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Encyclopedia > Roanoke, VA

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 money.

The town of Big Lick was chartered in 1874. It became the town of Roanoke in 1882 and the 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 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 US Civil War, William Mahone, 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.

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 & Western, Kimball and his board of directors selected a small Virginia village called Big Lick, on the Roanoke River. The small town was renamed Roanoke in 1884.

Kimball, whose interest in geology was responsible for the opening of the Pocahontas coalfields in western Virginia and West Virginia, pushed NW 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 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 company was famous for manufacturing steam locomotive 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 to convert from steam to diesel motive power. However, several of its famous steam engines, including J class # 611 and A class # 128 are now on display at the Virginia Museum of Transportation (http://www.vmt.org) in Roanoke.

Today, Roanoke is famous for its Chili Cook-Off and Strawberry Festival.


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


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 94,911 people, 42,003 households, and 24,235 families residing in the city. The population density is 854.6/km˛ (2,213.2/mi˛). There are 45,257 housing units at an average density of 407.5/km˛ (1,055.3/mi˛). 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.

External links

City of Roanoke Homepage (http://www.roanokeva.gov/)

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  Results from FactBites:
Roanoke, Virginia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (3519 words)
Roanoke Regional Airport is located in the northern part of the city and is the primary airport for Southwest Virginia.
Roanoke is the media hub for much of the western half of Virginia and parts of southern West Virginia.
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.
Roanoke, Virginia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (3519 words)
Roanoke's past two mayoral elections, in 2000 and 2004, have also been competitive three way races in which independent Delvis "Mac" McCadden ran against the nominees of the major parties.
The immediate Roanoke area has a low unemployment rate, but a brain drain of workers unable to find jobs and underemployment are often cited as explanations.
Roanoke and Lynchburg are grouped in the same television market, which currently ranks #68 in the United States with 440,398 households.
  More results at FactBites »



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