Downtown Tour – Web Resources

Below you will find archival and other supplementary materials related to the Downtown Roanoke LGBTQ History Walking Tour. Materials are organized according to the stops on the tour and are drawn from the laminated handouts and tour script. We encourage educators and tour participants to continue their experience by exploring through the materials below.

Railroad Avenue / Norfolk Avenue:

“The Capitol Saloon on Salem Avenue.” c. 1906 (Courtesy of the Historical Society of Western Virginia)

“Norfolk Avenue Saloons,” image from John Nolen, Remodeling Roanoke: Report to the Committee on Civic Improvement by John Nolen, Landscape Architect (Roanoke: Stone Printing & Manufacturing Co., 1907).

In addition to the Norfolk Avenue Saloon image, here is the full 1907 report from landscape architect John Nolen on “Remodeling Roanoke.” This was the city’s first official urban plan.

City Market Building:

1977 Article Discussing the “Market Queens” and the City’s Crackdown on activity in the Market. From The Roanoke Times & World News, September 18, 1977. Courtesy of the Virginia Room, Roanoke Public Library.

For a podcast episode on histories of sex work and queer and trans communities around the City Market building in the 1970s and 1980s, and the effects of the city’s Design ’79 urban plan on this area, see Cass Adair, “The Lost Queer World of Roanoke, Virginia,” in the “How to Go Clubbing” episode, With Good Reason (podcast), February 8, 2019.

More on Design ’79:

A bird’s-eye view of a scale model of downtown Roanoke, remodeled, which came about during the Design ’79 process as seen in Wayne Deel, “Editorial: 40 years since Roanoke’s revolutionary Design ’79,” The Roanoke Times, July 28, 2019.

Image from the Roanoke Design ’79 Catalogue showing the potential new Market Square. Moore Grove Harper Architects. Virginia Room, Roanoke Public Library.


The Last Straw:

Downtown Roanoke bar map from the February 1978 edition of The Virginia Gayzette.

Photograph of the Last Straw, c. 1977, from the 1977 Holiday Issue of The Roanoker:

Reproduced with permission, from the Holiday, 1977 issue of The Roanoker magazine, which in 2020 will celebrate its 46th year as Virginia’s longest-running city magazine. For subscription information:; 540-989-6138.

Kirk Avenue Stop:

The Roanoke LGBT Memorial Library (formerly the Ricketson Library) which was once housed on Kirk Avenue is now located at the Roanoke Diversity Center, 425 Campbell Ave SW. For more information and to view the library catalog, see:

Municipal Building (City Hall) Stop:

Sam Garrison, one of the founders of ALGO (the Alliance of Lesbian and Gay Organizations) in the early 1990s, often wrote articles for the Blue Ridge Lambda Press (BRLP). For example, here is one of Sam’s columns in the BRLP March/April 1992 Issue:

ALGO’s Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Fight in the City of Roanoke in 1990 is highlighted in several other issues of the Blue Ridge Lambda Press:

January/February 1991

March/April 1991

May/June 1991

Macado’s Stop:

Letter to Macado’s from the Roanoke Valley Chapter, Virginia Gay Alliance, July 17, 1984. Gerry Jennings Papers, LGBTQ History Collection, Virginia Room, Roanoke Public Library.

Elmwood Park:

Aerial Photograph of Downtown Roanoke, including Elmwood Park, 1968. Virginia Room, Roanoke Public Libraries. George C. Davis Photographic Records.

Below is an insert informing readers about the presence of undercover cops at Elmwood Park as part of the city’s effort to crackdown on gay cruising. From The Big Lick Gayzette, vol 1, no. 7, December 3, 1971. Gerry Jennings Papers, LGBTQ History Collection, Virginia Room, Roanoke Public Library.

Photograph of the Greyhound Bus Station, c. 1955, which was a frequent gay cruising site formerly located on the corner of what is now Williamson Road and Bullitt Avenue. Virginia Room, Roanoke Public Libraries. George C. Davis Photographic Records.