Blacksburg, Virginia

Blacksburg, Virginia
Blacksburg, Virginia
—  Town  —
A view of downtown Blacksburg
Official seal of Blacksburg, Virginia
Blacksburg's location within Virginia
Virginia's location within the United States
Coordinates: 37°13′48″N 80°25′4″W / 37.23°N 80.41778°W / 37.23; -80.41778Coordinates: 37°13′48″N 80°25′4″W / 37.23°N 80.41778°W / 37.23; -80.41778
Country United States
State Virginia
County Montgomery
Founded 1798
 – Mayor Ron Rordam
 – Town 19.89 sq mi (50.2 km2)
 – Land 19.89 sq mi (50.1 km2)
 – Water 0.04 sq mi (0.0 km2)  0.10%
Elevation 2,080 ft (633 m)
Population (2010)[1]
 – Town 42,620
 – Density 2,142.5/sq mi (1,331.6/km2)
 – Metro 159,587
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 – Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 24060–24063
Area code(s) 540
FIPS code 51-07784[2]
GNIS feature ID 1498405[3]

Blacksburg is an incorporated town located in Montgomery County, Virginia, United States, with a population of 42,620 at the 2010 census. Blacksburg, Christiansburg, and Radford are the three principal jurisdictions of the Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses those jurisdictions and all of Montgomery, Pulaski, and Giles counties for statistical purposes. The MSA has an estimated population of 159,587 [4] and is currently one of the faster growing MSAs in Virginia. Blacksburg is dominated economically and demographically by the presence of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (better known as Virginia Tech), a Virginia land-grant university. Blacksburg is the largest town in Virginia by population. There are many larger municipalities, but they are incorporated as cities.



European discovery and the founding of a settlement (1671–1771)

Hoping to find a gap in the Allegheny Mountains whose topography and violent Indian nation's had previously blocked settlement, the government of Virginia organized several expeditions to find a geo-political passage to reach further west. This opening was finally found when British American explorers led by Abraham Wood reached the present-day location of Blacksburg, Virginia in 1671, the American Indians who lived in the area had fought eachother to extinction leaving the area a contested no man's land[citation needed]. Consequently, Wood's expeditions followed Stroubles Creek, through the current locations of the town and campus of Virginia Tech to what they named Wood's River. Because the area had no effected claim upon it by surrounding hostile tribes, the Virginia legislature authorized Wood to claim the area. Thus, on September 17, 1671, the Wood party claimed all the lands comprising the drainage basin of the river, later renamed the New River, for King Charles II.

During the following three generations, Wood, various Virginia organized expeditions, and large numbers of settlers fought, secured, and finally built a fledling if tenuous settlement in the area. By the 1740s, the Wood's River Land Company, which was represented by Col. James Patton, attained a large tract of land within present-day southwest Virginia. Part of the tract became Montgomery County and Pulaski County and was sold to large numbers of Virginians as well as migrating Anglo-Irish, Scotts-Irish, and English settlers as a reward for services during the Spanish-Indian Wars and other European wars. The Draper and Ingles families were among those that built their homes somewhere between present locations of the campus and the subdivision of Hethwood. The settlement came to be called Draper's Meadow by 1748.

Because of its strategic location between various Indian nations which alternated their allegience between French and British interests as it suited them, as well as its location through gaps into the Alleghenies further west, the area's development as an American colony was viewed with increasing apprehension by the French and their Indian allies. Thus, seven years later, with the beginning of the final phas of the French and Indian War, Indian nationals, equiped and supplied by French colonials, descendend upon the settlement. Caught by surprise, the frontier settlers fell back onto their block house fortified homes, fighting back until each was overwhelmed in turn. This gave others time to escape to Drapers Settlement and a larger fort from which they hoped to secure their lives. Sometime around July 30, 1755, the area's block houses and fort finally fell and the Indians murdered the surviving men, women, and children. Thousands of Americans were killed in the area and more along the frontier in the opening salvo of the war. The memory to Draper's Meadow massacre was dedicated on a bridge located near Duck Pond. By the end of the war, Draper's Meadow was deserted.[5][6]

The Black family (1772–1797)

Samuel Black, whose family settled in Staunton, Virginia, bought 600 acres (2.4 km2) of land in the Draper’s Meadow area for his sons John and William in 1772. Smithfield Plantation, built in approximately 1774 by Col. William Preston,[6] sits on the original Draper's Meadow site, which is near the Duck Pond on the Virginia Tech campus.

When Samuel Black died in 1792, the land was evenly divided into two sections by his sons. The road now known as Draper Road is the dividing line between the sections. John Black's property covered the majority of today's central campus and William Black's property became most of central downtown area of present-day Blacksburg.

In 1797, William laid out a small grid of streets and lots—16 blocks in all—on a portion of his land. The original town was limited to the area bounded by present-day Draper Road, Jackson Street, Wharton Street, and Clay Street.[5] The town logo contains 16 small squares that create a larger square, representing the original 16 square blocks that were a part of Black's design.

Blacksburg's establishment (1798–1870)

After Black petitioned the state legislature to establish a town at the site, the official establishment and founding of Blacksburg, Virginia was January 13, 1798 on the thirty-eight and three-quarter acre tract that he laid out. The following August 4, he signed over the deed to the town trustees.[5] The town was named after him in his honor.

In 1801, a log cabin was built, which went on to be the home of the future colonel of the 28th Virginia Infantry, Robert Preston[7] and two Virginia governors. The cabin, now known as "Solitude," is the oldest building on the Virginia Tech campus.[8]

According to records of the Post Office Department of the National Archives and Records Administration, the post office was established as "BLACKSBURGH" on April 8, 1827. The name was changed to the current spelling (without the "h") in 1893.[9]

Even though the Methodists had built two cabins to worship in since the town's founding, they did not build a more permanent structure until 1830, when a brick church was constructed.[10] The Presbyterians were the next Christian denomination to build a church within Blacksburg's limits. In 1848 they built their first brick building[11] at 117 South Main Street. Though still standing, this building has not been used as a church for many years.[10] It was once South Main Café,[12] but is currently Cabo Fish Taco.[13] It is also the oldest building on Main Street.[11] The Baptists founded the third oldest church in the town in 1852.[10]

In 1832, Westview Cemetery was established from a few acres of land that were deeded to trustees.[10]

One of the first educational establishments started here was the Blacksburg Female Academy in 1840.[12] The Olin and Preston Institute (re-charted as Preston and Olin Institute in 1869) was a Methodist-sponsored academy established in 1851.[14]

The first bank in Montgomery County, Blacksburg Savings Institution, was established in 1849.[12]

The first newspaper published in Blacksburg was the Montgomery Messenger. Its first issue was released in 1869.[14]

Incorporation and modernization (1871–1951)

In 1871, the village that became known as Blacksburg was incorporated[9] and Thomas W. Jones became the first mayor.[15]

One year later, the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College opened its doors on October 2, 1872 with a faculty of three members.[9] The college grew and became known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, which shortly afterward became informally referred to as Virginia Tech.

A fire-fighting unit was organized within the university in 1899.[10] The town bought its first fire truck 43 years later.[12] The Blacksburg First Aid and Life Saving Crew was founded in 1951 and renamed Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad in as another addition to the growing amount of emergency services.[12]

The first automobile came through the town in 1901. Three years later the train entered Blacksburg from Christiansburg using the Virginia Anthracite & Coal Railroad, which later became known as the "Huckleberry."[16] Traffic in Blacksburg increased sufficiently enough that by January 1913 the town voted against allowing cows to continue to roam in town. The first filling station was opened in 1919 and at the time was the only one between Roanoke, Virginia and Bluefield, West Virginia.[16] The town's first landing strip was built in 1929 and was 1,800 feet (548.64 m) in length. The grass landing strip was given airport status in 1931 and later became Virginia Tech Airport. Local buses began to make their rounds for the first time in 1947.[12]

The town's first theater was built in 1909. It was a precursor to the Lyric Theater on College Avenue.[17]

In the spring of 1935, Main Street was strung with ten street lights from Roanoke Street northward to the top of the hill, where it now intersects the Alumni Mall. By October the town's second stoplight was installed on Main Street at Roanoke Street and was synchronized with the original one at Main and College.[16]

The establishment of official law enforcement began in 1937 when Officer Dave "Highpockets" Sumner became the first Blacksburg police officer. The first police car was purchased nine years later.[12]

Compulsory education and commercialization (1952–1992)

Blacksburg experienced a boost of compulsory education during the second half of the 20th century. Even though there had been a place for secondary education somewhere in town since 1906, it was not until 1952 when the first official location for Blacksburg High School was built on South Main and Eheart Streets. That same year, all high schools in Montgomery County began operating on a twelve-grade basis which is still county policy to this day.[18] Two years later, Blacksburg High School was relocated to a building on South Main Street which eventually became the site of Blacksburg Middle School. The Margaret J. Beeks Elementary School and the Gilbert F. Linkous Elementary School were both completed in 1963 and Harding Avenue Elementary School was built in 1972.[12] Two years later, Blacksburg High School's current spot in town on Patrick Henry Drive was opened in 1974 after 20 years of issues with overcrowding in its previous location.[18] In 2003, a new building for Blacksburg Middle School students was opened on Prices Fork Road adjacent to Kipps Elementary School, leaving the original Blacksburg High School building vacant until it was demolished in the Summer of 2011. A new building for Blacksburg High School students is currently under construction on Prices Fork Road adjacent to Blacksburg Middle School following a partial collapse of the school building located on Patrick Henry Drive due to heavy snow loads and improper construction by the original contractor. The new building is scheduled to open in August of 2013.[19]

Jack Goodwin was appointed the first chief of police by the Blacksburg Town Council in 1954. Jan Olinger was made the first female police officer in 1976.[12]

1958 marked the beginning of the end for the railroad that came to be known as the "Huckleberry." Passenger service came to an end on July 25. On June 30, 1966 the last freight train arrived at the Blacksburg depot. Within 24 hours, the depot was closed, the empty cars were picked up, and the tracks were immediately removed.[16] After years of effort by the citizens of the town a trail was constructed on the former railroad right-of-way and, after years of construction, funding and planning issues the Huckleberry Trail was opened to the public on December 1,1998.

190 years after its original construction, the newly renovated Smithfield Plantation house was re-opened in 1964.[12]

The amount of commercialization in the area began to increase in the mid-1960s. An important opening that occurred was the Corning Glass Works (now called Corning Incorporated) facility in 1964 which is located south of Blacksburg. The Blacksburg Municipal Building on South Main Street was constructed in 1969.[12] Terrace View apartments, the first large student complex, was built in 1970. The Blacksburg Branch of the Montgomery County Library was opened the same year. Ten years later, it was moved into the facility that used to house the Blacksburg Lumber Company on Draper Road. In 1971, Blacksburg ratified a new charter and Montgomery Regional Hospital was built. The University Mall shopping center opened that year as well. During 1981, the Blacksburg Community Center opened. It cost the town $1.2 million to build.[12] By 1988, the New River Valley Mall was opened[16] and the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center had its first ground-breaking ceremony.[14]

After construction of Virginia's portion of Interstate 81 began in 1957, it took about nine years until the segment that ran alongside the town was opened in November 1965.[20] About half that amount of time passed before the U.S. Route 460 bypass opened in 1969.[12]

In the 1970s, Virginia Tech was annexed into the town and other land area was also brought in. The population grew from 9,000 people to 30,000 during this decade.

Replacing the old public bus system, Blacksburg Transit began running in 1983.[21]

Information Age (1993–Present)

Blacksburg is the site of the Blacksburg Electronic Village or BEV, conceived as a computer networking project of Virginia Tech in 1991 and officially born in 1993 as a way to link the town together using the Internet. This project quickly ushered the town into what is being called the Information Age.

In 1994, Kipps Elementary School was opened.[12] By this time, Blacksburg had five elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school.[18]

A newly renovated Blacksburg branch library was opened in 1996.[12]

After 24 years of abandonment and six years of planning and construction, the first phase of the Huckleberry Trail opened in 1996. The second phase of construction was completed in 1998.[12]

On July 8, 1997, ground was broken for the experimental "Smart Road" project. The second phase of construction was completed in 2002.[22] The road is currently closed to the public and used as a research test bed for the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

A National Weather Service office is located in Blacksburg and serves most of southwestern Virginia, southeast West Virginia, and northwest North Carolina.


Overlooking Blacksburg

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 19.89 square miles (51.5 km2) of which 19.89 square miles (51.5 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2), or 0.10%, is water. Blacksburg is 2,080 feet (634 m) above sea level. It is the 15th largest municipality[23] and the largest town in the commonwealth of Virginia.[24]

The Eastern Continental Divide traverses the Virginia Tech/Montgomery Airport.

The tallest building in Blacksburg is Slusher Tower, a twelve story residence hall on the Virginia Tech campus. The building with the highest elevation is actually Lee Hall, another residence hall, which until May 17, 2009 was home to the transmitter of campus radio station WUVT. The tower for WUVT now sits atop Price Mountain.[25]


Due to its elevation, the climate of Blacksburg is either classified as mountain temperate or humid continental (Köppen Cfb or Dfb, respectively). Summers are warm and humid, although significantly cooler than low-elevation places within the state, and winters are generally cool to cold with warm periods. Monthly mean temperatures range from 30.9 °F (−0.6 °C) in January to 71.1 °F (21.7 °C) in July.

Climate data for Blacksburg, Virginia
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 41.1
Average low °F (°C) 20.6
Precipitation inches (mm) 3.37
Snowfall inches (cm) 7.2
trace 0
trace .7
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 11.0 10.3 11.2 11.5 12.9 10.6 12.7 10.2 9.9 8.6 9.4 10.3 128.6
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 2.9 2.8 1.3 .5 0 0 0 0 0 0 .6 1.5 9.6
Source: NOAA (normals, 1971−2000) [26]


Blacksburg is served primarily by US-460 and I-81, both major arteries for travel in the region. The two roads, together with Route 114, US-11, and Route 8 provide the major highway infrastructure for the developing area. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute is currently working with the Virginia Department of Transportation to build the Virginia Smart Road which will connect Blacksburg directly to I-81, thus significantly decreasing the travel time between Blacksburg and its larger metro neighbor, Roanoke. The road, together with the current US-460, will create a loop around Blacksburg, thus alleviating current traffic congestion on US-460 and aiding further development of the area.

Blacksburg Transit (BT) provides bus transportation primarily to and from the campus of Virginia Tech. Students and faculty ride the BT fare free with a flat payment included in the cost of tuition. Virginia Tech subsidizes BT for this service. Transportation is available to anyone for a fee, and during special events the service is often free. Blacksburg Transit also offers shuttle service to non-students on Virginia Tech Football game days for a $5.00 fee to be transported from outlying parking areas to the stadium.[27]

The Smart Way Bus, a regional commuter bus service operated by Valley Metro (Roanoke), provides connecting service between Virginia Tech, downtown Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Virginia, the Roanoke Regional Airport, Roanoke, Virginia, and Lynchburg, Virginia where riders can transfer to Amtrak. Fare is $4.00 one way.

U Car Share, a subsidiary of U-Haul, offers a carsharing service around the Virginia Tech campus.

The Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport serves Blacksburg and the Virginia Tech campus for general aviation.


As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 42,620 people, 15,342 households, and 4,777 families residing in the town, of which 23,895, or 60%, were college students.[28] The population density was 2,044.2 people per square mile (789.2/km²). There were 13,732 housing units at an average density of 709.4 per square mile (273.9/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 84.39% White, 7.80% Asian, 4.39% African American, 0.11% Native American 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.90% from other races, and 2.36% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.32% of the population.

The Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes the town of Christiansburg, the independent city of Radford, and all of Montgomery, Pulaski, and Giles counties has an estimated population of 157,614 and is currently one of the faster growing MSAs in Virginia.

There were 13,162 households out of which 16.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 28.7% were married couples living together, 5.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 63.7% were non-families. 26.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 3.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.79.

In the town the population was spread out with 9.7% under the age of 18, 57.4% from 18 to 24, 18.9% from 25 to 44, 9.2% from 45 to 64, and 4.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 22 years. For every 100 females there are 127.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 129.7 males.

The median household income was $22,513 and the median income for a family was $51,810. Males had a median income of $37,129 versus $24,321 for females. The per capita income for the town was $13,946. About 15.9% of families and 43.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.7% of those under the age of 18 and 6.1% of those 65 and older.

About 87% of the town's residents have in-home Internet access with 65% using a broadband connection.[23]

Eighty-five percent of the community has a college education.[23]


The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center is home to several companies of varying sizes including VTLS, Honeywell, and the National Weather Service which maintains its Southwestern Virginia headquarters there. The town is also home to MOOG, a major contractor for the defense department and the health care industry and Rackspace's Email and Apps Division (formerly Mailtrust and The town and county continue to recruit major industry to the area. Due to its close proximity to Virginia Tech and Radford University, Blacksburg is an ideal location for developing high tech industry.

Notable natives

Points of interest

Blacksburg is the home of Virginia Tech

Annual town events

  • The International Street Fair & Parade held in Blacksburg takes place on the first Saturday of every April. Over 110 countries are represented by the student body of Virginia Tech and individuals from the community during the festival. College Avenue is closed for food and craft booths and the stage features an eclectic mix of melodies and musical performances from around the world.[31]
  • Steppin' Out, the town's first annual street festival, has taken place on the first Friday and Saturday of every August since 1976 when it was known as the Deadwood Days Summer Festival.[12] The festival's name was changed in 1980. Steppin' Out features over 150 artists and crafts people from around the United States selling unique handcrafted items, local merchants holding final clearance sidewalk sales, local restaurants selling food through outdoor vending, multiple stages for live performances, and fun for the entire family. The area from North Main Street and Alumni Mall (sometimes even more to the north) to South Main Street and Roanoke Street and Draper Road and Lee Street is designated for the festival. The Draper Mile Run, which was started in 1982, is a one-mile (1.6 km) road race for runners of all ages that is held annually during the first evening of the festival.[32]


  1. ^ U.S. Census Bureau, State & County QuickFacts: Blacksburg (town), Virginia
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ "Table 1. Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008 (CBSA-EST2008-01)" (CSV). 2008 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2009-03-19. Retrieved 2011-10-19. 
  5. ^ a b c Blacksburg: A Brief Early History | Virginia Tech
  6. ^ a b Historic Smithfield: History and Research Resources
  7. ^ Robert Preston papers
  8. ^ Solitude
  9. ^ a b c Virginia Tech's 125th Anniversary: Blacksburg Was Incorporated Year Before Virginia Tech Opened Doors
  10. ^ a b c d e A Special Place for 200 Years: Blacksburg Social Life and Customs
  11. ^ a b Blacksburg Presbyterian: BPC History.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Blacksburg Bicentennial: Timeline
  13. ^ New River Valley Dining Guide - Blacksburg Restaurants in Blacksburg Virginia
  14. ^ a b c A Special Place for 200 Years: Business and Industry in Blacksburg
  15. ^ A Special Place for 200 Years: Blacksburg's Mayors and the Evolution of Town Government
  16. ^ a b c d e A Special Place For 200 Years: Blacksburg Transported
  17. ^ History of Lyric
  18. ^ a b c A Special Place for 200 Years: Blacksburg Educates Its Children
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ Economic Development History of Interstate 81 in Virginia
  21. ^ Blacksburg Transit - BT History
  22. ^ History of the Smart Road
  23. ^ a b c Campus & Town Guide: Virginia Tech and the Town of Blacksburg.
  24. ^ Welcome to Blacksburg! | Virginia Tech
  25. ^ WUVT to Operate at Reduced Power Starting Sunday
  26. ^ "Climatography of the United States No. 20 1971−2000: BLACKSBURG, VA" (PDF). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2011−02−05. 
  27. ^ [2]
  28. ^ U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder: DP-2. Profile of Selected Social Characteristics: 2000
  29. ^ Google CEO gives Va. Tech $2 million -
  30. ^ Lyric Theatre website
  31. ^ downtownBLACKSBURG.COM Events
  32. ^ downtownBLACKSBURG.COM Steppin' Out

External links

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