In the spring of 1949, there was no star. Only a wish.
Months later, on a cold, windy Thanksgiving Eve, speeches were given, patriotic anthems sung and a switch was thrown. A burst of white phosphorescent light illuminated the top of Mill Mountain and forever changed the skyline of Roanoke.
Mill Mountain Star was turned on for the very first time on Nov. 23, 1949. We look back on the 70 years of the star in the sky.
Roy Kinsey Jr. (left) and brother Bob (right) flank actor John Payne, the Roanoke native who starred in “Miracle on 34th Street,” before the Roanoke Star’s dedication on Nov. 23, 1949.
Actor John Payne, the Roanoke native and movie star who was the special guest at the Mill Mountain Star dedication, climbed the star on Nov. 23, 1949. Roy Kinsey, seen at the far right of the star, removed a ladder that Payne had climbed just before the photograph.
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City leaders and guests gather for the star’s dedication on Nov. 23, 1949.
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The full moon rises over Mill Mountain in Roanoke behind the red, white and blue neon Mill Mountain Star in a photo taken June 24, 2002, by former Roanoke Times photographer Eric Brady.
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Volunteers give water to runners in front of the Mill Mountain Star during the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon in April 2013.
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The Mill Mountain Star was dimmed in memory of the 32 students killed at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007.
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Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times 12/13/2012 A kit of pigeons fly together with the Mill Mountain Star in the background on Thursday morning.
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Kyle Green / The Roanoke Times 10/3/2012 The sun cuts through the fog at the Mill Mountain Star. Heavy fog settled over the Roanoke Valley overnight.
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Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times 9/21/2011 The Mill Mountain Star was covered in a heavy fog on Wednesday night.
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The Roanoke Times | File; Local officials hope to see more Virginia and North Carolina tourists visiting the Mill Mountain Star and other local sites.[STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times Photo taken September 12, 2011 The Mill Mountain Star will shine white except for on special occasions and holidays.]
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Photo ERIC BRADY — The Roanoke Times Downtown Roanoke from Mill Mountain Star overlook shot at dawn, including the Taubman Museum of Art.
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Workers used a crane and basket Friday to reach the heights of the Mill Mountain Star to perform routine maintenance on the landmark. The work included replacing a part in a transformer and replacing the battery in the city's StarCam, said Roanoke City Spokesman Timothy Martin.
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Mandi Wright | The Roanoke Times
Hurricane Floyd orangy sky serves as an appropriate backdrop for the Roanoke star as it was named a historic landmark
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A dense fog envelops Mill Mountain Star and radio tower beacons assisting aircraft with reduced visability on approach to Roanoke Regional Airport late Sept. 28, 2015.
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Kathleen Recht of Roanoke takes a photograph of the Mill Mountain Star on Nov. 11, 2015. Recht said she wanted to see the star up close in red, white and blue to honor the victims of the attack in Paris.
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Fall leaves were at their peak as the temperatures dropped on Oct. 26, 2015. The fading colors frame the Mill Mountain Star from under a canopy of trees atop the mountain.
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Snow begins to cover the Mill Mountain Star Wednesday morning, Nov. 26, 2014. Accumulated coverage was much faster in the higher elevations like Mill Mountain.
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Workers from Roanoke Iron and Bridge Works use a crane to build the steel structure for the Mill Mountain Star in 1949.
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Courtesy Bob Kinsey
Workers built the star in cold, windy weather without the aid of safety harnesses.
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I visited the Mill Mountain Star on the second day of my internship in the summer of 2010. I'd heard about the Star, but didn't really understand it. Roanoke natives I've spoken to have told me that when they're driving into town, the Star is the first thing they look for because it means that they're home. And one night, I realized as I was driving back from an assignment in Clifton Forge, I knew what that meant. When the Star came into my view, I felt like I was home.The Star is endearing, and is so special to this city.
-- Rebecca Barnett
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