Historic Hotel Roanoke at Christmas Time

The Hotel Roanoke, with it’s stucco, Tudor style construction, plus its central location in the midst of the City of Roanoke, Virginia, is not only a popular photo attraction, but also host to thousands of visitors who come to this great city, located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here is a bit of the hotel’s history.

It was built in 1882 by the Norfolk and Western Railway (now part of the Norfolk Southern Railway), which had recently constructed its administrative offices in the city, bringing in over a thousand railroad workers. It officially opened on Christmas Day, 1882. In July, 1898, a fire started in the kitchen which shut down the hotel for several months. The hotel was reopened in January, 1899, restored with a few additions. The next major renovation took place in 1938, remodeling the hotel to have a more Tudor look. Additional new wings were added in 1947 and 1955.

In 1989, Norfolk Southern deeded the Hotel Roanoke to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) for $65,000 (USD). After the flag lowering ceremony on November 30, the hotel was closed. Sale of the contents began and continued for 17 days. In 1992, the “Renew Roanoke” campaign was launched to raise enough money to reopen the hotel. Virginia Tech had set a deadline of December 31, 1992 to have enough money. By late fall, the campaign was still short $1,000,000. In an unprecedented Christmas-time fundraiser, the campaign succeeded, raising $5,006,000. Norfolk Southern then donated an additional $2,000,000; 30 times what it received for the hotel. The Hotel Roanoke reopened in 1995 and still operates today.

South Boston Town Hall

This is one of the most interesting Town Halls I have ever seen. It sits on a street corner in South Boston, Virginia, with its main entrance seen here directed right at the intersection of the two streets. The bottom photo was processed in a way to bring out the color in the building, because the sun was setting right behind the tower window, and that bright light caused the camera to expose on it, versus the lower portion of the building. I won’t go into the details of this process, but for those who understand it’s HDR…high dynamic range processing.

The Way it Used to Be

During the first half of the 20th Century, buildings such as this were very common in rural towns and cities. Farmers brought their goods to be processed into various products, and these businesses were usually located next to rail lines for movement of goods elsewhere. I found this old “feed and seed” building in Halifax, Virginia….adjacent to the Norfolk and Southern rail line.

I also saw this antique scale which weighed products…usually large bags of feed or flour. Standing next to it I could almost feel farmers behind me in line yelling for me to hurry up so they could go about their own business.

A Lonesome RR Track

If you have been looking at my blog for awhile, you will know that I like trains and train tracks. I positioned myself right in the center of the tracks to get this composition, and about ten minutes later a long, fast Norfolk & Southern RR train came rushing by right where I was standing earlier. I stylized this image in my digital darkroom to give it a “dark” look, which I felt made my “lonesome” title more meaningful. If you look closely in the distance you will see a rise in the elevation of the track. I would never have noticed had I not been standing where I was.

Simple Column

In my prior post I mentioned the Halifax County Virginia Court House. (bottom photo) Here’s a photo at the top I made of one of its large front columns. This type of architecture is very common in the south…especially pertaining to court houses and other government-type buildings. What interests me the most when I wander around looking for photo opportunities near where we live is the history of these sorts of structures, and to help me in that regard there is usually a posted sign or plaque nearby that spells it all out. This region of the Commonwealth retains much of the same character it had back during the early 20th Century. Perhaps that’s why I love living here. Sadly, many Virginians living up in the northern part of state know very little about that past…and sadder still the present. When asked where we live by friends up in Northern Virginia, for example, some say, “Where’s Martinsville?” When we answer, “It’s a bit south of Roanoke”, some ask again, “Where’s Roanoke?” Then after we explain patiently again, some say, “Why in the world do you want to live down there?” To each their own.

Stairs in the Window

Looking at the Halifax County Virginia Court House…circa 1838…I saw stairs inside one of the large front windows and thought it would make a nice photograph. Halifax County has some of the nicest historical buildings in Southern Virginia. The Towns of South Boston and Halifax are still relatively vibrant in terms of commercial activity and that makes for an interesting visit, not only for photography but for shopping too.