—  Independent city  —
City of Harrisonburg, Virginia
Rockingham County Courthouse in Court Square in downtown Harrisonburg
Official seal of Harrisonburg
Nickname(s): The Friendly City, H'Burg, The Burg
Location in Virginia
Coordinates: 38°26′58″N 78°52′08″W / 38.44944, -78.86889Coordinates: 38°26′58″N 78°52′08″W / 38.44944, -78.86889
Country United States
State Virginia
Founded 1779
 • Type Council-manager government
 • City Manager Kurt Hodgen[1]
 • Mayor Richard Baugh (D)[2]
 • Vice Mayor Ted Byrd (R)[3]
 • City Council
 • Total 17.6 sq mi (45.6 km2)
 • Land 17.2 sq mi (45.5 km2)
 • Water 0.04 sq mi (0.1 km2)
Elevation 1,325 ft (404 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 48,914
 • Density 2,843.8/sq mi (1,075.0/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 22801-22803, 22807
Area code(s) 540
FIPS code 51-35624[7]
GNIS feature ID 1498489[8]

Harrisonburg is an independent city in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia in the United States. Its population as of 2010 is 48,914[9], and at the 2000 census, 40,468. Harrisonburg is the county seat of Rockingham County[10] and the core city of the Harrisonburg, Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Area which has a 2008 estimated population of 118,409.[11] The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Harrisonburg with Rockingham county for statistical purposes, while the U.S. Census Bureau treats Harrisonburg as an independent city for census tabulation. Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University.


Harrisonburg was named for Thomas Harrison (1704–1785), an early settler.[12]

The earliest documented English exploration of the area prior to settlement was the "Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition", led by Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood, who reached Elkton, and whose rangers continued and in 1716 likely passed through what is now Harrisonburg.

Harrisonburg, previously known as Rocktown, was named for Thomas Harrison, a son of English settlers.[13] In 1737, Harrison settled in the Shenandoah Valley, eventually laying claim to over 12,000 acres (49 km2). This was situated at the intersection of the Spotswood Trail and the main Native American road through the Valley.[14]

In 1779, Harrison deeded 2.5 acres (10,100 m2) of his land to the "public good" for the construction of a courthouse. In 1780, Harrison deeded an additional 50 acres (200,000 m2).[15] This is the area now known as "Historic Downtown Harrisonburg."

In 1849, trustees chartered a mayor-council form of government, although Harrisonburg was not officially incorporated as an independent city until 1916. Today, a council-manager government administers Harrisonburg.[16]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 17.6 square miles (45.6 km²), of which, 17.6 square miles (45.5 km²) is land, and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) (0.17%) is water.


Interstate 81, a main roadway in Harrisonburg.

This graph, using information from the 2000 federal census, illustrates the uneven distribution of age due to the two universities in Harrisonburg

As of the census[7] of 2000, there were 40,468 people, 13,133 households, and 6,448 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,304.4 people per square mile (889.8/km²). There were 13,689 housing units at an average density of 779.5 per square mile (301.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 84.84% White, 5.92% Black or African American, 0.19% Native American, 3.11% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 3.35% from other races, and 2.57% from two or more races. 8.85% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 13,133 households out of which 23.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.4% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.9% were non-families. 28.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.00.

The age distribution, which is strongly influenced by the city's two universities, is: 15.4% under the age of 18, 40.9% from 18 to 24, 21.2% from 25 to 44, 13.2% from 45 to 64, and 9.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23 years. For every 100 females there were 90.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,949, and the median income for a family was $45,159. Males had a median income of $29,951 versus $22,910 for women. The per capita income for the city was $14,898. About 11.5% of families and 30.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.7% of those under age 18 and 11.4% of those age 65 or over. However, traditional poverty measures can be misleading when applied to a community with a relatively large student population, such as Harrisonburg.


When the slaves of the Shenandoah Valley were freed in 1865, they set up near modern-day Harrisonburg a town called Newtown.[17] This settlement was eventually annexed by the independent city of Harrisonburg some years later, probably around 1892. Today, the old city of Newtown is still the home of the majority of Harrisonburg's predominantly black churches, such as First Baptist and Bethel AME. The modern Boys and Girls Club of Harrisonburg is located in the old Lucy Simms schoolhouse used for the black students in the days of segregation.

A large portion of this black neighborhood was dismantled in the 1950s when – in the name of urban renewal – the city government used federal redevelopment funds from the Housing Act of 1949 to force black families out of their homes and then bulldozed the neighborhood. This effort, called "Project R4," focused on the city blocks east of Main, north of Gay, west of Broad, and south of Johnson. The city later sold the land to commercial developers.[18]

Downtown Renaissance[]

In early 2002, the Harrisonburg community discussed the possibility of creating a pedestrian mall downtown. Public meetings were held to discuss the merits and drawbacks of pursuing such a plan. Ultimately, the community decided to keep its Main Street open to traffic. From these discussions, however, a strong voice emerged from the community in resounding support of downtown revitalization.

On July 1, 2003, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance was incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit with the mission of rejuvenating the downtown district.[19]

In 2004, downtown was designated as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places and a designated Virginia Main Street Community,[20] with the neighboring Old Town residential community gaining historic district status in 2007. Several vacant buildings have been renovated and re-purposed for new uses, like the Hardesty-Higgins House and City Exchange, used for the Harrisonburg Tourist Center and high-end loft apartments, respectively.

In 2008, downtown Harrisonburg spent over $1 million in cosmetic and sidewalk infrastructure improvements (also called streetscaping and wayfinding projects). The City Council appropriated $500,000 for custom street signs to be used as "wayfinding signs" directing visitors to areas of interest around the city. Another $500,000 was used to upgrade street lighting, sidewalks, and landscaping along Main Street and Court Square.[21]


School systems[]

Serving about 4,400 students (K-12,) Harrisonburg City Public Schools comprises 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and a high school. Eastern Mennonite School, a private school, serves grades K-12 with an enrollment of about 327 students.[22] Redeemer Classical School serves grades K-8 with an enrollment of about 60 students.[23]

Higher education[]

  • Eastern Mennonite University (Private)
  • James Madison University (Public)
  • Blue Ridge Community College (Main campus is in Weyers Cave)
  • Bridgewater College is in nearby Bridgewater, Virginia
  • National Business College

Points of interest[]

  • Edith J. Carrier Arboretum
  • Virginia Quilt Museum[24]
  • Downtown Harrisonburg
  • Harrisonburg Children's Museum


  • The first annual Super Gr8 Film Festival was held in Harrisonburg in November, 2010.[25][26]


  • Eastern Mennonite Royals (NCAA Division III, Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC))
    • 2010 Division III Men's Basketball Elite 8 Qualifiers
    • 2004 Women's basketball sweet sixteen qualifiers
  • Harrisonburg Turks (Valley Baseball League)
  • James Madison Dukes (NCAA Division I, Football Championship Subdivision, Colonial Athletic Association)
    • 2004 Division I-AA National Champions

Notable natives and residents[]


  • Engine Down rock group formed by JMU students in Harrisonburg.
  • Everything (band), mid to late 90's pop rock group formed by JMU students in Harrisonburg.
  • Gifts From Enola post-rock band formed at JMU
  • Happy The Man, a 70's progressive rock band formed in Harrisonburg.
  • Maximillian Colby, 90's emocore band
  • Old Crow Medicine Show, An oldtime folk band. The two founding members were born and raised in Harrisonburg. This includes Ketch Secor.


  • Samuel B. Avis (February 19, 1872 - June 8, 1924) was an American politician who represented West Virginia in the United States House of Representatives from 1913-1915.
  • Jeremiah Bishop, 2003 Pan American Games gold medalist in cross country mountain bike racing
  • Nelson Chittum, former pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox
  • Dell Curry, NBA player for the Utah Jazz, Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Hornets, and the Toronto Raptors
  • Daryl Irvine former starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox
  • Akeem Jordan, right outside line-backer for the Philadelphia Eagles
  • Gus Niarhos, catcher for the Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, and Philadelphia Phillies
  • John Birdsell Oren, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral
  • G. Edgar Parker, codeveloper of the Parker-Sochacki method of solving systems of differential equations.
  • Ralph Sampson, who played collegiate basketball at the University of Virginia and was drafted 1st overall in the 1983 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets
  • Jim Sochacki, codeveloper of the Parker-Sochacki method of solving systems of differential equations.
  • Maggie Stiefvater, Number 1 best-selling authour of The Wolves of Mercy Falls series
  • Kristi Toliver, 2009 ACC women's basketball Player of the Year (University of Maryland).[27] She graduated from Harrisonburg High School.
  • John Wade, center for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders, now retired from NFL and working for Bob Wade Subaru.
  • Manny Delgado, actor

See also[]

  • Harrisonburg Department of Public Transportation
  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • Virginia Mennonite Conference

References and notes[]

  1. ^ City Manager Kurt Hodgen
  2. ^ Term: 2009-2013; Mayor Richard Baugh
  3. ^ Term: 2011-2015; Vice-Mayor Ted Byrd
  4. ^ Term: 2009-2013; Council Member Kai Degner
  5. ^ Term 2009-2013; Council Member David Wiens
  6. ^ Term 2011-2015; Council Member Charles Chenault
  7. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  8. ^ "Harrisonburg – Populated Place". Geographic Names Information System. USGS. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  9. ^ [1]. 2010 U.S. Census Data: Virginia. Retrieved February 16, 2011
  10. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  11. ^ "Table 7. Cumulative Estimates of Population Change for Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Rankings: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008" (CSV). 2007 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  12. ^ Kane, Joseph Nathan, Aiken, Charles Curry (2004). The American Counties. Scarecrow Press. pp. 130. ISBN 0810850362. 
  13. ^ Harrison, J. Houston (1935). Settlers by the Long Grey Trail J.K. Ruebush. p 214-249
  14. ^ Julian Smith, 2007, Moon Virginia p. 246
  15. ^ A Brief History of Harrisonburg
  16. ^ Government Structure of Harrisonburg
  17. ^ Stephens City, Virginia was also called Newtown at this time.
  18. ^ Remembering Project R4
  19. ^ Bolsinger, Andrew Scot (October 28, 2002). "Downtown, Andrew Scot Bolsinger". Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA). Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
  20. ^ "Harrisonburg Downtown Historic District". Virginia Main Street Community: A National Registry of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
  21. ^ Creswell, Kelly (10:48 PM Aug 14, 2007). "Harrisonburg Streetscape". WHSV TV 3 (Gray Television, Inc.). Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
  22. ^ Eastern Mennonite School profile.
  23. ^ Redeemer Classical School website.
  24. ^ Virginia Quilt Museum
  25. ^ Bowser, Heather (2011, June 14). "Super Gr8 Movie Fest Debuts Tuesday: Fest Challenges Filmmakers To Get It Right In One Take". Retrieved 2007, June 14. 
  26. ^ "Fun On the Square: Downtown Hosts Movices, Music Every Friday". 2011, June 9. Retrieved 2007, June 14. 
  27. ^ Camille, Powell. The Washington Post. March 6, 2009.

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