Economics & Population
The Gainesboro Public Library
Photo Courtesy of Roanoke Public Libraries
To further contextualize the scope of I-581's development, we present some statistical data as well as interpretations below:
I-581's construction officially began in Roanoke on March 07, 1963. At the time, Roanoke had a recorded population of 97,110. Of this, 83% of that population was White and 17% was Black. The majority of the population below the age of 19 (35%) and most of the population was female (53.2%).
While current proponents for the interstate cite economic benefits, the exact relationship between the interstate's presence and businesses is unclear. During the proposal stage, several groups and businesses brought up concerns to the Roanoke Valley Regional Planning Commission regarding the cost of the interstate, and at one point the required improvements alone cost Roanoke "368-thousand, 750 dollars".
As previously noted, I-581 was built on top of pre-existing routes, and while the development of Valley View Mall coincides with an increased city population (100,200 in 1980). Over the course of the interstate's development however, the population actually fell to 92,115 (a loss of nearly 5,000), although the Black population as a whole did increase to 19.3%. Furthermore, the development also coincided with an increase in the housed population between 1950 and 1960.
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In any event, such figures overshadow the fact that several businesses, both corporate and local (such as the Clover Creamery), had to relocate or were destroyed in the course of I-581's construction. In particular, the Gainsboro community, known as a "Black Wall Street" was decimated, with 1200 graves, 1,600 homes, 200 businesses and 24 churches destroyed to make room for I-581, a part of the greater urban renewal project.
For more resources on I-581, Urban Renewal, Gainsboro, or other relevant information, please visit our Other Resources page. For information on our own collections, please visit the Source Collections page.
Thank you for following our project. If you have any concerns, questions, or wish to provide some information, please contact LaDale Winling at email@example.com.
"Archived Event: Self-Guided Gainsboro History Tour 5K." Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. Accessed December 10, 2020. https://fbri.vtc.vt.edu/events/community-events/2020-09-14-self-guided-gainsboro-history-tour-5k-.html."
Armour and Company Hot Dog Manufacturing Plant to Relocate to Downtown Roanoke. n.d. From WSLS-TV Roanoke, Va., News Film Collection, 1951-1971. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Library, https://v3.lib.virginia.edu/catalog/uva-lib:2376967.
Improvements to Roanoke Traffic Flow to Be Made. 1962. From WSLS-TV Roanoke, Va., News Film Collection, 1951-1971. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Library, https://v3.lib.virginia.edu/catalog/uva-lib:2382233.
Roanoke City Council Meets to Discuss Several Topics. 1963 From WSLS-TV Roanoke, Va., News Film Collection, 1951-1971. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Library, https://v3.lib.virginia.edu/catalog/uva-lib:2396728.
Roanoke Valley Regional Planning Commission Will Study Alternate Path for Interstate Route 581. 1963. From WSLS-TV Roanoke, Va., News Film Collection, 1951-1971. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Library, v3.lib.virginia.edu/catalog/uva-lib:2238317.
Roanoke City Council Meeting. 1966. From WSLS-TV Roanoke, Va., News Film Collection, 1951-1971. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Library,https://v3.lib.virginia.edu/catalog/uva-lib:2218996
Social Explorer Tables (SE), Census 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980 (US, County & State), Social Explorer, U.S. Census Bureau
United States. Bureau of the Census. 1961. 1960 Census of Housing, Taken As a Part of the Eighteenth Decennial Census of the United States. Washington: U.S. Gov't Print. Off.
Page written by Jonathan LLoyd