Friday, June 10, 2016

On Down the Road to Eastern Tennessee

Despite the fact that we were headed home after our little trip to Roanoke Virginia, I had plenty of depots and historic sites that I wanted to check out along our route back home.

This is one end of the old 1868 Virginia and Tennessee Railroad Combination Depot in Christiansburg Virginia.  When a new depot was built in the early 20th century, this depot became the freight depot for the town.  Looks like someone was setting up a flower bed or small garden…

Built in the 1850s, the Virginia and Tennessee ran through southwestern Virginia.  It extended westward from Lynchburg, through a gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the town of Big Lick (the present-day city of Roanoke).  From that point it turned southwestward and followed the Great Valley to Bristol, a total distance of 204 miles.  Through a series of mergers, the railroad became part of the Norfolk and Western system.  Today, much of the former Virginia and Tennessee Railroad remains in service for Norfolk and Western’s successor, Norfolk Southern. 

This is the handsome reverse end of the Virginia and Tennessee Depot.  Currently, this 148 year old depot serves as the home of Whistlestop Books and the Cambria Toy Station.  It used to house a museum where the book store is now… FYI, this is one of the few remaining wooden Railroad Italianate depots left in the United States.  This classic depot was almost torn down.  Learn more at

The Virginia and Tennessee Railroad played a major role in the Civil War.  It was a key route for the movement of supplies, food and troops for the Confederate Army, particularly from the capital of Richmond to the interior at Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Included in the vital transportation services provided by the railroad was the movement of raw materials from the copper mines near Cleveland Tennessee; the lead mines near Bristol; the salt works at Saltville Virginia and saltpeter caves throughout the region.  Union forces finally captured much of the railroad and destroyed tracks and rolling stock in late 1864.

This is the old freight platform that extends from next to the lower end of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad Depot.
Take note of the building in the distance down the tracks…

This large old 3 story brick building sits right across the street from the main entrance to the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad Depot.

The Cambria Emporium is located in the Surface-Lee Building, the remaining building left from the Surface Block, which was built in 1908.  The Surface Lee Block was built as a wholesale grocery business on the railroad to bring produce to Cambria.  FYI, Cambria was originally an independent town next to Christiansburg.  See

Of interest is the fact that the elevator in this building was purchased second hand from a company in Roanoke when the Surface-Lee Building was constructed in 1908.  As such, it is actually 30 years older than the building!  According to Southern Elevator, it is the oldest elevator still in operation in the State of Virginia…136 years old and still functioning!

This is the building you could see on down the tracks from that old 1868 Virginia and Tennessee Depot.  This is the ‘new’ passenger depot that was built by Norfolk and Western Railroad in 1907.  It’s only 109 years old!

This depot was built on top of a small spring fed pond, leading to ongoing storm water problems in town and, as I mentioned before, the old depot was converted to a freight station as well as a railroad office for maintenance of ways and engineering.  It should be noted that this new station was built, not because there was a need for a new passenger station per se, but because of the political, social, and cultural demands for segregation.  The old depot, one of only a couple of pre-segregation depots left in Virginia, could not be segregated because of the configuration of the waiting rooms.

The Oaks is a historic home that’s located at Christiansburg.  This large Queen Anne style frame house was built in 1893.  Love that big wraparound porch and the tower.  You can’t see them in this photo, but this house has 4 brick chimneys. 

The inn was built in the late 1800s by Major W.L. Pierce for his bride Julia. Seven of their 8 children were born here.  William Pierce passed on in 1949 but his wife Julia lived in the house until her death at the age of 99.

The Oaks is now a well-known bed and breakfast.  It’s been featured in more than 2-dozen magazine articles and on the TV series “Inn Country USA”.  The Oaks Victorian Inn has also been selected for the cover of 3 books, including the travel guide to inns that was published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  To learn more, you can go to

I’ll end this tour with a ‘modern’ structure.  This is the US Post Office in Christiansburg Virginia.  It was designed and built in 1936.  The one-story, five-bay, brick building is in the Colonial Revival style.  It has a nice classic look.  Of note is the fact that the interior features a Depression era Works Progress Administration (WPA) sponsored mural by Paul DeTroot.  That mural depicts local events from the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.

United States post office murals were produced in the United States from 1934 to 1943.  The principal objective was to secure artwork that met high artistic standards for public buildings, where it was accessible to all people.  The murals were intended to boost the morale of the American people suffering from the effects of the Depression by depicting uplifting subjects the people knew and loved.  For a list of US Post Offices that feature or used to feature these murals throughout the USA, you can go to

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a short historical tour!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

1 comment:

  1. Another great tour of VA! It is a beautiful state, isn't it??