The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Hillsville, Virginia - Small Town Tradition

By Anthony Surratt © 1984

Issue: January, 1984

(Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Mr. Surratt who is a junior at Carroll County High School. Through his eyes, we can see Hillsville, Virginia as a resident and a proud one at that.)

Driving through the streets of this small town, one will notice such things as nicely kept lawns, elderly citizens sitting on the steps of the court house talking of the weeks events, and most importantly, the unmistakably friendly atmosphere surrounding the town and its citizens.

This town, typical of the image of other mid-Atlantic and southern towns of its size, is Hillsville, Virginia. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hillsville is the home to around 2,000 people.

Starting on the town’s North Main Street traveling south, Hillsville’s visitors will notice on the left the new Carroll County Public Library. The county’s first and only public library, it was started in mid-summer, finished in late fall, and opened in December 1982.

Two blocks further down Main Street on the right is Hillsville Intermediate School. Built in the early 1920’s, the school was the home of Hillsville High until 1969 when Carroll County High School was built. The school has an enrollment of nearly 650 students in grades 5 through 9.

Driving one more block down the street, one will see in front of them, as the street widens, the town’s line of buildings. One of these buildings is the Hillsville Diner. Resembling a street car, the diner was first opened in 1936. The present owners have operated it since 1966.

A block past the diner, set slightly off the road behind several large evergreen trees is the Carroll County Court House. Most famous as the sight of the 1912 shoot-out of the Sidna Allen gang in which five people were killed, the court house has recently been named a landmark, protecting it from demolition, a problem which claims some of the south’s most beautiful buildings. Beside the court house is the five-story, Roman style Carter Building which houses some of the county’s administrators. Next, there are the town hall and the post office, both buildings that have an antique look that tells the visitor that he is definitely in a town that protects its heritage by protecting its architecture.

While traveling south along Main Street, an attraction almost impossible to miss is the faces of the people walking through the town - faces that tell the visitor that he is as much a part of the town’s heritage as the life-long citizen himself.

Down the street, past the town’s only movie theater, several variety and clothing stores and fast food restaurant is one of Hillsville’s two stop lights. The particular stop light is set up at the intersection of US 52 (Main Street) and 58.

Turning left at the light, the visitor is lead past two car dealerships, several gas stations, the town’s new Food Lion store, and two of Hillsville’s four motels, bringing up the second traffic light. Straight ahead on the left is Carroll County High School, home of over 1,000 students who proudly call themselves “Cavaliers”.

Back at the first light, a right turn leads down west Grayson Street. Past a row of houses is Hillsville’s VFW building which, along with several vacant lots adjacent to the building is the location of the annual Labor Day Weekend Flea Market and Gun Show. During the three day event, more than 60,000 people pour into the area surrounding the building causing the street to resemble a metropolis rather than a small town.

Further along west Grayson Street past the VFW is Hillsville’s only shopping plaza, Hickory Hill Shopping Center. The center houses a Maxway variety store, Lowes Food Store, a Revco Drug and several other stores.

Finally, straight ahead at the first light leads down South Main, revealing no ancient buildings, no gas stations and stores, just houses lining both sides of the street. The typical Hillsville home is not extravagant nor is it a mere shelter. Each home reveals something of each resident in the way it is furnished, in the way the welcome mat is carefully placed at the front door. It shows the pride each resident possesses because he or she lives in a small town that respects its heritage and its citizens.

As the tour of this “typical small town” concluded, each visitor leaves with a pleasant feeling inside - a feeling of comfort that one aspect of American heritage is kept alive - in the small town.