On Tuesday, October 11, 2016 Historic Fincastle and the Town of Fincastle unveiled two projects aimed at bringing visitors into this historic town. The Town, located 20 mile north of Roanoke on Route 220, was established in 1770. Incorporated in 1772, today the quiet and quaint village is a virtual museum of American architecture from the late 1770’s through the 21st century. With its historic courthouse, blacksmith shop, Big Spring Park, James Matten Early Cabin, five historic churches and numerous other structures and residences, the Town is alive with history.
Carol Brenner, President of Historic Fincastle, Inc. (HFI) spearheaded the projects aimed at bringing folks in to see what the Town has to offer. The first project was the construction of a new gateway sign. The sign is located on HFI property at the corner of Route 220 and Main Street. The goal of the sign, simply, is to draw people off of busy Route 220 into the historic downtown district and neighborhoods close by. HFI worked closely with the Town of Fincastle and its Tourism Committee, comprised of Alan Brenner, Patty King, Hal Bailey, Kip and Lynn Burton, Town Council member Meredith Shelton and Fincastle Town manager David Tickner, to locate and design the sign. The stone for the sign itself came from The Fincastle Lodge No. 3708, Grand United Order of Odd Fellows and the Household of Ruth No. 976 (Women’s Auxiliary) — an African American organization — known as “The Hall” — located in the Town of Fincastle on Hancock Street. Deeded on March 3, 1896, the Odd Fellows Hall was used for African American primary grade children and also a cafeteria at the Academy Hill School. This property is now owned by James Edward Hickenbotham and he generously donated the native stone for the sign. The stone work for the sign was done by local mason Chris Nichols. A plaque will be erected detailing the significance of the stone.
During the construction of the sign, Brenner was able to secure funding from a number of sources. These included Historic Fincastle, Inc., the Town of Fincastle, grant money from the Helen S and Charles G Patterson Charitable Trust Foundation and Botetourt County Recreational Incentives Fund program funding and private donations from local citizens. Without the collaborative effort, the sign likely would not have been completed. The sign was completed on Monday, October 10 with the installation of the sign by Blue Ridge Sign.
The other project unveiled was the creation of a “virtual tour” of the numerous historic structures in town. While HFI has volunteers who occasionally conduct tours through town, many visitors utilize the brochure created by HFI for a self-guided tour. In keeping with the times, the Tourism Committee and members of HFI worked with Botetourt County GIS Specialist Robert Beatty to develop a GPS-based application to be used on a smartphone. The app locates the user and directs him or her to the various structures of significance in town, providing information about each. Visitors can access the virtual tour from the HFI web site at hisfin.org or townoffincastle.org
Both projects are steps towards a bright and successful future for this historic town. In addition, HFI plans to launch the Fincastle Historic Document Archives Collection online in 2017.