A boundary increase for the Southwest Historic District in Roanoke expands the district to cover 20 areas—ranging from a single property to several blocks—that share a similar history and development pattern as those neighborhoods in the original Southwest Historic District, listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The expansion extends the Southwest Historic District’s period of significance forward to 1958, thereby encompassing the post-World War II period when new construction of houses and small commercial buildings filled the few remaining lots available in southwest Roanoke’s neighborhoods. Otherwise, most buildings in the 2020 Boundary Increase areas are single-family residences built between the years 1900 and 1925. As in the original district, the houses range from modest workforce housing to large and stylistically sophisticated dwellings for railroad officials and local businesspersons. While the majority of these dwellings tend to defy categorization, the design of some houses are in popular period styles such as Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Craftsman, American Foursquare, and Ranch. The only apartment building located in the boundary increase areas is the Lorraine Apartments, built in 1920 in the Italian Renaissance Revival style. The expansion areas also boast two Colonial Revival-style churches, the previously listed Salvation Army Citadel, and several light-industrial buildings. The expansion includes additional African American and Lebanese immigrant communities, where many residents worked at the Norfolk & Western Railway or other nearby industries within walking distance. The City of Roanoke codified the area along Norfolk Avenue SW between 5th and 11th streets as an African American neighborhood in a 1915 ordinance that upheld segregation by making it illegal for whites and blacks to live in the same area or to transfer property across racial lines. Although the segregated districts were determined illegal by 1917, African Americans continued to live and work in the area and expanded to other nearby streets as well.
Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark
Photo credit: Kate Kronau, 2020