Legacy: New Town’s Fate & Afterlife
World War II and the growth of VPI brought changes to the New Town community. Enrollment at the university reached historic heights as veterans returned from the war and higher education expanded. The student population grew from 3242 in 1940 to 4857 in 1950.Blacksburg grew as new employers including the Radford Arsenal and private manufacturing firms came to the area, while real estate companies created subdivisions outside the town’s historic core.
The construction of University Mall in 1975, especially, pulled development beyond the town’s traditional boundaries. Residents gradually left New Town and students and newcomers moved into the rental houses, pulling at the tight-knit fabric of the community woven over decades.
By the early 2000s, Virginia Tech had become a comprehensive state university of more than 25,000 students and led the redevelopment of the neighborhood into a retail center. Most recently, the North End Center opened with retail and office space, and a parking garage. In 2005, the Town of Blacksburg listed St. Luke’s and Odd Fellows Hall on the National Register of Historic Places, and reopened the building for the public in 2009.
Today the Blacksburg Museum & Cultural Foundation work to preserve New Town’s cultural and historic heritage.