History

Roanoke River & Railroad National Historic District, the “Magic City”

The Bridges runs along the land between the Roanoke River and South Jefferson Street.  This location was originally an industrial site, created following the completion of the Roanoke & Southern Railway in 1892 and the Virginian Railway line in 1909. The industries in this area reflected the rapid growth of Roanoke in the early 20th century, growth that earned Roanoke the nickname “Magic City”.

“In a city where over 1000 building permits were issued in one year, a number of lumber companies established yards along the railroad lines.  The largest of these was Adams, Payne & Gleaves, founded in 1906 and expanded with the purchase of the Magic City Lumber in 1908.  The company advertised that they had everything you needed to construct a building except the hardware.  Another industry related to construction was the Dominion Metal Products Corporation, established in 1911 by local investors.  The building survives today as a showpiece of the various metal products the company manufactured.  Another industry was the Roanoke Iron & Bridge Works, which was established in 1906 and built the large complex north of the Walnut Street Bridge in 1911.  With offices located throughout the southern US, the company had 350 employees and 600 completed bridges by 1912.

The Virginia Can Company (1912), The Citizens Crystal Ice Company,   and the Roanoke City Mills (1916) also appeared along the rail lines as Roanoke became a major shipping center for the agricultural products cultivated in the surrounding rural areas.

The Roanoke Railroad & Electric Company, founded in 1887, built a new power plant along the tracks in 1907 and a new car barn and repair shop in 1912.  The Appalachian Power Company, which would purchase the streetcar company in 1948, also built an office building near the power plant in 1926.  The two bridges over Walnut and Jefferson streets were built in1927 and 1928 as a joint effort between the City and the railroads as residential and commercial traffic increased.”  

-Alison S. Blanton

Architectural Historian

Hill Studio, PC

For more information on the history visit National Historic Registry