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Historic Lynchburg

The History of Lynchburg, Part 2

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Sandusky Plantation

Sandusky Plantation

This month we are continuing with the history of Lynchburg, starting in 1864.

During the Civil War, Lynchburg served primarily as a supply and hospital center, and was spared most of the destruction that befell other Virginia cities and towns.  The Battle of Lynchburg was fought on June 18, 1864 Confederate forces successfully fought off a Union attack.  After inconclusive fighting the Union troops withdrew under the false impression they were fighting a very large Confederate force.  Part of the deception arose from the continuous series of train movements on several rail lines, giving the impression that reinforcements were arriving at a steady pace.

In September 1870, Lynchburg experienced its worst flood in history when the James River rose 26 feet above its banks.  The flood destroyed all bridges across the river, all railroad property in the river basin and on the island, the main gas pipe across Blackwater Creek and the water works pump house, leaving the city without water for months.  A similar flood occurred in 1877, again destroying all bridges over the James River.

Following Reconstruction, Lynchburg entered a period of prosperity.  Iron works, blast furnaces and steel mills fueled the growth.  Railroads eliminated the need for the canal system.  By 1800 the population reached 15,000.  Also in 1880 work began on a street railway system, whose initial purpose was to facilitate transportation from downtown to Miller Park.

By the beginning of the 20th century Lynchburg was well-underway in its evolution from a tobacco-based economy into a manufacturing one.  A large number of factories opened, some of which are still in business today.  In 1882, Lynchburg Foundry-today known as Griffin Pipe.  In 1888 Lynchburg Cotton Mill.  Also in 1888 Craddock-Terry Shoe Company, which became Lynchburg’s largest industry and the largest shoe manufacturer in the south-it was in business until the 1960’s.

Lynchburg’s wealth helped to transform itself into a modern city.  Houses were built in the Diamond Hill and Rivermont areas of the city.  In 1894 the Lynchburg Hill Climbers brought baseball to the city.  In 1907 a 21-mile wooded pipe system was laid to Pedlar Lake, which to this day, serves as the city’s primary water source.

Randolph College, formerly Randolph Macon Women's College

Randolph College, formerly Randolph Macon Women’s College

The arts and education also flourished during this time.  Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (1891), Sweet Briar (1901) and Lynchburg College (1903) were founded.  The Academy of Music opened in 1905, replacing the Lynchburg Opera House as the city’s premiere theater.  The Jones Memorial Library opened as a public library in 1907.

Rendering of the restored 1905 Academy of Fine Arts scheduled to reopen in 2018

Rendering of the restored 1905 Academy of Fine Arts scheduled to reopen in 2018

The First World War saw many of Lynchburg’s men in the military.  The city’s industries supplied the war effort.  A Red Cross-operated canteen served troop trains at the Southern Railroad station, giving the city the nickname Lunchburg.  In 1930 the first radio station started broadcasting, WLVA.  The first airport was constructed in 1931.  Side-by-side football and baseball stadiums were built on a former fair ground.

Since the 1950’s, Lynchburg has evolved from a small, tightly-knit manufacturing city to one with a diverse economy, with most residents living in the surrounding suburbs.  This transformation began in 1955 when Babcock and Wilcox (nuclear technology) and General Electric opened plants in the city, bringing in an influx of new residents.  In the 1960’s the city’s first shopping center, Pittman Plaza, opened.  The new shopping center signaled the end of the original downtown area as a retail center.

Since the early 2000’s downtown Lynchburg has transformed itself again.  Numerous restaurants, shops, commercial businesses and almost 800 residents call downtown home!  If you haven’t dined at a downtown restaurant you are missing out on delicious food.  Shopping with small, local businesses brings unique and oftentimes handmade products.  The Community Market continues to service the city with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and flowers, along with artisan cheeses and an assortment of yummy baked goods.

In the coming months we will concentrate on local businesses and commercial endeavors found in downtown Lynchburg as well as just outside of the official city limits.

Historic Churches of Lynchburg

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Historic Churches of Lynchburg

Historic Churches of Lynchburg

On Saturday, December, between 10 until 2, the Interfaith Outreach Association will be hosting the Downtown Lynchburg Historic Church Open House.  Nine churches, within a 5 block area of downtown Lynchburg, VA, will be open for tours.  In addition to touring the churches each church will be presenting musical performances throughout the tour time as well as a silent auction.

The participating historic churches of Lynchburg are:

  • Court Street Baptist
  • Court Street United Methodist
  • First Unitarianimg_8146-1
  • First Baptist
  • St. Paul’s Episcopal
  • Holy Cross Catholic
  • Diamond Hill Baptist
  • Eighth Street Baptist
  • Jackson Street United Methodist
Historic Churches

Historic Churches

Some interesting facts about a few of the churches on tour follow:

Court Street Baptist: was organized in 1843.  It holds the distinction of being the “mother church” of all Black Baptist Churches in Lynchburg.  The renowned architect R.C. Burkholder designed this church. Its spire is the tallest object on the downtown skyline, 167 feet above ground level.  The copper ball on the top of the spire is 9 1/2 feet in circumference.

Court Street United Methodist: was organized in 1849.  This church is considered the “mother church of Methodism” in Lynchburg.  Known for its music, the second pipe organ in Lynchburg was installed in 1866.  A Midday Music Series is performed from May through September with area organists and instrumentalists as well as guest organists from other cites and states.

St. Paul’s Episcopal:  St. Paul’s crèche and angels memorialize and honor loved ones.  From Advent until the Epiphany they are remembered in the prayers of the Parish.  Children of the Parish add a small stone or some moss to help in the creation of the crèche scene.  At the beginning of Advent the precipio are atop the columns throughout the nave.  Each week they make their way to the manger.  On Christmas Eve a child carries the baby Jesus as part of the procession and places him in the manger.

Diamond Hill Baptist:  founded in 1872.  The late Rev. Haywood Robinson, Jr. was the longest tenured Pastor having served this house of Zion for 36 years, from July 1964 until his retirement in 2000.  Close relationship with Virginia Seminary (currently the Virginia University of Lynchburg) many ministers have been ordained here.

Historic Churches

img_2064-1Eighth Street Baptist:  grew out of Church Street Baptist.  Dedicated in 1899.  The interior is reflective of the worship practices of the late nineteenth century Protestant congregations.  It is an auditorium church with sloping floors and carved pews facing a shallow chancel.

Tickets to the tour can be purchased via cash or check at the Lynchburg Visitor Center, Depot Grille, Boonsboro Pok-E-Joes, Aylor’s Farm Store or the Outreach Association Office at 701 Clay Street.  Adult tickets are $20.00.  For more information contact the association at 434.846.6098.

All proceeds form the tour benefit the Outreach Association programs.  These include Emergency Assistance, Emergency Heating Assistance for the Elderly, Furniture and Furnishings for abused women, Interfaith Building and Vision Information Programs.

The History of Lynchburg-Part 1

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Point of Honor

Point of Honor, the home of Dr. George Cabell

This month we are going to start a series of blog posts entitled “the History of Lynchburg”.  Each month we will post about the general history of our city, the history of businesses and places found in our city, the different historic districts and some of their houses or the historic churches found in downtown Lynchbburg.  This month we will begin with an overview of Lynchburg, Virginia, from the mid-1750’s until the beginning of the Civil War.

During the mid-1750’s the village of New London, just west of today’s Lynchburg, was an important trading center, however, it was difficult to reach from northern towns due to the necessity of fording the Fluvanna (now James) River, which was 12 miles north of the village.

John Lynch, son of land-owner Charles Lynch and his wife, Quaker, Sarah Clark Lynch, decided to remedy this problem.  In 1757 he established a ferry service on the river.  The ferry service was profitable for many years and by the end of the American Revolution the village at Lynch’s Ferry had become an important center of trade.  Lynch saw the possibilities of establishing a town on the hill overlooking the ferry site, and in late 1784 petitioned the General Assembly of Virginia for a town charter.  The charter was granted in October, 1786, thus founding Lynchburg.

The town of Lynchburg grew slowly between 1786 and 1800, with the addition of tobacco warehouses, a few stores, homes, taverns, a Masonic Lodge and one small church.  The first newspaper was published in 1798.  In 1799 the first efforts to supply the town with water from area springs and wells began.

On January 10, 1805 the town was incorporated.  By 1810 the town now included additional tobacco warehouses, groceries, tanneries, blacksmiths and druggists.  The first church was built in 1806 by the Methodists.

poplar forest

Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest

Also in 1806 Thomas Jefferson began the construction of his home, “Poplar Forest,’ just west of Lynchburg.  The construction continued for several years, during which time Jefferson used the home as a retreat from visitors to Monticello.

In 1815, Dr. George Cabell, who owned a point of land (in then Campbell County) adjoining the city of Lynchburg built his home “Point of Honor” (see blog post 7)/14/14.  This historic district is today known as Daniel’s Hill (see blog post 4/8/14) and is the historic district where The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast is located.

By the early 1800’s tobacco was the city’s major economy, with numerous warehouses processing and then shipping the tobacco to Richmond via river bateaux (see blog post 6/20/10).  The beginning of the Salem Turnpike (today’s Route 460 between Lynchburg and Roanoke) was begun in 1817.  A toll bridge across the James River was also built in 1817 into Amherst County, at the original ferry site at 9th Street.

Post card of the Clay Street Reservoir

Post card of the Clay Street Reservoir

During the 1820’s the town accomplished a major engineering feat with the construction of a water works system which drew water from the river.  A reservoir was constructed at the corner of 7th and Clay Streets (you can still see it today) along with wooded pipes and a pump house at the rivers edge near the bottom of 7th Street.

Post card of old canal and shoe factory-Downtown Lynchburg

Post card of old canal and shoe factory-Downtown Lynchburg

By 1840 the James River and Kanawha Canal was completed, which allowed packet boats to operate between Lynchburg and Richmond.  People, tobacco and other goods were shipped up and down the river.  On March 24, 1848 the city of Lynchburg incorporated the Lynchburg and Tennessee Railroad.  Property at the old ferry site was purchased to build a depot.  Construction began in 1850 and on February 18, 1852 the railroad’s first locomotive, the “Virginia,” was tested.

The 1850’s saw many exciting and new developments in the city.  Telegraph service to Richmond began.  Gas works for lighting and a sewer system enhanced the residents and business owners homes and offices.  A third railroad started running into Lynchburg.  More and more people were moving into Lynchburg, as it was becoming a thriving southern city.

Next month we will continue this series with more history about Lynchburg from the 1860’s until the 1960’s.



Lynchburg Design House 2016

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Lynchburg Design House

Lynchburg Design House, 2016

Again this year the YWCA is going to showcase local designers, contractors, vendors and small businesses in the YWCA Lynchburg Design House.  The designers and contractors will be redesigning and redecorating rooms, using their skills and the latest design techniques, to transform an ordinary house into an extraordinary one.  Each designer or contractor will utilize paint, fabric, furniture and accessories for a total makeover.  You, as a guest visitor, will be able to see the work and vision of these talented people.  You will see color choices and color schemes, furniture choices and placement along with rugs, artwork and accessories to make the room shine.  Almost everything in the house is for sale!

In addition to touring the magnificent house this year’s special events include a fashion show, a mother-daughter tea and a bridal show.  A preview party provides an opportunity to meet all of the participating designers who will be showing off their room and their work.  In addition to the special events there will be an on-site boutique and Christmas shop, sponsored by the Farm Basket.

All of the proceeds from this event, put on solely by volunteers, directly supports the YWCA mission and programs, with special attention to the Domestic Violence Prevention Center.

This year’s house is located at 1418 Harrison Street, in Diamond Hill.  Known as the Kean-Jackson House it was built in 1855.  The style is Gothic Revival.  R. G. H. Kean was the head of the Bureau of War for the Confederacy and was married to Thomas Jefferson’s great grand-daughter.

The Design House will be open Saturday, November 12 through Sunday, December 4, at various times Thursdays through Sundays.  The special events will be held on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  The house is also available for community groups for events of their own.

For more information contact Caroline Hudson at 434.847.7751 or

The Quartermaster’s Glanders Stable

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Quartermaster's Glanders Stable

Quartermaster’s Glanders Stable at Old City Cemetery

As you may know we have been posting blogs about Lynchburg, Virginia’s Old City Cemetery since the beginning of the year.  We are almost at the end of highlighting a different part or aspect of this unique, historical and widely visited corner of Lynchburg.

This month we are featuring the Quartermaster’s Glanders Stable.  Although the Quartermaster’s stable, that housed the thousands of horses and mules essential to the operation of the Civil War was actually located at the “fairgrounds” (which included the present E.C.Glass High School campus) it is represented and presented on the grounds of the Old City Cemetery.

Lynchburg was one of the four quartermaster depots for the Confederacy.  The depot’s main function was to supply General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia with the necessary horses and mules needed to conduct the war effort.  Over a 15 month period, of the 6,875 horses stabled in Lynchburg, only 1000 were sent into the field.  Almost 3,000 died, 449 were shot and the remainder were unfit for service.  The great glandes epizootic was affecting the horses, mules and even humans.  The stable allowed for innovative medical research on the disease and how it was affecting the cavalry horses.

What is glanders?  The respiratory disease, which causes major respiratory distress and death, was a virus spread at watering troughs and in unhealthy stable conditions where the horses were prone to nuzzle.  Infected mucus was easily passed from one animal to another as horses use their noses and the sense of smell to identify and communicate with one another.  There was no cure.

Quartermaster's Glanders Stable

Horse Trough at Old City Cemetery

Doctor Terrell and Doctor Page studied 19 horses stricken with glanders, conducting postmortem examinations at various stages of the disease’s progression.  They also intentionally transmitted the disease from a sick horse to a healthy one, sacrificing it 33 days later to study its advanced and terminal symptoms.

Prevention of the disease was the only solution to controlling the epidemic.  Horses and mules were placed in uncrowded, well-ventilated stables, which introduced good sanitation and a healthy diet.  The animals no longer used communal watering troughs.  Any infected animals were destroyed.  The ancient disease known as glanders was not completely eradicated until 1934.

Placed on the cemetery grounds, across the street from the Chapel and Columbarium, is a marker describing this important contribution to veterinary medicine.  Dr. John Jay Terrell, a Quaker, is mentioned.  He helped eradicate smallpox, in humans at the Pest House (blog post 1/12/16), and eradicate the spread of glanders in the animals who served a very important role in the war.

Ghosts of Lynchburg

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Ghosts of Lynchburg

Ghosts of Lynchburg

It’s that time again, time to meet some of the ghosts of Lynchburg during their annual  ghost walk in historic Lynchburg.

This years Ghosts of Historic Lynchburg walk will be held in the historic district known as Federal Hill.  Federal Hill became Lynchburg’s first residential suburb, until it was annexed in 1814 and again in 1819 when it became part of the town’s jurisdiction.  One of the smallest and most compact historic districts the houses range in styles from Federal, Greek Revival, Colonial Revival and Queen Anne, plus a few Second Empire.

Federal Street defines the center of this district.  Because of the topography some of the streets have never opened or surprisingly dead-end at a bluff or cliff and are picked back up a block or two away at a higher or lower elevation.

Federal Hill has always been a popular residential area.  Close enough to downtown for the residents to easily access shops, businesses and restaurants.  Closer still to the churches that line Court Street for Sunday worship.

The tour will be held on October 20, 21 and 22, 2016, starting at 6:30 pm.  Tours begin about every 20 minutes.  Tickets will be sold each evening starting at 6:00 pm, with a limited number of tickets each evening.  Tickets are $10 each.  There will not be any rain dates.  This tour is primarily on sidewalks and streets, but there will be uneven areas and walking up and down hills.  The tour will start and end at 1101 Federal Street, which is also the place to purchase tickets.

Even if you have toured this neighborhood before the stories vary from year to year.  We will see you there!

The event is put on by the Lynchburg Historical Foundation and is sponsored by Whitten Funeral Home.  If you are from out of town and need a place to stay after touring the haunted streets, give us a call.  We would be happy to put you up for the evening at The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast.