Martinsville, Virginia

Martinsville, Virginia
Martinsville's uptown district.
Martinsville's uptown district.
Official seal of Martinsville, Virginia
A City Without Limits
Coordinates: 36°41′10″N 79°52′9″W / 36.68611°N 79.86917°W / 36.68611; -79.86917
Country United States
State Virginia
CountyNone (Independent city)
Named forJoseph Martin
 • TypeCouncil-manager
 • MayorKathy Lawson[1]
 • Vice MayorChad Martin
 • CouncilMartinsville City Council
 • Total11.01 sq mi (28.51 km2)
 • Land10.96 sq mi (28.37 km2)
 • Water0.05 sq mi (0.14 km2)
Elevation1,017 ft (310 m)
 • Total13,821
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,145.86/sq mi (442.44/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s)276
FIPS code51-49784[4]
GNIS feature ID1498514[5]

Martinsville is an independent city near the southern border of the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 13,821.[6] It is the county seat of Henry County,[7] although the two are separate jurisdictions. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Martinsville with Henry County for statistical purposes.

Martinsville is the principal city of the Martinsville Micropolitan Statistical Area, with a population of 73,346 as of the 2000 census.

The paper clip-shaped Martinsville Speedway, the shortest track in the NASCAR Cup Series at 0.526 miles (847 m) and one of the first paved "speedways", is located just outside the city near the town of Ridgeway.


Martinsville was founded by American Revolutionary War General, Indian agent and explorer Joseph Martin, born in Albemarle County.[8] He developed his plantation Scuffle Hill on the banks of the Smith River near the present-day southern city limits. General Martin and revolutionary patriot Patrick Henry, who lived briefly in Henry County and for whom the county is named, were good friends.

The city's chief industry for many early years was the manufacture of plug chewing tobacco. The Henry County area became known as the "plug tobacco capital of the world". In the wake of the collapse of the plantation economy following the American Civil War, the local economy was reeling. Stepping into the breach were several thriving plug firms which sold their merchandise across the nation beginning in the nineteenth century.

Local families were heavily involved in these companies, bestowing their names on them and reaping sizeable profits until the early twentieth century, when the tobacco monopolies created by R.J. Reynolds and James Buchanan Duke bought out most firms. (In most cases, in bold anti-competitive moves, the two tobacco titans simply shut down their acquisitions overnight.[9] These actions resulted in a U.S. government lawsuit against American Tobacco Company.[10]) Among the earliest of these firms were D.H. Spencer & Sons and Spencer Bros. Other families soon joined in founding other early firms, including the Gravelys, the Comptons, the Ruckers, the Wittens, the Lesters and the Browns.

The city's main industry for a century was furniture construction, and today Virginia furniture makers still reside in the region.

DuPont in 1941 built a large manufacturing plant for producing textile nylon filament, a vital war material. During the Cold War, the city was identified as a target for strategic bombing by the Soviet Union. This nylon production jump-started the growth of the textiles industry in the area.

For several years Martinsville was known as the "Sweatshirt Capital of the World", and in the 1980s it boasted of having more millionaires per capita than any city in America.[11]

Business leaders in the mid-20th century, like Whitney Shumate, worked to improve sub-standard housing in Martinsville. He helped clear out a portion of Martinsville called "Mill Town", which had sub-standard rental housing originally provided for 19th century employees of a now defunct cotton mill. New homes were constructed in the neighborhood, built with sound materials and with all city services for the first time. What had originally been considered a depressed civic area rapidly became a center of progress as middle class blacks finally began to prosper. As an editorial in the local newspaper noted, "One of the projects which won him considerable attention and praise was the instigation of the redevelopment of what was once known as Martinsville Cotton Mill Village. He and associates purchased about 50 houses in North Martinsville, and using private capital rather than federal aid, rebuilt them into comfortably inhabitable homes, making it possible for many persons to purchase homes within their financial range."[12]

In the early 1990s, changing global economic conditions and new trade treaties made Martinsville textiles and furniture manufacturing economically unsustainable. Many firms closed shop and laid off thousands of workers; the production moved offshore to other countries.[13] The city is repositioning itself long-term as a center for technology development and manufacturing.

MZM, Inc. opened a facility in Martinsville as part of the Cunningham scandal.[14]

Memorial Hospital of Martinsville (now combined with the hospital in Danville, Virginia to become Sovah Health.) serves the greater Martinsville and Henry County area.[15] The earliest local hospital was the 50-bed Shackelford Hospital,[16] founded by Dr. Jesse Martin Shackelford,[17] who was later joined by surgeon son Dr. John Armstrong Shackelford, an early graduate of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.[18] Founder of the Hospital Association of Virginia, Dr. Jesse Shackelford was an early advocate of comprehensive care for state citizens. Shackelford Hospital was sold in 1946, and Martinsville General Hospital subsequently opened with Dr. John Shackelford as its first chief surgeon.[19] In 1970 Memorial Hospital of Martinsville opened its doors, replacing Martinsville General.

The Beaver Creek Plantation, John Waddey Carter House, Dry Bridge School, East Church Street-Starling Avenue Historic District, Fayette Street Historic District, Little Post Office, Martinsville Fish Dam, Martinsville Historic District, Martinsville Novelty Corporation Factory, and Scuffle Hill are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[20]

Liberty Fair Mall opened in 1989.

Relationship with Henry County

Martinsville's relationship with Henry County is somewhat complex. Martinsville was fully included in Henry County's jurisdiction until it was declared a city by court order in 1928.[21] As with all cities in Virginia, Martinsville's incorporation as a city made it independent from Henry County's jurisdiction. Although Martinsville technically remains the county seat of Henry County, nearby Collinsville serves as the de facto county seat, as it is where the county's primary administrative and judicial offices are located. However, the future of this jurisdictional arrangement became unclear when Martinsville's city council unanimously voted in favor of beginning the process of reverting from a city to a town (which would reincorporate it into the county's jurisdiction) on December 10, 2019,[22] citing economic and demographic concerns.[23] The time frame for this reversion remains unclear, as the city's petition to revert must first be approved by a three-judge panel[23] in the state courts, after which begins a complex process of negotiation with the county over the division of responsibilities.[22]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.0 square miles (28.5 km2), of which 11.0 square miles (28.5 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km2) (0.5%) is water.[24] The north side of the city has the highest average elevation. The east side slopes gradually down to the Smith River on the south side. The west side is hilly. Martinsville is located near the southern border of Virginia.

Martinsville is 29 miles (46 km) from Danville via VA-57, and 57 miles (91 km) from Roanoke.


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)12,554[3]−9.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[25]
1790-1960[26] 1900-1990[27]
1990-2000[28] 2010-2019[6]

As of the census[29] of 2000, there were 15,416 people, 6,498 households, and 4,022 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,407.1 people per square mile (543.1/km2). There were 7,249 housing units at an average density of 661.7 per square mile (255.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 55.38% White, 42.55% African American, 0.10% Native American, 0.47% Asian, 0.69% from other races, and 0.81% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 2.32% of the population.

There were 6,498 households, out of which 26.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.0% were married couples living together, 19.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.1% were non-families. 34.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.89.

The age distribution was 22.6% under the age of 18, 7.0% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 23.2% from 45 to 64, and 20.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females, there were 82.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,441, and the median income for a family was $35,321. Males had a median income of $28,530 versus $21,367 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,251. About 14.0% of families and 19.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.6% of those under age 18 and 16.9% of those age 65 or over. As of August 2010, the city's unemployment rate stood at 20 percent.[30]


The City of Martinsville operates under a council-manager government. The city council has five members who serve four-year terms. Every two years, the council elects a mayor and vice-mayor from among its members. An appointed city manager controls daily operations and manages the city's activities.


The city is served by the Martinsville City Public Schools.[31] There are five public schools in Martinsville:

  • Martinsville High School, opened in 1968 and serves roughly 580 students in grades 9-12.[32]
  • Martinsville Middle School, originally built as a high school in 1939 and serves roughly 430 students in grades 6–8.[33]
  • Albert Harris Elementary School, opened as a high school in 1958 and now serves roughly 490 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.[34] The school is named after Albert Harris, an African-American minister who was a key advocate for the education of local African-American children.[34]
  • Patrick Henry Elementary School, opened in 1950 and serves roughly 435 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.[35] The school is named after founding father Patrick Henry.[35]
  • Clearview Early Childhood Center, opened as an elementary school in 1954 and now serves roughly 140 students in preschool as part of the Virginia Preschool Initiative.[36]

The city is also home to the K-12 private school, Carlisle School. The school serves approximately 400 students, about 130 of them are high school students. The School was established in 1968[37]

Colleges and universities in Martinsville include the New College Institute[38] and Patrick Henry Community College, where students can also take satellite courses through Old Dominion University.

Arts and culture



2019 STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville is home to the Martinsville Mustangs of the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate summer baseball league. The Mustangs play at Hooker Field in Martinsville. The Mustangs began play for the league's 2005 season.

Martinsville is also home to Martinsville Speedway, which opened in 1947.[40] The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series hosts two races there every year. The speedway also host the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

Notable people




  • WDBJ, CBS affiliate based in Roanoke
  • WSLS, NBC affiliate based in Roanoke
  • WSET, ABC affiliate based in Lynchburg
  • WFXR, Fox affiliate based in Roanoke
  • WWCW, Fox affiliate based in Lynchburg
  • WZBJ, an Independent station, based in Roanoke, licensed in Danville
  • WPXR, ION affiliate based in Roanoke

Radio stations

  • WHEE 1370, broadcast station based in Martinsville
  • WMVA 1450, Talk news radio station based in Martinsville
  • WROV-FM 96.3, commercial FM radio station based in Martinsville


See also


  1. ^ "Kathy Lawson elected as new mayor of Martinsville". www.wsls.com. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  2. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  4. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  6. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on January 6, 2014. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  7. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  8. ^ Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion'(Sixth Printing, 1956). Virginia Writers' Project, Work Projects Administration. p. 611. New York: Oxford University Press. Books.google.com. Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
  9. ^ The Tobacco Worker, Tobacco Workers International Union, 1907. Books.google.com. Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
  10. ^ Federal Anti-trust Decisions, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1917. Books.google.com. Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
  11. ^ Derks, Scott. Working Americans, 1880-1999: Sports & recreation, 2000, page 426.
  12. ^ Martinsville Bulletin. March 3, 1966. "City Loses Citizen who Helped Make it a Better Community."
  13. ^ "Threadbare: The Unravelling of Henry County" Archived September 11, 2012, at Archive.today, The Roanoke Times, 17 August 2002. (August 17, 2002). Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
  14. ^ Rozen, Laura (January 13, 2006). "'Duke' Of Deception". CBS News. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  15. ^ "Sovah Health – Martinsville". www.sovahhealth.com. Sovah Health. February 3, 2017. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  16. ^ The Doctors Shackelford and the Shackelford Hospital, Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society Archived March 14, 2017, at the Wayback Machine. Mhchistoricalsociety.com (October 8, 2009). Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
  17. ^ Jesse Martin Shackelford, M.D., Martinsville Henry County Historical Society Archived July 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Mhchistoricalsociety.com (October 6, 2009). Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
  18. ^ John Armstrong Shackelford, M.D., Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society Archived July 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Mhchistoricalsociety.com (October 6, 2009). Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
  19. ^ The History of Memorial Hospital Archived August 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Martinsvillehospital.org. Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
  20. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  21. ^ "The Hornbook of Virginia History: Cities of Virginia". Encyclopedia Virginia: Virginia Humanities. Library of Virginia. December 19, 2016. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  22. ^ a b "Martinsville Reversion". Henry County. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  23. ^ a b Dwyer, Shayne (December 11, 2019). "After Nearly 70 Years in the Making, City of Martinsville Begins Process of Reversion to Town Status". WSLS10. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  24. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  25. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  26. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  27. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  28. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  29. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  30. ^ "To Help or Not to Help". The Economist. August 26, 2010. Retrieved August 30, 2010.
  31. ^ "Martinsville City Public Schools – Official Website". martinsville.k12.va.us. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  32. ^ "About". Martinsville High School. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  33. ^ "About". Martinsville Middle School. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  34. ^ a b "About". Albert Harris Elementary School. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  35. ^ a b "About". Patrick Henry Elementary School. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  36. ^ "About". Clearview Early Childhood Center. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  37. ^ "History of Carlisle School". carlisleschool.org. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  38. ^ "About NCI". newcollegeinstitute.org. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  39. ^ "About Piedmont Arts Association". www.piedmontarts.org. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  40. ^ "About the Speedway". www.martinsvillespeedway.com. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  41. ^ "Carl Hairston". Pro-Football Reference.Com. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  42. ^ "George Hairston". Hairston.org. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  43. ^ "Robert Hairston". Hairston.org. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  44. ^ "Patrick Henry". history.com. The History Channel. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  45. ^ Kozelsky, Holly (May 3, 2019). "Two Martinsville-area children injured in a road-rage shooting last month are gaining worldwide support inspired by the famous Hodgetwins". Martinsville Bulletin.
  46. ^ "Ceiling high for 7 foot 1 NBA draft prospect Thon Maker". www.roanoke.com. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  47. ^ "Lou Whitaker - BR Bullpen". www.baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 5, 2017.

External links

Coordinates: 36°41′10″N 79°52′09″W / 36.686143°N 79.869171°W / 36.686143; -79.869171

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