Harrisonburg, Virginia: Wikis


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—  Independent city  —
City of Harrisonburg, Virginia
Rockingham County Courthouse in Court Square in downtown Harrisonburg

Nickname(s): The Friendly City, H'Burg, The Burg
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
Founded 1779
 - Type Council-manager government
 - City Manager Kurt Hodgen[1]
 - Mayor Kai Degner (D)[2]
 - Vice Mayor Richard Baugh (D)[3]
 - City Council
 - Total 17.6 sq mi (45.6 km2)
 - Land 17.2 sq mi (45.5 km2)
 - Water 0.04 sq mi (0.1 km2)
Elevation 1,325 ft (404 m)
Population (2008)[7]
 - Total 44,015
 - Density 2,559.0/sq mi (967.4/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 22801-22803, 22807
Area code(s) 540
FIPS code 51-35624[8]
GNIS feature ID 1498489[9]
Website HarrisonburgVa.gov

Harrisonburg is an independent city in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia in the United States. Its population was 40,468 at the 2000 census and 44,015 according to 2008 estimates. Harrisonburg is the county seat of Rockingham County[10] and the core city of the Harrisonburg, Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Area which has a 2008 estimated population of 118,409.[11] The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Harrisonburg with Rockingham county for statistical purposes, while the U.S. Census Bureau treats Harrisonburg as an independent city for census tabulation. Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University.



Harrisonburg was named for Thomas Harrison (1704–1785), an early settler.[12]

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 likely passed through what is now Harrisonburg in 1716.

Harrisonburg, previously known as Rocktown, was named for Thomas Harrison, a son of English settlers. In 1737, Harrison settled in the Shenandoah Valley, eventually laying claim to over 12,000 acres (49 km2). This was situated at the intersection of the Spotswood Trail and the main Native American road through the Valley.[13]

In 1779, Harrison deeded two and a half acres of his land to the "public good" for the construction of a courthouse. In 1780, Harrison deeded an additional 50 acres (200,000 m2).[14] 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.[15]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 17.6 square miles (45.6 km²), of which, 17.6 square miles (45.5 km²) is land, and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) (0.17%) is water.


Interstate 81, a main roadway in Harrisonburg.
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[8] of 2000, there were 40,468 people, 13,133 households, and 6,448 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,304.4 people per square mile (889.8/km²). There were 13,689 housing units at an average density of 779.5/sq mi (301.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 84.84% White, 5.92% Black or African American, 0.19% Native American, 3.11% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 3.35% from other races, and 2.57% from two or more races. 8.85% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 13,133 households out of which 23.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.4% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.9% were non-families. 28.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.00.

The age distribution, which is strongly influenced by the city's two universities, is: 15.4% under the age of 18, 40.9% 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 23 years. For every 100 females there were 90.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,949, and the median income for a family was $45,159. Males had a median income of $29,951 versus $22,910 for women. The per capita income for the city was $14,898. About 11.5% of families and 30.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.7% of those under age 18 and 11.4% of those age 65 or over. However, traditional poverty measures can be misleading when applied to a community with a relatively large student population, such as Harrisonburg.


When the slaves of the Shenandoah Valley were freed in 1865, they set up a town near modern-day Harrisonburg called Newtown. 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 school house used for the black students in the days of segregation.

A large portion of this black neighborhood was dismantled in the 1950s when the city government used federal redevelopment funds from the Housing Act of 1949 to force black families out of their homes and bulldozed the neighborhood in the name of urban renewal. This effort, called "Project R4," focused on the city blocks east of Main, north of Gay, west of Broad, and south of Johnson. The city later sold the land to commercial developers.[16]

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 a pedestrian mall in Harrisonburg. Ultimately, the community decided to keep its Main Street open to traffic. From these discussions, however, a strong voice emerged from the community in resounding support of downtown revitalization.

On July 1, 2003, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance was incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit with the mission of rejuvenating the downtown district.[17]

In 2004, downtown has been designated as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places and a designated Virginia Main Street Community[18], with the neighboring Old Town residential community gaining historic district status in 2007. Several vacant buildings have been renovated and re-purposed for new uses, like 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 was used upgrade street lighting, sidewalks, and landscaping along Main Street and Court Square.[19]



School systems

Serving about 4,400 students (K-12,) Harrisonburg City Public Schools comprises 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and a high school. Eastern Mennonite School, a private school, serves grades K-12 with an enrollment of about 327 students. Also Redeemer Classical School serves grades k-8 with an enrollment of about 57 students [20][21]

Higher education


Harrisonburg has been the center of major methamphetamine use and distribution since the 1990s. In 2003 former Attorney General Janet Reno deemed Harrisonburg the "methamphetamine capital of the east coast."[22]

Points of interest

Presidential candidate visit

Senator Barack Obama, 2008 Democratic presidential nominee, made a visit to Harrisonburg on October 28, 2008. He gave a rally at the James Madison University Convocation Center.[24] One week after the visit, the first made to Harrisonburg by a Democratic presidential candidate since Stephen Douglas campaigned there on September 3, 1860,[25] the city, which has a large contingent of students who are allowed to vote in local precincts, voted for Obama with a 57.4% majority.[26] It was the first time Harrisonburg had voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1944.


Notable natives and residents

See also

References and notes

  1. ^ City Manager Kurt Hodgen
  2. ^ Term: 2009-2013; Mayor Kai Degner
  3. ^ Term: 2009-2013; Vice-Mayor Richard Baugh
  4. ^ Term: 2009-2013; Council Member David Wiens
  5. ^ Term 2006-2010; Council Member Ted Byrd
  6. ^ Term 2006-2010; Council Member Carolyn Frank
  7. ^ Table 4: Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in Virginia, Listed Alphabetically: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008, U.S. Census Bureau, 2008. Released 01 July 2009. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  8. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  9. ^ "Harrisonburg – Populated Place". Geographic Names Information System. USGS. http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic/f?p=gnispq:3:::NO::P3_FID:1498489. Retrieved 2008-05-08.  
  10. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. http://www.naco.org/Template.cfm?Section=Find_a_County&Template=/cffiles/counties/usamap.cfm. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  11. ^ "Table 7. Cumulative Estimates of Population Change for Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Rankings: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008" (CSV). 2007 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2009-04-20. http://www.census.gov/popest/metro/tables/2008/CBSA-EST2008-07.csv. Retrieved 2009-05-01.  
  12. ^ Kane, Joseph Nathan, Aiken, Charles Curry (2004). The American Counties. Scarecrow Press. pp. 130. ISBN 0810850362. http://books.google.com/books?id=yC9vFvCuW84C&pg=PA130&lpg=PA130&dq=Thomas+Harrison&source=web&ots=G1FJWq17lG&sig=jp915TIci4c0KooZJ7TmJdHg37M&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=5&ct=result.  
  13. ^ Julian Smith, 2007, Moon Virginia p. 246
  14. ^ A Brief History of Harrisonburg
  15. ^ Government Structure of Harrisonburg
  16. ^ Remembering Project R4
  17. ^ Bolsinger, Andrew Scot (October 28, 2002). "Downtown, Andrew Scot Bolsinger". Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA). http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=VNRB&p_theme=vnrb&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=109E3B78E330AA5D&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM. Retrieved 2009-07-03.  
  18. ^ "Harrisonburg Downtown Historic District". Virginia Main Street Community: A National Registry of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/history/Nr/travel/VAmainstreet/har.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-03.  
  19. ^ Creswell, Kelly (10:48 PM Aug 14, 2007). "Harrisonburg Streetscape". WHSV TV 3 (Gray Television, Inc.). http://www.whsv.com/news/headlines/9163361.html. Retrieved 2009-07-03.  
  20. ^ Eastern Mennonite School profile.
  21. ^ Redeemer Classical School website.
  22. ^ Methamphetamine: A Unique Threat To Law Enforcement
  23. ^ Virginia Quilt Museum
  24. ^ Jones, Jenny (2008-10-29)"Obama campaigns at JMU", The Winchester (Virginia) Star. Retrieved on 2008-10-29
  25. ^ Barnes, Robert (2008-10-28)"After 148 Years, a Democrat Returns to Harrisonburg", The Washington Post. Retrieved on 2008-11-14
  26. ^ Virginia State Board of Elections
  27. ^ Camille, Powell. The Washington Post. March 6, 2009. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/terrapins-insider/2009/03/kristi_toliver_named_acc_playe.html

External links

Simple English

Harrisonburg, Virginia
Nickname(s): The Friendly City
Coordinates: 38°44′33″N 78°87′28″W / 38.7425°N 79.45778°W / 38.7425; -79.45778 longm>=60 (dms format) in {{Coord}}
County Independent City
Founded 1737
 - Mayor Rodney Eagle[1]
 - Total 45.6 km2 (17.6 sq mi)
 - Land 45.5 km2 (17.2 sq mi)
 - Water 0.1 km2 (0.04 sq mi)
Population (2000)
 - Total 40,468
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Website http://www.ci.harrisonburg.va.us/
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Harrisonburg is an independent city. It is located in Rockingham County, Virginia. It had 40,468 people at the 2000 census.


  1. Term: 2004-2008; Mayor Rodney Eagle

Other websites


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