold. Norvel is also known for taking a stand against segregation. While traveling home by train from the 1948 Olympics, he was asked to give up his seat in the white section and when he refused, he was arrested. Mr. Lee appealed his case and in 1949 the VA Supreme Court ruled in Lee’s favor in what became a landmark civil rights case. (7 years before Rosa Parks). As a result of Conklin’s research, a state historic road marker dedicated to the legacy of Norvel Lee was unveiled on Sept. 17, 2022, near Eagle Rock. According to Nelson Harris, Conklin enthusiastically supplied the needed information for the state application. Conklin’s advocacy of Lee’s story along with the efforts of Delegate Terry Austin resulted in Botetourt County getting a portion of US RTE 220 near Eagle Rock named in honor of Lee. Botetourt Supervisor Steve Clinton said at the marker dedication, “We’re about a half-century late in doing this, but today we carry on the essential process of recognizing Mr. Lee as Botetourt’s most famous son.” Ken Conklin brought this story to light with his book and his extensive research, and through his persistence the County became aware of Norvel Lee, a hometown hero.

Kegley Preservation Award for Adaptive Reuse & Stewardship
Liberty Trust Building
(JS Project LLC, Roanoke, VA – Rupesh Patel)

JS Project LLC, under the leadership of Rupesh Patel, renovated the 1910 First National Bank/Liberty Trust Building, 101 S. Jefferson St., in spring 2022 for adaptive reuse as a boutique hotel. The seven-story, Classical Revival-style bank was heralded as the first skyscraper in Roanoke when it opened. Using historic tax credits, the project team of Balzer & Associates, Hill Studio and R.L. Price Construction worked to retain and repair the exterior of the building and the historic interior spaces of the entrance vestibule, stair/elevator lobby, banking lobby with mezzanine, and double-loaded corridor configuration on the upper floors. Character-defining features and finishes preserved include the marble floors and trim, decorative plaster and wood-coffered ceilings, the teller counters and bank vault, and the copper-faced doors and trim on the upper floors. Minor modifications were made to accommodate current building code requirements and the operations of a modern hotel. Specific preservation challenges included reconfiguring original and modified corridors and offices to accommodate hotel rooms, installing a new stair to meet egress requirements, and repairing the elaborate cornice and parapet. Forbes Magazine listed the hotel as one of the most highly anticipated hotels to debut in 2022.

Kegley Preservation Evelyn Bethel Award for Heritage Advocacy
Community Remembrance Project: Lynching Markers
(Roanoke Equal Justice Initiative / EJI Community Remembrance Project Coalition, Roanoke, VA – Brenda Hale)

The Roanoke Equal Justice Initiative or EJI Community Remembrance Project Coalition joined with city leaders and over 100 community members for the dedication of a historic marker to recognize the Sept. 21, 1893, lynching of Thomas Smith by an angry mob on the corner of Franklin Rd. and Mountain Ave. This effort by the Roanoke EJI Coalition is recognized for their advocacy for underrepresented history. “There are so many in Roanoke that know nothing about this incident,” said Brenda Hale, chairwoman of the coalition. “Folks, it has taken us 129 years to get to this point. We must never forget; we are here because of 3 years of work. We address racism every day of our lives …We must be united; we must do the things that we do because we cannot be quiet.” This marker is public acknowledgment of victim Thomas Smith’s seizure from authorities and brutal slaying. He had no trial, nor conviction, and authorities determined after his death that he played no role in an assault on a white woman. The marker project arose from an ongoing conversation about the City’s history and a shared desire to counteract racism. The Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery, AL, legal defense, and advocacy organization, provided the sign and local guidance through its community remembrance project. Soil was collected from below the marker and put into a jar to be sent to EJI headquarters in Montgomery which operates the National Memorial for Peace and Justice where more than 4,400 racial terror lynchings are documented.

Kegley Preservation Roberts Award for Heritage Education
The Virginia Room
(Roanoke City Libraries, Roanoke, VA – Sheila Umberger)

As the primary public repository of historical and genealogical resources, the Virginia Room contains a wealth of the history of the Roanoke Valley and beyond. Researchers will agree that just about anything that you need to know about buildings, events and prominent citizens can be found in this section of the Roanoke City Main Library. Not only has the staff cataloged, filed and kept everything in excellent condition, they are working to digitize the collection to make it more accessible. Virginia Room staff members Dyron Knick and Edwina Parks go above and beyond assisting researchers looking for answers to questions about the past – regardless of how obscure that history may be. Dyron and Edwina do this with a sincere interest in what you want to find and take it as a personal mission for you to leave with your questions answered. The entire staff at the Virginia Room is dedicated to their jobs and performs them with the greatest of commitment. The combination of the historical records and the dedicated staff make the Virginia Room truly an irreplaceable resource for historical research in our region.

Kegley Preservation Roberts Award for Heritage Education
Local History Outreach: K-12 and Lifelong Learning
(Salem Museum, Salem VA – Alex Burke & Garrett Channell)

Heritage education is a top priority for the staff at the Salem Museum. Alex Burke, Assistant Director, and Garrett Channell, Director of Archives and Education, share their high-energy passion for history to excite people of all ages and turn history-resisters into eager history learners. Their audiences include Salem and Roanoke County school groups, families, and adults, with a focus on local history. The exhibits, programs, and resources they have developed are designed to make history more meaningful, and therefore, more memorable. For more information about the Salem Museum’s educational exhibits, programs, videos, and SOL go to the excellent Museum website, salemhistorymuseum.org.

Kegley Preservation Roberts Award for Heritage Education
Histories of Enslavement at Roanoke College Walking Tour
(Roanoke College Center for Studying Structures of Race, Salem, VA – Dr. Jesse Butcher)

Under the direction of Dr. Jesse Butcher, the Center for Studying Structures of Race launched a self-guided walking tour brochure in October 2022. The “Histories of Enslavement at Roanoke College” walking tour traces the significant role that slavery played in the history of the college. In particular, the tour reveals how enslaved laborers and artisans worked on campus to construct campus structures, manufacture bricks, and maintain buildings. The tour also demonstrates how various campus spaces and structures memorialize individuals who owned enslaved human beings. The content of the tour emerged from the ongoing Genealogy of Slavery research project. This project brings together student and faculty researchers who use local archival collections to identify the history of enslavement in southwest Virginia. The 2022 summer research team is also publishing a “zine” that brings together student researchers’ thoughts and feeling about their collective experience conducting research on the enslaved in Roanoke County through interviews, poems, and art. A short, half-hour film about their research methodology, experiences, and results also debuted in October of 2022.

Additional information on the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation’s annual Kegley Awards Program is available on the Foundation’s Annual Kegley Awards website page.


You Are Invited – 2022 RVPF Annual Meeting and Kegley Preservation Awards – Nov. 15, 2022

You are cordially invited to join us for the 2022 Roanoke Valley Preservation Annual Meeting and Kegley Preservation Awards Presentation on Tuesday, November 15, 2022 from 5:30pm to 7:00pm at the historic Fire Station #1 located at 13 Church Avenue SE in downtown Roanoke.


Our sincerest thanks go out to Old School Partners, LLC for their financial support in helping to cover the cost of this year’s reception refreshments.

In addition, Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation thanks Txtur, a Roanoke-based custom furniture manufacturer, who reopened the historic Fire Station One as a furniture showroom, restaurant and boutique hotel on September 23, 2022.  Visit their website at www.txtur.com for additional information on custom furniture made here in Roanoke. 


Six Essential Reasons to Save Old Places

A mix of historic and non-historic building facades recently demolished in 2022 on Roanoke’s Campbell Ave

Six Essential Reasons to Save Old Places | National Trust for Historic Preservation (savingplaces.org)

There are many reasons why we save historic places. For some the beauty of a structure remains paramount, for others it is because of a personal connection to a landscape. Increasingly we save historic places to acknowledge and document our full history, while in other cases it is a part of the call to action in response to a changing climate. The reasons are wide and varied, serving as a reminder of why historic places and the work of preservation are so important to communities all around the country.

In an article that recently was posted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (www.savingplaces.org), the reasons are as follows: 

  1. Save Old Places to Save the Planet
  2. Save Old Places to Advance Social Justice
  3. Save Old Places to Support Affordable Housing
  4. Save Old Places to Support Local Economic Development
  5. Save Old Places to Support Cultural Preservation
  6. Save Old Places to Preserve History for Future Generations

Six Practical Reasons to Save Old Buildings | National Trust for Historic Preservation (savingplaces.org)

What is historic, and worth saving, varies with the beholder, but some definition is urgent. Simply put, “historic” means “old and worth the trouble.” It applies to a building that’s part of a community’s tangible past. And though it may surprise cynics, old buildings can offer opportunities for a community’s future.

This article examines both the cultural and practical values of old buildings and looks at why preserving them is beneficial not only for a community’s culture, but also for its local economy.

An additional article adddresses Six Practical Reasones to Save Old Buildings, that includes:

  1. Old Buildings Have Intristic Value
  2. When You Tear Down an Old Building, You Never Know What is Being Destroyed
  3. New Businesses Prefer Old Buildings
  4. Old Buildings Attract people
  5. Old Buildings are a Reminder of a City’s Cuilture and Complexity
  6. Regret Only Goes One Way

Visit the National Trust for Historic Preservation for additional information on the importance of preserving our history! 


Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation Seeks 2022 Kegley Preservation Award Nominations

The Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation (RVPF) is currently seeking award nominations for the 2022 George A. Kegley Preservation Award Program that will be announced at the RVPF general membership meeting to be held in November 2022.  The date and time of the meeting will be announced shortly.

For the past 20 years, the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation has recognized projects, persons, and community groups in the region through the Foundation’s annual George A. Kegley Preservation Award Program.

These awards recognize notable examples of historic preservation, stewardship, education, advocacy, and restoration projects that have maintained or added to the Roanoke Valley and surrounding area’s historical, architectural, and/or cultural heritage. 

They serve not only to commend the winners’ hard work, but to also promote public awareness of the values of older structures, the importance of individual historical efforts, and the significance of education and environmental work in our community.

All 2022 Kegley Preservation Award nominations should include the following:

  • Project or Person to be nominated:

    • Contact Information
    • Name:
    • Address
    • Phone Number:
    • Email Address:
  • Nominator Information:

    • Name:
    • Email Address:
    • Phone:
  • Nomination Category: (From the following list)

    • Adaptive Reuse
    • Restoration
    • Rehabilitation
    • Advocacy
    • Stewardship
    • Heritage Education
    • Lifetime Achievement
    • Other
  • Summary Statement: (250 words or less for press release and newsletter)

  • Additional Background Information: (to be included on website)

The deadline for submissions is October 12, 2022

Submissions should be emailed to Alison Blanton at [email protected].  For additional information or questions, please contact Alison by email or by calling 540-765-7154.  Submit your award nominations TODAY!

Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation Announces Upcoming September Events

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

Our annual “Pints for Preservation Pub Crawl” is back with our Fall 2022 event. Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation (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 (Roanoke, VA) and ends at Crescent City Bourbon & BBQ (Roanoke, VA)
Cost: $30/person or $100 for a team of 4
Tickets:  Tickets available through Eventbrite or contact Whitney Leeson ([email protected]) to pay by check.

About the Event:

With a huge THANKS to our event’s lead sponsor, Gentry Locke along with supporting sponsors, Brown Edwards, Freedom First Credit Union, and Balzer & Associates, 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 a fun history-themed scavenger hunt featuring questions about people and places important to Roanoke’s past!  No cell phone surfing for answers is 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 swag and sign a liability waiver.

Only participants wearing their event buttons 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.)

This year’s Pints for Preservation Pub Crawl will conclude at 5:00 p.m. at the Crescent City Bourbon & BBQ (19 Salem Avenue, Roanoke, VA) where participants will turn in your scavenger hunt answers.

Teams participating can choose to dress in historical fashion–“dress your decade”–and will receive one free scavenger hunt answer to give them a leg up!

Prizes include a dinner at the Hotel Roanoke and a night’s stay at Liberty Trust. RVPF and AIA hosts will tally the scores and results will be announced soon after.


AIA ARCHITECTURE TALK  – Wednesday, September 21, 2022

N&W Passenger Station: Restoring Raymond Loewy’s Modern Design


About the Event:

As we are approaching the 20th anniversary of the restoration of the N W Passenger Station, we will look at the history of the original 1905 building, Raymond Loewy’s 1949 Modern transformation, the station’s decline, and its subsequent restoration.

Speakers: Chris Venable, AIA, David Bandy, AIA, Jim Sears, President of Center in the Square         

Where:  Visitor Information Center, 101 Shenandoah Avenue NE, Roanoke, VA 24016

When:   September 21, 2022              6

Time and Schedule: 
6:00 – 7:00 p.m. :  “Meet the Speakers” Reception
7:00 – 8:00 p.m. :  Presentation

Please RSVP at [email protected]

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand the design and historic context of the 1905 Neo-classical N&W Passenger Station.
  2. Understand the Modern transformation of the 1905 station, performed by noted industrial designer Raymond Loewy in 1949.
  3. Understand how the termination of rail service in 1971 led to the decline of the building and how Historic Tax Credits gave hope for its restoration in the year 2000.
  4. Understand how the design team identified the historically significant elements in accordance with National Park Service guidelines to create a new visitor center and museum exhibiting the steam rail photography of O. Winston Link.

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.


Check back often for other future events being planned and finalized!

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

Virginia Y. Lee at the Gainsboro Library


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.