Jefferson Center Celebrates One Hundred Years of Enriching Lives

The Jefferson Center has announced the launch of a year-long celebration to honor the Jefferson Center building at 541 Luck Avenue and its legacy of service. Throughout the building’s one hundredth year, the organization by the same name will celebrate its many gifts to the Roanoke community including its role as an educational catalyst, purveyor of music and the arts, and asset for economic development in Roanoke.

“For generations, we have found places to sit, learn, celebrate, or simply enjoy in the Jefferson Center. Even though much has changed over the past 100 years, its core purpose has remained steadfast,” says Whit Ellerman, Chair of the Jefferson Center Board of Directors. “It was, is, and always will be a home to education, the arts, and community engagement – a place where lives are inspired and enriched. Through our centennial celebration we hope to make more people aware of its rich history and the tremendous impact it has on the advancement of our economy and community as we renew our commitment to helping it thrive.”

The building first opened as Jefferson High School in 1924 and from its inception, was designed with community in mind. At the time, the City had no civic center, so the school’s auditorium was built larger than needed – not only for students to gather, but to host community events as well. One hundred years later, the commitment to community still stands.

A Rich History: Home to Education, Arts and Community

From 1924 to 1974, the building was known as Jefferson High School. During that time, it hosted more than 19,000 students in its halls, classrooms, cafeteria, and auditorium and was the backdrop and stage for countless memories and stories.

By 1989, renovations led by the City and Jefferson Center Foundation repurposed classrooms into offices, modernized systems, and stabilized the building. The vision of an appointed citizen’s committee tasked with determining the future of the iconic building remains today: to create a place for local business, government, and nonprofit organizations to collaborate and enrich the lives of community residents.

Now maintained by the Jefferson Center organization, its leadership and Board of Directors has held fast to the original intent and vision of the building. Known for being home to world-class music and performing arts events, community gatherings, educational programming and even business and community advocacy, Jefferson Center breathes life into Roanoke every day. Highlights include:

●       85+ music/arts performances a year, including a robust “Jefferson Center Presents” performance schedule

●       200+ community events a year

●       Affordable office space for 18 private businesses and nonprofits, including a Montessori school

●       Educational programming and music lab for children, regardless of their ability to pay

Community Enrichment Then, Now and Always

In its lifetime, the Jefferson Center’s function has evolved from high school to world-class performance venue and community space. Despite these changes, there is one thing the building has done and always will do: enrich lives. It has stood the test of time over 100 years, however, operations are becoming increasingly difficult due to the age of the building itself.

The Jefferson Center recently completed a capital needs assessment of the 131,000 square-foot building and found critical needs for immediate remediation. Its leadership and Board of Directors is working collaboratively with the Roanoke City Council on addressing these needs.  The efforts aim to help ensure that it can remain steadfast in its long-standing commitment to community enrichment for another 100 years.

“We believe deeply in our responsibility to uphold the purpose of Jefferson Center as a place where lives are inspired and enriched,” says Cyrus Pace, Executive Director of Jefferson Center. “We know the City of Roanoke and its elected officials also believe in Jefferson Center as a beacon of education, arts and community engagement and an important link to our past. We appreciate them prioritizing its needs and helping maintain the historic structure as an important asset to our city.”

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -

Related Articles