Roanoke, Virginia, (population 94,504) is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains 168 miles west of the state capital in Richmond. A well-traveled crossroads since colonial times, it was first established as the town of Big Lick in 1874. The coming of the Norfolk & Western Railway in 1882 sparked the region’s growth, and two years later the town was chartered as the city of Roanoke.
Roanoke’s downtown is graced by many turn-of-the-20 th-century buildings. The Market Building anchors Roanoke’s Farmers Market, the centerpiece of downtown’s historic district. Efforts to revitalize the city got a boost in the 1980s with the adaptive reuse of a 1914 warehouse as cultural hub Center in the Square. In recent years, the city has enjoyed a surge in redevelopment of its historic structures for both residential and commercial purposes. Neighborhoods such as Old Southwest have also undergone a renaissance, and Roanoke’s Grandin Road commercial area has become a model of village center planning. All three of these areas are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Roanoke Valley has more than three dozen buildings and districts on the state and national registers.
Roanoke’s economy today is more diversified, with Carilion Clinic and Advance Auto Parts playing major roles. But Roanoke remains a rail town, with the Virginia Museum of Transportation and the O. Winston Link Museum dedicated to preserving this heritage. In addition, the History Museum of Western Virginia offers exhibits that tell the story of Roanoke from frontier days to the present.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2008.