Danville, Virginia

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Independent city
Official seal of Danville
Nickname(s): River City, City of Churches
Motto: The River City, Where Innovation Flows
Danville, Virginia is located in Virginia
Danville, Virginia
Location in the state of Virginia
Coordinates: 36°35′14″N 79°24′16″W / 36.58722°N 79.40444°W / 36.58722; -79.40444
CountryUnited States
 • MayorSherman Saunders
 • Total44 sq mi (110 km2)
 • Land43 sq mi (110 km2)
 • Water1 sq mi (3 km2)
Elevation531 ft (162 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total43,055
 • Density1,004/sq mi (388/km2)
Time zoneEST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST)EDT (UTC-4)
Area code(s)434
FIPS code51-21344[1]
GNIS feature ID1492837[2]
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Independent city
Official seal of Danville
Nickname(s): River City, City of Churches
Motto: The River City, Where Innovation Flows
Danville, Virginia is located in Virginia
Danville, Virginia
Location in the state of Virginia
Coordinates: 36°35′14″N 79°24′16″W / 36.58722°N 79.40444°W / 36.58722; -79.40444
CountryUnited States
 • MayorSherman Saunders
 • Total44 sq mi (110 km2)
 • Land43 sq mi (110 km2)
 • Water1 sq mi (3 km2)
Elevation531 ft (162 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total43,055
 • Density1,004/sq mi (388/km2)
Time zoneEST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST)EDT (UTC-4)
Area code(s)434
FIPS code51-21344[1]
GNIS feature ID1492837[2]

Danville is an independent city in the U.S. state of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 43,055.[3] It is bounded by Pittsylvania County, Virginia and Caswell County, North Carolina. It hosts the Danville Braves baseball club of the Appalachian League.

Danville is the principal city of the Danville, Virginia Micropolitan Statistical Area.

Geography and climate[edit]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 43.9 square miles (113.7 km2), of which 43.1 square miles (111.6 km2) is land and 1.0 square mile (2.6 km2) (2.3%) is water.[4]

Climate data for Danville, Virginia (Danville Regional Airport), 1981–2010 normals
Average high °F (°C)46.4
Average low °F (°C)29.2
Precipitation inches (mm)3.42
Snowfall inches (cm)2.2
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)
Source: NOAA[5]


Historical population
Est. 201242,996−0.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[6]
1790-1960[7] 1900-1990[8]
1990-2000[9] 2010-2012[3]

As of the census[10] of 2010, Danville had a population of 43,055. The racial makeup of the city was White Non-Hispanic 46.7%, African American 48.3%, Hispanic 2.9%, Asian 0.9%, American Indian or Alaska Native 0.2%, and two or more races 1.3%.

25.4% of the population never married, 46.6% were married, 5.4% were separated. 11.6% were widowed and 11.0% were divorced. There were 59 registered sex offenders living in Danville in early 2007.[11][12]

River District[edit]

Prior to the recession of 2008, the City of Danville and its partners began a major project focused on the revitalization of the Historic Downtown and Tobacco Warehouse Districts, now coined “The River District.” Today, the project continues with a new momentum as the public sector has joined the movement. See Danville River District.



Amtrak's Crescent train connects Danville with the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta, Birmingham and New Orleans. The Amtrak station is situated at 677 Craghead Street.


View of the Dan River in downtown Danville

U.S. Route 58 (Riverside Dr/River St) parallels the north bank of the Dan River traveling east/west through Danville's main commercial district while the US 58 Bypass route bypasses the city's center to the south via the Danville Expressway. U.S. Route 29 splits into a business route and a bypass at the North Carolina/Virginia border. The business route enters the heart of Danville via West Main Street and Memorial Drive and exits via Central Boulevard and Piney Forest Road; US 29 Business travels relatively north/south. The bypass (future Interstate 785) takes the eastern segment of the Danville Expressway and rejoins the business route north of the city near Chatham, Virginia.

North Carolina Highway 86 becomes State Route 86 once it crosses the state line into Danville as South Main Street. It continues north to its terminus at US 29 Business/Central Boulevard.

State Route 293 was created in 1998 to mark the route of old US 29 Business, which was rerouted to the west. SR 293 enters Danville's downtown historic district as West Main Street, then Main Street, and then crosses the Dan River to meet US 29 Business as North Main Street.

State Route 51 parallels US 58 Business as Westover Drive from its western terminus at US 58 Business at the Danville's corporate limits to its eastern terminus at US 58 Business near the Dan River.


Wreck of the Old 97, Danville, Virginia, 1903

In 1728, William Byrd headed an expedition sent to determine the true boundary between Virginia and North Carolina. One night late that summer, the party camped upstream from what is now Danville, Byrd was so taken with the beauty of the land, that he prophesied a future settlement in the vicinity, where people would live “with much comfort and gaiety of Heart.” The river along which he camped was named the “Dan”, for Byrd, supposing himself to be in the land of plenty, felt he had wandered “from Dan to Beersheba”.

The first white settlement (numerous Native American tribes had lived in the area) occurred downstream from Byrd’s campsite in 1792, at a spot along the river shallow enough to allow fording. It was named “Wynne’s Falls,” after the first settler. The village has a “social” reason for its origin, since it was here that pioneering Revolutionary War veterans met once a year to fish and talk over old times.

The establishment by the General Assembly of a tobacco warehouse at Wynne’s Falls in 1793 was the beginning of “The World’s Best Tobacco Market.” Virginia’s largest market for bright leaf tobacco. The village was renamed Danville by act of the Virginia Legislature on November 23, 1793. A charter for the town was drawn up February 17, 1830, but by the time of its issue, the population had exceeded the pre-arranged boundaries. This necessitated a new charter, which was issued in 1833. In that year, James Lanier was elected the first mayor, assisted by a council of “twelve fit and able men.”

On July 22, 1882, six of Danville’s enterprising citizens founded the Riverside Cotton Mills, which was in its day known the country over as Dan River Inc., the largest single-unit textile mill in the world. The mill is now closed, and many of its buildings have been torn down and the bricks sold. One very important building, "The White Mill," is now being renovated as an apartment complex.

On September 9, 1882, Danville mayor John H. Johnston shot and killed his chief of police John E. Hatcher, after Hatcher demanded an apology for a statement Johnston had made regarding unaccounted fine money. Johnston was charged with murder, and acquitted at trial.[13]

One of the most famous wrecks in American rail history occurred in Danville. On September 27, 1903, “Old 97,” the Southern Railway’s crack express mail train, was running behind schedule. Its engineer “gave her full throttle,” but the speed of the train caused it to jump the tracks on a high trestle overlooking the valley of the Dan. The engine and five cars plunged into the ravine below, killing nine and injuring seven, but immortalizing the locomotive and its engineer, Joseph A. ("Steve") Broadey, in a now well-known song. A marker is located on U.S. 58 between Locust Lane and North Main Street at the train crash site. A mural of the Wreck of the Old 97 is painted on a downtown Danville building in memory of the historic wreck.

Shuttered textile mill, Dan River Mills, on the Dan River, Danville

On March 2, 1911, Danville Police Chief R. E. Morris, who had been elected to three two-year terms and was running for a fourth term, was arrested as an escaped convicted murderer. He admitted that he was really Edgar Stribling of Harris County, Georgia, and had been on the run for thirteen years.[14]

Danville was home to both Nancy Langhorne, Viscountess Astor, the first woman to serve in the British House of Commons, and Irene Langhorne Gibson, the inspiration for "the Gibson girl". They resided at Langhorne House. It is also the home of the very first and only black driver to win a race in what is now NASCAR's Sprint Cup, Wendell Scott, and was the birthplace of "Battling Jim" Johnson (b. ca. 1883), a boxer who fought heavyweight champion Jack Johnson to a draw in Paris in 1913.

Broadside advertisement for tobacco warehouse, Danville, 1874

Preservation Virginia President William B. Kerkam, III, and its Executive Director Elizabeth S. Kostelny announced at a press conference held in Danville (2007) at Main Street Methodist Church, a building not designated to the list while nonetheless at risk, that the entire city of Danville has been named one of the Most Endangered Historic Sites in Virginia.

American Civil War[edit]

Broadside by Jefferson Davis announcing move of Confederate capitol to Danville, 4 April 1865

The outbreak of the American Civil War found Danville a thriving community of some 5,000 people. During those four years of war, the town was transformed into a strategic center of activity. It was a quartermaster’s depot, rail center, hospital station for Confederate wounded and a prison camp. Here six tobacco warehouses were converted into prisons, housing at one time more than 5,000 captured Federal soldiers. The city and surrounding areas also contributed two companies of infantry, one troop of cavalry, and a battery of artillery to the Confederate army.

Starvation and dysentery, plus a smallpox epidemic in 1864, caused the death of 1,314 of these prisoners. Their remains now lie interred in the Danville National Cemetery.

The Richmond and Danville Railroad was the main supply route into Petersburg where Lee's Army of Northern Virginia were holding their defensive line to protect Richmond. The Danville supply train ran until General Stoneman's Union cavalry troops tore up the tracks. This event was immortalised in the song "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down".

Danville home of tobacco entrepreneur William T. Sutherlin, called by locals the "Last Capitol" of the Confederacy

Danville became the last headquarters of the Confederate States of America within the space of a few days. Jefferson Davis stayed at the palatial home of William T. Sutherlin on April 3, 1865. It was in the Sutherlin home that Davis' issued his final Presidential Proclamation. The final Confederate Cabinet meeting was held at the Benedict House (later destroyed) in Danville. Davis and members of his cabinet remained there until April 10, 1865, when news of Lee’s surrender forced them to flee southward. On the day of their departure, Governor William Smith arrived from Lynchburg to establish his headquarters.

Civil Rights Movement[edit]

A series of violent episodes of the Civil Rights Movement in Virginia occurred in Danville during the summer of 1963. On May 31, representatives of the black community organized as the Danville Christian Progressive Association (DCPA) demanded an end to segregation and job discrimination in Danville. A boycott of white merchants was declared, and a march to City Hall followed. Most of the marchers were high school students. They were met by police and city workers armed with clubs. The protesters were sprayed with fire hoses and hit with clubs. Around forty protesters needed medical attention. Marches and other protests continued for several weeks.[15] Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Danville and spoke at High Street Baptist Church about the brutality of the police force. He called it the worst police brutality he had seen in the South.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) sent organizers to Danville to support the DCPA. They helped lead protest, including demonstrations at the Howard Johnson Hotel and restaurant on Route 29. The hotel was known for discriminating against blacks. A special grand jury indicted 13 DCPA, SCLC, and SNCC activists for violating the "John Brown" law. This law, passed in 1830 after a slave uprising, made it a serious felony to "...incite the colored population to acts of violence or war against the white population." It became known as the "John Brown" law in 1860 because it was used to convict and hang abolitionist John Brown after his raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859.[15]

By the end of August, over 600 protesters had been arrested in Danville on charges of inciting to violence, contempt, trespassing, disorderly conduct, assault, parading without a permit, and resisting arrest. Because of the large number of arrest on these charges, often the jails would be over crowded, protesters were housed in detention facilities in jurisdiction located near Danville, VA. The demonstrations failed to achieve desegregation in Danville which remained segregated until passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[15]

Garland Street[edit]

Tobacco Warehouse Historic District

Millionaire's Row is the most impressive area in Danville. It has many fine homes built in the 19th century and early 20th century by descendants of American planters, such as the Penn-Wyatt House. They are beautiful mansions adorned by trees lining the streets and peppered about the yards of these beautiful homes. The entire area around "Penn's Bottom", the nickname for the part of Main Street that experienced heavy growth as the first suburb of Danville during the tobacco boom, has been designated as a historic district. The Old West End Historic District, Tobacco Warehouse Historic District, Downtown Danville Historic District, Holbrook-Ross Street Historic District, and North Main Historic District are going through a period of revitalization. The many fine examples of Victorian architecture are showcased every Holiday season with the Christmas Tour.

Also located in this district is the "Sutherlin Mansion", currently known as the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History. This Italianate mansion was the home of Major William T. Sutherlin, a Confederate quartermaster, and was the location of the last "White House" of the Confederacy after the fall of Richmond. The museum and its grounds currently occupy a complete block in this district. The remainder of the plantation was subdivided to create the surrounding neighborhood.

Dan's Hill estate, Danville vicinity

City of Churches[edit]

Danville is known as "the city of churches" because it has more churches per square mile than any other city in the state of Virginia.[16]


Danville Mall, formerly Piedmont Mall, opened in 1984.

City government[edit]

The City of Danville has a council-manager government in which a city manager is hired by council to supervise the city government and ensure that the ordinances and policies made by the city council are carried out in an effective manner.[17] The city council consists of nine members elected by the residents of Danville. The city council selects the mayor and vice mayor from among its members to serve two-year terms.[17] The city council has the power "to adopt and enforce legislative and budgetary ordinances, policies, and rules and regulations necessary to conduct the public's business and to provide for the protection of the general health, safety and welfare of the public."[17] The members of the Danville City Council are:

Pemberton & Penn Tobacco Co. building, Tobacco Warehouse Historic District

Notable people[edit]





Colleges and universities[edit]

Notable businesses[edit]

See also[edit]

National Register of Historic Places listings in Danville, Virginia


  1. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  4. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  5. ^ "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  6. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  10. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14. 
  11. ^ http://www.city-data.com/city/Danville-Virginia.html
  12. ^ http://www.city-data.com/so/so-Danville-Virginia.html
  13. ^ "John Epps Hatcher". Hatcher Families Genealogy Society. 
  14. ^ "Arrest Police Chief as Escaped Convict", The New York Times, March 3, 1911. Retrieved January 10, 2008.
  15. ^ a b c Civil Rights Movement Veterans. "Danville VA, Movement". 
  16. ^ "Danville VA", Forbes, http://www.forbes.com/places/va/danville/. Woodsmall, Michael, "Danville, Va.: The City of Churches", The Chronicle, December 3, 2010.
  17. ^ a b c [1]"City Council." Retrieved Dec. 20, 2007.
  18. ^ Steve Huffman (February 18, 2011). "'The Old Man' from ‘Pawn Stars' recalls growing up in Lexington". The-Dispatch.com. Retrieved June 2, 2012. 
  19. ^ NFL stats for Kenny Lewis
  20. ^ "Don Testerman". Pro-Football Reference. Retrieved Oct 2013. 
  21. ^ Charles Tyner - Biography
  22. ^ "Tony Womack". Baseball-Reference.Com. Retrieved October 14, 2012. 
  23. ^ Popper, Nathaniel (April 10, 2011). "Ikea's U.S. factory churns out unhappy workers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°35′14″N 79°24′16″W / 36.587238°N 79.404404°W / 36.587238; -79.404404