Roanoke, Virginia

From Academic Kids

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panoramic view of Roanoke, Virginia from 1907 U.S. Library of Congress

Roanoke (The Star City of the South) is an independent city located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The name Roanoke is said to have originated from the native American word for shell "money".

The town of Big Lick was chartered in 1874. It became the town of Roanoke in 1882 and the independent city of Roanoke two years later. Its location in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, in the middle of the Roanoke Valley between Maryland and Tennessee, made it the transportation hub of western Virginia and contributed to its rapid growth. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 94,911.

The City of Roanoke is adjacent to, but politically separate from, Roanoke County.

The United States Census Bureau includes in Roanoke's metropolitan area the counties of Botetourt and Roanoke, and the cities of Salem and Roanoke. The metropolitan area's population in the past three censuses has been reported to be:

  • 1980 --- 220,393
  • 1990 --- 224,477
  • 2000 --- 235,932



After the American Civil War (1861-1865), William Mahone, a civil engineer and hero of the Battle of the Crater, was the driving force in the linkage of 3 Virginia railroads to form the Atlantic, Mississippi & Ohio Railroad (AM&O), a new line extending from Norfolk to Bristol, Virginia in 1870. After several years of operating under receiverships, Mahone's role as a railroad builder ended in 1881 when northern financial interests took control. At the 1881 foreclosure auction, the AM&O was purchased by E.W. Clark and Co., a private banking firm in Philadelphia which controlled the Shenandoah Valley Railroad then under construction. The AM&O was renamed Norfolk and Western Railway (N&W).

Frederick J. Kimball, a civil engineer and partner in the Clark firm, headed the new line and consolidated it with the Shenandoah Valley Railroad. For the junction for the Shenandoah and the Norfolk and Western, Kimball and his board of directors selected a small Virginia village called Big Lick, on the Roanoke River. Although the grateful citizens offered to rename their town "Kimball", on his suggestion, they agreed to go with Roanoke after the river. As the N&W brought people and jobs, the Town of Roanoke quickly became an independent city in 1884. In fact, Roanoke became a city so quickly that it earned the nickname "Magic City."

Kimball, whose interest in geology was responsible for the opening of the Pocahontas coalfields in western Virginia and West Virginia, pushed N&W lines through the wilds of West Virginia, north to Columbus, Ohio and Cincinnati, Ohio, and south to Durham, North Carolina and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This gave the railroad the route structure it was to use for more than 60 years.

The Virginian Railway (VGN), an engineering marvel of its day, was conceived and built by William Nelson Page and Henry Huttleston Rogers Following the Roanoke River, the VGN was built through the City of Roanoke early in the 20th century. It was merged with the N&W in 1959.

The opening of the coalfields made N&W prosperous and Pocahontas bituminous coal world-famous. Transported by the N&W and neighboring Virginian Railway (VGN), it fueled half the world's navies and today stokes steel mills and power plants all over the globe. The N&W was famous for manufacturing steam locomotives in-house. It was at the Norfolk & Western's Roanoke Shops, which employed thousands of craftsmen, where decades later the famed classes A, J, and Y6 locomotives would be designed, built and maintained, made the company known industry-wide for its excellence in steam power.

Around 1960, N&W was the last major railroad in the United States to convert from steam to diesel motive power. However, several of its famous steam engines, including J class # 611 and A class # 1218 are now on display at the Virginia Museum of Transportation ( in Roanoke. The steam age is also chronicled in photographs in the O. Winston Link Museum ( also in Roanoke.

Today, Roanoke is famous for its Chili Cook-Off, Strawberry Festival, and the large red, white, and blue illuminated Star on Mill Mountain, which is visible from many points in the city and neighboring valley.

The city's newspaper, The Roanoke Times (, has been published for 120 years. In 2002, it was designated the best-read daily newspaper in the country, according to the 2002 Scarborough Report. Of 162 newspapers in top U.S. metropolitan areas, The Roanoke Times ranked first in the percentage of adults who read their daily newspaper.


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Location of Roanoke, Virginia

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 111.1 km² (42.9 mi²). 111.1 km² (42.9 mi²) of it is land and 0.1 km² (0.04 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.07% water.


As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there are 94,911 people, 42,003 households, and 24,235 families residing in the city. The population density is 854.6/km² (2,213.2/mi²). There are 45,257 housing units at an average density of 407.5/km² (1,055.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 69.38% White, 26.74% African American, 0.20% Native American, 1.15% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.72% from other races, and 1.78% from two or more races. 1.48% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 42,003 households out of which 25.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.1% are married couples living together, 16.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 42.3% are non-families. 35.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 12.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.20 and the average family size is 2.86.

In the city the population is spread out with 22.6% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 30.5% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 16.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 38 years. For every 100 females there are 88.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 84.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $30,719, and the median income for a family is $37,826. Males have a median income of $28,465 versus $21,591 for females. The per capita income for the city is $18,468. 15.9% of the population and 12.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 24.4% of those under the age of 18 and 11.3% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Economic Statistics: Roanoke MSA

The Roanoke, VA MSA is a U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) in Virginia as defined by the United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as of June, 2003.

Note: Since a state constitutional change in 1871, all cities in Virginia are independent cities and they are not legally located in any county. The OMB considers these independent cities to be county-equivalents for the purpose of defining MSAs in Virginia. Each MSA is listed by its counties, then cities, each in alphabetical order, and not by size.

The Roanoke, VA MSA includes:

Landmarks & Points of Interest

Arts, History & Culture in Roanoke

External links

City of Roanoke Homepage ( Template:Mapit-US-cityscale

Template:Virginiade:Roanoke (Virginia)


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