Facing the railroad tracks, west is to your left where you see the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge. Originally called the Henry Street Bridge, it spans the tracks to connect historic Henry Street with First Street to the south. The bridge was built in 1891 and was raised several feet in the 1990's to allow double-stack container trains to pass beneath it.
The bridge, now a pedestrian walk, was renamed to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Part of the Henry Street Historic District, Henry Street was the commercial and entertainment center of the African-American neighborhoods of Gainsboro and Northwest Roanoke from 1917 until 1954.
On the west side of the street across the bridge is the former Hotel Dumas. Many well-known black performers who came to town playing jazz or blues in one of the clubs along Henry Street stayed (and played) at the Dumas. Today, it has been restored as the Dumas Center for Artistic & Cultural Development.
In the 1880s, Henry Street was centrally located between what was the original town of Big Lick (built up around 2nd or Commerce Street) to the west, and the rapidly growing area to the east at the new depot (near the Market district). Towns sprang up around stations. The station was a community center and the center of communication. News as well as the comings and goings
were carefully watched by local residents. When the railroad built a new passenger station to the east, the town gravitated toward it. Businesses looked for building sites near the new depot.
All Photos ©2006 Kenneth L. Miller, unless otherwise creditedMap is from 1930 by Norfolk and Western RailwayPanel Design and Content by Miller Design & Photography ©2006