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They came, they looked, and they bought,” wrote then-Roanoke Times business writer George Kegley of the grand opening of Crossroads Mall on July 27, 1961.
When the mall opened at 10 a.m., most of its 2,000 parking spaces were taken, and in the first 12 hours, at least 10,000 people came to check out the Roanoke Valley’s first shopping mall. Visitors included housewives (many of whom walked from Williamson Road), hundreds who arrived by bus and thousands from Roanoke city and county, Bedford, Blacksburg, Christiansburg and other western Virginia areas. Visitors were awed by the fountains, the trees, the wall murals, and, of course, the air conditioning.
Situated three miles north of downtown, Crossroads was not only the first mall in the valley, it was the first enclosed and air-conditioned mall in Virginia.
Developed by the Double T. Corporation – T. D. Steele of Catawba and T. A. Carter, Jr. of Salem – the new mall was a popular destination. The two developers hailed the grand opening as “the happy result of the combination of Roanoke dreams, plans and design, Roanoke construction, and Roanoke labor.”
Indeed, the shopping center itself was locally owned and developed, and all the work – with the exception of the sprinkler system – was done by area companies: Webster Brick Company supplied the distinctive pastel-colored brick. The 72,000 square yards of paving for the parking lots was laid by Adams Construction Company, one of the oldest asphalt firms in Virginia.
The original anchor stores were J. C. Penney, Roses, Heironimus, Winn-Dixie and Peoples Drug. Other original tenants included Fink’s, Smartwear Irving-Saks, Sidney’s, Cato Fashions, and Bailey’s Cafeteria.
The 25 acres beneath Crossroads can be traced back to 1756 when Mark Evans and Robert Breckinridge received a land grant. The land then passed through the Breckinridge family, including a marriage into the Watts family, when the acreage became The Watts Farm.
In 1890, J. B. Andrews purchased 250 acres, and later expanded his holdings. Junius B. Fishburn, a business colleague of Andrews, reportedly advised the family to “hold on to that land because someday it will be the center of the Roanoke Valley.” His advice proved prophetic.
Andrews paid $300 per acre, but when the Andrews family sold 25 acres for the Crossroads shopping center, the price tag was $12,000 per acre – then a record price for farmland in Roanoke County.
More Fun in ‘61: To Church in your Swimwear
The “Sacred Tree of Cloverdale” blew down in a windstorm. The huge black walnut tree had stood in the front yard of Meadowview Inn for 500 years and had a circumference of 25 feet. The tree was known through the years as the “ancient worship tree of the Indians,” and was celebrated in the poem “The Sacred Tree of Cloverdale” written by Col. Jennings Wise of Lexington in 1948.
Charlotte Ann Thomas of Roanoke was chosen Miss Virginia at ceremonies at the American Theater. She was a rising sophomore at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.
Passenger service on Norfolk and Western Railway’s Winston-Salem line, called The Punkin Vine because of its twisting route, ended after 69 years of continuous service.
You could go to church in your bathing suit aboard your boat at Claytor Lake. Rev. D. Kirk Hammond announced he would conduct a “Boat In” church service from the pier at his lake house.
Bob Denver, better known to TV fans as Maynard G. Krebs of “The Dobie Gillis Show” and later as Gilligan of “Gilligan’s Island,” was named parade marshal for the 6th annual Vinton Dogwood Festival.