On Sunday, May 14, 2017 the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation partnered with RideSolutions to create a new bicycle tour called History by Bike.
The four-mile bike route began at the Compton-Bateman House in Villa Heights and then wound through the Melrose Neighborhood past other historic homes. For the inaugural ride, volunteers from the RVPF were stationed at each site to give a brief history for the riders. In the future, RideSolutions will promote this route, called the “Melrose Historic and Endangered Sites,” as a self-guided tour. During the ride, the RVPF announced the list of 2017 Endangered Sites that included several Roanoke city firehouses, the Shenandoah Life Insurance woods, the long-vacant Christian Science building, and original wood windows topped the annual list. The continuing visual and safety threat of the Mountain Valley Pipeline also remains a major concern for preservationists.
For more than 20 years, the RVPF has worked to preserve the historic, natural, and cultural resources of the region.
To raise public awareness of these threats, a list of endangered sites is recognized in May, which is National Preservation Month. The organization tries to make owners of endangered properties aware of the value of preserving these resources and the potential incentives, tools, opportunities, and people that may be available to assist them
2017 Endangered Sites
Roanoke City Historic Firehouses
Of Roanoke’s nine original firehouses, the Memorial Avenue building is scheduled to be razed next year; the future use of the Crystal Spring Firehouse has not been determined: No. 1 Station downtown is for sale; the Villa Heights/Melrose fire station location has been sold to a non-profit; Rorer Hall fire station burned in the early 1900s; East 4th Street, Wise Avenue, and 12th Street fire Stations locations were razed; and the Jamison Avenue SE Firehouse is leased to a private individual for use as a business.
Shenandoah Life Woods
The RVPF has supported an individual’s proposal to buy the wooded area adjacent to the former Shenandoah Life Insurance home office to save it for walkways and other environmental uses. Carilion Clinic bought the building and announced plans to develop the wood ed area for residential use, but strong neighborhood opposition arose. Since the area is located next to a greenway and Fishburn Park, its natural setting provides clean air, natural habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities for nearby residents. Recently, a move was reported to encourage the developer to either make it a community-friendly project or to pull out of the project all together.
The Greek Revival brick building at 5th St. and Church Ave. SW, built in 1919, was a Christian Science Church until 1968. Since then, it has been used for catering and a coffee house, and it has been vacant until June 2017. Now renovations are being done to turn it into a music venue.
Original Wood Windows
In many older homes built in the first half of the last century, original double-hung wood sash windows are endangered. Old hardwood windows with an upper sash that slides down in the frame and a lower sash that slides up often have been replaced with vinyl windows. Restoring original windows costs less than replacing. Studies show that it can take 40 years or more for a replacement window to pay for itself in energy savings.
Mountain Valley Pipeline
The land for the pipeline, first listed as endangered two years ago, would have an impact on an estimated 1,500 land owners in Virginia and West Virginia. If approved by federal authorities, it would run from Giles County through Catawba to McAfee Knob, across the edge of Roanoke and Montgomery countries to Franklin County. It is strongly opposed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy because of the visual impact from the trail for more than 90 miles. Also, it threatens water quality in wells and in sediment runoff in streams