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Nestled on the western slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the southwestern corner of Rockbridge County, Buena Vista was settled in 1778 by Alexandria McCluer and his six sons. The McCluers discovered iron ore in the mountains and set up an iron ore furnace just north of what is now Buena Vista. For a more detailed history of Buena Vista, click here.
The promise of riches from the mountains turned the area into a "boom town" by the late 1800's. The boom and the amount of iron ore in the mountains were both short-lived, but Buena Vista survived due to our abundance of other resources, including a wealth of available manpower.
The city is bounded by the Maury River on the west, a major tributary of the James River. The closest medium sized cities are Charlottesville to the northeast and Roanoke to the south. Richmond, the state capital, is 130 miles east and Washington D.C. is 185 miles northeast.
Buena Vista has been the industrial nucleus of the area since the late 19th Century. Manufacturing activity centers around natural resources, textiles, and a variety of industrial, commercial and residential goods. The residents of Buena Vista have a well-deserved reputation for quality work ethic. The Dana Corporation manufacturing facility in Buena Vista received the U.S. Senate Productivity Award in 1992. Dr. Nicholas Des Champs, President of Des Champs Laboratories Inc. in Rockbridge County, was recognized with the 1997 Virginia Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Dr. Des Champs attributed his success to, "My ability to hire and retain top-notch talent."
|Average annual temperature||56ºF|
|January average temperature||36.1ºF|
|July average temperature||74.9ºF|
|Average annual rainfall||36 inches|
|Average annual snowfall||22 inches|
|Annual average heating degree days||4307|
|Annual average cooling degree days||1000|
Click here for the latest updated weather forecast for Buena Vista/Lexington.
Buena Vista is served directly by U.S. Routes 501 and 60, and indirectly by U.S. Route 11, Interstates 64 and 81 intersect just a few miles outside the city and provide our businesses with direct access to the markets of middle America and the East Coast.
Norfolk-Southern Railway and CSX Transportation offer freight service in the area. Piggyback service is available in Roanoke (45 miles south) and Lynchburg (42 miles southeast). Amtrak service is available in nearby Staunton and Clifton Forge.
Commercial air service is available in Roanoke (54 miles south), Lynchburg (49 miles southeast), and the Shenandoah Valley Airport (45 miles north). Additional flights are available in Charlottesville (60 miles northeast) and Richmond (120 miles northeast).
Several freight carriers have terminals serving the Buena Vista area and additional carriers with terminals in Roanoke, Lynchburg, Staunton, and Waynesboro serve the Rockbridge Area.
Greyhound maintains regular daily bus service in Lexington.
The internationally-known Hampton Roads harbor, located 210 miles east by interstate highway from the Rockbridge Area, is an ice-free port served by a 50-foot deep water channel. This port, accessed by interstate and rail, is capable of handling large volumes of containerized breakbulk, heavy lift, roll on/roll off, LASH, and liquid and dye bulk cargo. The Virginia Inland Port, located 120 miles north of the Rockbridge Area off of I-81, operates as an intermodal container facility providing an interface between truck and rail for the transport of ocean-going containers to and from Hampton Roads.
Quality Of Life
Buena Vista is the home of Glen Maury Park, a 315 acre camping/recreational park owned and operated by the city. The park includes several picnic shelters, tennis courts, an outdoor roller skating rink, nature trails, ball fields, an Olympic size swimming pool, a wading pool, river fishing, and special events throughout the year. Additional recreational opportunities are sponsored by civic and social organizations, including schools, churches, 4-H Club and community groups. Buena Vista is surrounded by portions of the Jefferson and George Washington National Forests which offer numerous outdoor recreational opportunities. Canoeing on the James and Maury Rivers is also very popular.
There is an abundance of cultural and recreational opportunities available in the Rockbridge Area. Over 100 cultural and historic sites are in the area, including the Cyrus McCormick Farm, Natural Bridge, Lee Chapel, Stonewall Jackson's home and the George C. Marshall Research Foundation. Local educational institutions, such as Washington & Lee's Lenfest Performing Arts Center, provide lectures, concerts, art exhibits and athletic events, and there are a number of local organizations which sponsor additional activities, such as the Rockbridge Concert Theater Series and the Lime Kiln professional outdoor theater.
For a listing of other activities and attractions in the Rockbridge County area, please visit our Tourist Attractions page.
Colleges & Universities
Buena Vista is the home of Southern Virginia University. Also nearby are The Virginia Military Institute (Lexington), the nation's fourth oldest school of technology, offers degrees in civil and environmental engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, chemistry, biology, and physics. VMI Research Labs perform scientific and engineering investigations and applied research for industry. Washington and Lee University (Lexington) offers degrees in business, law, computer science, the physical sciences and liberal arts.
The Rockbridge Area is also served by the Dabney S. Lancaster Community College -Rockbridge Center. DSLCC provides specialized pre-employment training programs for new industries and tailored curricula for employees of existing industry.
The F.S. Kay Technical Center serves high school and adult education students from all three jurisdictions. Students learn electronics, computer-aided design (CAD), computer numerical control (CNC), hydraulics, pneumatics, sensors, electrohydraulics, programmable logic controller (PLC), electric control of motors, robotics, and applied physics. Students from F.S. Kay have received national awards the last two years for their computer-integrated manufacturing projects.
The Virginia Department of Economic Development sponsors an Industrial Training Division which tailors programs to local industrial needs at state expense.
Agriculture & Topography
Rockbridge County lies primarily within the Valley and Ridge Physiographic Province with elevations ranging from 720 feet to 1,800 feet above sea level. The county is bordered by mountains with much higher elevations. Drainage is provided by the James and Maury Rivers and their tributaries.
Agriculture is of major economic importance in Rockbridge County, and over 40 percent of the 607 square miles in the county is in farm land. Much of the remaining acreage is in national and state-owned forest land. The topography and soil of the county is ideally suited for livestock production. Pasture, hay and grain crops are raised to feed a variety of animals including beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep and hogs.
The presence of the Shenandoah Valley Research Station at Steeles Tavern encourages utilization of new technology and efficient production methods in area farms.
The Rockbridge Regional Library, headquartered in Lexington, has branches in Buena Vista, Goshen and Glasgow, has 134,800 volumes. The Washington and Lee University library has a collection exceeding 804,500 items. Virginia Military Institute's library contains over 400,000 volumes. Southern Virginia College's library has approximately 76,000 volumes. To find these libraries online, please visit our Libraries page.
There are close to 50 churches in the Rockbridge Area representing most denominations. Synagogues are located in nearby Staunton and Roanoke.
Forest covers nearly two-thirds of the total land area in Rockbridge County with much of it lying in National Forest land. Of the commercial forestland, 72% is privately owned. The predominant forest type is oak-hickory.
Mineral resources are plentiful with limestone, dolomite, quartzite and shale commercially mined. Marl, sand, gravel, silica sand, clay, tin, and unakite are found in varying quantities throughout the county.
Groundwater potential is high in some portions of the county with wells producing over 1,000 gallons per minute. Some springs exceed 2,000 gallons per minute. Surface water is provided by the James.
Adelphia Cable Company provides CATV service in the Buena Vista. Regular cable services includes network television (from Roanoke), local news and weather, educational programming; CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, ESPN, Discovery Channel, History Channel and more. HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and Disney are also available. Public broadcasting station WVPT, with facilities in Staunton and Harrisonburg, offers video productions services to industry and government for training and marketing purposes. National stations with local affilaites include
ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.
Power for Buena Vista is furnished by Virginia Power Company. Portions of Rockbridge County are also served by the Bath-Allegheny-Rockbridge Electrical Cooperative (BARC).
Two financial institutions serve Buena Vista including BB &T Bank, Planter's Bank.
Fire protection is afforded by eleven volunteer companies located around the county. Five volunteer first aid squads provide emergency medical attention and transportation for sick and injured patients. The Rockbridge Area has four law enforcement agencies. Rockbridge County employs 15 officers; Buena Vista has 12 officers; Lexington is served by 14 police personnel and Glasgow employs one. In addition, there are 14 state police assigned to the area. Fire protection is provided by eleven area volunteer fire departments. Emergency assistance is furnished by five volunteer rescue squads.
There are 24 physicians and 17 dentists with offices in the Rockbridge Area.
The Stonewall Jackson Hospital, affiliated with the Carilion Health System, is a non-profit community facility located in Lexington with 50 beds and specialties in general medical, surgical, pediatrics, obstetrics, and intensive care. The hospital also has a 50-bed extended care facility.
Natural gas is provided to Buena Vista and to some parts of Rockbridge County where facilities are available through Commonwealth Gas Services, Inc.
Most homes in the Rockbridge community are single family, privately owned residences. A variety of rental units are also available in or near the cities. Rent-subsidized apartments, federally funded apartments for the handicapped, and a retirement complex supplement conventional rental housing. A listing of area Realtors can be found on our Real Estate page.
Motor Vehicle Registration
Once residency is established in Virginia, you must immediately obtain a Virginia Drivers License and change your vehicle registration and license plates. When Virginia license plates are acquired, a vehicle must be inspected by an Official State Inspection station and thereafter once a year. A vehicle must also be registered and a license purchased in the city or county of residence (a local requirement). For further information contact the Division of Motor Vehicles Branch Office in the Summit Square Shopping Center, Lexington.
The Rockbridge Weekly is published once a week. Information is available by writing to: P.O. Box 791, Buena Vista, Virginia 24416. Call (540) 261-8000 OR email Jerry Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org
The News-Gazette is published weekly. Subscription information is available by writing to: P.O. Box 1153, 20 West Nelson Street, Lexington, VA 24450. (540) 463-3113.
The Advocate is published once a month. Subscription information is available by writing to: 10 East Washington Street, Lexington, Virginia 24450. Call (540) 463-2062 OR email Doug Harwood at email@example.com
Daily delivery of metropolitan papers from around the state and Washington D.C. is also available. Some of these include The Washington Post, USA Today, Richmond Times Dispatch, Roanoke Times, and the Staunton Daily Leader. Links to many of these papers and more can be found in our Newspapers & Media section.
Radio Stations (Local)
WREL-AM (1450), Lexington-Buena Vista - Talk
WWWZ-FM (96.7), Buena Vista-Lexington - Country
WLUR-FM (91.5), W&L, Lexington - Student radio, non-commercial fine arts, classical, jazz, contemporary, public service.
WMRL-FM (89.9), Public Radio
For a listing of regional media sites check out our Media page.
Sprint, GTE, and Bell Atlantic provide telephone service to the area. Cellular phone service is also available.
Rockbridge Global Village offers local phone access and direct connection to the Internet, dedicated modems, high speed dedicated lines, virtual servers and all other Internet services.
Once residency is established, you may register to vote by contacting: Registrar for Rockbridge County; Rockbridge County Court House, South Main Street, Lexington.
The City of Buena Vista has a municipally-owned water system supplied by nearby springs and wells. The average daily use is 900,000 gallons per day. The maximum daily capacity is 2.9 million gallons per day and the city has a 1.7 million gallons storage capacity. Bills for Rockbridge County are paid at the Water & Sewer Authority Office located at 150 South Main Street, Lexington.
Things To See & Do In Buena Vista & Rockbridge County
The General Store - Virginia's Historic General Store, established in 1891, is a genuine operating General Store for more than 100 years. A well-known Buena Vista landmark, The General Store features memorabilia from the 1800's and 1900's. Walk the squeaky floors under tin ceilings warmed by a pot bellie stove. Visit the town folk and sit down to the checkerboard for a friendly game with a new found friend. There is an 1800's post office, handcrank wall phone, brass cash registers, wheel cheese cutter, bulk seed bins and lots of things to discover.
Glen Maury Park - Located in Buena Vista, this 315 acre site offers views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, 52 individual campsites, a group camping area accommodating up to 250, an Olympic-size pool, tennis courts, playgrounds, picnic shelters, a roller skating rink, hiking trails, river fishing and ball fields.
Natural Bridge - "One of the seven natural wonders of the world." Aside from the towering stone bridge overlooking Cedar Creek, Natural Bridge also features a resort hotel, wax museum and natural caverns which attract visitors from all over the world.
Downtown Lexington - The downtown area offers a variety of dining opportunities, ranging from the informality of sandwiches and salads to more traditional full course meals from cozy pubs to restaurants in gracious antebellum buildings. There are inns and bed & breakfasts in or within walking distance of the downtown area. You will also find a diversity of merchandise and services including several bookstores, antique and gift shops, clothing stores, and much more.
Goshen Pass - Twelve miles north of Lexington on Rt. 39 where the Maury River cuts through a range of the Allegheny mountains is where you can enjoy a great mountain gorge. Locals and visitors alike love climbing the steep slopes of the surrounding mountains and the three miles of rushing, boulder-strewn river with rhododendron, mountain laurel, ferns, magnificent pines, hemlocks, maples and dogwoods.
The George C. Marshall Museum - Photomurals and artifacts trace General Marshall's life from childhood right up to his cadetship at the Virginia Military Institute, through World War I, World War II, and his postwar years as Secretary of Defense.
The Stonewall Jackson House - 8 East Washington Street in Lexington. A glimpse into the homelife of the famous Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.
The Virginia Horse Center - Rt. 39, Lexington. One of the finest equine complexes in the United States. It provides a showplace for state, national and international horse competitions, and a marketplace for horse promotion and sales.
Lexington Carriage Co - Take a tour of downtown Lexington by horse and carriage!
Washington & Lee University - Visit the 6th oldest university in the United States which had Robert E. Lee as its president.
Lake Roberston - Located on 581 acres of forests and rolling hills on the eastern slopes of the Allegheny mountains, 14 miles west of Lexington. The lake and recreation area offer camping, fishing, a swimming pool and bath house, picnic areas and hiking trails.
Lee Chapel - A Romanesque chapel, formally named for General Lee after his death. It houses Lee's Office and the Lee Museum on the lower level. The remains of Lee's beloved horse, Traveller, are interred in a plot beside the chapel.
Theater At Lime Kiln - The ruins of a 19th-century lime quarry and kiln have been transformed into a magical setting for enjoying music and drama outdoors. Plays are presented Tuesday through Saturday during the summer. On Sundays, talented musicians come to Lime Kiln, playing everything from bluegrass to zydeco.
Virginia Military Institute - Visit the nation's oldest state-supported military college.
Rockbridge Historical Society - A wonderful collection of photos and artifacts that trace the history of Rockbridge County.
Cyrus McCormick Farm - This 634 acre farm is now a research station operated by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). A restored blacksmith shop, gristmill and museum are open to the public, and provide a look at McCormick the man and his invention.
Woods Creek Park And The Chessie Nature Trail - The park contains open spaces and a playground area near the south end of the park. Going north on the trail, one walks along Woods Creek through groves of pines, cleared forest, grassy areas, and back through cleared areas at the north end of the trail. Hikers wishing to continue onto the Chessie Nature Trail will find relics of an old railroad and of the canal that came up the Maury River to Lexington.
VMI Museum - This is where the story of the nation's first and oldest state supported military college is told. You can inspect the sword carried by Matthew Fontaine Maury, "Pathfinder of the Seas," or examine one of the secret weapons of World War II, the Norden bomb sight, among many others things.
Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery - This cemetery, located on South Main Street in Lexington, contains the resting places of not only Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson but also over a hundred Confederate veterans and veterans of the Revolutionary War.
For more information about these or anything else related to Rockbridge County, please contact the:
Lexington Downtown Development Association
101 South Main Street
P.O. Box 1078
Lexington, VA 24450
(540) 463-2610 (fax)
Lexington/Rockbridge County Chamber Of Commerce
100 East Washington Street
Lexington, Virginia 24450
Lexington Visitor Center
106 East Washington Street
Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: (540) 463-3777
Hours: 9am-5pm daily,September-May
8:30am to 6pm June-August
Closed New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day
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