Lane Brothers Construction Company was the contractor for constructing of the Tidewater Railway, including its crossing of the existing north-south Southern Railway in Campbell County. Three Lane brothers purchased of land near the point where the railroads would intersect, and had civil engineers lay out a new town with streets and lots, complete with water, sewer, telephone service, and electric lines. Settlement was encouraged by the awarding of free lots. Named for the Lane family farm in Albemarle County, the new Town of Altavista was incorporated in 1912.
The former Virginian Railway became part of the Norfolk and Western Railway in 1959, and it and the Southern Railway were combined in the early 1980s to form the current Norfolk Southern Railway. Now operated by the same company, both railroad lines are still very active in the Altavista area.
In 1972, Lane bought a small reclining chair company in Tupelo, Mississippi named Action Industries. Action Industries was founded in 1970 by Bo Bland and Mickey Holliman. Action sustained tremendous growth through gains in market share and product diversification over the next 20 years becoming a major force in the upholstered furniture industry. Today, the wood and upholstered divisions have become Lane Home Furnishings and a leading maker of Virginia furniture. Lane Furniture Industries is owned by Furniture Brands International which also owns other well known brand name companies . . . Broyhill, Thomasville, Drexel Heritage and Maitland Smith.
Lane was most famous for their Lane cedar chests made at the original plant in Altavista. At the beginning of the 21st century the company headquarters were moved from Altavista and the plant there closed. Soon after the last commemorative cedar chests were made as the plant shut down. The old plant now sits mostly vacant but certain sections have become occupied by new companies and Central Virginia Community College has moved into parts of the office building. A fire also occurred in an empty section in early 2006.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 4.9 square miles (12.7 km²), of which, 4.9 square miles (12.7 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.41%) is water.
There were 1,502 households out of which 26.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.7% were married couples living together, 16.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.4% were non-families. 34.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.86.
In the town the population was spread out with 22.5% under the age of 18, 6.7% from 18 to 24, 23.7% from 25 to 44, 25.3% from 45 to 64, and 21.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 77.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 71.8 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $31,818, and the median income for a family was $40,039. Males had a median income of $32,017 versus $22,140 for females. The per capita income for the town was $17,997. About 13.6% of families and 13.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.4% of those under age 18 and 16.7% of those age 65 or over.
The town festival is a two-day celebration under the auspices of the Uncle Billy's Day Committee, Inc., a group of volunteer citizens who plan, raise funds and coordinate the activities of the weekend.
Uncle Billy's Day started in 1949 as a one-day event to commemorate the founding of the Trade Lot. It is held each year on the weekend of the first Saturday in June. It has grown in the past several years to a two-day festival featuring a vast variety of activities. Among them are, of course, the flea market, a craft show, a car show, children's games, pony rides, exhibits, fireworks and quality entertainment. Due to the fact that the festival is family oriented, alcoholic beverages are prohibited. With the exception of service animals (ie guide dogs) and those which are part of the event, such as the ponies, no animals are allowed in the park during the festival.
During the weekend, entertainment can be found on stages throughout the Riverfront Park. The entertainment is a variety of music, dance, magic, juggling, clowns, puppets that feature top quality children’s shows, and top local, regional and national stage acts, playing different types of music, all of which are offered at no charge to the people of the community.
Avoca was originally the private residence of Colonel Charles Lynch (1736-1796). He established his home here in 1755 as part of a land grant from King George II of England to his father, in 1740, and called it Green Level. Colonel Charles Lynch was a planter and distinguished himself as a lawmaker and soldier during the turbulent times of the American Revolution era. The term "Lynch's Law" (which became "lynching") may derive from his name, although he did not practice lynching in the later, murderous sense of the word.
The property was passed down through the Lynch family and upon the death of Charles Henry Lynch (1800-1875), the property went to his niece, Mary Anna Dearing Fauntleroy. Her grandson, Dr. Lindley Murray Winston, deeded the property to the Town of Altavista in 1981 as a memorial to his family. At that time the property consisted of the main house, brick kitchen, smokehouse, milk house, farm office, and approximately ten acres.
Avoca is a country Victorian house constructed in 1901, after the original and second dwellings were destroyed by fire in 1879 and 1900. The house is a commissioned work of the Lynchburg Architect, John Minor Botts Lewis in Queen Anne Style architecture. It is a Virginia landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is maintained as a historical museum. The collection, displays, programs and interpretations are planned to take account of the cultural and natural history of the region. The property is used for education and recreational purposes and serves the people of the greater Altavista area.
Because the house was unoccupied since the mid-1970s, there was need for interior repair before it could be opened to the public. In the meantime, the small Staunton River Valley Museum was opened weekends in the brick kitchen. Prior to its opening, the kitchen, exterior painting of the main house, and seed money were provided by $15,000 grants from E. R. English and Abbot Laboratories.
Gradually , through the generosity of benefactors and hard work of volunteers, one room at a time in the main house was stabilized. Gifts of furniture enhanced the revitalization efforts and in 1986 Avoca opened for tours. Due to the growth of the museum, a need for increased fund-raising, and more volunteer involvement, a historical society was founded in 1987. At this time the Staunton River Valley Museum became Avoca Museum and Historical Society and Rusty Hicks served as its first president.
In 1991 an administrator was hired to oversee issues dealing with current policies, operations, facilities and programs, member recruitment, hiring a director to manage day-to-day operations (hired in 1995), and the feasibility of acquiring or constructing storage, exhibition, and administrating offices.
1991 and 1992 were a watershed for Avoca. The Lane Company, in collaboration with Country Living Magazine, refurbished the main house. Donations of furniture by the Lane Company, fabrics, window treatments, and accessories transformed the house. National and local media coverage expanded visitation and Avoca enjoyed a successful year.
A five-year campaign was launched in 1995 to restore the exterior of the house, rehabilitate the farm office, and expand the school and community outreach programs. Grants were awarded to Avoca by the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Town of Altavista for $30,000 each. The Timken Foundation of Canton provided $85,000 toward the restoration.
Annual Harvest Jubilee & Wine Festival
Held Each fall at the Avoca Museum, this Festival includes many vineyards from the local area and has grown larger over the past few years. Some wineries that participate are Rebec, Hickory Hills, Tomahawk, Gabriele Rausse, Stonewall, and Peaks of Otter. The festival will be held this year September 20, 2008