Although schooling had been available in Blacksburg since the 1850s, public education efforts did not begin in the community until the 1870s. The first public school in Blacksburg is said to have been opened in a small house near the cemetery, taught by Mollie Kent and a Mrs Dawson. In addition to the Blacksburg Female Academy and the Preston and Olin Institute, a small private school was taught after the Civil War in the same building that had housed the Blacksburg Saving Institution in the antebellum period. In 1881 the Female Academy became the Blacksburg Public School and the extensive grounds southwest of the town became the preserve of the local public educational buildings until the mid-twentieth century.

The end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth saw regular growth continue for the town. There does not appear to ever have been a period when Blacksburg suffered any decline in population. Starting with a total of 768 in 1900, Blacksburg's population grew to 1400 by 1930. The town's growth can be documented on the 1921 Sanborn Insurance map, which shows each building, its materials, and the first-floor plan. Commerce had been stimulated in the late nineteenth century by the founding of two new local banks. The arrival in 1904 of the Virginia Anthracite and Coal Railroad, a short branch line better known as the "Huckleberry," gave Blacksburg a better connection with the rest of the state and nation. The terminal depot was located on the current site of the municipal building. Blacksburg was supplied with a large flour mill in the early years of the century with the construction of the Blacksburg Milling and Supply Company. The mill apparently occupied a cross wing at the back of the three- story farm supply wing which faced College Avenue across from the college. The mill was improved with brick-clad main facade and commercial wing in the second quarter of the twentieth century. A major portion of it survives today under a brick skin as an apartment building, which we will look at later.




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