Blacksburg: Ch-ch-changes

On a recent, very brief visit to Blacksburg to see a friend receive her second Bachelor of Art degree, I was amazed by how much the campus, and parts of the town, have changed since I last visited. I suppose the changes themselves aren’t really that unexpected; it’s just seeing that seeing the town after a year away adds extra surprise on my part.

(These photographs were all taken by my Droid, so excuse any typical cell phone picture quality. You can always click on the pictures to open the full version.)

A large portion of Henderson Lawn is now taken up by Theatre 101, an environmentally friendly and architecturally striking building. This picture was taken across the street from Souvlaki and so it represents the view you will have while eating a spanokopita at everyone’s favorite downtown Greek hangout. I’ll be honest; I’m not sure how I feel about this. Bands used to come and play concerts on the lawn in the summer and it was a good place to hang out. There’s still room for that, I suppose, but not as much. But I must admit that the building is beautiful.

theatre 101

Speaking of Souvlaki, I was heartbroken to find that the owner had finally made good on his threats to remove the Capcom Bowling 1980s arcade game! Nooo! I suppose since Eric moved to Arlington, there weren’t really many people left who played it. Sigh. Everything must change.

Now I have always been really interested in the history of towns, particularly those I have sentimental attachment to, and the changes in their atmosphere of businesses and hangouts. There is just something about learning “the way things used to look like” that appeals to me. While working in Blacksburg, it was not uncommon for me to hear coworkers talking about certain businesses they used to frequent and how awesome they were (namely, Daddy’s Money and Mr. Fooz). I usually felt kind of sad that I couldn’t just step back in time and have a few beers there. Now I see that others could easily feel that way about things I remember as “the best in town.” Famous Anthony’s, a fabulous Italian restaurant on South Main Street, is now closed with nothing in its place. This place had a not-to-be-missed brunch and great macaroni-and-cheese bites. I also have memories of eating there on April 17th, 2007 along with several other stunned Hokies, all just trying to absorb what had happened to our town the day before. Now the sign is already off the building. However, another restaurant/bar sign still remains near the intersection of Jackson Street and Draper Road:

Daddy's Money, later known as Buddy's and Morgan's. Photo from 2007, but sign was still there as of May 2010.

My parents and others ate at Daddy’s Money in May 1981 when my father received his Master’s degree from Virginia Tech. I was less than two months away from greeting the world myself 🙂 Later known as Morgan’s and then Buddy’s, these businesses were long gone by the time I started school in 1999. Yet the sign remains (and I’m glad)! If anyone is reading this who happens to have a picture of what Daddy’s Money looked like back in the day – I would LOVE if you shared with me.

The Plaza between Squires Hall and Alumni Hall/Donaldson-Brown had a large, pit-like seating area and fountain when I was at Tech. The fountain was on maybe two times during my entire tenure in Blacksburg. Today the pit has been filled in and has a new fountain, plus tables, benches, and an amphitheatre stage.

Beth and Eric hang out at Squires/Alumni Hall plaza.

The fountain. (I didn't move my drink first 😦

Of course, at one point there was no plaza here at all – just College Avenue, going straight through to Kent Street. There was also a building in the Squires/Top of the Stairs parking lot in the 1960s or 1970s that was burned down, but strangely enough I can never locate any history on it. I’ve heard from multiple people that it was there however and that its burning was an act of arson.

The stage, built in 2009

The new Squires Plaza stage, built in 2009

The April 16th memorial has been added to a bit with a couple of benches.

The memorial

Other new things since May 2009 for those who are interested in that sort of thing:

El Guadalupe Mexican restaurant is definitely gone for good and is now Hokkaido Japanese Buffet. Just don’t touch El Rodeo and I’m okay.

The huge First and Main development that took over Lake Terrace motel (and other assorted properties) looks pretty much the same. The proposed movie theater and Sonic restaurant have yet to be built. GameStop has moved from the development into an old bank building just up the street which makes it look like the fanciest and most dignified video game store in the world. I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of it! The Beamer’s restaurant that was supposed to open at First and Main a couple of years ago hasn’t done so – but the two huge metal turkeys over the entrance that Eric painstakingly worked on still stand …

A brand new CVS has been built in the green, marshy area that was next to Wendy’s on South Main.

South Main’s Hess gas station is now fancy-schmancy and enlarged, and the Subway inside has been replaced with a Bojangle’s.

The South Main Kroger has been built up and is huge. The ABC store in the parking lot was demolished and was moved elsewhere in the strip mall there.

The old Emilio’s restaurant is now a D.P. Dough pizza shop thang that I didn’t see anyone patronizing.

The old Sharkey’s location is STILL vacant. Please, someone buy this place and put a cool bar there. I know I’m not there to patronize it, but come on. It had a lot of character.

There’s a Green’s Sushi Bar in the old Subway/Pete’s Pit BBQ place.

The Farmer’s Market parking lot on Draper Road has been built up into a big park area with just a few parking spaces remaining. It’s called Market Square Park, appropriately.

Several new buildings on campus: behind McBryde Hall, all over the Litton Reeves parking lot, and elsewhere.

Tech Bookstore on Main Street has been renovated and now has two stories. Fun fact: Did you know that Tech Bookstore was once a dance club called After Sundown, and REM played there right before they hit it big in 1983? My friend Byron shared that with me 🙂

The notorious Oge-Chi’s on Draper Road is now an innocent looking sit-down restaurant. Where do kids go to dance in this town now? Just curious.

The site of the Red Lion Inn (a Best Western) way down Prices Fork Road was built up into a large apartment complex called Smith’s Landing. It’s owned by Bruce Smith of Virginia Tech/Redskins fame.

The historic Blacksburg Motor Company building has been remodeled so that it looks just like it did back in 1924.

That’s all I caught in the very brief time I had. I wish I had more pictures for you. If you are reading this and would like to reminisce about what the ‘burg looked like during your time there, feel free to drop me a comment or share some photos. I love hearing about the history of things. And if you liked this little piece and want to see other “about town”-type pieces, please do let me know. I am always ready to explore.

Some things do stay the same. There's still no place like the Drillfield for a lazy afternoon nap.

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11 responses to “Blacksburg: Ch-ch-changes

  1. Thanks for giving us the update at VT! I drove through there briefly at Christmas 2007, but haven’t been back since.

  2. There’s a lot of great information in this piece — what really comes through is how much you love Blacksburg and VT and how much your time there means to you.

  3. Daddy’s Money was started by my college roommate, Johnny DePaola! Wondering if College Inn restaurant is still there on Main St. – best damn cheery pie ever. And what about the 117 South Main Street club? Best place to hear live music. Bruce Springsteen showed up there after his 3 hour VT show in 1976 and jammed on stage with Nils Lofgren (of GRIN) for an hour impromptu set!

    • Hey Darrell! Thanks for stopping by! Really cool to hear more about Daddy’s Money. I always thought that was a great looking building. My mom thought it might’ve been renovated at one point since she was there in ’81 but wasn’t sure.

      Neither College Inn nor 117 South Main is still there. I think those were both gone around the time I started school there in ’99 or not very long after. College Inn became a little ’50s-’60s-themed diner called Joe’s that was a great late-night hangout. They’ve gotten rid of a lot of the theme (jukebox, decorations, oldies music) however which is a shame.

      117 South Main Street has been a few things. I think it was called South Main Cafe at one point (?) but for most of my undergrad it was a club called Baylee’s … good place to hear live music, definitely. Always very lively. Sadly eventually Baylee’s sold to a restaurant called Cabo Fish Taco. The food was great but I don’t think they had live music as much.
      That’s awesome about Springsteen … wow. That must have been incredible.

  4. Nice entry! I went there in the 1970s and lived there through the late 1980s. The building you refer to was on the site of the bookstore, and it burned down in 1970 during campus unrest. Here is some info from the Virginia Tech website on it:

    Building 253-Completed 1921; cost of $25,000. Originally called Extension Apartment House. Remodeled 1963 for use as Women’s Auxiliary Dormitory, housing 34 women students. Turned over to ROTC department 1966-67 and later used by Information Services 1967-68; for Student Union offices 1967-69; and as offices for mathematics professors 1969 until destroyed by fire in spring 1971. University Bookstore now occupies the site.

  5. Love the Daddy’s Money sign, always thought that was a genius name for a college bar. Drink prices tended to go over better if you were spending daddy’s money though.

  6. Visiting Blacksburg for the first time since I left in April 1980! Planning to eat at Cellar Restaurant, which is where my husband and I met in February 1977….in the cellar. Enjoyed reading your write up of the many changes.

  7. Hello! I know you’re not in the Blacksburg area anymore, but my name is Hilary Harrison and I am with the Blacksburg Museum & Cultural Foundation and the recently renovated Alexander Black House here in Blacksburg. We are working on an exhibit coming up next month called “Live Music in Blacksburg in the ’70s & ’80s” and I would love to know if you or anyone else has any knowledge or memorabilia they may want to share for the exhibit! Please check out our website (blacksburghistory.org) and call if you would like to share! Thanks 🙂

    • Hello! Thank you for contacting me! Have you seen the blog that70sblacksburg.blogspot.com? Dennis at that blog has a lot of great memories and photos up from that time frame! If you haven’t already contacted him he is a must!

      If I find anyone else or find any great pictures/artifacts I will be sure to let you know. Great project!

      -Martha

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