A VFH-supported project captures the enduring beauty of time-worn Virginia towns
By Kelley Libby
Sometimes the most we’ll ever know about a place is its name, spelled on a green highway sign: Pamplin City, Moneta, Paint Bank, Sweet Chalybeate. When, out of curiosity, artist and designer Kirsten Sparenborg followed one of those signs, she found herself in rural Eggleston, Virginia. She met an elderly storekeeper named Gladys and discovered the place had a story, but one that seemed almost lost to time. The seed for a book was planted.
In 2002, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities awarded a grant to the Community Design Assistance Center (CDAC) at Virginia Tech for a research project aimed at discovering Virginia’s “lost communities.” In 2011, that project became a book, Lost Communities of Virginia (Albemarle Books). Through photographs and interviews with residents, Sparenborg and coauthor Terri Fisher documented the remnants of bypassed towns throughout Virginia—places that once thrived, but have since lost their original industry, mode of transportation, or way of life.
In this slideshow of haunting images, Fisher calls our attention to communities like Pocahontas, a once-booming company town in southwest Virginia: