While all of Downtown Lynchburg has undergone a revitalization in recent years, no other street has been affected quite like 5th Street. Once home to taverns and automobile dealers, the street has quickly become a restaurant and creative hub for the downtown area.
5th Street Then
In the early 19th century, 5th Street (also known as Seventh Alley, Cocke Street and West Street) was a booming hub of downtown commerce. The Kentucky Hotel (located at the corner of 5th and Jackson Streets) and the Joseph Nichols Tavern (located on the corner of Madison) offered lodgers a good meal and a place to sleep. As the century progressed, the street became home to both high-end residential areas and the premier place for African-American owned businesses.
As the years moved into the 20th century, 5th Street became known as the hub for automobile sales and service. Soon, filling and service stations, auto parts stores and automobile showrooms appeared. In 1953, the Union Bus Station was built, which serviced both Trailways and Greyhound bus passengers. This was the first time that a station ever serviced both lines at the same time.
In 1931, 5th Street was designated as U.S. Highway 29, which connected Maryland to Florida. When the construction of the Lynchburg Expressway finished, the street was re-designated as U.S. 29’s business route. This caused the road to see a decrease in long distance traffic, but an increase in local traffic.
In 1960, 5th Street became home to Pittman’s Plaza, Lynchburg’s first shopping center. However, with the opening of this plaza and later, in the 1980s, River Ridge Mall, both the downtown area and the rest of 5th Street saw a rapid decline in sales, causing many businesses to close their doors.
5th Street as the African American Community Commerce District
During the first half of the 20th century, Fifth Street was the social and commercial center of the African American community in Central Virginia. It served as the health and medical, legal and services district with more than two dozen Black physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and lawyers practicing on the street. After desegregation in the 1960s, Fifth Street began to decline as professionals and businesses moved out in to other areas of the city.
5th Street Now
Now, 5th Street is experiencing a revival like no other. Empty storefronts are now filled with unique eateries, boutique shopping and even a makerspace! Here is a glimpse at the excitement that has popped up in the last few years:
Photo credit: Grey’s, via
Grey’s on Fifth
Located in the former Starlight Cafe building, Grey’s is a restaurant and full bar with a seasonal, rotating menu. The laid back atmosphere allows for conversation to flow, and the ever changing menu keeps guests coming back for more.
5th Street Grind
5th Street Grind opened in 2017, and is a partner of Red Rooster Coffee Roaster in Floyd, Virginia. The shop features a cozy, unique atmosphere, and prides itself on being community oriented. Throughout the year, they host concerts and other events indoors. During the warmer months, the shop hosts a Back Deck Concert series that highlights local artists.
Mama Crockett’s Donuts
In 2019, the popular donut food truck Mama Crockett’s opened their brick-and-mortar store on 5th Street. Their cider donuts are a local favorite with topping and flavor options available like chocolate, caramel crunch and ginger spice!
Vector Space is a makerspace that offers both memberships and classes. Participants can experiment in the woodshop, metal shop, electronics lab, play with a 3D printer, engrave with a laser, cut vinyl, sew with industrial and embroidery machines and more! Stop by on First Fridays for a fun activity and a look around.
BitterSweet began as a temporary pop-up store, but has found a permanent home on 5th Street. This trendy boutique features an ever changing stock of the hottest designer brands. Their beautiful, quality clothing is sure to be a conversation piece in your wardrobe!
5th Street Mural
On the side of the building at 5th and Madison Streets, art has brought a pop of color to the street. Completed in 2018, the new mural painted by Arnulfo Jacinto celebrates all of the things that residents know and love about living in Lynchburg. The mural resembles a 1950s postcard, with each letter in the word “Lynchburg” showing off sights, attractions, schools and more that make our city unique.
In 2018, the 5th Street Community Development Corporation began a fundraiser to install a statue of M.W. Thornhill at the 5th Street roundabout. Thornhill was the city’s first African-American mayor and an active civil rights activist. He advocated for an enhanced Black studies program in city schools and mentored numerous young men and women in the community. His business, Community Funeral Home, has stood on 5th Street for over 70 years. You can learn more about this fundraiser here.