Lynchburg is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. First settled in 1757 by ferry owner John Lynch, the city's population was 79,009 as of the 2020 census. Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the banks of the James River, Lynchburg is known as the "City of Seven Hills" or the "Hill City" also known by some locals as the "City in the Woods". In the 1860s, Lynchburg was the only city in Virginia that was not recaptured by the Union before the end of the American Civil War.
Lynchburg lies at the center of a wider metropolitan area close to the geographic center of Virginia. It is the fifth-largest MSA in Virginia, with a population of 261,593. It is the site of several institutions of higher education, including Virginia University of Lynchburg, Randolph College, University of Lynchburg, Central Virginia Community College and Liberty University. Nearby cities include Roanoke, Charlottesville, and Danville.
Monacan Indian Nation and other Siouan Tutelo-speaking tribes had lived in the area since at least 1270, driving the Virginia Algonquians eastward to the coastal areas. Explorer John Lederer visited one of the Siouan villages (Saponi) in 1670, on the Staunton River at Otter Creek, southwest of the present-day city, as did the Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam expedition in 1671.
Siouan peoples occupied this area until about 1702; they had become weakened because of high mortality from infectious diseases. The Seneca people, who were part of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy based in New York, defeated them. The Seneca had ranged south while seeking new hunting grounds through the Shenandoah Valley to the West. At the Treaty of Albany in 1718, the Iroquois Five Nations ceded control of their land east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, including Lynchburg, to the Colony of Virginia; they confirmed this in 1721.
Founding and early growth
First settled by Anglo-Americans in 1757, Lynchburg was named for its founder, John Lynch. When about 17 years old, Lynch started a ferry service at a ford across the James River to carry traffic to and from New London, where his parents had settled. The "City of Seven Hills" quickly developed along the hills surrounding Lynch's Ferry.
In 1786, Virginia's General Assembly recognized Lynchburg, the settlement by Lynch's Ferry on the James River. The James River Company had been incorporated the previous year (and President George Washington was given stock, which he donated to charity) in order to "improve" the river down to Richmond, which was growing and was named as the new Commonwealth's capital. Shallow-draft James River bateau provided a relatively easy means of transportation through Lynchburg down to Richmond and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean. Rocks, downed trees, and flood debris were constant hazards, so their removal became expensive ongoing maintenance. Lynchburg became a tobacco trading, then commercial, and much later an industrial center.
Eventually the state built a canal and towpath along the river to make transportation by the waterway easier, and especially to provide a water route around the falls at Richmond, which prevented through navigation by boat. By 1812, U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall, who lived in Richmond, reported on the navigation difficulties and construction problems on the canal and towpath.
The General Assembly recognized the settlement's growth by incorporating Lynchburg as a town in 1805; it was not incorporated as a city until 1852. In between, Lynch built Lynchburg's first bridge across the James River, a toll structure that replaced his ferry in 1812. A toll turnpike to Salem, Virginia was begun in 1817. Lynch died in 1820 and was buried beside his mother in the graveyard of the South River Friends Meetinghouse. Quakers later abandoned the town because of their opposition to slaveholding. Presbyterians took over the meetinghouse and adapted it as a church. It is now preserved as a historic site.
To avoid the many visitors at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson in 1806 developed a plantation and house near Lynchburg, called Poplar Forest. He often visited the town, noting, "Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be useful to the town of Lynchburg. I consider it as the most interesting spot in the state." In 1810, Jefferson wrote, "Lynchburg is perhaps the most rising place in the U.S.... It ranks now next to Richmond in importance...."
Early Lynchburg residents were not known for their religious enthusiasm. The established Church of England supposedly built a log church in 1765. In 1804, evangelist Lorenzo Dow wrote: "...where I spoke in the open air in what I conceived to be the seat of Satan's Kingdom. Lynchburg was a deadly place for the worship of God'." That referred to the lack of churches, which was corrected the following year. Itinerant Methodist Francis Asbury visited the town; Methodists built its first church in 1805. Lynchburg hosted the last Virginia Methodist Conference that bishop Asbury attended (February 20, 1815). As Lynchburg grew, prostitution and other "rowdy" activities became part of the urban mix of the river town. They were often ignored, if not accepted, particularly in a downtown area referred to as the "Buzzard's Roost." Methodist preacher and later bishop John Early became one of Lynchburg's civic leaders; unlike early Methodist preachers who had urged abolition of slavery during the Great Awakening; Early was of a later generation that had accommodated to this institution in the slave societies of the South.
On December 3, 1840, the James River and Kanawha Canal from Richmond reached Lynchburg. It was extended as far as Buchanan, Virginia in 1851, but never reached a tributary of the Ohio River as originally planned. Lynchburg's population exceeded 6,000 by 1840, and a water works system was built. Floods in 1842 and 1847 wreaked havoc with the canal and towpath. Both were repaired. Town businessmen began to lobby for a railroad, but Virginia's General Assembly refused to fund such construction. In 1848 civic boosters began selling subscriptions for the Lynchburg and Tennessee Railroad.
By the 1850s, Lynchburg (along with New Bedford, Massachusetts) was among the richest towns per capita in the US. Tobacco (including the manufacture of plug tobacco in factories using rented slave labor), slave-trading, general commerce, and iron and steel manufacturing powered the economy.
Railroads had become the wave of the future. Construction on the new Lynchburg and Tennessee railroad had begun in 1850 and a locomotive tested the track in 1852. A locomotive called the "Lynchburg" blew up in Forest, Virginia (near Poplar Forest) later that year, showing the new technology's dangers. By the Civil War, two more railroads had been built, including the South Side Railroad from Petersburg. It became known as the Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad in 1870, then a line in the Norfolk and Western Railway, and last as part of the Norfolk Southern Railway. The Orange and Alexandria Railroad stopped in Lynchburg.
American Civil War
During the American Civil War, Lynchburg served as a Confederate transportation hub and supply depot. It had 30 hospitals, often placed in churches, hotels, and private homes.
In June 1864, Union forces of General David Hunter approached within as they drove south from the Shenandoah Valley. Confederate troops under General John McCausland harassed them. Meanwhile, the city's defenders hastily erected breastworks on Amherst Heights. Defenders were led by General John C. Breckinridge, who was an invalid from wounds received at the Battle of Cold Harbor. Union General Philip Sheridan appeared headed for Lynchburg on June 10, as he crossed the Chickahominy River and cut the Virginia Central Railroad. However, Confederate cavalry under General Wade Hampton, including the 2nd Virginia Cavalry from Lynchburg under General Thomas T. Munford, defeated his forces at the two-day Battle of Trevillian Station in Louisa County, and they withdrew. This permitted fast-marching troops under Confederate General Jubal Early to reach within four miles of Lynchburg on June 16 and tear up the tracks of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad to inhibit travel by Union reinforcements, while Confederate reinforcements straggled in from Charlottesville.
On June 18, 1864, in the Battle of Lynchburg, Early's combined forces, though outnumbered, repelled Union General Hunter's troops. Lynchburg's defenders had taken pains to create an impression that the Confederate forces within the city were much larger than they were in fact. For example, a train was continuously run up and down the tracks while drummers played and Lynchburg citizens cheered as if reinforcements were disembarking. Local prostitutes took part in the deception, misleading their Union clients about the large number of Confederate reinforcements. Narcissa Owen (Cherokee), wife of the President of the Lynchburg and Tennessee Railroad, later wrote about her similar deception of Union spies.
From April 6 to 10, 1865, Lynchburg served as the capital of Virginia after the Confederate government fled from Richmond. Governor William Smith and the Commonwealth's executive and legislative branches escaped to Lynchburg as Richmond surrendered on April 3. Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, roughly east of Lynchburg, ending the Civil War. Lynchburg surrendered on April 12, to Union General Ranald S. Mackenzie.
Ten days later, Confederate Brigadier General James Dearing died. He was a native of nearby Campbell County and descendant of John Lynch; he had been wounded on April 6 at High Bridge during that Appomattox campaign. Mackenzie had visited his wounded friend and former West Point classmate, easing the transition of power.
Post-Civil War recovery
The railroads that had driven Lynchburg's economy were destroyed by the war's end. The residents of the city deeply resented occupying forces under General J. L. Gregg, and worked more readily with his affable successor General N.M. Curtis. Thomas J. Kirkpatrick became superintendent for the public education established under Virginia's Reconstruction-era legislature and Constitution of 1869, and built four new public schools. Previously, the only education for students from poor families was provided through St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
Floods in 1870 and 1877 destroyed the city's bridges (which were rebuilt) and the James River and Kanahwa Canal (which was not rebuilt). The towpath was used as the bed for laying the rails of the Richmond and Allegheny Railroad, a project conceived five decades earlier.
The city limits expanded in 1874. In 1881 that railroad was completed to Lynchburg, and another railroad reached it through the Shenandoah Valley. Lynchburg had a telegraph, about 15,000 residents, and the beginnings of a streetcar system. Many citizens, believing their city crowded enough, did not join the boosters who wanted Lynchburg to become the junction of that valley line and what became the Norfolk and Western Railroad, so the junction was moved to Big Lick. This later developed as the City of Roanoke.
In the latter 19th century, Lynchburg embraced manufacturing (the city being sometimes referred to as the "Pittsburgh of the South"). On a per capita basis, it became one of the wealthiest cities in the United States. In 1880, Lynchburg resident James Albert Bonsack invented the first cigarette-rolling machine. Shortly thereafter Dr. Charles Browne Fleet, a physician and pharmacological tinkerer, introduced the first micro-enema to be mass marketed over-the-counter. By the city's centennial in 1886, banking activity had increased sixfold over the 1860 level, which some attributed to slavery's demise. The Lynchburg Cotton Mill and Craddock-Terry Shoe Co. (which would become the largest shoe manufacturer in the South) were founded in 1888. The Reusens hydroelectric dam began operating in 1903 and soon delivered more power.
In 1886, Virginia Baptists founded a training school, the Lynchburg Baptist Seminary. It began to offer a college-level program to African-American students in 1900. Now named the Virginia University of Lynchburg, it is the city's oldest institution of higher learning. Not far outside town, Randolph-Macon Woman's College and Sweet Briar College were founded as women's colleges in 1893 and 1901, respectively. In 1903, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) founded Lynchburg Christian College (later Lynchburg College) in what had been the Westover Hotel resort, which went bankrupt in the Panic of 1901. During the 2018/2019 school year the college's name was changed to the University of Lynchburg, reflecting its expansion of graduate-level programs and research. Lynchburg's first public library, Jones Memorial Library, opened in 1907.
During World War I, the city's factories supported the war effort, and the area also supplied troops. The city powered through the Roaring Twenties and survived the Great Depression. Its first radio station, WLVA, began in 1930, and its airport opened in 1931. In 1938 the former fairgrounds were redeveloped as side by side baseball and football stadiums.
World War II and after
Lynchburg's factories again worked 24 hours daily during World War II. In 1955 both General Electric and Babcock & Wilcox built high technology factories in the area.
Lynchburg lost its bid to gain access to an interstate highway. In the late 1950s, interested citizens, including Virginia Senator Mosby G. Perrow, Jr., asked the federal government to change its long-planned route for the interstate highway, now known as I-64, between Clifton Forge and Richmond.
Since the 1940s, maps of the federal interstate highway system showed a proposed northern route, bypassing the manufacturing centers at Lynchburg and Roanoke. But federal officials assured Virginia that the state would decide the route. Although initially favoring that northern route, Virginia's State Highway Commission eventually supported a southern route from Richmond via US-360 and US-460, which connected Lynchburg and Roanoke via US-220 from Roanoke to Clifton Forge, then continued west following US-60 into West Virginia. But in July 1961 Governor J. Lindsay Almond and US Secretary of Commerce Luther Hodges announced that the route would not be changed. Lynchburg was left as the only city with a population in excess of 50,000 (at the time) that was not served by an interstate.
The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded (now known as the Central Virginia Training School), was established outside Lynchburg in Madison Heights. For several decades throughout the mid-20th century, the state of Virginia authorized compulsory sterilization of the mentally retarded for the purpose of eugenics. The operations were carried out at the institution. An estimated 8,300 Virginians were relocated to Lynchburg and sterilized there, making the city a "dumping ground" of sorts for the feeble-minded, poor, blind, epileptic, and those otherwise seen as genetically "unfit". Carrie Buck challenged the state sterilization, but it was finally upheld by the United States Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell. She was classified as "feeble-minded" and sterilized while a patient at the Virginia State Colony.
Sterilizations were carried out for 35 years until 1972, when the operations were halted. Later in the late 1970s, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of Virginia on behalf of the sterilization victims. In the settlement, victims received formal apologies from the state and counseling if they chose, but the judiciary denied requests for the state to pay for reverse sterilization operations. In 1994, Buck's sterilization and litigation were featured as a television drama, [http://imdb.com/title/tt0109051/ Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story]. The Manic Street Preachers address the issue in their song "Virginia State Epileptic Colony" on their 2009 album Journal For Plague Lovers.
Liberty University, founded in 1971 as Lynchburg Baptist College and renamed in 1985, is one of the country's largest institutions of higher education and the largest employer in the Lynchburg region. The university states that it generates over $1 billion in economic impact to the Lynchburg area annually.
Lynchburg has ten recognized historic districts, four of them in the downtown residential area. Since 1971, 40 buildings have been individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Downtown Lynchburg has undergone significant revitalization, with hundreds of new loft apartments created through adaptive reuse of historic warehouses and mills. Since 2000, downtown has attracted private investments of more than $110 million, and business activity increased by 205% from 2004 to 2014. In 2014, 75 new apartment units were added to downtown Lynchburg, with 155 further units under construction, increasing the number of housing units downtown by 48% from 2010 to 2014.
In 2015, the $5.8 million Lower Bluffwalk pedestrian street zone opened. Notable projects underway in downtown by the end of 2015 include the $25 million Virginian Hotel restoration project, a $16.6 million restoration of the Academy Center of the Arts, and $4.6 million expansion of Amazement Square Children's Museum.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , of which is land and (1.0%) is water.
Lynchburg has a four-season humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), with cool winters and hot, humid summers. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from in January to in July. Nights tend to be significantly cooler than days throughout much of the year due in part to the moderate elevation. In a typical year, there are 27.4 days with a high temperature or above, and 6.2 days with a high of or below. Snowfall averages per season but this amount varies highly with each winter; the snowiest winter is 1995–96 with of snow, but the following winter recorded only trace amounts, the least on record.
Temperature extremes range from , recorded on July 10, 1936, down to , recorded on January 21, 1985 and February 5, 1996. However, several decades may pass between and readings, with the last such occurrences being July 8, 2012 and February 20, 2015, respectively.
One of the most prominent nicknames of Lynchburg is the "City of Seven Hills." This is due to one prominent feature of its geography- the seven hills that are spread throughout the region. They are as follows: College Hill, Garland Hill, Daniel's Hill, Federal Hill, Diamond Hill, White Rock Hill, and Franklin Hill.
Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.
As of the 2010 census, there were 75,568 people, 25,477 households, and 31,992 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,321.5 people per square mile (510.2/km2). There were 27,640 housing units at an average density of 559.6 per square mile (216.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 63.0% White, 29.3% African American, 0.2% Native American, 2.5% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.63% from other races, and 1.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.0% of the population.
There were 25,477 households, out of which 27.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.6% were married couples living together, 16.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.8% were non-families. 32.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.92.
The age distribution of the city had: 22.1% under the age of 18, 15.5% from 18 to 24, 25.3% from 25 to 44, 20.8% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 84.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $32,234, and the median income for a family was $40,844. Males had a median income of $31,390 versus $22,431 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,263. About 12.3% of families and 15.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.4% of those under age 18 and 10.7% of those age 65 or over.
Lynchburg ranks below the 2006 median annual household income for the U.S. as a whole, which was $48,200, according to the US Census Bureau.
In 2009, almost 27% of Lynchburg children lived in poverty. The state average that year was 14 percent.
Of Virginia's larger metro areas, Forbes Magazine ranked Lynchburg the 5th best place in Virginia for business in 2006, with Virginia being the best state in the country for business. Lynchburg achieved the rank of 109th in the whole nation in the same survey.
Industries within the Lynchburg MSA include nuclear technology, pharmaceuticals, and material handling. A diversity of small businesses with the region has helped maintain a stable economy and minimized the downturns of the national economy.
Lynchburg uses a council-manager system. The Lynchburg City Council is composed of seven members that each serve a four-year term. There are four wards that elect a member; the remaining three are elected in at-large elections in which the top three candidates obtain a seat. The City Council is also responsible for appointing a city manager, city attorney, and city clerk.
The current council members are:
Colleges and universities
Primary and secondary schools
The city is served by the Lynchburg City Public Schools. The school board is appointed by the Lynchburg City Council.
Lynchburg is also home to the Central Virginia Governor's School for Science and Technology located in Heritage High School. This magnet school consists of juniors and seniors selected from each of the Lynchburg area high schools. As one of eighteen Governor's Schools in Virginia, the Central Virginia Governor's School focuses on infusing technology into both the math and science curriculum.
The city is also home to a number of religious and non-religious private schools, including Appomattox Christian Academy, Desmond T Doss Christian Academy, James River Day School, Liberty Christian Academy, New Covenant Classical Christian School, Temple Christian School, Virginia Episcopal School, and New Vistas School.
The Greater Lynchburg Transit Company (GLTC) operates the local public transport bus service within the city. The GLTC additionally provides the shuttle bus service on the Liberty University campus.
The GLTC selected a property directly across from Lynchburg-Kemper Street Station as its top choice of sites upon which to build the new transfer center for their network of public buses. They were interested in facilitating intermodal connections between GLTC buses and the intercity bus and rail services which operate from that location. The project was completed and opened to the public on June 16, 2014.
On August 23, 2017, the GLTC launched The Hopper, a free downtown circulator bus with a $479,348 grant from the Virginia Smart Scale program. On June 29, 2019, the GLTC ended service for The Hopper due to "consistently low ridership" and the expiration of a $117,820 state grant that covered operating costs.
Intercity passenger rail and bus services are based out of Kemper Street Station, a historic, three-story train station recently restored and converted by the city of Lynchburg to serve as an intermodal hub for the community. The station is located at 825 Kemper Street.
Greyhound Lines located their bus terminal in the main floor of Kemper Street Station following its 2002 restoration. Greyhound offers transport to other cities throughout Virginia, the US, Canada, and Mexico.
Amtrak's long distance Crescent and a Northeast Regional connect Lynchburg with Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta, Birmingham, New Orleans and intermediate points.
In October 2009, Lynchburg became the southern terminus for a Northeast Regional that previously had overnighted in Washington. The forecast ridership was 51,000 for the 180-mile extension's first year, but the actual count was triple that estimate, and the train paid for itself without any subsidy. By FY 2015, the Regional had 190,000 riders. The Lynchburg station alone served a total of 85,000 riders in 2015. It is located in the track level ground floor of Kemper Street Station.
Lynchburg has two major freight railroads. It is the crossroads of two Norfolk Southern lines. One is the former mainline of the Southern Railway, upon which Kemper Street Station is situated. NS has a classification yard located next to the shopping mall. Various yard jobs can be seen. Railfans who wish to visit the NS Lynchburg yard are advised to inquire with an NS official. CSX Transportation also has a line through the city and a small yard.
Lynchburg Regional Airport is solely served by American Eagle to Charlotte, North Carolina. American Eagle, a subsidiary of American Airlines, is the only current scheduled airline service provider, with seven daily arrivals and departures to Charlotte Douglas International Airport. In recent years air travel has increased, with 157,517 passengers flying in and out of the airport in 2012, representing 78% of the total aircraft load factor for that time period.
Primary roadways include U.S. Route 29, U.S. Route 501, U.S. Route 221, running north–south, and U.S. Highway 460 (Richmond Highway), running east–west. While Lynchburg is the largest city in Virginia not served by an interstate, parts of Route 29 have been upgraded to interstate standards and significant improvements have been made to Highway 460 in the immediate vicinity to Lynchburg and suburban areas.
Arts and culture
In a Forbes magazine survey, Lynchburg ranked 189 for cultural and leisure out of 200 cities surveyed.
Attractions and entertainment
The following attractions are located within the Lynchburg MSA:
Sports and recreation
Lynchburg is home to sporting events and organizations including:
The first neighborhoods of Lynchburg developed upon seven hills adjacent to the original ferry landing. These neighborhoods include:
Other major neighborhoods, with more upside, include Tinbridge Hill, Boonsboro, Trents Ferry, Rivermont, Fairview Heights (Campbell Ave corridor), Jackson Heights, Federal Hill (Federal Street, Jackson Street, Harrison Street) Fort Hill, Forest Hill (Old Forest Rd. Area), Timberlake, Windsor Hills, Sandusky, Sheffield, Linkhorne, Cornerstone and Wyndhurst.
Lynchburg shares a television and radio market with Roanoke.
Lynchburg has traditionally been a conservative stronghold. This predates the influence of Liberty University; it was one of the first areas of the state where the old-line Byrd Democrats began splitting their tickets at the national level. However, conservative Democrats continued to hold most local offices well into the 1970s.
However, the Democratic Party has seen a gradual increase in popularity in the city since the 1990s, and Lynchburg's political atmosphere has become increasingly moderate. In the 2020 United States presidential election, a plurality of voters in Lynchburg voted for Democratic challenger Joe Biden over Republican incumbent Donald Trump. Biden was the first Democrat to carry Lynchburg since Harry S. Truman in 1948.
This page uses material from the Wikipedia article Lynchburg, VA, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 4.0.