New Town was an African American neighborhood in Blacksburg, Virginia from the late 19th century until the mid-1960’s. It consisted of Gilbert Street and a small lane that was home to about 20 families. The only remaining structure today is the St. Luke and Odd Fellows Hall at 203 Gilbert Street. The Hall was the social center for area African-Americans from 1905 when it was built until the end of segregation. In the 1970’s, road construction and other development resulted in the decline and disappearance of New Town as a predominantly African-American neighborhood. Nonetheless, New Town and the St. Luke and Odd Fellows Hall are important reminders of the resilience, pride, self-reliance, and community spirit of the people who lived in this neighborhood as well as the injustice that segregation imposed.
The Hall fully occupied the 25 foot by 45 foot lot purchased for $95.00 in 1905 by leaders of the Tadmore Light Lodge 6184 of Grand United Order of the Odd Fellows and the Saint Francis Council of the Right and Worthy Grand Council of Independent Order of Saint Luke. It appears to have been built by volunteer labor in a Greek Classical style; it is precisely symmetrical with entry doors on the two sides facing the streets. The windows are placed so that the building is well lit throughout. The two story frame structure has an open gathering room with a high ceiling and an ample stage. The second floor reached by narrow stairs in the front of the building was reserved for members’ ceremonial functions and organization meetings.
For over 60 years, the St. Luke and Odd Fellows Hall served the community well hosting social events, gatherings for music and enjoyment, and creating a sense of community. When desegregation came to Blacksburg in the late 1960’s, the St. Luke and Odd Fellows Hall was no longer needed as a social center.
In 2004/05 trustees appointed by the court, Bea Walker, Aubrey Mills, Sr., and Walter Lewis negotiated an agreement with the Town of Blacksburg to preserve the building. In 2009-10 the Town of Blacksburg restored the St. Luke and Odd Fellows Hall as a museum and activity center to preserve the memories and contributions of the many families who lived in New Town.
For more information on New Town and St. Luke and Odd Fellows Hall, be sure to check out our online exhibit!