Roanoke, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
A Once-Vibrant African American Community
Older than the new City of Roanoke developing to its south, Gainesborough ("Old Lick") was growing as a racially-diverse neighborhood that was the center of the African-American community by the 1890s. Businesses serving the community were located on Gainsboro Road, from Gilmer Avenue north to Rutherford Avenue, and along First Street (later Henry Street) north of the railroad tracks. Doctors, lawyers, ministers, educators, industrial laborers (mostly at the railroad), domestic workers, and self-employed residents lived together as a cohesive community where residents looked after one another.
By Cosmos Mariner, October 3, 2019
1. A Once-Vibrant African American Community Marker
By the early 1920s, the neighborhood became a self-sustaining African-American community. Strong churches, schools, social institutions, and professional and commercial services developed to serve the growing black population, otherwise denied services in the segregated South. Consequently, skilled black leaders emerged to become locally and nationally influential in social, civic and business affairs.
From the early 1900s through the 1960s, there was a vibrant business district and various social activities for the black community on
Henry Street and Gainsboro Road. The area bustled with restaurants, hotels, and a theater; insurance companies, law offices, financial institutions, and medical offices/pharmacies; barbershops, undertakers, tailors, dry cleaners, and a shoemaker; as well as many other businesses. The weekly Roanoke Tribune was first published in 1939 from Gilmer Avenue. Ten black-owned grocery stores operated throughout the neighborhood, but there were also white-owned grocery stores, including one in the building now restored as an office at the corner of Gilmer Avenue and Jefferson Street.
2. Marker detail: View of Peach Hill, circa 1899Hill Street Baptist Church is the white building at top of photo.
Location. 37° 16.535′ N, 79° 56.381′ W. Marker is in Roanoke, Virginia. Marker is on Wells Avenue Northeast east of North Jefferson Street, on the left when traveling east. Marker is located in a small sidewalk plaza on the north side of Wells Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Roanoke VA 24016, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Social and Cultural Life (here, next to this marker); The Influence of Churches in Gainsboro (here, next to this marker); From Frontier to Urban Community... A Gainsboro Prelude (here, next to this marker); Evolution of a Neighborhood Name (here, next to this marker); Milestones in Education (here, next to this marker); Health Care and Medicine
(here, next to this marker); Civil Rights Trailblazers (here, next to this marker); Hotel Roanoke (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Roanoke.
3. Marker detail: Views of the area from the 1907 City of Roanoke Nolen Plan
The picture at left is labeled ”General View, North Side.”
On the right is North Jefferson Street, with First Baptist Church (Colored) in the background.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Gainesborough • Big Lick • Roanoke
Categories. • African Americans • Civil Rights • Industry & Commerce •
4. Marker detail: Housing AdvertisementModern Homes for Colored People
Twelve modern homes, some bungalow type; some hot water heated and all with bath, gas, electric lights and sewerage. All now offered for the first time to colored people.
This property located in Northeast Section; close in; bounded by Rutherford Avenue, Third Street, Harrison and Commonwealth Avenue. Good streets and granolithic side walks; conveniently located to market, shops, and all points of interest in our city. No street car fare needed.
Only high class colored people will be offered these properties, and to such, attractive terms will be made.
These properties will be handled exclusively by Glasgow and Bowling, 213 South Jefferson Street and S.R. Mason, First National Bank Building.
C. H. Brady, Owner
By Cosmos Mariner, October 3, 2019
5. Once-Vibrant African American Community Marker
(wide view • marker visible left of center)
More. Search the internet for A Once-Vibrant African American Community.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 30, 2019. This page originally submitted on November 27, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 41 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on November 28, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on November 29, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.