Preserve America Community:
Hillsville (population 3,000) is located in southwestern Virginia, in the Blue Ridge mountain range of the Appalachian Mountains. It is the county seat of Carroll County and the only incorporated community in the county. Hillsville began as a trading post known as Cranberry Plains. The town’s name was changed to Hillsville in the late 1820s to honor a local family. When Carroll County was created in 1842, Hillsville was named the county seat. The town was incorporated in 1878 but had many problems and little money. Citizens were so unhappy that in 1888 the town charter was repealed. Reincorporated in 1900, Hillsville continued to struggle to find its footing and remained without a local government for 20 years. By 1920, the town had begun to govern itself and started constructing modern streets, sidewalks, and a water and sewer system. In 1931 many of the town’s structures (which were built of wood) burned and were replaced with brick and mortar construction.
Today Hillsville sits near several major highways and continues to grow. Annexations in 1995 and 2001 added 3.3 square miles to the town. A nearby industrial park provides jobs to many residents.
In 2002 the Hale-Wilkinson-Carter Home Foundation formed as a non-profit organization to restore the most significant residence in Hillsville’s historic district. The home was built in 1845 by Fielden Hale and later purchased by Dr. James Wilkinson. His daughter Mayetta married industrialist George L. Carter, and in the 1920s the Carters added three stories and a rear wing to the house. The five story, 36 room stucco building was taken over by the Carroll County Supervisors after Mayetta Carter’s death in 1958. In 2000, when the supervisors vacated the building, an effort to restore it was undertaken. Today, the Caroll County Supervisors provide the maintenance for the building while the foundation works with the local community to bring attention to its historical significance and to seek assistance with its restoration and re-use. In 2007, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provided a $300,000 grant for restoration. The Virginia General Assembly has also given grants to the project, and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources holds a preservation easement on the property. Today the house hosts community meetings and tours, and serves as a stage for the reading of the Declaration of Independence during the Hillsville July Fourth Festival.
Next to the Carter Home in Hillsville’s downtown historic district is Carroll County’s National Register-listed courthouse. It was built in 1875 and is Virginia’s only courthouse that combines arcade and temple porticoes. The Carroll County Historical Society Museum is located within the courthouse, and its exhibits include one on a 1912 courtroom gunfight that broke out after a controversial conviction. The fight left six people dead, including the judge presiding over the case. The incident and subsequent manhunt for the perpetrators brought Hillsville nationwide media attention. Visitors to the museum can also take a tour of the courthouse and pick up a brochure for a self-guided walking tour of Hillsville.
Hillsville participates in a nine-county heritage tourism program called The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. Southwestern Virginia is the birthplace of traditional Appalachian music, including the Carter Family, the Stonemans, and many others. The town is also located within the watershed of the New River, which was designated an American Heritage River in 1998.
For more information
Town of Hillsville: www.townofhillsville.com
Carroll County Tourism: www.visitvirginiablueridgemountains.com
Carroll County Historical Society: www.historicalsociety.chillsnet.org
The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail: www.thecrookedroad.org
Posted March 19, 2009