Rolling into Roanoke-Classic Car Show

On July 19, 2014, The Roanoke Beautification Foundation held the Inaugerole Classic Car Show, Rolling Into Roanoke.  Below is some information about Roanoke, Indiana and its rich history, especially automobile history, from this event’s book…

historic Roanoke Indiana car show picture 001

The town of Roanoke, Indiana, has a proud history this is representative of the Midwest.  Once the hunting and fishing grounds of the Miami Indians, Roanoke became a prosperous commercial center in the mid-19th century.  The construction of the Wabash & Erie Canal included a lock at Roanoke, which led to the establishment of warehouses, mills, stables, and hotels.  The village became known as one of the best trading and shipping points on the canal.

The arrival of the railroad brought a close to the canal heyday, but Roanoke continued to prosper.  Its Main Street became a commercial and retail center, serving a growing population and the surrounding countryside.  It featured stores whose owners established a reputation for fine goods and fair prices.  Some, like Augustus Wasmuth and E.E. Richards, fostered economic growth through business and banking.  Others helped make the community self-sustaining through the hardware store, pharmacy, restaurants, and automobiles. Roanoke flourished and, with its excellent school, became known as a good place to raise a family.  “Merchandise in Roanoke Always Gives Satisfaction” was the slogan of the 1920s.

While continuing to be known for its quality of life, the town experienced a decline in retail activity in the post-World-War II era as changes in transportation, marketing, and merchandising occurred throughout America. Eventually there were many empty storefronts on Main Street in stark contrast to earlier times.  In the 1990s, a revitalization of the historic downtown occurred.

The Roanoke Beautification Foundation was founded in 1999 to “beautify and design a unique “Roanoke” image consistent with Roanoke’s character that existed in the turn of the 19th century and to lessen the burdens of the Town of Roanoke by engaging in capital improvements, maintenance, and repairs to the public property that is consistent with the historic Roanoke theme.”

The Foundation recently added historic street lamps along First Street, replaced the trees that line Main Street and gave a facelift to the welcome sign and landscaping at US 24 and Second Street.  Funds raised from the car show will be used to support current Foundation projects which include: new historic street lamps around town and continue up Main Street, an historic information sign to be placed in Zent Commons; and support the Park Department goals for their repairs and updates.

Today Roanoke radiates with the feeling of hometown friendliness and a neighborly concern for providing a safe and pleasant place to live.  We’re proud of our community with its blend of tradition and progress.  Roanoke is one of the fastest growing areas of Huntington County, in part because of its close proximity to both Huntington and Fort Wayne. Its attractiveness can be found in its small town atmosphere, rural setting and public services.  With a 25-acre park in the center of town that includes baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and a picnic pavilion overlooking a playground, Roanoke is the ideal setting for community and family activities.

The foundation has played a major role in this recent revitalization and with continued support of corporations, businesses and individuals many great things will happen in Roanoke.  (click on the pictures below to see them full screen)

Hartley Racing 002Roanoke Auto Dealers Garages 002

Roanoke Auto Dealers Garages 003

Accustomed to the dependable vehicles that decades of technology has created, we fail to appreciate the challenges which motorcars once posed.  The self-made mechanic had a steady flow of work.  One or more of his trade could be found at frequent intervals along frequently travelled routes; and those who ventured beyond the scope of his service did so at their risk.

Roanoke’s Main Street had long been a through-fare.  The winding road which had been opened as the “Logansport to For Wayne Road” meandered from the south along the Old Fort Wayne Road and at some point altered its original course by veering east along today’s County Road 650 North to the foot of Ginger Hill (a short distance west of Two EE’s Winery.)  From there the road resumed a northeasterly course through Mahon.

On reaching Roanoke the road made a sharp jog to the east before resuming a due north path along Roanoke’s Main Street.  It departed the northern town limits becoming what would later become Roanoke Road.

With the coming of the automobile, the route was designated Indiana State Road 7.  In 1927, the Federal Bureau of Public Roads announced that “For the Convenience of the Traveling Public a Limited System of State Road Have Been Given Continuous Numbers Across the Country.”  To Incorporated into the new system, the road became U.S. Highway 24.

Repair shops popped up like spring flowers following the rain.  Ed Dennis’ Garage was a livery barn on the west side of the 200 block of North Main Street.  He removed the front portion of the barn and added a modern cement block service station façade.  Dennis advertised auto storage, oils, and gas and offered a “jitney service” that provided transportation on an as-needed basis.  (click on the pictures below to see them full screen)

Roanoke Filling Stations and Repair Shops 001


Roanoke Filling Stations and Repair Shops 002


Randy Williams 001

Randy Williams cont'd & museum 001

Automobile drives Roanoke 001

Automobile drives Roanoke cont'd 002