Driving in from the south, you enter Lynchburg in a flurry of strip malls filled with all the major stores. Target. Walmart. Sam’s Club. Border’s Books. Dick’s Sporting Goods. Old Navy, and many many more. Just as I was turning the car left, I saw this guy. Welcome to America.
I have been here several times now, and Lynchburg is a fascinating place. It is closer to Chapel Hill than most people realize; 125 miles or just over two hours away, slightly closer to Chapel Hill than Charlotte. The older part of Lynchburg is a rare gem of historic neighborhoods. The southern fringe is new suburban sprawl growing around Lynchburg’s one apparent growth industry: Liberty University. I feared Liberty’s success might not rub off enough on the older parts of town. Do fundamentalist Christians appreciate urbanism?
Lynchburg is so close to home that it makes an easy one day trip. I could leave home about eight in the morning, drive to Lynchburg, ride my bicycle around Lynchburg for five hours, and still be back in Chapel Hill to have a drink at Crunkleton’s with Tootie and Maxine at 6:15 PM the same day.
The area around Liberty is about six miles from downtown and a very different world from that place. I parked our Honda in the huge parking lot in front of a Kohl’s store, put the bicycle together, and rode off to first see what Liberty has to offer a visiting bicyclist. First, I rode through almost a mile of parking lots.
There is actually a nice pedestrian path that leads from the Liberty campus, under the railroad tracks and across US29, so that students can walk to the Walmart.
Once up the hill onto the Liberty campus, construction was everywhere. Obviously everything is relatively new, although most buildings are in a traditional style. There is a football stadium.
Particularly interesting, or creepy, was that there were speakers hidden somewhere, probably in the trees, gently playing patriotic rap music.
I saw lots of students walking around.
After riding through the hilly campus for some time, I turned the bicycle through older neighborhoods, heading towards downtown.
Lynchburg likes to call itself Hill City and it really is as hilly as any city I can remember. Some neighborhoods remind me of Pittsburgh.
I saw this in a mostly African American section of town.
This house has a plaque saying it was built in 1813.
I have written on previous posts about residential neighborhoods near both ends of downtown that have streets filled with dozens of lovely nineteenth century houses like this.
If you want to see more pictures of these houses, look at my 2012 blog
For this trip, I thought I would photograph more of the commercial area of downtown. Downtown is built aside a steep hill that runs down to the James River. I bicycled down the hill to the riverfront. Things are definitely picking up. This very cool old building was abandoned the last time I was in Lynchburg, now it is clearly being rehabbed.
There is a nice bike path that runs along the river, some of it passing still abandoned warehouses.
Back up the hill, Lynchburg is clearly not undergoing a hipster transformation like Durham. Still, things are happening. This building is in the process of being rehabbed into an upscale hotel.
This block reminded me of San Francisco
Here is another view of downtown.
L. Oppleman claims to be the oldest pawnshop in the nation.
This 1972 twenty story building does not do much for me.
However, I really fell in love with the Allied Arts Building, seventeen stories, built in 1929.
This is the view from higher up the hill. Like Pittsburgh would have, there are steps down the hill, instead of a sidewalk.
The art deco lobby is enticing.
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