Evolution of a Neighborhood Name

Evolution of a Neighborhood Name (HM2N8L)

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N 37° 16.536', W 79° 56.379'

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Today's Gainsboro neighborhood and the surrounding area has been referenced by many names over the years. The first settled area was known as Big Lick in the 1800s, named after the large salt marsh near the Great Road. In 1835, the settlement was chartered as the Town of Gainesborough by Major Kemp Gaines. When the development of the platted town failed, the Gainesborough name gradually fell out of favor. In 1852, with the establishment of the Big Lick Depot by the railroad, the name "Big Lick" became standard. In 1882, the Town of Big Lick became the City of Roanoke.
Over the years, the spelling of Gainesborough was shortened to Gainsborough and Gainsboro. The historic name persisted in Gainsboro Road, and institutions such as the Gainsboro School and the Gainsboro Library took their names from their location along the road. Residents referred to the area as Northwest or Northeast, based on the quadrants designated by City leaders in 1888 that divided Roanoke along Jefferson Street and the railroad. The resurgence of the Gainsboro name appeared in the 1970s as part of a redevelopment plan to revitalize the area. Stone gateways constructed with the realignment of Gainsboro Road in the 1990s now bear the name, as does the Gainsboro Historic District, which encompasses some of the oldest structures remaining in the area.

the name Gainsboro applies generally to the neighborhood from Orange Avenue to the railroad tracks, and from I-581 west to 5th Street.
A Gainsboro Timeline
· through early 1700s: Native hunters track game near area salt licks
· 1740s: first permanent settlers
· 1798: "Big Lick" postal station established
· 1835: Town of Gainesborough chartered
· 1852: Virginia and Tennessee railroad built through Roanoke Valley
· 1867: First Baptist Church (Colored) established
· 1874: Town of Big Lick chartered
· 1881: Shenandoah Valley Railroad arrives
· 1882: Big Lick becomes Roanoke
· 1882: Hotel Roanoke built
· 1902: existing St. Andrew's Church dedicated
· 1915: Burrell Memorial Hospital opens in house on Henry Street; first to serve blacks
· 1916: Roanoke NAACP founded
· 1917: Harrison School opens
· 1920s: heyday of Henry Street
· 1921: Gainsboro Library opens in Odd Fellows Hall
· 1921: Burrell Hospital moves to McDowell Avenue
· 1923: Strand Theater built
· 1928: Lucy Addison High School built
· 1941: current Gainsboro Library opens
· 1948: Claytor Memorial Clinic opens
· 1950s: Roanoke begins urban renewal efforts in Northeast
· 1958: Viscose Plant closes; mass layoffs at N&W Railway
· 1966: I-581 completed through Gainsboro

1968: Roanoke Civic Center construction
· 1971: Gainsboro Redevelopment Plan calls for redevelopment in Northwest area
· 1995: Gainsboro Road/Wells Avenue realignment
· 1996: Gainsboro Library on National Register
· 2004: Henry Street Historic District
· 2005: Gainsboro Historic District
HM NumberHM2N8L
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Friday, November 29th, 2019 at 1:01pm PST -08:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17S E 594005 N 4125973
Decimal Degrees37.27560000, -79.93965000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 16.536', W 79° 56.379'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 16' 32.16" N, 79° 56' 22.74" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling West
Closest Postal AddressAt or near , ,
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