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Monday, August 19, 2013
Q: Behind The Roanoke Times is the neighborhood of Gainsboro. If you take Second Street across the bridge to the other side of the tracks, you are then in northwest [Roanoke]. The sign in the median strip says welcome to Gainsboro, Southwest. What’s going on? Is the sign wrong? Gainsboro is in NW, not SW, right?
Harold Bowman, Glenvar Heights
A: Harold, you are correct that Gainsboro is mostly in northwest Roanoke, but the sign actually says, “Welcome to Gainsborough Southwest Neighborhood,” and it is in the southwest part of that neighborhood and was placed there by the Gainsborough Southwest Community Organization, so it’s exactly the way they intended it to be.
If you’re curious about the group, you’ll find a link to more information about them on the What’s On Your Mind? blog. I’m unsure why this group spells Gainsboro differently then the city does, but that’s a story for another day.
To me, it begs an even more interesting question, so I’m going to assume you actually asked, “Just how is this city divided up, anyway?”
As a 28-year resident of this fine community, I thought I knew how the city was divided, but once I started doing a little research and talking to friends, I found out I had it all wrong. It turns out that lots of people have all kinds of ideas of where the lines between southeast, northeast, southwest and northwest Roanoke are.
A sloppy and informal poll reveals that people think the city is either divided by Campbell Avenue and Jefferson Street or Williamson Road and Shenandoah Avenue, or maybe by Interstate 581 and Elm Avenue. You people are all horribly wrong and should be ashamed of yourselves.
You have to remember that when Roanoke was established as an independent city in 1884 there weren’t a lot of landmarks to go by. No Star, no Texas Tavern, no H&C Coffee sign, nothing. Designating quadrants of the city was a largely aspirational act that expressed the hopes and dreams of the real estate speculators swarming in from all over in hopes of cashing in on the new railroad boomtown.
Generally speaking, the dividing lines are the downtown railroad tracks, which divide north and south, and Jefferson Street, which divides east and west. But since Jefferson doesn’t go from one edge of town to the other and the city is about the least gridlike of anyplace I can think of, it’s more complicated than that.
North of downtown, Jefferson ends at Walker Avenue, just past St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, so you have to imagine a line that goes diagonally from that point to the median of I-581, then jumps off at the Liberty Road overpass and connects with Oakland Road, where it continues to the city border near Hershberger Road.
Jimmy Deck, an old friend from my teaching days at William Fleming High (which is solidly in northwest Roanoke) says that where he grew up on Oakland, the kids on the other side of the street lived in northeast and the kids on Jimmy’s side were in northwest, which meant they went to different elementary schools.
Heading south, Jefferson holds up as the divider until it ends in south Roanoke. From there an imaginary line goes up Yellow Mountain through Fern Park to the city/county line. Thanks to Chris Chittum and the staff at the city planning and development department for finally providing a definitive answer.
So even though people who live on beautiful Stanley and Cornwallis avenues might tell their friends they live in south Roanoke, they are in fact from southeast every bit as much as I was when I lived in the heart of it near Ninth Street many moons ago . C’mon, people, represent!
If you’ve been wondering about something, call “What’s on Your Mind?” at 777-6476 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to provide your full name, its proper spelling and your hometown.
Look for Tom Landon’s column on Mondays. Visit the blog at blogs.roanoke.com/whatsonyourmind.
Weather JournalEarly mix, then ice storm Sunday