River District Construction Uncovers Danville History

Danville, VA - One unexpected result of Danville's River District renovation is a little bit of history that's now been uncovered. As of now, the first block of Main Street is torn up, and what is under the street shows what the city used to look like.

"I think most people probably think that they were torn up but they weren't," said Sonja Ingram, a field representative for Preservation Virginia.

It's easy to see from old pictures that Danville has come a long way. But many people don't realize some of Danville's richest history remains just below the surface.

"Every day you are walking around but there is intact historical structures underneath our feet," said Ingram.

In the late 1800s, Danville's first public transportation started in the form of four street cars pulled by mules.

"They could walk up the hill faster than the mules could carry and so the developers decided we need to do something to move these cars along," said Gary Grant, a local historian.

Two years later, they were powered by electricity.

"The advent of these electric street cars pretty much coincided with Danville moving in stature from a town to a city," said Grant.

But soon after the street cars retired in 1938, the roads became paved and the rails were forgotten. Occasional utility work over the years has uncovered pieces of the track. But the River District construction has unearthed large sections of it.

"It's a reminder of one of Danville's really high water marks," said Grant.

Many say it shows Danville's past during the construction of its future.

"It brings out your imagination when you know that that is still there and you can see a piece of the past sort of unhidden like that," said Ingram.

Public works says they plan to pave the street in Spring. They say it is clearly not in good shape throughout Main Street, and they only keep it there because it is too expensive to tear it out.