On my way south to Tennessee, following I-81 S, I decided to make a detour from the Shenandoah Valley and venture towards Roanoke, VA. The scenic beauty surrounding the city was spectacular, between the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge mountains. While I didn’t take the time to explore the natural scenery, it’s an area I can imagine myself returning to (much like the Smoky mountains of TN).
Once you venture east off of I-81 S, the transition from natural landscapes and rural surroundings into post-industrial cityscape is apparent. However, for as sprawling as the city and its suburbs are, the city center is rather compact.
Passing through, there was a lot of apparent history still visible within the city. Whether for its railroad and transportation museum (in respect to its former housing of the Norfolk and Western Railway), or for the garment factories set aside following the collapse of industry, reminiscent of the the city’s Sun Belt characteristics.
By displaying its history alongside the formation of newfound industry. technology, and architectural advancement, the city resembled many of the cities I grew up with in coastal Massachusetts and New Hampshire – former industrial and textile giants that collapsed with the times, yet still standing, some now re-purposed, even after their death. To some it provides a quaint, historical glimmer to the city that provides a means of tourism or a photographer’s dream of urban architectural juxtaposition. For others, those that have long-lived in the city, it only brings sorry, providing a reminder to a society and time that once were.
Even for the contrast in architecture, wealth, and culture that occupies the city of Roanoke, VA, there are some structures that still emanate life from a time before into the age of now. One of those is St. Andrew’s Catholic Church found on North Jefferson Street (pictured above).
Built at the turn of the 20th century (1900-1902), the church still radiates with beauty. Driving past the church early in the morning, the rising sun illuminating the churches yellow-stone, High Victorian Gothic body and pillars, made for quite the sight. The innards, between the recently erected, ornate altar and the decorated stained-glass windows adorning the walls of the church, added to the beauty. While it has had numerous renovations over the past century, the church still stands tall upon its hill, over-looking the skyline of Roanoke.
Inside of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, Roanoke, Virginia (photo courtesy of Joe Ravi)
Over the course of a century, Roanoke felt the effects of deindustrialization, desegregation, the influx of medical and technological advancements and industry, and the current political movement at hand, this church has proved itself as a communal meeting ground. Whatever strife, upheaval, or societal movement might be taking place in the city of Roanoke, its people can commune under the banner of a collective interest for the improvement of or the opportunity bound within tomorrow.
Whatever you’re religious beliefs, whether you have them or not, there is something to be said about the continuation of St. Andrew’s alongside a city that has faced its personal depression, societal shifts, and eventual turn-around: there is still faith in and for Roanoke.
If you enjoyed this post discussing my quick trip through Roanoke, VA, feel free to follow my blog to read the soon-to-come blogs where I will be chronicling my U.S. cross country trip.
You can read my previous, opening post in regards to my trip, Out to Pasture, as well as my follow-up post, in which I make my way into Tennessee, Tennessee Way.