History is being kept alive on Draper Road.
The Alexander Black House, located off Draper Road in downtown Blacksburg, has been a part of the town since 1897 and, at nearly 115 years old, the house is set to remain an integral part of it.
Alexander Black was a descendant of William Black, one of the founders of Blacksburg. In 1872, at the age of 15, Alexander Black enrolled in the first session of the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, now known as Virginia Tech, where his father was the first director of the Board of Visitors.
While attending the college, Black served as president of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. After college, Black owned several businesses in Blacksburg and served as the first president of the Bank of Blacksburg.
Alexander Black built his first house in 1891. A simple home, it burned down in 1897. Black then began construction on a new, grandiose house modeled on Queen Anne Victorian architecture.
When the structure was finished, it had cross-gabled roofs, colorful stained glass windows, decorated tin ceilings, a wrap-around porch and a tower. Needless to say, the Alexander Black House became a prominent part of Blacksburg.
The house was later converted to a funeral home, and was renovated to better serve its new purpose. The wrap-around porch and the second-floor balcony were covered while interiors walls were knocked down. The top of the tower was removed and the exterior of the house was covered with vinyl siding.
In 2002, the house was to face yet another change. In order to remedy the need for parking on Main Street, a parking garage and retail center called Kent Square was proposed on the site of the Alexander Black House.
Instead of demolishing the historic home, Kent Square and the Town of Blacksburg decided to move the Alexander Black House.
Buying the house for $250,000, the town council contracted Expert House Movers, best known for moving the Cape Hatteras Light House, to move the house. Spaced was cleared next to the historic Thomas-Conner House and in December of 2002, the Alexander Black House found its new home.
While the house was saved from destruction and has a new location, renovations are still underway. In preparation for the Alexander Black House’s new role as the headquarters of the Blacksburg Museum, renovations aim to recreate the historic aspects of the home, including the wrap-around porch that was previously enclosed and the bedroom of Alexander Black, located on the bottom level of the house.
In 2003, Bill Green, professor in the School of Architecture + Design stated that the structure of the home is very well preserved, with the foundation, roofing, and plumbing all in good condition.
Green stated that the true problem rests in the aesthetic parts of the house. Exterior banisters and railings all were missing, as wwere the once elaborate balcony and columns.
Many of the needed additions are still to be addressed. The still-white house is planned to be painted in the original army green and the original furniture of Alexander Black will be added to his bedroom.
In addition to keeping the historic aspects of the house, an accessible staircase and an elevator will be added to aid touring visitors as they view the 19th century home.
As of July 2011, the Alexander Black House has raised over $327,000 of its $1.5 million goal. Future fundraisers include the Alexander Black Tie Gala on Aug. 27 at The Inn at Virginia Tech, which will include a silent and live auction to raise funds for the renovations.