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Harrisonburg, VA

 

Harrisonburg, VA

Harrisonburg, Virginia
Independent city
City of Harrisonburg

Rockingham County Courthouse in Court Square in downtown Harrisonburg
Official seal of Harrisonburg, Virginia
Seal
Nickname(s): The Friendly City, H'Burg, The Burg

Location in Virginia

Coordinates: 38°26′58″N 78°52′08″W / 38.44944°N 78.86889°W / 38.44944; -78.86889Coordinates: 38°26′58″N 78°52′08″W / 38.44944°N 78.86889°W / 38.44944; -78.86889

Country United States
State Virginia
Founded 1779
Government
 • Type Council-manager government
 • City Manager Kurt Hodgen[2]
 • Mayor Ted Byrd (R)[3]
 • Vice Mayor Charles Chenault (I)[4]
 • City Council
Area
 • Total 17.6 sq mi (45.6 km2)
 • Land 17.2 sq mi (45.5 km2)
 • Water 0.04 sq mi (0.1 km2)
Elevation 1,325 ft (404 m)
Population (2012 estimate)
 • Total 50,862 [1]
 • Density 2,889.89/sq mi (1,115.39/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 22801-22803, 22807
Area code(s) 540
FIPS code 51-35624[10]
GNIS feature ID 1498489[11]
Website HarrisonburgVa.gov

Harrisonburg is an independent city in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia in the United States. Its population as of the 2010 census is 48,914,[12][13] and at the 2000 census, 40,468. Harrisonburg is the county seat of Rockingham County[14] and the core city of the Harrisonburg, Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Area which has a 2011 estimated population of 126,562.[15] The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Harrisonburg with Rockingham County for statistical purposes, while the U.S. Census Bureau treats Harrisonburg as an independent city for census tabulation. Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University.

History


The earliest documented English exploration of the area prior to settlement was the "Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition", led by Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood, who reached Elkton, and whose rangers continued and in 1716 likely passed through what is now Harrisonburg.

Harrisonburg, previously known as Rocktown, was named for Thomas Harrison, a son of English settlers.[17] In 1737, Harrison settled in the Shenandoah Valley, eventually laying claim to over 12,000 acres (49 km2). This was situated at the intersection of the Spotswood Trail and the main Native American road through the Valley.[18]

In 1779, Harrison deeded 2.5 acres (10,000 m2) of his land to the "public good" for the construction of a courthouse. In 1780, Harrison deeded an additional 50 acres (200,000 m2).[19] This is the area now known as "Historic Downtown Harrisonburg."

In 1849, trustees chartered a mayor-council form of government, although Harrisonburg was not officially incorporated as an independent city until 1916. Today, a council-manager government administers Harrisonburg.[20]


Newtown

When the slaves of the Shenandoah Valley were freed in 1865, they set up near modern-day Harrisonburg a town called Newtown.[21] This settlement was eventually annexed by the independent city of Harrisonburg some years later, probably around 1892. Today, the old city of Newtown is still the home of the majority of Harrisonburg's predominantly black churches, such as First Baptist and Bethel AME. The modern Boys and Girls Club of Harrisonburg is located in the old Lucy Simms schoolhouse used for the black students in the days of segregation.

A large portion of this black neighborhood was dismantled in the 1950s when – in the name of urban renewal – the city government used federal redevelopment funds from the Housing Act of 1949 to force black families out of their homes and then bulldozed the neighborhood. This effort, called "Project R4," focused on the city blocks east of Main, north of Gay, west of Broad, and south of Johnson. The city later sold the land to commercial developers.[22]

Downtown Renaissance

In early 2002, the Harrisonburg community discussed the possibility of creating a pedestrian mall downtown. Public meetings were held to discuss the merits and drawbacks of pursuing such a plan. Ultimately, the community decided to keep its Main Street open to traffic. From these discussions, however, a strong voice emerged from the community in resounding support of downtown revitalization.

On July 1, 2003, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance was incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit with the mission of rejuvenating the downtown district.[23]

In 2004, downtown was designated as the Harrisonburg Downtown Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places and a designated Virginia Main Street Community,[24] with the neighboring Old Town Historic District residential community gaining historic district status in 2007. Several vacant buildings have been renovated and re-purposed for new uses, like the Hardesty-Higgins House and City Exchange, used for the Harrisonburg Tourist Center and high-end loft apartments, respectively.

In 2008, downtown Harrisonburg spent over $1 million in cosmetic and sidewalk infrastructure improvements (also called streetscaping and wayfinding projects). The City Council appropriated $500,000 for custom street signs to be used as "wayfinding signs" directing visitors to areas of interest around the city. Another $500,000 was used to upgrade street lighting, sidewalks, and landscaping along Main Street and Court Square.[25]

Historic sites

In addition to the Thomas Harrison House, Harrisonburg Downtown Historic District, and Old Town Historic District, the Anthony Hockman House, Rockingham County Courthouse, Lucy F. Simms School, Whitesel Brothers, and Joshua Wilton House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[26]

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 17.6 square miles (46 km2), of which 17.6 square miles (46 km2) is land, and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) (0.17%) is water.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
2011 estimate

As of the census[10] of 2000, there were 40,468 people, 13,133 households, and 6,448 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,304.4 people per square mile (889.8/km²). There were 13,689 housing units at an average density of 779.5 per square mile (301.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 84.84% White, 5.92% Black or African American, 0.19% Native American, 3.11% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 3.35% from other races, and 2.57% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.85% of the population.

There were 13,133 households out of which 23.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.4% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.9% were non-families. 28.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.00.

In the city the population was spread out with 15.4% under the age of 18, 40.9% from 18 to 24, 21.2% from 25 to 44, 13.2% from 45 to 64, and 9.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23 years. For every 100 females there were 90.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,949, and the median income for a family was $45,159. Males had a median income of $29,951 versus $22,910 for women. The per capita income for the city was $14,898. About 11.5% of families and 30.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.7% of those under age 18 and 11.4% of those age 65 or over.

Education

School systems

Serving about 4,400 students (K-12,) Harrisonburg City Public Schools comprises 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and a high school. Eastern Mennonite School, a private school, serves grades K-12 with an enrollment of about 386 students.[27] Redeemer Classical School serves grades K-8 with an enrollment of about 60 students.[28]

Higher education

High School

Middle School

  • Thomas Harrison Middle School (Public)
  • Skyline Middle School (Public)

Elementary

  • W.H. Keister Elementary (Public)
  • Smithland Elementary School (Public)
  • Spotswood Elementary (Public)
  • Stone Spring Elementary (Public)
  • Waterman Elementary (Public)

Points of interest

  • Edith J. Carrier Arboretum
  • John C. Wells Planetarium
  • Virginia Quilt Museum
  • Downtown Harrisonburg
  • Explore More Discovery Museum
  • Harrisonburg's Old Post Office Mural (Now US Bankruptcy Court)
  • Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center

Events

  • The Jeremiah Bishop starts and finishes in downtown Harrisonburg.
  • The first annual Super Gr8 Film Festival was held in Harrisonburg in November 2010.[29][30]
  • The annual Harrisonburg International Festival celebrates international foods, dance, music, and folk art.

Sports

Notable people

See also

References and notes

External links

  • City of Harrisonburg
  • Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce
  • Harrisonburg Tourism
  • Harrisonburg Historic Map Collection at James Madison University's Special Collections.
  • Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historic Properties Collection at James Madison University's Special Collections.
  • Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society Collection at James Madison University's Special Collections.
  • Harrisonburg History Harvest Collection at James Madison University's Special Collections.
  • Oral Histories in James Madison University's Special Collections
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