Yellow Sulphur Springs
3145 Yellow Sulphur Road
Christiansburg, Virginia 24073
Copyright 1997 by Gibson Worsham; used with permission.
The central commercial and residential portion of the town of Blacksburg included in the boundaries of the Blacksburg Historic District has recently been surveyed for the Town of Blacksburg and its Architectural Review Board, with funding through the town's participation in the Certified Local Government Program of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. The survey was intended to complete the inventory and evaluation of the above-ground architectural resources in the district and to provide local government and other planning agencies with information that may be used to support the successful development of local preservation planning tools such as design guidelines, historic overlay zoning, and design review. The slide show concentrates chiefly on the newly surveyed properties in the district, but includes some photographs of other important structures.
The Blacksburg Historic District is located in the center of the town. [Slide 1] It hinges on Roanoke Street, historic route of the northerly road from Botetourt County that led southwest toward Tennessee and Kentucky. Roanoke Street connects the residential section in the northwest half of the district with the commercial section in the southwest. [Slide 2] The district also embraces intact adjacent residential areas to the northwest along Progress Street, seen on the left-hand screen, Wilson Street, seen on the right, and along Lee Street (Bitter Hill) to the northeast. [Slide 3] The district borders Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University along its western edge; the restaurants, shops, and theater on College Avenue and Main Street in that area have captured the college trade since the early days of the school.
Blacksburg's historic settlement patterns have been influenced to a great extent by the area's environmental features. [Slide 4] The position of the town at the eastern end of a fertile valley watered by Stroubles Creek made the locale attractive to immigrants as soon as the area was opened to settlement in the mid-1740s. However, the location off the main through road and just over the barrier ridge of the Allegheny Mountains from the great Valley of Virginia to the northeast prevented strong growth in commerce in the village.
[Slide 5] In 1753, a 600-acre section of land on the eastern boundary of the fertile farming tract at Draper's Meadows was selected by William Lippard. The map on the screen shows the modern boundaries of Blacksburg superimposed on a plan of the earliest land grants. There is no evidence that the land was occupied for many years, but in 1772 the tract was purchased by Samuel Black of Augusta County, the son of a Scotch-Irish immigrant. Toward the end of the eighteenth century, his son, William Black, proposed the establishment of a town on his well- watered tract and apparently received the support of most of his neighbors for what was undoubtedly a profitable endeavor. The town is shown by the small grid in the center of the Lippard tract. The development of a town like Blacksburg was a factor of the local structure of commerce and crafts in the agricultural upland South, where compact commercial centers were often desirable chiefly for the settlement of non-farming tradesmen and skilled workers.
Blacksburg was formally established in 1798. The town that William Black had laid off the previous year was a rectilinear grid of sixteen blocks. The sloping space between Main Street and what is now known as Draper Road was occupied by the first range of four two-acre blocks; three more ranges filled in the rest of the town land. Each block was divided into four half-acre lots. Tax records and surviving buildings indicate that the earliest structures in the town were built of log. By the second decade of the nineteenth century wealthy families were constructing middling and large houses of brick, but most houses were still built of the traditional log material and consisted of one or two rooms. [Slide 6] A good example is the Goodrich-Helm-Lancaster House, of which only a photograph survives, a two-story, two-room log dwelling which may have been built before 1830.
Public buildings were few. The town had a meeting house used by the Methodists and the Presbyterians at the corner of Church and Lee Streets by 1819. Lydia Savine ran an early tavern which moved from an unspecified location in town to a house on Main Street in 1808. Dangerfield Dobbyns taught a small schoolhouse on Roanoke Road on the eastern outskirts of the town. It does not appear that any buildings survive from this earliest period of the town's development.
In 1845 Blacksburg's population was 250 and the town's amenities included Presbyterian and Methodist churches. [Slide 7] The extent of the community's growth by the second quarter of the nineteenth century is indicated in a drawing by Lewis Miller dated 1853. By the 1850's Blacksburg had moved into competition with Christiansburg; it was the location of Methodist male and female academies, a bank, many commercial and small-scale industrial establishments, and, like Christiansburg, was a center of agitation for rival turnpike and railroad schemes designed to serve the interests of each local community. Methodist educational concerns, such as the Blacksburg Female Academy of 1842 and the Preston and Olin Institution of 1854, were established in Blacksburg while the Blacksburg Savings Institution was incorporated on March 8, 1849. The original directors included most of the town's merchants. [Slide 8] It occupied the large brick house built in about 1850 on the southern corner of Main and Jackson streets.
The earliest domestic structures remaining in the district include [Slide 9] the two-story, one-room log Adam Croy House, on the northeast side of Penn Street, seen on the right, and the similar Spout Spring House on the left, an intact two-room structure of two stories. They are part of a small group of one- and two-room log dwellings standing alone or incorporated into later dwellings in the district and town-at-large. [Slide 10] The two-story, two-room Price House, on the northeast side of Wharton Street, has suffered from the removal of its central entry door, but an historic photograph shows it original appearance. The house and its large lot have been utilized as a nature center and park by the town of Blacksburg. Each of these houses date from the 1840s or 50s.
Other log houses, or houses that incorporate early log elements within their later frame form, include the one-room Croy House [Slide 11]. The log house, seen on the right, dates from the antebellum period and is one of the smallest houses surveyed in the county. On the opposite screen, the Martin-Richardson House, on the east corner of Wharton and Roanoke streets, is a two-story frame house dating from the third quarter of the nineteenth century. It incorporates an earlier, log, two-room house, now invisible from the exterior.
In 1847, Blacksburg's Presbyterian congregation moved out of the meeting house they shared with the Methodists to a new building. [Slide 12] This structure is the oldest religious structure standing in the town. It is a small version of the nave-plan Greek Revival-style churches built in many towns in the region, including Christiansburg, Floyd, Salem, and Fincastle. It has been used as a lodge hall and restaurant since 1904 when the congregation built a new church, also in the district, and in its varying uses has been adapted several times. The front now displays an approximation of the original gable and two-bay pilastered facade with paired double doors. [Slide 13] In 1986 a false front added in the early twentieth century partially fell into the street and was removed entirely, allowing the partial restoration undertaken by the owner. The molded brick cornice is typical of other buildings in the county built in the mid-nineteenth century. The Baptists and Methodists also built important church buildings which, unfortunately, no longer stand.
The town was relatively unscathed by the Civil War. The growth of the community began in earnest after the region recovered from the economic devastation caused by the war. Blacksburg received a boost in 1872 when it was chosen as the host community for Virginia's agricultural and mechanical college, later known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The new college occupied and enlarged upon the campus of the Olin and Preston Institute on the hill on the northwest outskirts of town. Whereas the town's composition had not responded noticeably to the earlier school, the new, larger-scale institution caused significant changes. Some commercial establishments that had formerly clustered at the intersection of Main and Roanoke Streets jumped outside the original town grid to the streets fronting the campus. A good example is Deyerle's Store, seen here in its present and historic forms. [Slide 14] This two «-story, gambrel-roofed, frame building, constructed in 1875, has a wide parapet false front with a central gable and ornamental brackets. It incorporates two well-preserved, indented, wood and glass storefronts. The building is Blacksburg's most substantial and best-preserved commercial building from the late nineteenth century.
The post-Civil War era saw modest growth of industrial and commercial operations in Blacksburg. [Slide 15] Harmon Sifford had established a tanyard at the west corner of Blacksburg in 1809 and by 1871 there were three tanyard sites in and near the town, all of them along the region's plentiful streams. Associated with these foul-smelling tanyards were a number of other small-scale industries. The Conway tanyard at the east corner of town had a weaving shop, saddlemaker's shop and tin shop. Blacksburg was the site of an important regional pottery in the mid- and late nineteenth century. There had been two potters in the county in 1840, but none were listed by 1850. David Bodell arrived in about 1863 and operated from several sites in the district through the later nineteenth century.
Although no early-to-mid-nineteenth-century structures remain on Main Street in the district other than the Presbyterian Church, a significant number of stores survive from the later nineteenth century, when the lots of downtown Blacksburg were finally filled with tightly grouped commercial buildings. [Slide 16] The W. B. Conway Building is a much-altered but still visible late nineteenth-century store/dwelling combination which housed Conway's drugstore and residence. The pedimented gable and upper windows of the building are visible above the later addition in front. One- or two-story, gable-fronted, weatherboarded stores are typical of rural and town commercial buildings in the mid- to late nineteenth century. [Slide 17] A good example was the Sarvey Men's Clothing Store, seen on the extreme right in the historic photograph from the late nineteenth century. It preceded the existing Plank and Hoge Store, later known as the Corner Drug Store and seen on the opposite screen, on the same site.
[Slide 18] The town, seen in this late nineteenth-century photograph, supported a number of hotels in this period, mostly to house and feed the students at the college. One of the principal hotels, seen in the enlarged detail of the same photo, began as a tavern at the corner of Jackson and Main streets. It was enlarged to three stories for use as a hotel by George Keister and survived for many years.
A majority of the buildings surveyed in the district were residential. Most of the buildings were designed by craftsmen utilizing a limited number of floor plans and design elements. A range in scale and detail are found among single-family dwellings, for houses were built for working families as well as commercial and professional leaders. Very few buildings in the town were designed by professional architects or engineers before the mid-twentieth century. Most builders relied upon local vernacular architectural traditions. Some buildings were, however, influenced by nationally published designs from magazines or books and adapted for the locality by the owner or builder.
An example of a typical regional dwelling is the one-story frame Bandy House [Slide 19] on Lee Street, seen on the left, in which a pair of rooms flank a central passage or entry hall. Laboring families often occupied small, one- or two-room, frame buildings of this type. More prosperous families often built a two-story version of this house type, such as the Cartmell T. Brown House on Progress Street, seen on the opposite screen. [Slide 20] In contrast, grand houses with complex floor plans and elaborate decorative treatments were built for some substantial citizens in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in particular on Roanoke and Main streets. One of the most ornate was the now-altered Alexander Black House, known today as the McCoy Funeral Home.
Several houses in the district survive from the late nineteenth century. [Slide 21] The house on the right, located at the east corner of Lee and Wharton streets, is an ornate example of one of the region's most popular house forms of the period. The three-bay, two-story, center- passage-plan, frame dwelling carries an elaborately detailed two-story porch. The porch has a quantity of flat sawn decorative work including balusters, brackets, and fishscale shingles in the pedimented gable roof. It has a two-story rear wing, or ell, as does the similar, brick A. W. Luster House, seen on the left. Located on the north corner of Roanoke and Wharton streets, it is also a center-passage, two-story dwelling with a two-story ell. In addition, it has a two-story, Doric front porch with one-story flanking porches, an entry door with sidelight, and a hipped roof.
[Slide 22] The Bennett-Pugh House is one of only a few surviving houses on Main Street in the downtown area. It is a very well preserved two-story, dwelling with decorative details. The house incorporates a more complex floor plan and an asymmetrical silhouette. It provides a reminder of the many vanished residences of various ages that lined Main Street during the late nineteenth century. [Slide 23] Other smaller houses from the same period line Lee Street to the northeast of the older part of town. These are one-story center-passage and two-room houses of frame construction. The two-room or double-cell dwelling is one of the smallest typically found in the county and was often utilized for industrial, domestic, and agricultural worker housing.
Typical examples include the frame dwelling at 504 Lee Street, seen on the screen, built in the early twentieth century, a one-story, frame central-passage-plan house. [Slide 24] The Bandy House, also on Lee Street, is a small two-room building with a central front door and chimney. The Helton House, located nearby, is served by two front doors, one into each room, sheltered by a delicate gabled porch.
Black citizens became a more visible presence in Blacksburg after the Civil War. Freed slaves and other black citizens settled in small enclaves in several parts of the town, on upper Lee Street, along Jackson Street and at the southern end of Wharton Street. The neighborhood along the upper reaches of Lee Street was known in the early twentieth century as Bitter Hill, and included among its white inhabitants a small black population. The Mayes House [Slide 25] is associated with Dora Mayes, who served the community for many years as a midwife. Like the dwellings mentioned previously, it is a two-room house with a central chimney and two entry doors in the center of the principal facade.
Keister's Addition, a part of which forms another intact neighborhood adjoining downtown Blacksburg, was apparently laid out before 1875 and included Progress Street and neighboring alleys and cross streets. [Slide 26] Progress and Harding streets and Wilson Avenue are lined with houses ranging from small, frame two-room dwellings such as the Woolwine House and Nursery School, seen on the right, to large frame and brick houses which date from the late nineteenth century and later, such as the frame Cartmell T. Brown House, a well-preserved, two- story, central-passage-plan dwelling seen on the opposite screen. At least one of these houses, the brick house at 401 Progress Street [Slide 27], was moved to this area in 1929 from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University campus, where it had been built in the late nineteenth century as part of Faculty Row. Another house at 604 Progress Street, seen on the left, is a one-and-one-half-story, center-passage-plan house of modest proportions but with sawn ornaments in the gables and on the one-story, side porch. Small, brick flues flank the central passage of the house, which dates from the late nineteenth century.
Religious architecture from the period is marked by one remarkable building. Christ Church [Slide 28] was built by a newly formed Episcopal congregation in the late 1870s. Designed by a New York architect named Emlyn Littel, it was the first church in the county to abjure the simple nave plan and incorporate a side entry, chancel, pointed windows, and other Gothic decorative and structural motifs such as exposed wood roof trusses and buttresses. A tower added in the early twentieth century further strengthened the building's ties with the church designs of Richard Upjohn as well as members of the ecclesiological movement in the Anglican communion in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. African Baptist and African Methodist Episcopal congregations were organized during the period.
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. [Slide 29] 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.
A series of important, two-story, commercial buildings were constructed in the first years of the century. [Slide 30] Many of these were less expensive weatherboarded framed structures, but several were of brick. Some took the form of a double store flanking a central stairway to the second floor. A good example of a frame double commercial building is the first building of the Farmers' and Merchants' Bank, built around the turn of the century on the southwest side of Main Street beside Stroubles Creek, seen in the foreground of the historic photograph on the right. It was damaged by fire in 1923 and survives under a brick veneer covering today, as shown in the historic photo on the left. [Slide 31] The interior is seen on the left-hand screen. It has housed the College Inn Restaurant since 1929.
During the early twentieth century dwellings continued to be built in every area of the district except the commercial area on Main Street and College Avenue. Many houses were based on familiar forms from earlier periods, such as center-passage-plan and double-cell houses; others were modeled on the Bungalow or American Foursquare house, the first nationally published domestic architecture to be adapted for a large number of dwellings in the region. The houses usually had exposed decorative rafters and brackets, central dormers, wide porches with massive supports, and irregular, functional floor plans as opposed to the regular, formal arrangement of the local vernacular dwellings. Sometimes, popular Colonial Revival decorative elements were applied to stock pattern-book houses of the Foursquare or Bungalow types. The Wes Gray House, on the northwest corner of Faculty and Progress streets, seen on the right-hand screen, is a large, American Foursquare dwelling built by one of the town's most active contractors who specialized in Foursquare houses and Bungalows. The brick house has a slate roof; a concrete foundation; triple sash windows; a massive central dormer; and a deep modillioned cornice. The wraparound, one-story porch is supported on tapered, square columns. The Janie Calloway House at 204 Wilson Avenue [Slide 32] is a good example of the popular one-and-one-half story bungalow. The hipped roofed, frame house has a central dormer, sash windows with an arrangement of four window panes over one that is typical of houses in the Bungalow mode, exposed rafter ends, and narrow matchboard siding. This house is particularly interesting, because it was ordered directly from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. A number of houses in Montgomery County followed this increasingly popular twentieth century practice of ordering precut materials from remote locations.
The Presbyterian manse of about 1907 [Slide 33] on the south corner of Roanoke and Church streets, on the right-hand screen, is a more traditional center-passage-plan house of two stories built of brick with a hipped roof. It has a classical cornice and a central dormer, combining vernacular and popular elements in an important house. The Sheriff Camper House, seen on the opposite screen, was built on the east corner of Penn and Washington streets in about 1910. It features a unique plan, with two identical facades facing Penn and Washington streets. Both elevations feature polygonally indented central bays sheltered by projecting polygonal porches. The house at 210 Roanoke Street [Slide 34], seen on the right, is an unusual and substantial version of the popular Bungalow house form. It features a high, hipped, tile roof; shingled walls; and a symmetrical five-bay facade. A more conventional local variant of the bungalow form is the gable-fronted Effinger House, on Wilson Avenue, seen on the opposite screen.
The Bennett House [Slides 35], a bungalow sited in an undeveloped nine-acre tract at the northern edge of the district, is exemplary of the Bungalow or Craftsman style. It sits on a hill overlooking park-like grounds that correspond to the rural nature of the area outside the original grid until the early twentieth century. The house and the accompanying rustic gazebo were built for an elderly expatriate English couple and the interiors were further developed by a subsequent owner. The central fireplace with inglenook seating, extensive hedged gardens, beamed ceilings, and symmetrical bay windows are more expansive than the usual bungalow and approach more closely to its British Imperial origins than most local houses.
The Ellett House [Slide 36] at 409 Roanoke Street, seen on the right, is a large, two- story, frame dwelling which conceals its traditional center-passage plan behind a projecting, gabled bay to one side of the central entry. The large, brick house on the left, located at the east corner of Roanoke and Penn streets, includes a colossal pedimented porch supported by two Doric columns and eight-over-eight sash windows. The house may derive more from pattern- book interpretations of Federal and Colonial-era house plans than from a regional source. [Slide 37] One of the most important surviving houses on Main Street was completely redesigned in the early twentieth century to correspond to the new Colonial Revival dwellings appearing in the town. The center-passage-plan Keister-Eakin House, incorporates the frame and some interior detail of the earlier Queen Anne-style Keister House.
Churches surviving from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the district include the brick Blacksburg Presbyterian Church of 1904 [Slide 38], seen on the right. It was influenced by the popular Akron plan for churches which advocated sloping floors, curved seating, and large Sunday school facilities that could be opened into the sanctuary when additional seating was needed. The church has pointed doors and fine stained glass windows with brick label molds. The nearby, brick Blacksburg Methodist Church of about 1910, on the left-hand screen, has been adapted for use as the congregation's fellowship hall after the construction of a new sanctuary in the 1960s. It is very similar in form to the 1904 Presbyterian church, with its asymmetrical towers, each containing vestibules and flanking a cross-shaped sanctuary. The St. Paul's African Methodist Episcopal Church [Slide 39] was built in about 1901 on Penn Street. It is a frame, Gothic Revival structure of the regionally popular three-bay nave plan with pointed- arched windows, a projecting vestibule, and a well-preserved interior. [Slide 40] The Blacksburg Christian Church on the right and the St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church on the left both date from the third decade of the twentieth century and have a similar nave-plan form. Both feature steep gabled roofs, projecting entry vestibules with arched doors, and pointed arch windows.
Population growth in Blacksburg continued through the period after the First World War. It was spurred in the 1940's with the war-time influx of employees at the Radford Arsenal. From 1400 in 1930, Blacksburg's population grew to 2130 in 1940 and 3358 in 1950. The growth of the town was characterized by an increasing architectural sophistication and solidity. Institutional architecture, including governmental, educational, social, and religious buildings took on a more substantial appearance allied with academic architectural traditions, most often those of classical order in Colonial Revival and Beaux-Arts forms. The buildings on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute were designed in the Collegiate Gothic style forms, beginning in the 1920s, under the influence of a campus plan by the Boston architectural firm of Cram and Ferguson and the designs of individual buildings by the Richmond-based office of Carneal and Johnston, Architects.
[Slide 41] In the early 1920s, Blacksburg's downtown underwent a rebuilding as brick-clad two- and three-story commercial buildings with apartments in the upper stories replaced earlier commercial buildings and houses. New buildings included the Plank and Hoge Building on the south corner of College and Main streets, seen on the left, a plain, two-story, brick commercial block with second-floor apartments constructed by builder Wes Gray in 1922- 1923. The one-story, brick Logan Martin Store, seen on the right, was built in the mid-1920s on Jackson Street in an axial position at the end of Church Street. Older buildings were sometimes refaced, such as the Ellett's Drugstore Building [Slide 42] of 1900, on the opposite corner of the intersection, seen on the left. It was refaced in 1934 by the Roanoke architectural firm of Eubank and Caldwell to create a portion of the William Preston Hotel. The rehabilitated building, seen on the right, is elegantly detailed with arched windows in a rusticated first floor and a classical cornice. [Slide 43] A frame commercial building of two stories, the Blue Ribbon Cafe, built in the early twentieth century, was refaced in brick in the period between the world wars.
By the 1950s an almost solid wall of building fronts on College Avenue faced the campus, many of which survive today. Some institutions built a series of buildings, keeping up with fashion and enlarging their facilities in the process. [Slide 44] In 1920 the Bank of Blacksburg constructed a two-story, brick-faced bank and store building on the western corner of Main and Roanoke streets, seen on the right. In 1942 the same bank built a stylish, coursed-stone Moderne-style building across the street, shown on the left-hand screen. It was designed by the Roanoke firm of Smithy and Boynton. Finally, the bank built an International-style brick building on the corner diagonally opposite at the same intersection in the 1960s. [Slide 45] Less distinguished commercial infill structures on the northwest side of Main Street built in the 1920s and 30s include the one-story brick buildings which housed Louise's Dress Shop and the Thomas Pierce Real Estate Agency. The storefronts have been extensively altered.
Pressures on housing increased with the growth of the student body. One enterprising widow converted her home, the Kessler-Linkous House [Slide 46] at the corner of Progress and Turner streets, into a large rooming house by making massive additions. The Old Mill Building [Slide 47] was built in the early twentieth century by the Blacksburg Milling and Supply Company. The timber frame structure was clad in brick and rehabilitated in the 1940s with apartments on the upper floor and stores on the street level. It remains one of the most massive buildings in the historic district with a plain but impressive urban character.
Bungalows and Foursquare houses continued to be built in the district well into the 1920s. A good example of a bungalow is the D. Cameron and Mabel Price Lucas House [Slide 48] at 412 Lee Street, built for them by Floyd Dickerson, a popular housebuilder, in 1929. These houses were increasingly joined by one-story brick and frame Colonial Revival-style houses like the frame building at 404 Progress Street, [Slide 49] seen on the right, as well as Tudor Revival- style dwellings like the brick Lucas House #1, on the left, with its divided ornamental front chimney stack, picturesque elevation, and random stone trim. At the same time vernacular two- room houses continued to be built into the period. [Slide 50] Good frame examples include the one-story, three-bay, double-pile two-room house at 511 Lee Street, built after 1921, seen on the right.
With a few exceptions, the churches of Blacksburg remained content with extant late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century structures until the third quarter of the century. The Presbyterian congregation built a carefully detailed, brick, Gothic Revival-style educational building behind the church in 1926, seen on the left. [Slide 51] The 1875-79 Christ Episcopal Church was enlarged after 1910 by architect Meade Bolton and again in the 1920s by the firm of Carneal and Johnston, who designed a parish hall wing. The addition of a massive stone tower was made by Bolton following the suggestions of nationally prominent architect Ralph Adams Cram, whose firm prepared designs for the campus of V.P.I.
Other impressive buildings added to the streetscape of Blacksburg include the Hunter's Masonic Lodge No. 156. [Slide 52] This lodge, founded in 1856, meets in a building with classical details on Roanoke Street built by local contractor, Wes Gray, in 1928. The second building of the Lyric Theater [Slide 53] is one of the most architecturally important buildings in the town today. The building was completed in 1930 to the designs of Roanoke architect Louis Phillipe Smithy. A buff brick Moderne commercial/office block with stone trim screens the auditorium and incorporates a stone-faced entry pavilion with marquee and inset entry. From the parapet over the marquee two concrete theatrical masks originally gazed on the passersby and the window below was filled with masonry tracery. Today much of the classical interior survives and rehabilitation is underway for continuing use as a theater and concert hall.
The town government took visible form in 1939 with the acquisition and conversion of the Logan Martin Store, which we saw earlier, for use as a town hall. [Slide 54] The authority of the Federal government was effectively represented by the new PWA-funded Post Office, built in the same year by the same contractor. The solemn Colonial Revival-style brick building was provided with large, tripartite, arched openings and stone dressings.
By the mid-twentieth century Blacksburg had overtaken Christiansburg in population. One of the largest challenges to Blacksburg's housing stock was the dramatic growth in the student and professorial population in the years immediately after the Second World War. This growth has never entirely slowed as Virginia Polytechnic Institute has enlarged its facilities and enrollment. One solution was the installation of several large trailer parks and the conversion of garages and single-family homes to student apartments. A series of new multi-family buildings for more established renters is typified by the Strickler Apartments [Slide 55]. The two-story, brick, Colonial-style building forms an open-sided quadrangle with carefully executed details.
At first the commercial response to the increasing population was to update existing building stock. The remaining empty downtown lots were infilled with buildings like the Bank of Blacksburg Annex [Slide 56], built in about 1950 and seen on the left. The one-story, Modern Barber Shop/Harleys Shoe Repair Building and the adjacent two-story William Price Building, seen on the right, are both brick structures with metal casement windows, tile copings on the plain parapets, and inset metal and plate glass storefronts. The one-story, glass-fronted Western Auto Store [Slide 57] was built beside the William Preston Hotel Building in about 1960.
As the second half of the century progressed stores and businesses tended increasingly to locate away from the downtown area, which retained its commercial vigor chiefly by catering to the largely captive student population. By the 1980s there were few traditional businesses, such as hardware, grocery, jewelry, and general merchandise stores left in the district. One men's clothing store and several women's stores, a jewelry designer, and a single drug store were supplemented by book stores, inexpensive restaurants, bars, sports supply stores, copy shops, record stores, and specialty shops. By the late 1990s the drug store had gone out of business, but the Lyric Theater, which had closed in the early 1980s as a result of competition from the shopping mall cinemas, had been rehabilitated and reopened.
The domestic architecture of this period is well represented in this survey, although considered noncontributing due to their lack of age and not included in the slide presentation. Colonial, Cape Cod, Ranch, 1950s and 1960s "Contemporary," and inexpensive tract houses are all represented in the district, closely paralleling national design trends for modest dwellings. The vacant residential lots in the district were infilled with medium-sized houses. [Slide 58] Apartment houses, including the unusual International- style building on Harding Avenue, increased the density of housing.
Religious congregations in the district saw renewed architectural activity during the period. The Blacksburg Methodist Church added a new sanctuary and education wing in the 1960s, preserving the old building for use as a fellowship hall. The Presbyterian congregation moved entirely out of the downtown area to a new site in the 1950s, as did the Blacksburg Christian Church in the 1970s. The St. Mary's Catholic Parish built a blandly Gothic-style granite-faced church [Slide 59] with an integral rectory on the corner of Wilson Avenue and Progress Street in 1948, but the parish left the building in the late 1970s for a new structure outside the district, although the church has been adapted for use by an Anglican parish. Only those churches able to acquire large parking areas, like the Methodist congregation, tended to stay in the historic district, although Christ Church and St Paul's A.M.E. Church are exceptions to that rule.
The architecture of the Blacksburg Historic District is an inspiring part of its heritage. These buildings make visible around us the world our ancestors saw as worth striving for. They represent the values of a close-knit community. The tightly-packed commercial streets and the tree-lined residential avenues evoke an attitude toward architectural beauty absent from modern shopping strips and malls [Slide 60- Christiansburg Marketplace]. If we are determined to continue living and working among them, we must protect these buildings and their setting from further demolition and decay. The historic structures of Blacksburg will continue to keep us and our descendants in touch with a vibrant and essential past.