Berglund Center honors history of Tank Town and Gainsboro

Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 6:08 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Roanoke community members and The Berglund Center are honoring the history of the Gainsboro neighborhood with a series of initiatives.

A mural of influential leaders in Roanoke is one of the initiatives to remember the neighborhood’s history, acknowledge urban renewal and move forward. The mural is placed on the side of The Berglund Center, which sits in the midst of Roanoke’s Tank Town.

Richard Chubb explained the building sits in an area taken over by urban renewal.

“It hit Roanoke in 1955, with bulldozers, where we are now,” Chubb said. “There were 1,600 homes across the street and near the post office.”

Chubb saw it all happen first-hand.

“We were a close-knit, African-American community,” Chubb said. “It affected the children, it affected all of us.”

Click here for other stories on Black History Month

Chubb remembers and preserves the history of Gainsboro, so The Berglund Center dedicated a parlor inside Berglund Hall to preserve his story. The hall also dedicates parlor rooms to Kathleen Ross and David Ramey, Sr.

“For them to do something like this, I think its a great honor,” Chubb said.

Artist Bryce Cobbs revealed his painting that encompasses the rich history of Gainsboro and its community members.

“Art can tell stories, art can really hold up a mirror to us as a people,” Cobbs said. “I think that it’s just important that this story does not die.”

The Berglund Center’s general manager explained it’s important to recognize the center’s painful past and make impactful dedications.

“Urban renewal is a stain on our community and especially in this zip code,” Robyn Schon said. “In order for us to move forward, we wanted to come up with ideas that were sustainable.”

If you drive through the neighborhood, leaders hope the story continues to be told.

“If the young people don’t understand the history, then the dream will never be carried on,” Chubb said. “It’s very important that we have places of hope again.”

The center will also be commemorating the Tank Town Tree, one of the few remaining pieces of the historic neighborhood before construction happened in the 1950s.