A Special Place for 200 Years
Chapter 5

Blacksburg: An Architectural Overview

by J. Daniel Pezzoni


J. Daniel Pezzoni


At the close of the eighteenth century, when William Black envisioned a town on a windswept Montgomery County hillside, he and the "friends and neighbors" who encouraged him had a specific image in mind. For well over a hundred years, Virginians had been platting mathematically precise townscapes everywhere they settled. The great towns of Williamsburg and Richmond grew from carefully ruled sheets of paper and surveyor's stakes pounded in the ground. The tide of town formation had swept into Southwest Virginia: Fincastle in 1772, Abingdon in 1778, and, located several miles to the south of William Black's farm, Christiansburg, the Montgomery County seat, in 1790-92. In each of these towns, lot purchasers built sturdy houses of log, frame, and occasionally stone or brick construction, guided by precedent and by local building ordinances. Competition for space at the heart of town led to houses being built gable to gable, forming regular walls of building frontage and hinting at the urban density that all aspired to. None of this occurred by accident: the survival of a town depended partly on it having an orderly, prosperous appearance to the thousands of men and women who streamed through the region, many of them on the lookout for a new home or business opportunity.

Like the developers of a modern subdivision, William Black and his associates prayed that their thirty-eight acres of real estate would make them all rich men, or at least turn a profit. To a large extent that outcome was beyond their control. Southwest Virginia is littered with the remains of towns that for one reason or another succumbed: a poorly chosen location, a national monetary panic, the canal that was not built, the railroad that was built-somewhere else. But one factor Black and the others could influence was the general appearance of their town.

The town form they chose was a model of simplicity: a checkerboard of sixteen blocks, each block a four-square arrangement of half-acre lots and each separated from the other by cross streets. In this respect Blacksburg was cut from the same cloth as Richmond and other Virginia towns based on four-lot blocks. The plan had a number of advantages. The four-square arrangement made every lot a desirable corner lot. The ample squarish form of the lots allowed room for outbuildings, workshops, and gardens. And during an age when open fires were used on a daily basis for heating, cooking, and other domestic chores, Blacksburg's many cross streets made excellent firebreaks. (Fire prevention inspired the neighboring and contemporary town of Wytheville to add cross streets to its plan, which originally lacked enough of them.) Blacksburg's plan channeled the development efforts of individual lot purchasers into the creation of an orderly and safe communal whole.

The town trustees had another tool at their disposal to encourage quality development and discourage the kind of speculation and slip-shod construction that could harm a town's prospects. Blacksburg's 1798 act of establishment empowered the trustees to make "such rules and orders for the regular building of houses therein, as to them shall seem proper." When John Preston purchased lots 1 and 3 during the town's first year, he was required to "build on each of said lots a house of wood, stone or brick, the superficial contents whereof shall be equal to seventeen feet square, with a brick or stone chimney[,] fit to reside in."

Optimistically, the trustees listed masonry alongside wood construction, although it would be over thirty years before a town resident made the commitment of faith and pocket-book to build a brick house. Log construction-quick, cheap, and easy-served Blacksburg's first generation of buildings, as suggested by the town's surviving stock of antebellum houses, nearly all of which are built of logs. More realistically, the trustees permitted the construction of dwellings as small as seventeen feet square in outside dimensions. This seems preposterously tiny by modern standards, but in a culture where most working hours were spent out of doors and families often shared a single bed, cramped quarters were the norm, and commodious grand houses like Smithfield the rare exception.

The requirement that chimneys be built of brick or stone also sounds odd to modern ears, but the trustees anticipated that some unconscientious lot purchasers might be tempted to build chimneys out of less durable materials. Indeed, wooden chimneys were commonplace in the American backcountry. They could be quite serviceable when lined with fire-hardened clay and protected from the elements, and in fact some have managed to survive to the present in out-of-the-way corners of Virginia. But a poorly constructed and maintained wooden chimney was an accident waiting to happen, and Blacksburg's trustees resolved to eliminate the threat by banning them outright.

The trustees also set time limits in order to prevent speculation. In 1798 lot purchasers were given two years to build or risk forfeiture. By 1806 this had been extended to five years, and the definition of permissible construction had been amended to include "improvement[s] for carrying on a lawful trade art or calling to the value of one hundred dollars." The new language tacitly acknowledged tanyards, blacksmith shops, and other constructions that contributed to the economic life of the town but were technically not "fit to reside in."

Several decades after its establishment, Blacksburg's lots had begun to fill with the small log houses and workshops that characterized the other infant towns of the region. The buildings of the day were simple in form, presenting bare log walls to the street or a sheathing of weatherboards sometimes painted lead white or ocher yellow. Homebuilders employed a small set of house plans, single room or hall-parlor plans being the norm, and interiors could be as basic as whitewashed log walls and a ladder to a garret. The fancier houses may have featured flush-board and plaster-and-lath walls, and delicate Federal-style treatments around doors, windows, and fireplaces.

As Blacksburg prospered over the next century and a half, this first generation of houses, stores, and taverns was replaced, and today the earliest surviving buildings within the original sphere of the town date to the later antebellum period. The oldest may be the Dawson House at 307 East Roanoke Street, a diminutive log house built for newlyweds William and Rosanna Croy Dawson, who moved in on January 2, 1840. Rosanna's family, the Croys, formed a town within a town on Blacksburg's back streets; wagonmaker Andrew Croy built a two-story log house that eventually wound up on Penn Street, and Mary Croy occupied another log house nearby.

Typical of the town's antebellum dwellings is the John and Nancy Spickard House at 209 Wharton Street. A native of Botetourt County and a saddlemaker by vocation, John Spickard was probably attracted to Blacksburg by its lively leather-working industries. In 1850 he was one of over two dozen artisans working in the trades of tanning, shoemaking, saddlemaking, and hatmaking, and the Wharton Street site he purchased in 1852 stood across from the probable source of his leather, the William Thomas Tanyard. The Spickard House is forthright in construction: a two-story log house with weatherboard siding, a coursed limestone cellar, and a brick chimney on one gable end. The ballanced window-door-window facade masks an asymmetrical hall-parlor interior, with the fireplace located in the larger, general-purpose "hall," and a side room-the "parlor"-now the location of a later stair. The fireplace mantels show the lingering influence of the Federal style in form, combined with the simplicity of the following Greek Revival style. Behind the house stands a small log building with later whitewashed board siding that may have served as a meathouse, a structure for curing and keeping hams and bacon. The building is a rare survival from the days when many household functions--cooking, washing, weaving, and so forth--were carried out in auxiliary structures scattered around the main dwelling.

The Greek Revival style took Blacksburg by storm in the 1840s and 1850s. As its name suggests, the style evoked the dignified architecture of ancient Greece, usually by echoing the post-and-lintel construction of a classical temple, and it eschewed the fussy ornamentality of the preceding Federal style. The region's builders, brandishing the pattern books of Asher Benjamin and others, soon excelled at carving acanthus leaves and fluting columns. The style reached an apex of popularity in rural Virginia at a time when Blacksburg found itself suddenly well off. The economic torpor following the Panic of 1837 had ended; the town stood at the juncture of two regional turnpikes, the Salem and Peppers Ferry and the Blacksburg and Newport; and one of the South's trunk rail lines, the Virginia & Tennessee, was built through the county in 1854.

Churches, academies, and fine new brick homes in the Grecian mode appeared throughout the town. Methodists and Presbyterians at first shared a meeting house that stood at the intersection of Church and Lee streets, the centerpoint of the sixteen-block grid, but in 1847 the Presbyterians moved into a new Greek Revival sanctuary at 117 South Main. Now used as a cafe, this much-altered building has lost its pilastered belfry and graceful spire, but its facade has been restored to a semblance of its original appearance, with double-panel doors in the two front entries and rendered pilasters and pediment. The town's Methodist congregation erected a similar but larger brick church on Church Street at about the same time. Spired like the Presbyterian church, the Methodist meetinghouse featured a row of stocky pilasters across its front, each capped by exaggerated Ionic volutes. Ironically, by the eve of the Civil War, Blacksburg's pious folk worshipped the God of Abraham in buildings ultimately inspired by pagan temples.

Blacksburg's Methodists moved beyond church building. In the early 1850s they established a "seminary of learning" known as the Olin and Preston Institute. With land at a premium in the downtown, the school's promoters selected a five-acre hillside site on the northwest outskirts, and in 1855 they completed a three-story brick college building, the largest edifice in town. An expansive nine bays in width with a projecting temple front, the institute's single building stood at the end of Main Street in a dramatic axial alignment that further heightened its architectural effect. (The slight jog in North Main Street as it climbs the hill from College Avenue is an artifact of this arrangement.) A Rockbridge County contractor by the name of John N. Lyle was likely the institute's builder, for he became its principal creditor when the school found it could not pay his bill.

While Lyle and his brickmasons were in Blacksburg working on the Olin and Preston building, they also arranged with the Farmer's Bank of Virginia to build its Blacksburg branch office on the south corner of Main and Jackson streets. Described by town chronicler Thomas Conrad in 1881 as "one of our finest residences," the Farmer's Bank was a two-story brick building with a two-room-deep center-passage plan that related it architecturally to the plantation homes then being built in the farming districts around Blacksburg. Its large windows and transomed entries sported Greek key lintels straight from the pattern books of the day. When it was demolished in 1961, the building had operated for many years as the Colonial Inn and, along the way, had picked up an airy Victorian porch that presumably replaced an original portico.

Two other Greek Revival brick houses are known to have been built in Blacksburg during the 1850s, and, miraculously, both survive. The Amiss-Palmer House, also known as Mountain View, stands above the downtown at the end of tree-lined Mountain View Drive, its former driveway. Merchant Edwin J. Amiss, who among other things was an officer of both the turnpikes that passed through town, had the two-story brick mansion built by 1856. The property is notable for its Flemish-bond facade and Ionic portico, but also for the survival of early outbuildings behind, including a v-notched log dwelling that may have been the slave quarters, a log meathouse, and a brick kitchen. The divying up of household functions into separate outbuildings was a practice of long standing in Virginia by the mid-1800s.

The second house is Five Chimneys, apparently built by physician and merchant John R. Phillips about 1852 and now the property of the Town of Blacksburg. Located at 203 Washington Street, Five Chimneys is the mirror image of two-room-deep center-passage-plan houses like the Farmer's Bank and the Amiss-Palmer House, except that it is one-story in height rather than two. Also like the former Farmer's Bank, Five Chimneys has a sprightly porch with turned posts and milled ornament dating to the latter years of the nineteenth century. Another plus is the publicly accessible grounds, with box and hemlock hedges and banks of rhododendron laid out by long-time owner and avid horticulturalist A. G. Smith.

The same love of artistry evident in the homes of Blacksburg's early townfolk can be seen in the monuments that marked their final resting places. The town trustees established a town cemetery on Roanoke Street in the early 1800s, and farm families who lived in areas now absorbed into the town set out small family burial plots on their own land. Poor families marked the graves of their deceased with crude fieldstones or wooden planks, but the more affluent could afford carefully carved stone monuments. Many of the latter were made by B. F. Spyker, a professional stone carver who operated regionally beginning in the 1820s (his work survives also in Christiansburg and Lewisburg, West Virginia). Spyker's monuments have the flavor of illuminated German fraktur manuscripts, with robustly carved flowers and foliage filling every square inch of surface. Popular motifs such as covered urns and weeping willows appear, as do Greek Revival floral devices and, on one stone, an archway supported by columns with stylized Ionic volutes similar to those that once graced the 1840s Methodist Church.

The Spyker monuments often use the common antebellum discoid form, with a round "head" on top of a rectangular "body"--perhaps at some point in the distant past an intentional and meaningful anthropomorphism. The headstone of Arabella Peck (1836 1849), located in Blacksburg's town cemetery, shares the form. The wispy daisy-chain borders and fringed designs carved onto Peck's stone by its unknown maker-so different from Spyker's densely-packed and robust style-have a poignant appropriateness for the grave of a little girl. As the nineteenth century progressed, the vernacular exuberance of Blacksburg's antebellum gravestones came to be replaced by standardized forms and ornament typical of cemeteries in other parts of the nation.

The Civil War and its aftermath interrupted major construction in Blacksburg, but the town rebounded sooner than other Southern communities when it was chosen as the home for the state's new land-grant college. In 1872, the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College opened in the former Preston and Olin Institute (previously, the Olin and Preston Institute), and as the college developed into the university popularly known as Virginia Tech, Blacksburg grew along with it. For the first time the town's business district expanded beyond the confines of the original sixteen blocks as frame commercial buildings-and later houses-were built on North Main Street opposite the campus. One survivor from this initial flush of development is Charles A. Deyerle's House on the Hill at 400-410 North Main. Advertised as the "store nearest and most convenient for students," the frame building achieved final form by the late 1880s and features a bracketed false front in the Italianate style. Other commercial buildings, such as the 1870s W. B. Conway Store at 117 North Main, featured pedimented front gables in the still viable Greek Revival style. The influx of students also meant a windfall for the town's innkeepers and others willing to let rooms. W. M. Lybrook, who operated his Cheap Cash Store on the north corner of Roanoke and Church streets, built a line of student apartments along Church Street behind his establishment. Hell's Row is what the students and certainly neighboring townsfolk came to call the ramshackle board-and-batten rooms, similar to the cabin ranges built at the springs resorts of the period but dirtier.

Blessed by the college and by a general prosperity across western Virginia, Blacksburg in the late nineteenth century moved away from its vernacular roots towards the architecture of the national mainstream. The reliance on local and regional builders continued-Blacksburg contractor West Gray was particularly active around 1900-but some clients turned to professional designers from outside the region for guidance. At the end of the 1870s, the town's Episcopalian congregation tapped noted New York City ecclesiastical architect Emlen T. Littell to design their church on the east corner of Church and Jackson streets. The squat gabled sanctuary, with its antiquarian limestone walls and buttressed sides, is an early regional example of the parish church genre of the Gothic Revival style then popular with Episcopal congregations in the nation's larger cities. In 1892 Alexander Black, one of the town's leading merchants and a descendent of its founding family, replaced an earlier home with a mansion of fanciful Queen Anne design, the shadow of which survives at 204 South Main Street. The Black house featured many of the hallmarks of its style: asymmetrical composition, a complex roof line punctuated by a conical turret, and a spacious veranda that wrapped around the base of a round corner tower. The exterior skin showcased the technology of the era: roof slates and an elliptical stained-glass window shipped in by rail, a rippling surface of weatherboards, shingles, and panels machine-produced in sash and blind factories, and a polychromatic color scheme made possible by newly formulated ready-mixed paints. Several architects in the cities of the region could design such marvels as the Black house, but a leading candidate is Knoxville, Tennessee, architect George Barber, who mailed similar designs to clients across the nation.

Other homes of Victorian design and detail sprang up along the fashionable residential streets leading out from the original town. Later activity has depleted the neighborhoods along North Main Street, but a relatively intact Victorian neighborhood survives one block back on Progress Street. Working-class sections of simple one-story frame houses developed along Lee Street and Harrell Street and at the northern extremities of North Main and Progress streets. As the town's white inhabitants moved out into the new districts, older housing opened up, and a small black neighborhood developed in the northernmost blocks of the original town. St. Paul's African Methodist Episcopal Church, a stuccoed frame building dating to 1901 and 1948 with a belfry and Gothic lancet-arched windows, stands in the 100 block of North Penn Street in the midst of this neighborhood.

In the downtown, merchants gradually replaced earlier generations of frame stores with durable, fire-proofed brick buildings. Dr. W. C. Ellett constructed a brick store and office building on the east corner of North Main Street and College Avenue across from the university. Built in 1900, as a metal parapet cresting once proclaimed, the Ellett Building possessed the standard accoutrements of its day and type: large plate glass display windows with inviting recessed entries, canvas storefront awnings, segmental-arched upper-story windows, and painted signage on a side wall facing the stream of pedestrians and buggies coming down North Main Street. Remodeled in the 1930s as the "French Colonial" William Preston Hotel, the Ellett Building stands today at 220 North Main Street.

Blacksburg went through another growth spurt during the nationwide economic expansion that followed the first world war. Development continued apace on Main Street, but at first opportunities on College Avenue were overlooked. Maybe it was the tendency of the lazy trickle known as Stroubles Creek to turn the area into a lake during rainy weather. College Avenue maintained a gritty character, the province of the Argabrite Brothers Garage and the 1890s Blacksburg Milling and Supply Company, a three-and-a-half-story heavy timber-frame roller mill that survives today as the Old Mill Building. All this changed abruptly on April 17, 1930, when the Lyric Theatre opened its doors to the movie-going public. Designed by architect Louis Philippe Smithey of Roanoke, the white brick and cast stone-faced building shocked townsfolk with its modernistic design. Prominent on the Art Deco facade were florid tracery panels above the marquee and a geometric parapet supporting masks of Comedy and Tragedy. These elements are today missing but perhaps only temporarily since an ambitious rehabilitation has been launched by preservationists and cinema aficionados. The Lyric Theatre and later development transformed College Avenue into a vibrant link between the campus and the town.

Upscale residential development of the period centered on the Miller-Southside neighborhood, platted in the 1910s on the south side of South Main Street out to Airport Road. Businessmen, college professors, and other white lot purchasers (blacks were excluded in early deed covenants) filled the neighborhood with the fashionable Craftsman house forms of the day-cozy story-and-a-half bungalows and larger foursquares-as well as residences of more distinctive design. Miller-Southside contains some of Blacksburg's earliest houses in the Colonial Revival style, popularized in the 1920s and 1930s by the high-profile restorations at Williamsburg. Several of these were conceived by Clinton H. Cowgill, who was appointed head of Virginia Tech's Department of Architectural Engineering in 1928. The 1938 L. C. Beamer House and the contemporaneous L. B. Dietrick House are representative of Cowgill's designs: tautly symmetrical facades with pedimented entries, classical dentil or modillion cornices, and banded brickwork.

Less typical is Cowgill's own house at 603 Draper Road, inspired by the more informal massing and snug proportions of the English cottage genre.

Tucked away on Miller-Southside's back alleys are the detached garages of the neighborhood's affluent car-owning denizens. Sometimes these are architecturally coordinated with their parent dwellings, as with the sandstone-faced garage behind the cobblestone bungalow at 807 Draper Road. Usually they are unprepossessing structures, a far cry from the proudly displayed two- and three-car attached garages of modern suburbia. The Miller-Southside car sheds were the modest harbingers of the Automobile Age, which would reach its zenith after World War II and cause development to surge beyond the town's pedestrian-accessible core. A precursor of the vast car dealerships of the post-war era was the 1920s Blacksburg Motor Company Building at 400 South Main Street, an agency and repair garage that once featured a front gas pump canopy for the convenience of attendants and motorists.

The automobile suburbs of post-war Blacksburg would actually be anticipated during the war by Airport Acres. Conceived to house workers at the Hercules powder plant near Radford, Massachusetts native James Pandapas and his Freedom Homes, Inc. began construction work on the housing development in 1942. A year later, scores of five-room houses modeled on the popular "Cape Cods" of the period lined the subdivision's Fairview Street and Rose Avenue. With their picture windows and perky dormered roofs, the Airport Acres homes today provide affordable starter housing to the Blacksburg community.

Soon, shopping plazas, industrial plants, and schools followed the Airport Acres lead. Highway 460 (Main Street) became a magnet for automobile-oriented development. Motor courts, restaurants, and gas stations of space-age constructivist design sprang up along South Main, joined in the late 1960s by Gables Shopping Center, a connected row of shops and anchor stores with modernistic flat roofs (not the quaint gables implied by its name). James Pandapas tapped the reservoir of scientific expertise in the university population, building Blacksburg's first high-tech industrial plant-Electro Tec-at 1600 North Main in 1951. Two years later he began Poly-Scientific, and in 1959 he designed a sprawling plant for the electro-mechanical components manufacturer at 1213 North Main. An essay in less-is-more design, Poly-Scientific as originally constructed featured a two-level, glass-walled office block fused to a windowless brick assembly floor.

As industrial and university-driven growth accelerated and as the first waves of the Baby Boom generation reached post-babydom, public officials scrambled to build new schools. Typical is Margaret Beeks Elementary, completed in 1962 at 709 Airport Road, a relaxed composition of flat-roofed classroom wings with the banks of tall, light-flooding windows that had been standard in school construction nationwide since the beginning of the century. The early-modern commercial and industrial buildings of Blacksburg's post-war boom are now its most endangered species. A new front has been added to Poly-Scientific, masking the original building, and the clean minimalism of Gables Shopping Center has been eschewed for a grand post-modern facade.

Manufacturing plants and suburban schools introduced modern design to Blacksburg on a grand scale. Modernism also began to gain acceptance among homeowners, led by professors at Virginia Tech's architecture school. In 1962 the homes of several faculty members were featured on an American Association of University Women tour intended to introduce modern domestic design to a wider local audience. These homes, described as combining "a concern for a creative expression of the present with a respect for the uses of the past," included the 1956 Herschel A. Elarth House at 106 York Drive and Henry H. Wiss's 1961 "trinuclear" house on the Lee Street Extension, which featured a carport and living and sleeping "pavilions" connected by covered walkways.

Also profiled was the 1961 home of Department of Architecture head Leonard Currie at 106 Highland Circle. The Currie House received an American Institute of Architects "Test of Time" award in 1982 for its simple yet elegant design: an open plan centered on a brick service core and chimney mass, contained within a window-wall perimeter under a spreading pyramidal roof. Architectural historian Sarah Shields Driggs has written that the house conveys the impression of a "volume of space perched at the edge of a hill, merely wrapped in an enclosure of glass and wood with a large roof hovering over it." The signature roof has given rise to the popular moniker "Pagoda House," although Currie's influences derived more from his International-style mentors Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer and the examples of Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn rather than direct oriental inspiration. Functionality was a vital consideration; the cantilevered roof protects from the summer sun while permitting low-angle winter sunlight to bathe the interior, and a smoothly operating radiant heating system of copper tubes embedded in floors and ceilings has also passed the test of time.

Architects at the college have continued to produce outstanding designs, from angular contemporaries like the Harold Hill House at 604 Lucas Drive and the Jack Davis House on High Ridge Road to the crisp geometries of the school's foreign-born contingent, including the Hans Rott House at 407 Patrick Henry Drive and the Rengen Holt House on the 500 block of Preston Avenue. Among the more recent works is the 1993 residence of architect and painter Dennis J. Kilper and his wife, artist Rosalie Kilper. In a certain sense the architect treated his house as a sculpture, balancing it delicately on a wooded hillside lot at 702 Cedarview Drive and attuning its cedar-sided envelope to nuances of sunlight, view, and breeze. The sculpture is also a dwelling-a "place" as the architect conceives it-where family and guests can gather around a jug of wine on the encircling deck or watch summer evening fireflies from a roof-top terrace. As with the best of modern design, the Kilper house resonates with subtle historical references, sensitivity to material and the detail of construction, and celebration of the process of artistic creation.

Single-family dwellings are not practical for a large component of Blacksburg's population: off-campus students in need of rental housing. An early rental development targeting married students was Draper's Meadow, a "village [of] one floor cottage or ranch type buildings" first projected in the mid-1950s and constructed in phases on a large site off Toms Creek Road near the university. "You can spend more. . . but you can't get closer," Draper's Meadow management advertised. By the 1970s, Snyder-Hunt had emerged as the principal rental developer, its Terrace View apartment complex dominating the heights to the north of downtown. Eventually, nearly a hundred apartment buildings and townhouse blocks stood in the complex, loosely grouped among a swimming pool, volleyball courts, and other amenities. Renters could take their pick of one- to four-room "garden style" apartments with cedar shake mansard roofs overhead and colorful shag carpeting underfoot.

Construction at Terrace View, Foxridge, and the other mega-complexes outpaced demand, leading to occasional low occupancy rates and depressed profits during the 1970s. In the high-octane 1980s, developers tried a new angle--offering their product for sale rather than rental. Condominium complexes like University Place and Hunters Ridge provided "students a convenient place to live and their parents an opportunity for investment and tax deduction." Developers soon overbuilt, however, and the winds of tax reform blew. "Parents stuck in Blacksburg's glut of `kiddie-condos,'" proclaimed a headline during the ensuing hangover.

Blacksburg's highly educated populace has proved receptive to novel concepts in community living. In the late 1960s, Dutch-born visionaries Wybe and Marietja Kroontje conceived of a not-for-profit community dedicated to the physical and spiritual well-being of the region's elderly. Local churches, civic organizations, and governments rallied to the idea, and in 1980 construction began on Warm Hearth Village in the wooded heights west of the Highway 460 Bypass. By the early 1990s, over 200 residential units composed of independent-living apartments, assisted-living apartments, and single-level cottage homes had been built, linked to each other and to the nearby Huckleberry Trail-a-rails-to-trails conversion-by bike paths and nature trails.

Even as Blacksburg has attracted national media attention as a computer-savy "Electronic Village," its people cherish the historic downtown streets, quiet neighborhoods, and rural setting that contribute to their community's high quality of life. Recent preservation efforts have included the publication of the Blacksburg Town Architecture study in 1986 and the listing of the downtown core and the Miller-Southside neighborhood in the state and national historic registers, nourishing appreciation for those areas and directly assisting rehabilitation work. The town government has acquired key historic properties-the Price House and Five Chimneys among them-and has opened these homes and their gardens to the general public. In the 1990s Blacksburg joined a vanguard of Virginia communities that have courageously resolved to safe-guard historic character through local ordinance. These initiatives help ensure that Blacksburg's remarkable historic and architectural legacy will be enjoyed by generations to come.


Architectural historians Dan Pezzoni and his wife, Leslie Giles, together comprise Landmark Preservation Associates, based in Roanoke, Virginia. A Virginia Tech graduate, Pezzoni has served as an architectural historian with the Virginia State Historic Preservation Office, and he has completed preservation plans, architectural publications, and National Register nominations throughout the eastern United States.


From A Special Place for 200 Years: A History of Blacksburg, Virginia. Edited by Clara Cox. Blacksburg: Town of Blacksburg, forthcoming. Blacksburg Educates Its Children, 1740s-1990s

Social Life
And Customs
Blacksburg Educates
Its Children


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