The Roanoker - July/August 2017 - 12
STREETS OF ROANOKE
Main Street, Salem
COURTESY SALEM MUSEUM
The city's primary street has undergone many changes, with more on the horizon.
The view is eastward on Main Street, Salem, circa early 1950s.
Salem's Main Street in downtown is a diverse, dense mix of retail,
office and public buildings that features a farmers market, Roanoke
College's West Hall, a public library, county courthouse, city hall,
restaurants, antique shops, banks and a pharmacy. Though Main
Street extends from Salem's border with Roanoke County to the
south at Fort Lewis and to Salem's north border with Roanoke City
at Main's intersection with Bartlett Road, the downtown section
of Main Street encompasses the section between E. Burwell Street
and Lake Spring Park at Green Street. U.S. routes 460 and 11 follow Main Street, making the street Salem's signature thoroughfare.
Salem's central corridor was part of the original design when the
town was platted in 1802. While much of Main Street's 19th12 | JULY/AUGUST 2017
century history is no longer visible, there are some vestiges. The
Salem Presbyterian Church, built in 1851, at Market and Main is
one. So concerned were Salem residents about the loss of the city's
historic structures over prior decades that an effort was launched in
the early 1970s called Save Old Salem. The effort helped to rescue
the historic Williams-Brown house at East Main Street and Craig
Avenue from demolition (later re-located and now home to the
Salem Museum) and garnered successful nominations for other
structures to the National Register of Historic Places.
In its earliest decades, Main Street's most prominent visitor
was President Andrew Jackson, who stayed at hotels and boarding houses in Salem when he rode horseback between the nation's
capital and his native Kentucky.
During the Civil War, Main Street, like the town itself, was
looted by Federal troops under Union General William P. Averell
in December 1863. "Two of the advance guard came charging up
the main street...four abreast and pistols in hand, cocked ready
to fire. Everyone in the street took to their heels, and wagons,