HISTORY OF LYNCHBURG PART 4
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Following Reconstruction, Lynchburg entered a period of prosperity in the latter part of the 19th century, with iron works, blast furnaces and steel mills fueling the growth. Railroads eliminated the need for the canal system, which having been damaged frequently by flooding, was sold off and soon abandoned.
By 1880, Lynchburg's population had reached 15,000. In the same year, work began on a bold new enterprise a street railway system, whose initial purpose was to facilitate transportation from the town to Miller Park. By 1888, electric cars had replaced the early, horse-drawn cars (Lynchburg's street car system operated until 1941; remnants of the rail lines can be seen today at Harrison & 12th St.)
By the dawn of the 20th century, Lynchburg was well-underway in its evolution from a tobacco-based economy into one driven by manufacturing. A large number of factories opened, some of which would remain cornerstones of the econony for years to come. These firms included:
- Lynchburg Foundry and Machine Works (1882; renamed in 1894 as Glamorgan Pipe & Foundry; today known as Griffin Pipe)
- Lynchburg Cotton Mill (1888)
- Craddock-Terry Shoe Co. (1888; which became Lynchburg's largest industry and the largest shoe manufacturer in the south).
- Lynchburg Plough Company (1896; renamed in 1902 as Lynchburg Foundry)
Lynchburg spent its wealth transforming itself into a modern city. Numerous large homes were built in the Diamond Hill and Rivermont areas (Federal Hill had previously been the area of the city's well-to-do). The "Lynchburg Hill Climbers" (1894) brought baseball to the city, more electric power was supplied from the Reusens hydroelectric dam (1903), and in 1907, a 21-mile wooden pipe system was laid to nearby Pedlar Lake, which, to this day, serves as the city's primary water source.
Education and the arts also flourished with this prosperity. Three colleges were founded in this period: Randolph-Macon Woman's College (1891), Sweet Briar (1901), and Lynchburg College (1903). A new high school was built in 1899, and soon replaced by a larger one in 1910. The Jones Memorial Library opened as the first public library in 1907. The Academy of Music opened in 1905, replacing the Lynchburg Opera House as the city's premiere theater.
Lynchburg College's Westover Hall
built in 1891 as Westover,
demolished in 1970
The First World War saw many of Lynchburg's men in the military, and the city's industries supplying the war effort. A Red Cross-operated canteen serving troop trains at the Southern Railroad station gave the city the nickname "Lunchburg". In the period after the war, the city weathered the depression and continued to modernize.
Radio arrived in 1930 with station WLVA, and the city built its first airport in 1931. In 1938, side-by-side football and baseball stadiums were constructed on former fair grounds. As with the rest of the country, World War II had Lynchburg's factories running around the clock, her citizens in the military and her airport being used to train pilots.
Since the 1950's, Lynchburg has evolved from a small, tightly-knit manufacturing city to one with a diverse economy with most residents now living in surrounding suburbs. This transformation began in 1955 when Babcock & Wilcox (nuclear technology) and General Electric opened plants in the city, causing an influx of new residents.
Housing developments appeared throughout the city, and in 1960, the city's first shopping center (Pittman Plaza) opened, signaling the end of the original downtown area as a retail center. This trend of growth has carried through to the present with the continued development of numerous office and industrial parks, whose firms are involved in insurance, cellular communications, nuclear energy, castings, paper, machinery and more.
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