Harrisonburg, Virginia

"Harrisonburg" redirects here. For the village in Louisiana, see Harrisonburg, Louisiana.
Harrisonburg, Virginia
Independent city
City of Harrisonburg

Rockingham County Courthouse in Court Square in downtown Harrisonburg

Nickname(s): The Friendly City, H'Burg, The Burg, Rocktown

Location in Virginia
Coordinates: 38°26′58″N 78°52′08″W / 38.44944°N 78.86889°W / 38.44944; -78.86889Coordinates: 38°26′58″N 78°52′08″W / 38.44944°N 78.86889°W / 38.44944; -78.86889
Country United States
State Virginia
County None (Independent city)
Founded 1779
  Type Council-manager government
  City Self Regulated Manager Kurt Hodgen[1]
  Mayor Christopher B. Jones (D)[2]
  Vice Mayor Richard Baugh (D)[3]
  City Council
  Total 17.4 sq mi (45 km2)
  Land 17.3 sq mi (45 km2)
  Water 0.1 sq mi (0.3 km2)
Elevation 1,325 ft (404 m)
Population (2010)
  Total 48,914
  Density 2,827/sq mi (1,092/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
  Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 22801-22803, 22807
Area code(s) 540
FIPS code 51-35624[9]
GNIS feature ID 1498489[10]
Website Harrisonburg, Virginia

Harrisonburg is an independent city in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 48,914.[11] Harrisonburg is the county seat of Rockingham County,[12] although the two are separate jurisdictions. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Harrisonburg with Rockingham County for statistical purposes. Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University.

Harrisonburg is the core city of the Harrisonburg, Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Area, which has a 2011 estimated population of 126,562.[13]


Harrisonburg was named for Thomas Harrison (1704–1785), an early settler.[14]

The earliest documented English exploration of the area prior to settlement was the "Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition", led by Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood, who reached Elkton, and whose rangers continued and in 1716 likely passed through what is now Harrisonburg.

Harrisonburg, previously known as "Rocktown", was named for Thomas Harrison, a son of English settlers.[15] In 1737, Harrison settled in the Shenandoah Valley, eventually laying claim to over 12,000 acres (4,900 ha) situated at the intersection of the Spotswood Trail and the main Native American road through the valley.[16]

In 1779, Harrison deeded 2.5 acres (1.0 ha) of his land to the "public good" for the construction of a courthouse. In 1780, Harrison deeded an additional 50 acres (20 ha).[17] This is the area now known as "Historic Downtown Harrisonburg."

In 1849, trustees chartered a mayor–council form of government, although Harrisonburg was not officially incorporated as an independent city until 1916. Today, a council–manager government administers Harrisonburg.[18]

On June 6, 1862, an American Civil War skirmish took place at Good's Farm, Chestnut Ridge near Harrisonburg between the forces of the Union and the forces of the Confederacy at which the C.S. Army Brigadier General, Turner Ashby (1828–1862), was killed.


Interstate 81, a main roadway in Harrisonburg

When the slaves of the Shenandoah Valley were freed in 1865, they set up near modern-day Harrisonburg a town called Newtown.[19] This settlement was eventually annexed by the independent city of Harrisonburg some years later, probably around 1892. Today, the old city of Newtown is still the home of the majority of Harrisonburg's predominantly black churches, such as First Baptist and Bethel AME. The modern Boys and Girls Club of Harrisonburg is located in the old Lucy Simms schoolhouse used for the black students in the days of segregation.

A large portion of this black neighborhood was dismantled in the 1960s when – in the name of urban renewal – the city government used federal redevelopment funds from the Housing Act of 1949 to force black families out of their homes and then bulldozed the neighborhood. This effort, called "Project R4", focused on the city blocks east of Main, north of Gay, west of Broad, and south of Johnson. According to Bob Sullivan, an intern working in the city planner's office in 1958, the city planner at the time, David Clark had to convince the city council that Harrisonburg even had slums. Newtown, a low socioeconomic status housing area, was declared a slum. Federal law mandated that the city needed to have a referendum on the issue before R4 could begin. The vote was close with 1,024 votes in favor and 978 against R4. After the vote, the Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority was formed. All of the members were white men. The project began and, due to eminent domain, the government could force the people of Newtown to sell their homes. They were offered rock bottom prices for their homes. Many people couldn't afford a new home and had to move into public housing projects and become dependent on the government. Likewise, many of the businesses of Newtown that were bought out could not afford to reestablish themselves. Kline's, a white-owned business, was actually one of the few businesses in the area that was able to reopen. The city later sold the land to commercial developers.[20]

Downtown Renaissance

In early 2002, the Harrisonburg community discussed the possibility of creating a pedestrian mall downtown. Public meetings were held to discuss the merits and drawbacks of pursuing such a plan. Ultimately, the community decided to keep its Main Street open to traffic. From these discussions, however, a strong voice emerged from the community in support of downtown revitalization.

On July 1, 2003, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit with the mission of rejuvenating the downtown district.[21]

In 2004, downtown was designated as the Harrisonburg Downtown Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places and a designated Virginia Main Street Community,[22] with the neighboring Old Town Historic District residential community gaining historic district status in 2007. Several vacant buildings have been renovated and repurposed for new uses, such as the Hardesty-Higgins House and City Exchange, used for the Harrisonburg Tourist Center and high-end loft apartments, respectively.

In 2008, downtown Harrisonburg spent over $1 million in cosmetic and sidewalk infrastructure improvements (also called streetscaping and wayfinding projects). The City Council appropriated $500,000 for custom street signs to be used as "wayfinding signs" directing visitors to areas of interest around the city. Another $500,000 were used to upgrade street lighting, sidewalks, and landscaping along Main Street and Court Square.[23]

In 2014, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance was named a Great American Main Street by the National Main Street Association and downtown was designated the first culinary district in the commonwealth of Virginia.


Larkin Arts

Harrisonburg has won several awards[24] in recent years, including "#6 Favorite Town in America" by Travel + Leisure in 2016,[25] the "#15 Best City to Raise an Outdoor Kid" by Backpacker in 2009,[26] and the "#3 Happiest Mountain Town" by Blue Ridge Country Magazine in 2016.[27]

The creative class of Harrisonburg has grown alongside the revitalization of the downtown district. Contributing to Harrisonburg's cultural capital are a collection of education and art centers, residencies, studios, and artist-facilitated businesses, programs, and collectives.

Some of these programs include: Larkin Arts, a community art center that opened in 2012 and has four symbiotic components: an art supply store, a fine arts gallery, a school with three classrooms, and five private studio spaces.[28][29]

Old Furnace Artist Residency (OFAR)[30] and SLAG Mag: Artist residency and arts&culture quarterly zine focused on community engagement and social practice projects started in 2013.[31]

A Little Free Library in Harrisonburg

The Super Gr8 Film Festival, founded in 2009. The 2013 festival featured more than 50 locally produced films, and all of the films in the festival were shot using vintage cameras and Super 8 film.[32]

Arts Council of the Valley, including the Darrin-McHone Gallery and Court Square Theater, provides facilities and funding for various arts programs and projects.[33]

OASIS Fine Art and Craft, opened in 2000, is a cooperative gallery of over 35 local artists and artisans exhibiting and selling their work. It offers fine hand-crafted pottery, jewelry, fiber art, wood, metal, glass, wearable art, paintings, and photography.[34]

The Virginia Quilt Museum, established in 1995, is dedicated to preserving, celebrating, and nurturing Virginia's quilting heritage. It features a permanent collection of nearly 300 quilts, a Civil War Gallery, antique and toy sewing machines, and rotating exhibits from across the United States.[35]

Historic sites

In addition to the Thomas Harrison House, Harrisonburg Downtown Historic District, and Old Town Historic District, the Anthony Hockman House, Rockingham County Courthouse, Lucy F. Simms School, Whitesel Brothers, and Joshua Wilton House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[36]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 17.4 square miles (45.1 km2), of which 17.3 square miles (44.8 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km2) (0.3%) is water.[37]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201552,538[38]7.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[39]
1790-1960[40] 1900-1990[41]
1990-2000[42] 2010-2012[11]
This graph, using information from the 2000 federal census, illustrates the uneven distribution of age due to the two universities in Harrisonburg

As of the census[43] of 2010, 48,914 people, 15,988 households, and 7,515 families resided in the city. The population density was 2,811.1/mi2 (1087.0/km²). The 15,988 housing units averaged 918.9/mi2 (355.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 78.4% White, 6.4% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 3.5% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 8.2% from other races, and 3.1% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 15.7% of the population, up from 8.85% according to the census of 2000.

Of the 15,988 households, 22.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.7% were married couples living together, 10.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 53.0% were not families. About 27.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 17.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59, and the average family size was 3.06.

In the city, the population was distributed as 15.0% under the age of 18, 48.9% from 18 to 24, 21.2% from 25 to 44, 13.2% from 45 to 64, and 9.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 22.8 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,850, and for a family was $53,642; or so is believed popularly. If we consider that 31.8% of the population is below the poverty line, and half the population is under $37,850; then the median should be less. Which means the median was manipulated, and the actual median is not significantly more than the per capita. The per capita income for the city was $16,992. About 11.5% of families and 31.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.6% of those under age 18 and 9.5% of those age 65 or over.


School systems

Serving about 4,400 students (K–12), Harrisonburg City Public Schools comprises five elementary schools, two middle schools, and a high school. Eastern Mennonite School, a private school, serves grades K–12 with an enrollment of about 386 students.Notwithstanding, the city has a 12% illiteracy, and less than 16% of residents have college degrees; if we exclude the transient population of college students at JMU[44]

High schools

Middle schools

Elementary schools

Higher education

Points of interest




The climate in this area is characterized by brief hot, humid summers and generally mild to severe cool winters. More accurately, the weather is a pleaseantly unpredictable and not more than the expectations of the season. Harrisonburg has a humid subtropical climate, Cfa on climate maps according to the Köppen climate classification but has clear 4 seasons that vary significantly, if not having brief changes from summer to winter.[47] The USDA hardiness zone is 6b, which means average minimum winter temperature of -5F to 0F.

Notable people

See also

References and notes

  1. City Manager Kurt Hodgen
  2. Term: 2015–2019;
  3. Term 2013–2017; Vice Mayor Richard Baugh
  4. Term: 2015-2019; Mayor Christopher B. Jones
  5. Term: 2013–2017; Vice Mayor Richard Baugh
  6. Term: 2011-2015 Council Member Ted Byrd
  7. Term: 2013–2017; Council Member Kai Degner
  8. Term 2013–2017; Council Member Abe Shearer
  9. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  10. "Harrisonburg – Populated Place". Geographic Names Information System. USGS. Retrieved May 8, 2008.
  11. 1 2 "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  12. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  13. "Table 1. Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011" (CSV). 2011 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. April 20, 2009. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
  14. Kane, Joseph Nathan, Aiken, Charles Curry (2004). The American Counties. Scarecrow Press. p. 130. ISBN 0-8108-5036-2.
  15. Harrison, J. Houston (1935). Settlers by the Long Grey Trail J.K. Ruebush. p 214-249
  16. Julian Smith, 2007, Moon Virginia p. 246
  17. A Brief History of Harrisonburg
  18. Government Structure of Harrisonburg
  19. Stephens City, Virginia was also called Newtown at this time.
  20. Remembering Project R4
  21. Bolsinger, Andrew Scot (October 28, 2002). "Downtown, Andrew Scot Bolsinger". Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA). Retrieved July 3, 2009.
  22. "Harrisonburg Downtown Historic District". Virginia Main Street Community: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. National Park Service. Retrieved July 3, 2009.
  23. Creswell, Kelly (Aug 14, 2007). "Harrisonburg Streetscape". WHSV TV 3. Gray Television, Inc. Retrieved July 3, 2009.
  24. "Awards and Recognitions". City of Harrisonburg, VA. 2013-07-10. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  25. "America's Favorite Towns". Travel + Leisure. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  26. "The Best Cities to Raise an Outdoor Kid: The Winning 25 - Page 3 of 6 - Backpacker". Backpacker. 2009-07-01. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  27. "The Top 61 Happiest Mountain Towns in the Blue Ridge". BlueRidgeCountry.com. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  29. Stacy, Sarah. "Larkin Arts hosts second annual juried art show". DNR Harrisonburg.
  30. "2014 Open Engagement Program". Open Engagement.
  31. Jenner, Andrew. "Visiting With the Old Furnace Artist Residency". Old South High. Old South High. Retrieved 30 April 2014.
  32. Jenkins, Jermiah. "Lurid Pictures + Super Gr8 Film Fest = Awesome Harrisonburg". Old South High.
  33. http://www.valleyarts.org/about-us
  34. http://www.oasisfineartandcraft.org/
  35. 1 2 "Virginia Quilt Museum". VQM.
  36. National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  37. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  38. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  39. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  40. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  41. "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  42. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  43. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  44. Eastern Mennonite School profile.
  45. "Alpine Loop Gran Fondo". Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  46. "Harrisonburg International Festival". Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  47. Climate Summary for Harrisonburg, Virginia
  48. "Howard Stevens". databaseFootball.com. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  49. Camille, Powell. The Washington Post. March 6, 2009. "Kristi Toliver"
  50. "John Wade". databaseFootball.com. Retrieved December 10, 2012.

External links

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Harrisonburg.
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