by Hannah Bumgarner, Madi Praver–
The ornate decor of this house is often noticed by a passerby. The ruby and jade exterior and Queen Anne and Victorian style architecture certainly stand out. However, not many people are aware of its historical significance.
In the 1750s, a man named Samuel Black purchased 600 acres of land in Blacksburg. He passed this land down from generation to generation until eventually, only one member of the Black family remained in the state. Alexander Black, a successful businessman and the creator of Blacksburg’s original 16 squares, built this extravagant home in 1897 with a certain creative vision in mind.
“He wanted to let people know that you could be prosperous here in Blacksburg,” explained Rhonda Morgan, Executive Director of the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation.
Today, the house functions as a museum and cultural center. Morgan is the heart and soul of the museum. She is passionate about Blacksburg’s history and works tirelessly to preserve it.
The Cultural Foundation functions as a non-profit. According to the Blacksburg Museum website, its mission is “to preserve, interpret and promote Blacksburg’s history, art, and cultural heritage.” Through fundraising efforts and active donors, the foundation is working hard to raise funds for the complete restoration of the Alexander Black House. The second floor of the building is currently under construction.
The museum’s exhibits are constantly changing and always have an emphasis on history or culture, as well as the community. “A lot of what we do is support local artists,” said Morgan. “That’s musicians, performing artists, writers, as well as visual artists.”
The Alexander Black House has become a gathering place for members of the community. Local businesses and organizations are also able to rent out the space to host meetings, events, weddings, etc.
Many people are drawn to the house simply because of its eclectic design, but Lori Jones, the Museum Educator, hopes to make a lasting impression on every visitor that steps inside. “I want people to stop in and ask questions,” she said. “There’s so much to say about this house and the history. All people have to do is ask.”
The popularity of the Alexander Black House is continuing to grow. TripAdvisor even ranked it among the “Top 15 Things To Do in Blacksburg” for 2019. It’s convenient location on Draper road, which runs parallel to Main street, also entices visitors who are interested in learning more about Blacksburg’s cultural heritage and history.
Admission is always free to the public and The Color Project by local artist, Darcy Meeker, is currently on display. The brightly colored artwork and sculptures outside gives the house adds even more curb appeal than before.