Salem’s downtown historic district embraces the core of the present-day city. Within this twenty-five-acre area is the town’s original platted grid, laid out in 1802 along the Great Road by James Simpson. The town’s designation as the Roanoke county seat in 1838 spurred development. The community gained prestige when Virginia Collegiate Institute, later named Roanoke College, located here in the 1840s. Salem escaped the Civil War with minimal damage. Today the Downtown Salem Historic District possesses a varied concentration of buildings ranging in date from the early 1800s to the mid-1900s. It is characterized by its mixed-use commercial buildings as well as churches, the Old Roanoke County Courthouse, post office, and library. Prosperity is reflected in the fine quality of many individual buildings. The rapid emergence of neighboring Roanoke facilitated Salem’s measured growth and the resulting preservation of its historic character.
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