Roanoke’s Market Street: A far cry from the old days

Visiting the current Market Street area of Roanoke means mingling with aging yuppies on their way to restaurants and night spots in the revitalized section of the city.

A far cry from the Market area of the 60s when seedy rooming houses, prostitutes, winos and drug dealers prowled the dark and foreboding streets.

In the late 60s, as a young reporter for The Roanoke Times, I wrote about life in the seedy Market district of the city. I interviewed the hookers who waited on the streets for a pickup from a john, talked with winos who slept on cardboard boxes amid the trash and watched drug deals go down.

Some of what I wrote made it into the paper but I had to fight to get such stories into print. The Times in those days didn’t like stories about whores and pimps and city creatures of the night. Even when a story about a young girl who sought out an abortion in the fringes of the city won the Virginia Press Association top prize of the year the paper remained reluctant to print stories about life in the dark side of the city.

Today, Market Street and the surrounding areas are bright, shiny and trendy. More revitalization is planned to keep the buildings and streets more “up to date.”

The winos, homeless and hookers are elsewhere.  Some call that progress but — as writer who tried to capture real life in the city — I found the old Market much more interesting.

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© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse