Looking for History, A pictorial Walk on Main Street, Lynchburg Virginia

Lynchburg, just another Southern university town?

Lynchburg Virginia is actually just another small town in the South that is searching for an identity and a path for it's future growth.

It's even a little funny, when you think about it, but many of the local residents have kept their head in the sand over just what Lynchburg is today.

You see Lynchburg is the home of a major university; Liberty University.

I really don't need to get into this fact too far other than to say that this popular university has tens of thousands of students, that attend the school on site, along with probably just as many that study through the school's excellent online study and degree programs.

So, if you stand back and take an unbiased view of Lynchburg today, it's a "College Town", pure and simple. It's quite noticeable that the town's population, is split essentially into two factions; the locals, and the young university student body.

This phenomenal growth of Liberty University over the past several decades has sparked a lot of growth in construction; of roads, of apartments, of homes, of restaurants, and all of the other support industries that a young and active population demands.

This growth has sparked changes that, although good for the immediate economy, can be destructive to some of those things that make a small town an enchanting place to live.

The Academy of Arts

The historic Academy building on Main Street.
The historic Academy building on Main Street. | Source

Absence does make the Heart grow Fonder

Lynchburg is also my hometown.

I haven’t actually lived here, in Lynchburg Virginia, for over twenty years, but I do have family there and a few remaining friends who are still kicking around.

So naturally, I end up traveling back to town a couple of times each year to; see my family, recharge my batteries as a Southern boy, and honestly, to just go see the remaining memories of my childhood.

The interesting thing is that ver the past twenty plus years, and after moving further and further away from these roots of mine, I have found that my personal perspective on the town, it's history and it’s people has evolved.

This evolution has been more obvious to me, I guess, because I am rarely here and the changes are so visible to me, when I do make a return trip.

Circa 1865, Ninth and Main

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Planned Change versus Change for the sake of Change

And because I am rarely here, I am see some things, things I always felt were unique and even beautiful jewels unique to my old hometown that are disappearing with every visit I make.

Sure, in the eyes of the casual observer, some of these, what I would call jewels, are determined to be just; old buildings, or expensive facades, or cobblestone streets, or vibrant parks, or other such things whose useful life has been long over and need to be cleaned up or eliminated to allow for the future growth of the area.

But also, sad as it is to say, some of the missing and fading buildings and other sights, in this hometown of mine, are, or were in their own way, very unique and you would have thought they were also important enough to the area’s history to be worth preserving for posterity.

Oh, I’m sure there are some dedicated preservation committees and other groups who work very hard to preserve what is left of Lynchburg’s architectural uniqueness. And we should not only applaud them but give them our support, in their endeavors.

Of course, the problem with too many of the local residents who are going about their daily lives, are heedless of the changes, just don’t seem to pay a lot of attention to the subtle losses of their historic inheritance.

That is, unless the changes are harmful to them, personally.

Interesting Architecture

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Photography for Beginners Simple Guide

Things I love about my small Hometown

One of my old habits is, whenever I come back to town, I often take a day or two to explore sections of the old downtown and some of the surrounding areas, just looking to see what is new, what has disappeared and what is being repaired.

OK no, I may not be a resident, but I spent the first thirty or so years of my life growing up here and I do have a fondness for so many of the small things I feel should be around for others to enjoy, years from now.

I love the things that were built to last.

I love special architecture that someone took the time to design and build just for it’s uniqueness.

I love hand laid stones and walls of handmade bricks, built to do a job and also stand the test of time against the elements.

i love buildings, the beautiful and the ugly, that have stood against the vagaries of time, weather and politics and still stand on their firm foundations and say; “look at me”.

I loved riding the city bus to downtown theaters for the Saturday Matinees, old Westerns and Tarzan were my favorites. Those theaters are now gone.

I loved the occasional Sunday drive through the rich sections of town and my Dad saying "If you work hard, you can own a home like these, yourself!".

I love knowing that the streets I drive on today still have the tracks of a once vibrant city's trolly cars.

I love knowing that there was once a corduroy highway built between Lynchburg and Bedford, that was called corduroy because it was a highway of tree trunks laid down for a road bed.

I love that during the Civil War, Lynchburg had a hospital that treated the wounded of both the Confederate and Union armies. And there is a beautiful Confederate Cemetery within the Old City Cemetery that contains the graves of hundreds of soldiers.

i love that my city once had parks; with exotic flower beds, with picnic areas and fancy gazebos , with manicured paths put there simply for the joy of the walk through the park and with the occasional rare animals displayed for the families of the town to walk past and show their children.

I just love such things that are still in Lynchburg as well as those that are long gone, not for any reason other than because they are or were unique and special to others, now long gone.

And I not only have my personal memories but I have the stories of my family, parents, aunts and uncles, who remembered the great things that were already gone when I was a child, but they were so proud of showing me, while they existed.

An Old Irish Pub on Main Street, reopened.

Kegney's Pub is a family Pub with a history. The owners reopened this old pub and redesigned the inside to be like it was in the original Pub.
Kegney's Pub is a family Pub with a history. The owners reopened this old pub and redesigned the inside to be like it was in the original Pub. | Source

Storefront facade detail

Source

A short walk on Main Street

So, I'll end my ramble right here and because I am in town, and it being a really nice day, my wife and I took a walk on Main Street.

Oh, we didn’t walk the full length of what is officially labeled as Main Street.

No, we walked along a short length of Main Street which was once considered the heart of old Lynchburg, and really the whole Central Virginia area.

When I was a child, back in the fifties; the blocks from below Twelfth Street all the way to Fifth Street were the commercial center for everyone to shop.

I know this doesn’t sound like much of a walk, eight short city blocks, but I did spend a couple of hours on this little excursion of mine.

And, you might ask what was my purpose? Why did I take this walk, anyway?

You see, when I was a child, Lynchburg had no giant indoor malls, no short strip-malls along the streets filled with cheap shops, no restaurant row, no giant supermarkets or especially enormous gas stations with a dozen or more gas pumps.

Back then, Lynchburg had Main Street, and Main Street had; the department stores, the furniture stores, the jewelry stores, the movie theaters, the pawn shops, the pool halls, the banks and the Doctor’s offices, that if you need such things, you went downtown to use.

Well, I had my handy Nikon and I wanted to take some pictures of what was left of my memories.

So you ask again? What was left?

You see, as a town changes, a lot of the architectural uniqueness changes with it.

The whole purpose of my walk was to just get some shots of anything visibly interesting left of the buildings, the doorways, the windows, the stained glass, the wrought iron, just anything unique that has survived so far.

I’m no historian, of course, and especially not any kind of architectural historian, but I can tell when something seems to be grand and has the look of craftsmanship that is hard to find in very many places today.

So, again, my wife and I took a walk, and along the way, I saw a few things I believe someone might think are worth a walk to see for themselves, while these things are still around to enjoy.

Along the way, I took some pictures and here they are for you to enjoy, or not.


Monument Terrace seen from Main Street

The view of the historical Monument Terrace on Church Street as seen from Main Street
The view of the historical Monument Terrace on Church Street as seen from Main Street | Source

Some interesting Stained Glass

Interesting Stained Glass examples abound along the street fronts.
Interesting Stained Glass examples abound along the street fronts. | Source
A couple of the more obvious pieces of old Stained Glass windows along Main Street, over a Barber Shop entrance.
A couple of the more obvious pieces of old Stained Glass windows along Main Street, over a Barber Shop entrance.

The City Marketplace, a great service for locals

The City Market is a great example of providing a service to locals by allowing the use of vacant space for a marketplace everyone can use.
The City Market is a great example of providing a service to locals by allowing the use of vacant space for a marketplace everyone can use. | Source

Alleys on Main Street

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Old Wrought Iron

Making quality Wrought Iron is an art form in itself, and there are still a few examples along the way on Main Street.
Making quality Wrought Iron is an art form in itself, and there are still a few examples along the way on Main Street. | Source
This Alleyway entrance still exhibits a beautiful section of wrought iron.
This Alleyway entrance still exhibits a beautiful section of wrought iron. | Source

Building Facades with character

Shewel's Storefront. Sometimes you just have to look up to find some interesting building facades.
Shewel's Storefront. Sometimes you just have to look up to find some interesting building facades. | Source

The Piano's on Main Street

One of the more entertaining things you will find when you do go downtown in Lynchburg is the number of decorated Pianos along your walk.

Yes, I said Pianos!

I don't have the details, but a number of the local schools took some old upright piano's, painted them with some relatively unique artwork and placed them in front of some of the business'.

They are kept functional, and if you go downtown on a busy day you can often find someone who has just stopped and started playing one of these beauties.

Now, that's what I call an attempt at rejuvenation of a town; artistic displays of local school student art that is also a tool for musicians to exercise their skills, all for the entertainment of anyone who is walking by.

SO, below you will find pictures of the one's I found, just standing there waiting for someone to enjoy.

The Pianos on Main Street

In front of the City Market, I'm sure this Piano gets regular use, at least on Market days.
In front of the City Market, I'm sure this Piano gets regular use, at least on Market days. | Source
This piano sits right at the entrance to Kegney's Pub, and I can just hear the old Irish drinking songs being played here.
This piano sits right at the entrance to Kegney's Pub, and I can just hear the old Irish drinking songs being played here. | Source
A great job of exhibiting Van Gogh works on this one done by Heritage High School
A great job of exhibiting Van Gogh works on this one done by Heritage High School | Source
This one was provided by Liberty University
This one was provided by Liberty University | Source

Who am I to do this?

Hopefully, this little sampling of the pictures I took on my walk that day are entertaining and of some interest to you.

So, I'm just another person who took a walk on Main Street and attempted to capture a few of my own old memories through a small piece of the pictorial history of Lynchburg.

by Don Bobbitt, July 2016

© 2016 Don Bobbitt

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Comments 12 comments

Karen Hellier profile image

Karen Hellier 2 months ago from Georgia

Love the picture of Monument Terrace. And I had no idea Liberty University was in Lynchburg, VA. I listen to a Christian radio station down here in Georgia, and they promote Liberty online. Thanks for sharing your trip down Memory lane with us. Looks like Kegney's Pub is a place I would enjoy! I love historical buildings and pubs are always fun.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 2 months ago from sunny Florida

Thank you for sharing your Lynchburg with us. I grew up in Virginia down by where the little creek I lived on dumps into the Chesepeake. I never visited Lynchburg but now I feel that I have.

It is so sad when treasured parts of our hometowns fall by the wayside in the name of PROGRESS...

Angels are on the way to you this morning ps shared


Kaili Bisson profile image

Kaili Bisson 2 months ago from Canada

Virginia is full of history, and these wonderful old towns are a joy to visit. We have been known to park the car and wander around a bit when we are in Lynchburg. Thank you for a personal view of the place as someone who grew up there.


Don Bobbitt profile image

Don Bobbitt 2 months ago from Ruskin Florida Author

Karen Helier - I think one of the problems for many of the people living in Lynchburg is that the city has evolved over the past decades into truly being a "College Town".

Liberty is a thriving industry in its own right and it has spawned enormous growth in many areas that the city and surrounding counties are seemingly too slow to take advantage of.

Anyway, thanks for your read and comment, and I will continue to search for those little pieces of local history that remain.

DON


Blackjack 2 months ago

Very good Don ole friend. The pic of the old Academy theater was where I met my first wife as a teenager. I worked in that Schewels building for a time. I go to the Market a few times a month for fresh produce. Thanks for good writing.


Don Bobbitt profile image

Don Bobbitt 2 months ago from Ruskin Florida Author

Kaili - Lynchburg was, several times throughout it's history, a vibrant and growing town. And it has been a dormant town at times also, just letting time and progress pass it by.

It has had large companies block industry from coming to the town so they could operate with low labor costs.

Now, it sits on the edge of another progressive spurt, I believe. But, I hope it makes strong efforts to preserve the history it has and even what it once had, as it grows.

Thanks for the comment,

DON


Don Bobbitt profile image

Don Bobbitt 2 months ago from Ruskin Florida Author

Blackjack - Good to hear from you. We both have memories of so many things from our childhood that we thought would last forever, but are now gone.

Thus is progress, I guess.

DON


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 months ago

I lived in Virginia once upon a time and I remember going to the football games in the area. It is such a beautiful part of our country. Now, I wish I would have taken the time to tour the city of Lynchburg. Thank you for the tour.


Don Bobbitt profile image

Don Bobbitt 2 months ago from Ruskin Florida Author

Dianna - The area really is a great one to visit and enjoy the scenery and people you meet.

Thanks for the kind comment on my little article,

DON


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 8 weeks ago from Central Oklahoma

Don, thanks for the pics of the pianos on Main Street! What a novel idea! Far more "sensible" than the full-size fake "art" horses sprinkled far too liberally around the town I now live in. (The horses were a fund-raising project for some charity, the idea being a donation of a certain amount would pay for a local artist to paint the horse any way the contributor desired...some designs, color combinations, etc, rather ghastly IMHO...)

My own hometown I stopped visiting 15 or 20 years ago. One, because no friends or relatives lived there anymore (died or moved), and two, so many landmarks of my youth had been demolished in the name of "progress" that it was a totally different town. It was also a college town, and had been for decades before I was born, so that part was not a shock. What was a shock was the large dairy farm on the edge of town founded by my ggf in the 1880s and passed down to my grandfather had been absorbed bit by bit by the college for tennis courts, student housing and a Phys Ed building.

As for Lynchburg, I knew there'd been a Civil War hospital there, but like another poster, had no idea it was now the home of Liberty University. Be glad there's only the one school. The town I live in now has two religious institutions of "higher learning". Good manners prevent me from commenting further on *that* subject.

At any rate, a great hub on a town that sounds like a nice place to visit someday!


Don Bobbitt profile image

Don Bobbitt 8 weeks ago from Ruskin Florida Author

JamaGenee - Well, HELLO! It has been a long time since I've heard from you.I hope all is well with you and yours.

I too will avoid commenting on the "forced" changes whether good or bad being in the eye of the beholder, anyway.

But I can say that, like you, my base of friends and relatives that I once visited has become very thin.

My kids and grand-kids are still living there, but the town is in a state of "demolition creep". Every time someone needs to build something, another piece of the town's history get destroyed.

I know this is hard to stop, or even slow down, but at my age, and now that I am living in Florida, the battle to conserve the towns character is someone else's now.

As you have probably seem, I have stopped writing anything creative on HP. It's an "information mill" now, totally subservient to the Great Google.

Anyway, have a great day,

DON


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 8 weeks ago from Central Oklahoma

Hello again to you, too, Don! A huge genealogy project and the need to write my memoirs for the grandkids before I croak are two reasons I haven't been around HP in "forever". But mostly it's because I heartliy agree that HP has become an "information mill" rather than the creative writing venue it was for many years. It appears once-charming historic towns aren't the only victims of "demolition creep". ;-}

Hope this finds you and yours well and (reasonably) happy!

Joanna

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