We’re pleased to announce the addition of The Roanoke Times to our collection of Virginia papers. Founded as the first daily paper in the area in 1886, The Roanoke Times launched as an independent democratic paper serving Roanoke and Southwest Virginia. For the past 137 years, the Times has served the community and is the leading source for local news in Roanoke, Salem, Blacksburg, and Christiansburg, Virginia. In 2002, the Scarborough Report named the Times the country’s best-read daily newspaper.
Roanoke used to be known as Big Lick, after the nearby salt marshes that attracted deer, elk, and buffalo. The city became a vital railroad juncture and the former headquarters of the Norfolk & Western Railway. Transportation played a significant role in the city’s history, with thousands of skilled workers moving to Roanoke to build steam locomotives at the N&W Roanoke Shops.
Visitors to Roanoke might find lodging at the historic Hotel Roanoke. Built in 1882, the Tudor-style hotel expanded over the years and was the first hotel in America with air conditioning. An ice plant adjacent to the hotel produced nearly 5,000 pounds of ice daily, cooling rooms with circulated ice water. This luxurious amenity meant guests could “control the weather” in their rooms by simply twisting a dial.
In September 1922, Roanoke residents gathered for the Great Roanoke Fair. Organizers promised attendees they would see the first airplane to fly over the city. An estimated 25,000 visitors flocked to the fairgrounds to witness the spectacle. Schools closed early, and businesses shut down, allowing everyone to attend the fair.
Aviator Eugene Ely took off from a hill in South Roanoke known as Mill Mountain. To the utter astonishment of the crowd, he flew over the fairground for half a mile and landed in full view of the crowd. Those who witnessed it “shrieked with delight” at the miraculous flying machine.
The same mountain that hosted Roanoke’s first flight is also home to another Roanoke landmark – the Mill Mountain Star. In 1949, the Roanoke Merchants Association proposed building a 100-foot-tall lighted star on the mountain. They wanted to promote Roanoke as a shopping and tourist center. The project was approved, built, and illuminated for the first time on Thanksgiving Eve that year. The star has become synonymous with Roanoke and has been standing, perched above Mill Mountain, for nearly 75 years.