Rebirth of Glade Spring Virginia
Glade Spring, Virginia is a small almost empty town on the eastern edge of Washington County, Virginia. Many businesses are closed and the population is aging, so what can we do? I took a trip in February 2011 to Glade Spring, which is on the other end of Washington County, Virginia from me. I've included a lot of photos of the town and do hope something will really come of this effort. Perhaps they will break their losing streak and prove me wrong this time.
Most of the following pictures (the old ones) were taken from the town square, except the old church which was at the end of town.
View them at Flickr.com
Click on the thumbnails below for the full size pictures for 2014.
On September 2014 I was invited back to by a local resident that wasn't happy with my 2011 report which to say the least was critical of government grants being spent on the town. In most cases these ARC and Tobacco grants are often wasted and produce little in themselves, but I'm glad to report Glade Spring seems to have beaten the odds.
Glade Spring Virginia is about two miles from I-81 Exit 29 in Washington County Virginia. Most of the tobacco farming is gone as are many of the old garment factories in the area. This what I call a "rebirth" isn't being led by some new massive government highway project, high speed fiber optic, or other big government boondoggles.
What we have is smattering of all kinds of small businesses, a truck stop, etc. at Exit 29, and Emory & Henry College, some small farms, some retirement communities. Nothing big but a lot of little things that when people cooperate (without government coercion) can get a lot done.
Glade Spring has businesses today that would never have existed in the 1970s when things fell apart and the fit right beside those businesses that survived.
Led by Glade Spring Mayor Lee Coburn the Town received $226,600 from the Appalachian Regional Commission and another $276,600 in 2011 from the Virginia Tobacco Commission aimed at the "artisan" center to be put in at the old bank building. When I was there in 2011 the back of the building was ready to fall in and looking through the windows the building was full of junk.
Pictured above is the Bank today and the beautiful renovations done to the inside. Well worth a visit.
Just what is an "artisan" center? "The purpose of it will be to allow artisans to get off the ground in establishing a business in the community..." They noted these things are springing up everywhere, but doesn't see others as competitors. It will be called Glade Spring Artisan Development Enterprise Center. What is it for? "It will serve "regional concentration of artisans that can draw tourists."
There's more to it than this. To quote the local press,
The project will be created in the old bank building on the Glade Spring Town Square. The building has been vacant for many years (like most of the square) but, despite its poor state of repair, remains an architectural cornerstone of the square...
"There are many artisans who are needing this facility and there's a large market for the things they produce...it will include five artisan enterprises and offices for Project Glade, which in addition to managing the facility will continue its downtown economic development work in the eastern Washington County town of about 1,500. Each of the artisans who occupy the building will have studio space as well as space to sell their wares...the artisan center will likely be developed within the next two years."
The Town website is at www.gladespringva.com.
But the Bank project alone will not carry the whole town where many of the buildings I saw in 2011 needed to be demolished. The picture above is the town square and the Bank is behind the tree. Notice the four buildings to the left that were mostly empty in 2011 - not anymore. Let's go on a brief tour of the Glad Spring Town Square.
Pictured above is an organic food store a few doors down from the Glad Spring Bank-Artisan Center. This building was empty in 2011 and the renovation is impressive.
To the right of the Glad Spring Bank-Artisan Center is a furniture store that has survived the downturn of the 1970s. Further down the street is a building slated to be partially demolished but will become a farmer's market for the several organic and small farms in the are.
On the corner to my right from the Town Square picture is Fiddlehead Junction. This is another "rebirth" story that saved another piece of Glade Spring. I went through the store and it's awesome with crafts, antiques, etc. This is not a junk store and they carry a wide variety of goods many of local origin. For more information:
202 Town Square Street
PO Box 452
Glade Spring Virginia 24340
Next door to Fiddlehead Junction the recently renovated is for rent. It too was in bad shape and had a flooded basement and as I was told "stunk". Very nice job here too. It must be noted many of these efforts to rebuild Glade Spring was often volunteers with donated materials. That is the real difference with Glade Spring is not money but people.
The three pictures above are from Surber & Son Hardware directly behind me. This is one the surviving businesses and is a real country hardware store. They carry what many of us living in a rural community would need. While they sell a little of everything this again is not a junk store. It's old but clean and they have items one won't find at a Wal-Mart or Lowe's. Notice the people sitting in front of the store - this was a Friday afternoon. Yes they take credit cards.
Phone (276) 429-5383
Open Monday - Saturday 8-5; Sunday, 1-5
Pictured above is the Glade Spring Town Hall which isn't located at the Town Square. The town has only two employees as I understand it to do maintenance.
Next door to the Town Hall is this interesting yellow house. The owner contacted me to do this update and he has done wonders to what used to be another wreck. He's retired and fills propane tanks on the side. Next to him is a block building used as a garage. The building is being readied to be repainted (with donated paint and volunteers) in an ongoing effort to beautify and rebuild the community.
I'd encourage anyone to visit Glade Spring. Their example gives me hope we can start to save rural America and our small communities. They are close to an interstate but that can't be seen from in the Town itself. Come in and visit - support those working to support themselves and their community. Most important I think one will enjoy a really laid back, friendly community.
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