Roanoke's restored Virginian Railway station gets first tenant

Restoration project took 10 years to complete, brings revenue for non-profit

ROANOKE, Va. – There is more history to be written at a historic railroad station in Roanoke. The old Virginian Railway passenger station saw its last train ride in the 1950s; now, nearly 70 years later, it has a new use.

The station is owned by the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. The group currently uses some of the station as meeting space, but the plan was always for some sort of commercial tenant to move in. That's now happening, and the building is almost exactly as it was nearly 100 years ago.

It's a job no one usually wants to do, but at Steger Creek, the decision is final. It's time to move the gifts and collectibles away from the neighborhood around Tanglewood Mall.

"I think we're making the move just at the right time to establish a new home," Steger Creek owner Michael Pace said. "It's always a little scary when you're somewhere for over 30 years to get our customers to follow us."

The new home is off Jefferson Avenue, in a building with a whole lot of character. It's the restored Virginian Railway passenger station, sitting proudly in beaming bright orange.

"It's absolutely gorgeous architecturally. The fact that it's so solid was why it survived the fire," National Railway Historical Society Roanoke Chapter Vice President Gary Gray said. "It was solid masonry walls, and that's what saved it."

January 2001 beat the station up. Some homeless people started a small fire to stay warm, and blistering cold winds fueled it to the point where it consumed the building.

"It did received historic landmark status, and then in 2005 Norfolk Southern donated the station to us with the intention that we would restore it," Gray said.

Restore it they did, winning two awards along the way. It sat empty nearly two years, but that all changes June 1.

"It was a drain on the finances after the building was done, sitting without a tenant," Gray said. "Now with Steger Creek, it's going to be just the opposite, we're going to have some income coming in."

With a nonprofit rail preservation landlord, income is a magic word. Money is needed to preserve history. Steger Creek's owner sees this as the perfect way to give it.

"We're going to sort of marry the character of that building with the uniqueness and the character of the products we carry," Pace said.

More than 10 years in the marking, a perfect match is now complete. Steger Creek is also taking over the gift shop at the Taubman Museum. The store plans to open the new location at the rail station this July.


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