The Town of Pulaski has a rich and storied history, stretching all the way back to the mid-1800s. Here you will find a detailed description of our past and how we got to where we are today.
Prior to its incorporation as a town, the site for the future Town of Pulaski, originally known as the "Mountain View Plantation", was owned by Robert Martin, Jr. Building upon land purchases by his father, Mr. Martin's land holdings continued to expand and include the present day McGill Village and Brown Addition in the east and into the Jefferson National Forest in the west. The northern boundary was approximately a mile past the present corporate limits in the north while the southern limits of the estate reached to Draper's Mountain.
In 1854, the catalyst for change in the agricultural use of the future town's land area began with the construction of the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad. Established as a railroad stop to take on water, the area took on the name of "Martin's Tank".
The predominant land use in the area remained agricultural throughout the Civil War and Reconstruction. According to local historian George T. Swaim, the largest boost in the development of the early town occurred in 1877 with the discovery of the Altoona coal deposits and the formation of the Altoona Coal Company. The company began construction of a narrow gauge railroad, completed in 1879, between the main N&W tracks and the coal deposits. At this time, the future town consisted of three houses and two businesses.
With industrial land uses spurred by the proximity of natural resources, commercial and residential development soon followed. At or near the same time that the Bertha-Altoona development was taking place, the Martin family began selling off portions of their property. For about $35,000, the Martin's conveyed several parcels to various development companies including: Swansee Land Co., Martin Land Co., Lake Spring Land Co., and the Pulaski Land & Improvement Co. The Pulaski Land and Improvement Co. in particular would be responsible for creation of large residential and commercial tracts in the present downtown area.
By the late 1870's, the town began to experience the growth of industrial land uses. Plentiful coal and water resources, coupled with large zinc deposits in neighboring Wythe County, led to the formation of the Bertha Mineral Company and the construction of its furnace complex near the former site of Magnox/Nanochemonics. Beginning operations on February 19th, 1880, the company and its facilities expanded quickly to include purchase of the Altoona Coal Company. This area still forms the western boundary of the town's downtown heavy industrial district.
Post-Incorporation Land Use-Expansion: 1886-1910
Following it incorporation as "Pulaski City" on February 24th, 1886, the town experienced a boom that lasted throughout the rest of the 19th century until 1910. The land use patterns would change greatly within the community primarily as a result of three factors, the location of new industries in town, the engineering of Peak Creek; and the town becoming the terminus of area rail service.
The town's industrial base grew quickly as it became a center of mineral processing and smelting. The Pulaski Iron Co., located on the present site of Gem City, began production in 1888, followed by the Dora Furnace in 1890. Experiments in ridding iron ores of sulfur content resulted in 1904 of the formation of the Pulaski Mining Company which specialized in the production of sulfuric acid. Later purchased by Allied Chemical Company, the plant would operate until 1976. The location of these industries along the railroad resulted in the establishment of an industrial land use zone, which still forms the I-2 Industrial District in the south side of the town.
Commercial development was fueled by the channeling of Peak Creek by the Pulaski Land & Improvement Co. accompanied by the draining and filling of the wetlands to the north of the railroad and construction in 1884 of the Maple Shade Inn and in 1888 of the NW passenger station. The location of these two bustling transportation centers helped attract businesses to the Commerce Street area which became the business center of the town.
Commercial activity also became established north of the newly minted canal. Following the canal's completion, slag from local industries was used as fill to build up the former low-lying wetland terrain. Commercial businesses, such as the Hotel Pulaski began to fill in the newly reclaimed land. By 1896, the moving of the county seat to the Town of Pulaski and construction of the courthouse brought new business activity to the present downtown area.
The increase in employment opportunities also resulted in the substantial growth of residential areas within town. By 1890, residential land use was primarily found along what is now Randolph Avenue, Henry Avenue and Mt. Olivet. New areas were taking root south of Dora Highway along what is now First Street S.E. to Fifth Street, S.E. and the Jackson Avenue/Stuart Avenue area. Commercial businesses were making inroads into the newly drained area north of the Peak Creek channel.
Between 1900 and 1910, Pulaski's population increased nearly 71%. Arrival of new residents triggered a construction boom in residential areas as well as the commercial areas. By 1908, the western portion of the town was beginning to acquire the familiar appearance it has today with respect to land uses. While commercial and industrial land uses remained confined primarily to the corridor surrounding both sides of the railroad and the present day downtown, residential land development spread quickly both north and south.
By 1908, residential areas had begun development in three major areas. The first area was bordered by 4th Street, N.W. in the south; 13th Street, N.W. in the north; Monroe Avenue in the east to Randolph Avenue in the west. The second area extended to what is now 1st Street, S.E. and S.W. back to the foothills of Draper's Mountain along a line of present day streets Crestline Drive, Bunts Street, 6th Street, S.E. and S.W. and Valley Road. The third residential area took shape across the former loop of Peak Creek and was bounded by 2nd Street, N.E. to the south; Peppers Ferry Road to the west. Access to this area was by Pepper's Ferry Road which passed north of the current location of Pulaski Middle School. These areas of residential development may still be seen in today's zoning map as the R-4 Residential District extending throughout the south side and east central areas of town.
Some industrial development of smaller firms was noted during this time period. Most prominent was the Pulaski Foundry and Machine Company founded by the Bunts brothers on First Street, N.E. The firm was later sold to General Chemical. Two of the main buildings of that complex are still standing.
Industrial Transition: 1910-1940
Up to this point in time, the Town of Pulaski's four major industries, Bertha Zinc, Pulaski Iron Co., Dora Furnace and Allied Acid Plant had provided a stable local economy that had fueled residential and commercial growth. Beginning in 1910 with the closure of Bertha Zinc Works, the Town of Pulaski began to transition to a new industrial base. This transition would result in the loss of long standing industries, such as Dora Furnace in 1920 and the Pulaski Iron Co. in the early 1930's, and the establishment of new textile and furniture industries that would be the mainstay of the town's economy into the 21st century.
The industrial transition got off to a slow start, placing the Town of Pulaski under economic stress during the 1910's and early 1920's. In 1916, the A.V. Victorious Company would establish Paul's Knitting Mills at the corner of Commerce Street and Lagrange Street. Also in 1916, the Bunts family established the Pulaski Foundry and Manufacturing Corporation on the former site of Nanochemonics.
In response to the closing of the Dora Furnace and the generally slow economy, the Town of Pulaski, acting on the tips of investors looking for sites for a new furniture factory, purchased a tract of land between Third Street and Fifth Street for $20,000. In 1923, the town successfully lured the Coleman-Vaughn Furniture Company to town by offering twelve acres of prime property. Shortly thereafter, similar firms followed including Pulaski Mirror Company (1923), Pulaski Furniture Corporation (1924), and the Pulaski Veneer Corporation (1926).
Despite the Depression of the 1930's, Pulaski was also successful in attracting several textile operations to the community. Starting with the Dobson-Miller Corporation (later known as the Sadler Hosiery Mills) in 1927, production of textiles expanded with the addition of Virginia Maid Hosiery Mills in 1928, the Wallner Silk Hosiery Mills in 1936, Jefferson Mills in 1938 and the Acme Hosiery and Dye Works in 1938.
The Depression years, however, took a toll on the Town of Pulaski's business and industries. The Pulaski Iron Company shut down in the early 1930's and the Pulaski Engineering Works, formerly operated by the Bunts family as the Pulaski Foundry and Manufacturing Corporation, closed in 1936.
The main effect upon land use that these industries had was the establishment of the current I-2 Industrial District, which extends from Washington Avenue in the west, to Edgehill Drive in the east, and from 3rd Street, N.E., north to 5th Street N.E. Furthermore, the concentration of textile operations in the town's southwest side resulted in an expansion of industrial land uses southward, particularly between Commerce Street and 1st Street S.W. This widened the historic industrial/transportation corridor, which paralleled the railroad on the southern side of town.
War and Post-War Development: 1940-1960
The coming of World War II saw the community's land use pattern undergo only minor changes due to the rationing of building material during the war. Pulaski's industries and rail facilities played a prominent part in the local economy producing goods and transporting men and material for the war effort.
During these years the most prominent growth in the area was fueled by the Radford Army Ammunition Plant and its facilities in nearby Dublin and Montgomery County. Due to the area's housing shortage, the federal government commissioned the creation and construction of MacGill Village, at that time just outside of the town's boundaries, to house workers for the new facilities.
While there were some minor additions to the Town of Pulaski during this time period, a large scale annexation as well as adoption of a Zoning Ordinance and Zoning map in 1957, showed growth of residential districts particularly in the northeast section of the town. This area extended from Mashburn Avenue northeast along Pepper's Ferry Road to English Forest Road, then south to the present day Bob White Boulevard area. An additional area of residential growth was located between Pepper's Ferry Road and Route 11. While some portions of this area such as Cardinal Drive and Oakhurst Avenue would develop as low-density single family areas, most would come to develop in time as medium-density residential small lot developments. Additional residential areas were designated along Alum Spring Road, Pleasant Hill Drive, Lowmoor Avenue and Byrd Drive.
Business areas were added along Route 11 from Pleasant Hill Drive to Fifth Street, N.E. and along 3rd Street, N.E. An additional industrial area was added east of present day Bob White Boulevard.
Land use at the end of this period tended to follow its historic movement northeast along the major roads of Peppers Ferry Road, Newbern Road, and Route 11. Land uses along these in-town roads were primarily residential uses. Route 11 added business areas leading into the central commercial area and the industrial heart of downtown.
Commercial Shift & Residential Reduction:1960-1980
By 1960, Pulaski stood at its highest population of 10,469 persons. Having weathered the recession in the late 1950's, the community appeared poised for further growth. With the opening of Interstate 81 through Pulaski County, the construction of the present day Route 99, the construction of present day Bob White Boulevard and the construction of "strip malls" in town, there was a shift of land uses to the northeast, contributing to a weakening of the Town of Pulaski's economic position.
The most far reaching and damaging change to the Town of Pulaski's economic position was the construction and opening of Interstate 81 through Pulaski County. For the first time in its history, the town found itself no longer on the main route of travel through the area; a change which would have profound impact on downtown Pulaski. In addition, the decline of the passenger rail service which ceased operations in 1971 further reduced the influx of travelers through the Town.
The construction of present day Route 99 and Bob White Boulevard opened up new commercial areas and fostered the movement of retailers from downtown to new locations to the northeast. The straightening of Peak Creek and creation of the new four-lane Route 99 also provided readily accessible commercial locations for businesses. With its linkage to newly built Bob White Boulevard, Route 99 became the newest commercial corridor for the Town's expansion to the northeast. By replacing Dora Highway as the main eastern entrance into town, incoming traffic was directed away from downtown.
The final change assisting in the restructuring of commercial land use during this period was the increasing presence of "strip malls". Starting with the Maple Shade Plaza in the early 1960's, strip malls sprang up in various locations throughout the town, which resulted in new concentrations of commercial activity in the existing town, and new centers of activity from further downtown. One noticeable result of these centers was the movement of existing businesses out of downtown or the location of new commercial businesses further from downtown.
This time period saw an expansion of residential land uses to the northeast. New residential areas sprang up in such areas as Pleasant Hill Drive, Oakhurst Avenue, Hermos Drive, Cardinal Drive, Calremont Court, Windsor Avenue and Monte Vista Drive. With the construction of Memorial Drive in the mid-1970's and the location of White Motors, now Volvo, to Pulaski County, new residences were constructed in the Hopkins Drive, Collins Drive, and Westwood Drive areas. While most of these areas were for single-family detached residences, multi-family areas were constructed along Medallion Drive, Alum Spring Road and on Route 11.
During this time period, industrial activity remained confined to its traditional areas, with the addition of an industrial area in the vicinity of Xalroy and Pulaski Apparel.
An examination of the 1965 Zoning Map, shows that most of the land use classifications remained in place from the 1957 Zoning Ordinance. Most changes in land use, as described above, resulted from development expanding into the northeast section of the Town annexed in 1958. While most of the new area was zoned residential, commercial areas began springing up along the newer roads constructed in the eastern and northeastern part of town.
Uncertainty & Transition: 1980-2000
The Town of Pulaski struggled during the 1980's and 1990's as its industrial base began to contract. The 1980's saw the beginning of this contraction by the closure of the traditional industrial operations of Sadler Hosiery Mill and Virignia Maid and the consolidation of Coleman Furniture with Pulaski Furniture. Additional industries, such as RENFRO and Lee Jeans/Sparkle, stepped in to provide new or expanded employment for workers in areas already zoned for industrial land use.
With the 1987 Boundary Adjustment, residential land uses were expanded to the northeast. The 1987 Zoning Map shows areas along Route 11 were primarily zoned for residential use; while the area along Bob White Boulevard was zoned for a variety of commercial, industrial, residential and agricultural uses.
The Town of Pulaski's commercial activity continued to shift northeast with the moving of long standing businesses such as Roses, Kroger, and automotive dealerships to new locations on Route 99 or Bob White Boulevard. In addition, in the late 1980's a new commercial area on a portion of the former Allison Farm, site of the current Memorial Square Shopping Center, was approved on Memorial Drive.
Single family detached residential development during the 1980's and 1990's slowed from its 1970's pace. New residential areas, such as Governor Floyd's Farm and Bainbridge, were developed along Newbern Road and Bob White Boulevard. New multi-family units, Washington Square, Pulaski Village and Laurel Wood, were built on Oakhurst Avenue, Memorial Drive and Burgis Avenue.
In the 1990's the land uses in the Town, as established in the 1987 Zoning Regulations, remained stable until later in the decade. Residential development began in Pepper's Ferry Meadows, as portions of the Allison Estate passed to new owners. The Town of Pulaski purchased approximately 144 acres adjacent to the former RENFRO Newbern Road Plant and Caterpillar production facilities as a site for new heavy industry. which was the single largest dedication of land for industrial use since the establishment of the furniture industries nearly eighty years before. Conversely, a proposed rezoning of 45 acres on Memorial Drive for commercial use to accommodate a proposed shopping area was defeated due to neighborhood opposition.
Economic Dislocation & Reinvestment: 2000-2014
The 21st Century brought a series of events that challenged and changed the very fabric of the community's economic and social life. The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, with the housing collapse and near meltdown of the nation's financial institutions in 2007-2008, injected an additional element of uncertainty and contributed to restricted access to capital for investment. As the community was caught up in the changes caused by this loss of business and industry, nature itself dealt the Town a blow as the Tornado of April 8th, 2011 damaged more than 10% of the Town's housing.
These adverse events, however, led the Town of Pulaski to begin a process of redefinition and reinvestment to secure its future through reuse of existing land resources for commercial, residential and industrial development.