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Monday, May 13, 2013
Q: Just past the guard rail [where the Star Trail crosses J.B. Fishburn Parkway on Mill Mountain] there is a foundation for a rather large building. It looks like part of it went on up into the woods. By the section closest to the road there are steps and at the top a sidewalk remains. What was it?
Mike Davenport, Roanoke
A: This was a question that required quite a bit of research on Roanoke real estate, and so I contacted two sources who know a lot more about it than I ever will. Betsy Biesenbach, who occasionally writes for the newspaper and does a lot of poking through local records for a living, taught me how to find old real estate files buried deep in the computerized Geographic Information System of the city. She was able to locate some records, and the fine staff in the Virginia Room at the main library helped me fill in more details.
The buildings in question are almost certainly the ruins of what must have been a pretty spectacular estate for its time. It appears to have been the home of E.B. Hartsook, who moved to Roanoke as a young man in 1891. Hartsook was born in Maryland and as a young man moved to Leon, Kan., to try his hand at farming.
After selling his farm, he arrived in Roanoke at an opportune time, just when the city was poised to take off. Likely with the proceeds of the sale of his farm, he opened a real estate and rental business downtown. Things must have gone well, because in 1902 he bought 526 acres for the princely sum of $2,100, including part of what would later be the property of the American Viscose plant. It extended from there to Garden City and up the ridge on Mill Mountain, where he built his estate and named it Crown Point.
A 1928 map shows a main residence, an outbuilding and a barn, along with what appears to be some intricate landscaping surrounding the house. A private road was built to the house, probably similar to the old road up to the star on the other side of the mountain.
Some weed-covered stonework is all that’s left of the Hartsook road and home now, but the scale and quality of it indicates that money wasn’t much of an obstacle. Sadly, I wasn’t able to find any photos of the home. It must have been quite a place.
By 1958, the house is no longer even shown on city maps, and it’s a little unclear what happened in the meantime. One could speculate that the Great Depression took its toll, but it’s hard to know for sure.
The home of the man who was described in a history of early Roanoke as having “met with well deserved success, and highly respected in the community,” seems to have faded from our local history. Today, all that seems to remain are the skeletal remains of the estate.
And yet his presence is still with us in the form of the Hartsook building on the corner of Market Street and Campbell Avenue downtown, and a street named after him in Garden City. Judging from the phone book, there still are some Hartsooks around, and if any of you have more information or a photo of Crown Point, I’d love to hear from you.
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