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West of downtown between Campbell Avenue on the south, Salem Avenue on the north and 18th Street on the west.
As part of West End, Roanoke’s earliest suburb, Patterson Avenue was home to some of Roanoke’s wealthiest families and most breathtaking Victorian mansions. The area is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Virginia Landmarks Register.
Hot shot developer Ferdinand Rorer came to Roanoke, née Big Lick, in 1850 and bought a large expanse of farmland west of the city. After the Shenandoah Valley and Norfolk & Western railroads merged in 1882, Rorer advertised 2,500 lots for sale as home building sites in what is now known as the West End and includes Hurt Park and Mountain View neighborhoods. Rorer laid out the street grid that is still used today. Having a penchant for putting his name on things (Rorer Hall, Rorer Park Hotel), he used family names for several of the streets in his new development (Ferdinand, Chapman, Rorer, and Patterson).
In 1888 a group of city bankers and industrialists organized one of Roanoke’s largest real estate firms and bought 15 blocks of Rorer’s development and started marketing it through the West End Land Company.
The company advertised its development as an “elite suburb” and zoned it exclusively for “good handsome dwellings.” Lots sold briskly and by 1890 several tasteful and expensive Italianesque and Queen Anne mansions had gone up. When first developed, West End was home to the people who owned the railroads as well as those who worked there.
Handsome Victorian mansions lined the north and higher side of the wide street nicknamed The Boulevard and looked down on attractive, though less imposing, neighbors across the street. West of 13th Street, Patterson widens to 100 feet with 20-foot wide planting strips. The street car ran from 1892 to 1945. Most of the mansions had wide concrete steps leading from the street to the walkway up to the house. Today many of those steps lead to empty lots, a sad reminder of the grandeur that once was.
Times changed, tastes changed, and the next great ‘burbs beckoned. Patterson Avenue’s heyday seems to have been remarkably short, approximately 1890 to 1920. By the mid-‘20s, families were becoming smaller, servants were less plentiful, the automobile had arrived, and the latest, greatest new suburbs—South Roanoke, Virginia Heights, Raleigh Court, and Wasena—were luring residents with promises of pure air, water, sewer lines, electricity, paved streets and sidewalks.