Like many American cities that have experienced the growth and change that several centuries can bring, Roanoke’s “built environment” is enlivened by a variety of architectural styles. Each style embodies a set of physical characteristics, and even a design philosophy, that makes it stand out: for example, the order, symmetry and imposing size of the Neoclassical style that recalls ancient Rome is evident in Roanoke’s old municipal building.
Compared with more “modern” architecture, which for years perpetuated an almost total lack of ornamentation, much of the charm of older buildings is in the detail. Italianate row buildings line many of downtown Roanoke’s streets. Functional and basic, they are perhaps most easily identified by their highly decorative cornices, some of which are even emblazoned with the owner’s name.
In many areas, contrasting styles live side by side. The landmark Tudor Revival Hotel Roanoke conjures images of English country houses, while just across the street, the soaring Art Deco Higher Education building speaks to the heyday of industrial design.
Such a tapestry of form, function and detail makes downtown Roanoke an architectural treat for the serious and casual observer alike. Enjoy!
Below you will find a mobile map version of the Downtown Walking Tour. Click or tap on the markers to find more information on each location.
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.
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.
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.