Crossroads to Settlement
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Featured Sites

Downtown Historic District
Salem's downtown district reveals nearly two centuries of ... read more

Salem Civic Center / Site of Lewis’ Richfield
Renowned frontier soldier and Revolutionary War hero Andrew Lewis ... read more

East Hill Cemetery
The grave of General Andrew Lewis was moved to this site in the ... read more


Long before European settlers filtered into the area, the fertile Roanoke Valley was home to untold generations of Native Americans. On the site of today's Moyer Sports Complex, a large 17th Century Indian village once stood--it was possibly the Totera Town visited by explorers Batts and Fallam in 1671.

The earliest white settlers began to migrate to our valley in the mid-18th Century. Finding abundant timber, fertile soil, and acres of solitude, these hearty pioneers carved a new life for themselves from the wilderness. Best known of the early settlers was Andrew Lewis, colonial frontiersman and patriot. Lewis in 1774 would lead local militiamen in the crucial Battle of Point Pleasant, securing the Ohio River frontier from Indian raids. Two years later, Lewis would command the forces that evicted the last British governor from Virginia at Gwynn's Island.

After Lewis' death his heirs sold off parts of his vast land holdings. In 1800 developer and speculator James Simpson purchased 31 acres astride the Great Wagon Road and platted a town he named Salem. He sold his first lot to Susanna Cole in June of 1802.

From these humble beginnings, Salem continued to develop. Businesses and taverns catering to wayfarers along the Wagon Road brought impressive prosperity. A wave of growth ensued, so much so that by 1838 Salem was large enough to be designated the County Seat for the newly formed Roanoke County. By 1847 a school, soon renamed Roanoke College, had also located in Salem.

The turmoil of the Civil War largely bypassed Salem, though local boys fought in virtually every major engagement of the war. Only twice did the war intrude into our peaceful valley: in December 1863 with Averell's Raid on Salem's railroad, and in June 1864 with a skirmish fought at Hanging Rock.

After the war, Salem slowly adjusted to new realities. A postwar slump soon dissipated and growth returned. By the 1880s railroad investment brought new prosperity, and Salem experienced a Great Land Boom, tripling the size of the town.

Growth brought new expectations of city services, and to meet these needs Salem in 1922 converted to the Council-Manager form of government. A succession of capable managers turned Salem into a thriving community, the largest town in the state by the 1950s. But town status would not protect Salem from the threat of annexation by the city of Roanoke next door. For that reason the town council voted in 1968 to remake Salem into an independent city.

The new City of Salem concentrated on quality of life for her citizens, providing first-rate civic services and some of the best schools in the state. Under the legendary mayor Jim Taliaferro, Salem pursued opportunity in sports marketing, with a new football stadium, one of the best baseball stadiums in the minor leagues, and facilities to host dozens of NCAA championships in multiple sports.

Today Salem holds a reputation for one of the best-run cities in Virginia with a standard of living unsurpassed in the state.

Additional Sites

Salem Museum

Roanoke College

Site of Fort Lewis, West Main St.