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Roanoke ornaments are (mostly) a thing of the past
A ChrisMarks St. Andrew's Catholic Church ornament was on sale for $23 on eBay.
Monday, March 4, 2013
Q: I would like to trace a source for an ornament I purchased probably 20 years ago in Roanoke. It is a 1-inch brass replica of the Mill Mountain Star hung with red and green ribbons, stored in a red velvet box. The markings on the package insert are as follows:
Series No. 1 Brass
I have tried online searches to find the artist, to no avail. Over the years, I purchased quality ornaments for my children that had a special significance in their lives. I would really like to track down another ornament so they may each have one.
Lynn McHugh, Roanoke County
A: Lynn, I picked this question because I thought to myself, “This seems like an easy one. … How hard can it be to track down a star ornament in the Star City of the South?”
Harder than I thought, it turns out.
While several sources thought Patrick Henry High School had sold these ornaments as a fundraiser, others said they were sure Fink’s Jewelers had them. Another said they might be a Junior Achievement project from a few years back.
Those leads didn’t pan out. But if you want to know about Roanoke souvenirs, I learned that the best place to ask is at the longtime tchotchke shop on the City Market.
That’s where Stacy Lynch , the cheerful woman behind the counter and owner’s daughter at The Gift Niche, finally put me on the right path. It turns out that ChrisMarks isn’t the artist, but the name of a now defunct Roanoke company. They produced sterling silver and brass ornaments of local landmarks — a new one every year.
In addition to the star, they made at least nine others, including Hotel Roanoke, Texas Tavern, St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, the City Market Building, Firehouse No. 1, Grandin Theatre, Jefferson Center, the H&C Coffee sign and the 611 locomotive. Early editions came in red velvet jewelry boxes and with a certificate of authenticity, but by the end of the run, they were less ceremoniously packed in little cardboard boxes.
According to the former owner of ChrisMarks, though the ornaments were very popular — one year they sold more than 3,000 — eventually they ran out of worthy local landmarks and shut down the business.
Butch Craft, owner of The Roanoker Restaurant , bought the designs and changed the name to Landmarks of Virginia, but eventually she stopped producing ornaments, too.
Of the ChrisMark ornaments, Stacy Lynch said, “They were big sellers, and when they stopped making them, people were really upset.”
But this reporter is hard-pressed to think of what else in town might warrant an ornament, except for the Taubman Museum of Art and maybe the awesome groundhog exhibit at Mill Mountain Zoo.
I found one of the brass St. Andrew’s ornaments on eBay — it sold for $23. Butch Craft at the Roanoker said she still has a few of the brass City Market ornaments, and might have a few sterling silver ones tucked away, too. But once they’re gone, that’s it.
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