By Debbie Adams
According to Vinton Town Manager Pete Peters, the town has been notified that its Preliminary
Information Form for historic districts has been approved by the Virginia Department of Historic
Resources (DHR) and the process will now proceed to the State Review Board on Sept. 21.
The DHR Preliminary Information Form constitutes an application for preliminary consideration
of a historic district for eligibility for the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register
of Historic Places.
This project grew out of the desire to relocate the historic Cundiff’s Drugs store sign to its
original location in downtown Vinton.
Virginia State Code says, “It shall be unlawful for any place of business which is not a pharmacy
to advertise or to have upon it or in it as a sign the words, ‘pharmacy,’ ‘pharmacist,’
‘apothecary,’ ‘drugstore,’ ‘druggist,’ ‘drugs,’ ‘medicine store,’ ‘drug sundries,’ ‘prescriptions
filled’ or any like words indicating that drugs are compounded or sold or prescriptions filled.
“Upon consultation with the Department of Historic Resources, the Board may grant an
exception from this section for such signage on an historic building that formerly housed a
drugstore or pharmacy if that building is individually listed as a Virginia Historic Landmark, a
contributing property in a Virginia Historic Landmark District, or determined to be eligible for
listing by the Department of Historic Resources, provided that the signage relates to the historic
character of the building.”
“It’s our intent that the overlay district will help to relocate the Cundiff’s Drug Store sign to its
original location on South Pollard,” Peters said in announcing the approval. “We are also hopeful
that by achieving the historic designation, we’ll have cleared the first step in eligible
properties being cleared for Historic Tax Credits that could assist with future rehabilitation
projects – similar to Roland E. Cook and Billy Byrd.”
Once state approval is gained, the town plans a public information meeting in Vinton to
introduce the project to the community and then get to work on the survey and National Register
Peters emphasizes, “This program will not adversely affect property ownership or dictate
development of privately owned property.”
Being named as a historic district is mainly an honorific recognition, explained Alison Blanton,
Architectural Historian and Senior Preservation Fellow at Hill Studio who has completed
numerous National Register nominations. Hill Studio has been a frequent partner with the Town
of Vinton on projects of a historical nature, most especially Roland E. Cook and Gish Mill.
Blanton notes that acquiring historic district status puts no restrictions on property or property
rights. “You can still paint your building purple, tear it down,” etc., but the designation does
provide benefits in addition to historic tax credits.
Being named as a historic district, “puts Vinton on the map and recognizes its historical
significance; it attracts tourists and indicates that the town is a place of character and identity.”
Historic designation may even mitigate the negative impacts of federally funded projects on
historic properties such as road building, utility installation, and other projects since the impact
must be taken into consideration.
According to the preliminary information form, the proposed Vinton Downtown Historic District
is approximately seven acres located at the northwest end of town, encompassing approximately
four blocks of commercial buildings constructed from 1900 through the 1980s. The area is
bounded by industrial and residential areas and an active railroad line.
Centered around the intersection of South Pollard Street and Lee Avenue, the streets are laid out
in a grid pattern with curbs and public sidewalks. The district is generally bound by Walnut
Avenue, Washington Avenue, Maple Avenue, and Jackson Avenue.
The one- and two-story buildings in the district post-date the formation of the town in 1884 and
are of brick or concrete block construction. Construction has continued into the present as the
area continues to function as the commercial hub for the town.
The buildings throughout the district reflect a palette of hybrid commercial styles. Common
detailing includes corbelled brickwork, decorative pressed metal cornices, and rockface block
facades. While some modifications have occurred over the years, they are generally limited to
remodeled storefronts and some contemporary exterior cladding.
The PIF also notes, “On July 2, 2022, a fire occurred at 101 E. Lee Avenue. Due to structural
damage from the fire, the building at 101 E. Lee Avenue, along with the buildings at 103 E. Lee
Avenue, 107 E. Lee Avenue, and 208 S. Pollard Street have all been demolished and the lots at
the southeast corner of E. Lee Avenue and S. Pollard Street are vacant.”
The report presents specific details on some buildings in the proposed historic area:
“An early example of vernacular commercial construction is the ca.1900 commercial building at
131 E. Lee Avenue, which houses the Conner Group. One of the earliest buildings in downtown
Vinton, this two-story, masonry building features decorative, pressed tin cornices at the parapet
and above the storefront. The rockface block walls are laid in a pattern resembling Flemish bond
with blocks of varying shapes of block. The central, recessed entrance is flanked by wood-frame
storefront windows and transoms. A furniture store and a drugstore historically occupied the
Several other buildings within the district feature painted rockface block walls, including the
nearby commercial buildings at 129 E. Lee Avenue (Citizen’s Upholstery), 118 E. Lee Avenue
(Vinton Chamber of Commerce) and 116 E. Lee Avenue (Cyndi’s). The ca. 1922 First Baptist
Church at 111 W. Jackson Avenue is also constructed of painted rockface blocks, which were
handmade by local tradesman, Albert Woods. This church was organized by black congregants
in 1883 and the current building replaced an earlier church building on the same site. This
rectangular church has a front gable roof and stands on a concrete foundation. The façade is
characterized by a projecting entrance bay.
The ca. 1935 building at 100 E. Lee Avenue (Vinton Appliance) is an example of vernacular
commercial construction in the second quarter of the 20th century, when growth in Vinton was
rapidly accelerating. The large, two-story brick building is sited on a prominent corner lot at E.
Lee Avenue and S. Pollard Street. The façade comprises two storefront systems with central,
recessed entrances flanked by plate glass windows in aluminum frames. Arched wood pediments
with keystones surmount the second-story double-hung sash window openings.
The two buildings at the north end of the district (109 and 111 S. Pollard Street—Twin Creeks),
are well-preserved mid-century examples of the Main Street Commercial style. These one-story,
masonry buildings are characterized by brick facades, parapeted roofs, recessed entrances, and
plate glass storefront windows. The buildings represent the evolution of vernacular commercial
construction into the second half of the 20th century.
In summary, the form says, “The Vinton Downtown Historic District appears to be eligible for
National Register listing at the local level of significance, under the Commerce criteria with a
period of significance of 1884-1965, spanning from the incorporation date of the town through
the year immediately following the 1963-1964 annexation, when the last significant development
in the district within the last fifty years occurred.”