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Old Posted Mar 6, 2017, 5:26 PM
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Roanoke, a small city that punches above its weight

Roanoke, Virginia

Roanoke has about 200,000 people in its urbanized area, making it about the same size as Amarillo TX, Evansville IN, or York PA. It's not a large city. But it's an important regional center, with oversized influence.

Roanoke is the largest city in Virginia that's outside the state's so-called "Urban Crescent," the southerly extension of the Northeast Corridor from Washington through Richmond to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, where all the state's major metropolitan areas are located.



Because of the geographic separation between the Urban Crescent and the rest of Virginia, the state sort of functions as two separate states. Roanoke would be the capital of the western rural part.

And although it's small on its own, if it were combined with nearby Blacksburg and Lynchburg, the overall population of that south-central Virginia metropolitan area would be a respectable three-quarter million.

Although small, Roanoke's urbanity easily goes toe-to-toe, and arguably beats, bigger nearby Carolina cities like Winston-Salem or Raleigh. It doesn't have as many new skyscrapers, but on the ground it's at least as walkable, if not more so.

Here's the classic view of the city, viewed from a city park atop a nearby mountain. Every Roanoke thread includes this view.




On the left, 320-foot Wells Fargo tower, tallest building in the city. To the top right, St. Andrews Catholic church. Between them, the locally-famous Hotel Roanoke.




Hotel Roanoke:


Hotel Roanoke by Kurt Konrad via Flickr. Unless otherwise noted, all other photos & graphics in the thread are mine.


Roanoke's raison d'être: Railroads.








Let's go downtown.


















The best part about downtown is Market Square, where the old Roanoke City Market building fronts on a public square, which is itself lined by vendor kiosks and adorable shops. It's a solid place to wander.

Most of these pictures, unfortunately, are not from a busy (or well-lit) time of day.














Two miles west of downtown is Grandin Village, Roanoke's only other walkable commercial area.










The city's residential neighborhoods are almost entirely detached houses. Richmond has rowhouses, but Roanoke and Norfolk generally don't. The James River seems to be about the southern limit of rowhouse country.






Usually when I do a photo tour of a city, I talk a lot about its transit. There's not much in Roanoke to show. There's a local bus system with daily ridership about 8,500 (respectable for a city this size but nothing to write home about), and a terribly unpleasant subterranean downtown terminal.






Amtrak will begin serving Roanoke this fall, but as of today you can't yet use it.




When Amtrak does begin, Roanoke will only have a platform, not an actual station. It'll be right in the center of downtown, but outside. There are talks about building a new combined rail station and bus terminal, which if built will be a lot nicer.

But Roanoke does have a great transportation museum, with old trains, cars, and more.














Goodbye from Roanoke!


Downtown Roanoke via Google's 3D imagery. Unless otherwise noted, all other photos & graphics in the thread are mine.
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Last edited by Cirrus; Mar 7, 2017 at 3:20 AM.
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  #2  
Old Posted Mar 6, 2017, 7:06 PM
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Cool pics and nice looking city..Kudos.

This is what I find fascinating about a bigger country like the States.
I never even heard of this place.You have so many under the radar metros in the 200k range.Most people up here are well aware of all the Canadian metros that same size.
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Old Posted Mar 6, 2017, 7:19 PM
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Great looking little city in a beautiful geographic setting.
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Old Posted Mar 6, 2017, 8:01 PM
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very nice. and so clean too. i'm sorry to say i've only barrelled thru town around there. it looks well worth visiting and exploring.
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Old Posted Mar 6, 2017, 8:03 PM
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Wow, never really researched Roanoke before, looks pretty sick. I would love to live in Virginia someday, out of any state it has the most history and most of the towns in the eastern half of the state are gorgeous and very well preserved. I haven't done any traveling around the western part of the state, I've heard its way more run down and West Virginiaesque.
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Old Posted Mar 6, 2017, 8:12 PM
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Nice pictures! I know about Roanoke because its companion, Salem, hosts a fellow Carolina League team. It looks a little more modern and prosperous than Lynchburg, another Carolina League city.
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Old Posted Mar 6, 2017, 8:35 PM
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Nice photo tour.

I wouldn't be sure that Roanoke didn't have rowhouses in the past. The Hampton Roads area certainly used to have them. You can find them in Portsmouth (Olde Towne) and in small portions of Norfolk where urban renewal didn't destroy them. I've even seen them in Lynchburg. The core of Roanoke may just have been so urban renewed during the 20th century that the 19th century residential fabric was erased. Looks that way to me anyway - the oldest homes are all streetcar suburb era.
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Old Posted Mar 6, 2017, 10:20 PM
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^
I said "generally." You may find one or two, but there are no neighborhoods full of them. Even Freemason is mostly either detached or newer buildings. Contrast that with Richmond which has The Fan. It's a material difference.
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Old Posted Mar 7, 2017, 2:16 AM
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I used to race bikes in the area. I remember Roanoke appearing down the hills and being glad the sufferfest was over.
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Old Posted Mar 7, 2017, 2:51 AM
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Nice shots! Great setting for a city.
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Old Posted Mar 7, 2017, 4:24 AM
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neat looking little city. kinda makes me think of chattanooga actually, going by these pics
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Old Posted Mar 7, 2017, 1:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
^
I said "generally." You may find one or two, but there are no neighborhoods full of them. Even Freemason is mostly either detached or newer buildings. Contrast that with Richmond which has The Fan. It's a material difference.
Sorry to get pedantic, but The Fan isn't mostly rowhouses. It's mostly detached or semiattached houses which have a few feet between them, though stands of true rowhouses are mixed in (essentially the same building typology you see in some older parts of Saint Louis or Cincinnati). It's not appreciably more dense structurally than the older parts of Ghent in Norfolk. I do agree though that due to the housing style The Fan is more likely to be "read" as continual street wall when on the sidewalk.

Regardless, I love the older elements of all of Virginia's cities.
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Old Posted Mar 7, 2017, 5:21 PM
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Ha, we're having a pedantic discussion; no need to apologize. Anyway, hm, I hadn't noticed that. So I'm looking at it on Google Maps now it looks like the eastern end of The Fan has several continuous blocks of majority attached rowhouses, which taper off as you move west to become majority detached. By the time you get as far west as the Lee Memorial, it's mostly detached. So you're right, the majority of The Fan is detached. But even so, just that eastern end is significantly bigger than Freemason.

I still think that if we had to draw a boundary for rowhouse country, the James River is the place to draw it.
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Old Posted Mar 7, 2017, 5:31 PM
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Ah... The Asheville of Virginia. What a delight to see. You should note the Taubman Art Museum in downtown. All that historic architecture and then BAM! -- Something that looks like Bilbao's punk little sister.
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Old Posted Mar 7, 2017, 9:18 PM
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Very nice tour along a litlle picturesque town like Roanoke!
But you have not shown us any photo about the famous Roanoke's Star. Did you visit it? I have read it is the world's largest freestanding illuminated man-made star.
Thanks for the tour and greetings from Madrid, Spain.
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Old Posted Mar 8, 2017, 12:43 AM
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It's great seeing Roanoke. Neighboring Lynchburg, with its beautiful hills, is worth visiting, too.

Winston-Salem does have rowhouses and had more before expressway construction and demolitions in the 1950s/60s. Even Union Station's grand entrance had rowhouses. Old postcards of the 1784 Tavern show Queen Anne rowhouses that once stood next to the old Tavern. Of those that survived, most were converted to other uses. The area between the cemetery and today's government district had several rowhouses from Baltimore architect Charles L. Carson. Sadly, only five units survived. This pocket neighborhood was likely the closest North Carolina had to a rowhouse neighborhood and they were used as 1890s infill in a neighborhood of houses built between 1820 and 1860. Winston-Salem did have several blocks of housing, with no space between the homes, to the east-northeast of downtown, likely with shared walls, but all of them were demolished for the John Gold Expressway. The best "current" collection of pre-1915 rowhouses are likely in downtown's Village District? Half of them were converted to retail in the 1950s. One of the structures is perfectly restored and has appeared in movies. Another rowhouse building is at risk of demolition for a possible 9-15 storey building. Winston-Salem also took it to the next level, with a high-rise apartment tower on the skyline in Fall 1928. The Roger L. Stevens Center for the Performing Arts was originally an apartment tower with silent movie theatre, cafe, and rooftop garden.
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Old Posted Mar 9, 2017, 5:13 AM
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I only spent 1 year of my life in Virginia after I was born, but I have returned many times for family events in the Richmond area. I love my birthplace only second to my California!
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