Diversions in Cambria

Green? Sustainable?
...Oh, Come on!

Generally, when we talk about historic preservation or antiques or anything else that is old...we are talking about preserving history. Perhaps we should be talking about preserving the environment.

Old chairs and old dressers are like old buildings. They are still around precisely because the original builders and cabinetmakers built objects that last. They aren't fragile. They have withstood years of use and abuse and are still standing. The may have 10 coats or 20 coats of paint, may be color that reminds you of your grandmother's seafoam green livingroom, but their basic structure is solid and they are inherently friendly and comforting, like an old pair of shoes.

Take the depot. At 144 years old, there isn't a level surface or a plumb wall in the entire building. The floors creak. The roof ripples when the wind blows. There are air leaks around the windows and on the occasional very cold day, the inside surface of the window panes have a thin layer of frost. Plexiglas storm windows, mounted on the inside, prevent the wind from driving the temperature indoors downward, but they do little to maintain a semi-tropical atmosphere. Well, except for the freightroom where the wind creeps through the gaps in the fright doors. Despite its flaws, it survived being hit by a train; survived years of neglect and abuse; survived because the orginal builders built something that would last.

The building is primarily american chestnut, a bit of oak, and poplar siding. Walk into the freight room and look up. 43 foot long, solid, center-cut (9" x 7") american chestnut beams span the width of the building. With the exception of a few barns and farm houses scattered around Montgomery County and environs, you won't find the basic structural materials anywhere else. After the flood three years ago, FEMA sent an adjuster to evaluate the building. In his assessment, to replace the depot, build a replica, would cost between 1.6 million and 1.8 million. Even then, it wouldn't be built as well or be as structurally sound because the materials no longer exist.

Old buildings and antique furniture do not require the use of new materials. In most cases, their environmental footprints were fairly small, often constructed from local materials-- the timbers and tresses, leg stock and drawer backs came from local mills. There are exceptions of course, Sears mail-order houses and items from the annual wishbook arrived by rail and passed through the Depot. They have already outlived their environmental impact. The same can't be said for new objects, especially those made overseas with US raw material and shipped back to the US.

Places to Go....Things to Do

(Yeah...we promote places outside of Cambria as well...no myopia here)

While this certainly isn't a complete list of everything you can do or every place you can stay or eat, it provides a starting spot for planning your next vacation. Whether your tastes run to museums and art or hiking and kayaking, the New River Valley has something for you.

A list of the historic districts, sites, and structures, with links to the National Register documentation, has been provided at the end of the listing for each town, city, and county. Most of the sites are privately owned and not open to the public. Those that are open to the public are marked with an asterisk.


For more information on the museums in the New River Valley, check out the New River Heritage Coalition.

Cambria & Christiansburg

Cambria Depot Museum . Featuring the prototype models from The Scale Cabinetmaker, railroad memorabilia, and Cambria history. Located in the street-side waiting room of the Historic Cambria Depot. Corner of Cambria and Depot Streets. Cambria Historic District, Christiansburg, Virginia. Open Saturday and Sunday and by appointment.

Earl Palmer Museum of Photography. Open on weekends. Cambria Street. Cambria Historic District, Christiansburg, Virginia. Information on Earl Palmer is available through the Archives at Virginia Tech.

Christiansburg Institute. Located in Christiansburg, the Christiansburg Institute was historically located in Cambria (including mailing address), so we've added it to our list. The original Christiansburg Institute (also known as the Hill School) sits on the hill above the Cambria Depot. The museum will be located in the Edgar A. Long Building, on Scattergood Drive, in Christiansburg.

The Montgomery Museum and Lewis Miller Regional Art Center. Located at 300 S. Pepper Street in Christiansburg, Virginia. Admission is $2.00 Hosts the Fine Arts Festival and the Heritage Days Festival.

And Environs....

DC Wysor Observatory and Museum. Located in Dublin, Virginia (Pulaski County) and is open Friday nights from 8:00 p.m. to 11 p.m. Call 540-641-0337 for more information.

Glencoe Museum. Located in Radford Museum, the Glencoe Museum focuses on the history of Radford and the New River Valley, including exhibits that encourage children to interact with history.

RU Art Museum. Located on the Radford University campus in Radford Virginia.

Smithfield Plantation. Located adjacent to the Virginia Tech campus, in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Museum of Geosciences. Located in Derring Hall on the Virginia Tech campus. The museum is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday Through Friday and has free admission.

Blacksburg Museum (St. Luke and Odd Fellows Hall of Blacksburg Museum). Located at 203 Gilbert Street, Blacksburg. They are open Wednesday - Friday, from 1 to 5 p.m. and has free admission.

Historic Districts

Montgomery County has a wealth of Historic Districts, including three in Christiansburg, two in Blacksburg, and one rural historic district (North Fork Valley) and seven historic districts in Montgomery County. While the authors of this website intend on providing a travelogue for the historic districts, we are currently building the rest of this site, so the districts will have to wait. In the meantime, we have provided links to the Historic District and Historic Structure Nomination Forms for all of the historic sites, including individual structures, in Cambria and environs.

Districts Structures

Cambria (1991)
East Main (1991)
South Franklin (1991)
Downtown (Pending)


Christiansburg Depot (1986)
The Oaks (1994)
The Old Christiansburg Institute & Schaeffer Memorial Church (1978)
Edgar A. Long Building (Christiansburg Institute)


Blacksburg Historic District (1991)
Miller-Southside Residential Historic District (1991)


Odd Fellows Hall (2005)
Smithfield (1969) (see Smithfield Plantation Website)
Solitude (1988 ) (see Virginia Tech Library website)

Montgomery County

Kentland Farm Historic and Archaeological District (2006) (1991)
Lafayette (1991)
North Fork Rural Historic District
Piedmont Camp Meeting Grounds Historic Dist.
Prices Fork (1991)
Riner (1991)
Shawsville (1991)

Montgomery County

Fotheringay (1969)
Howard-Bell-Feather House (1989)
Yellow Sulphur Springs (1979)

Activities & Attractions

Burde Sculpture Courtyard. Located on the Radford University campus in Radford Virginia. Radford University sponsors a national sculpture competition that brings ten new works to Burde Sculpture Courtyard each year. The sculptures are on exhibit from May 1st through Thanksgiving. One of the ten sculptures is purchased and installed on the Radford University campus.

Lyric Theatre. The Lyric, a combination of Art Deco and Spanish Colonial Revival, was opened in 1930 and restored in 1998. The Lyric hosts a combination of community events, live entertainment, and art films. If you are visiting the area, check the Lyric schedule from good, reasonably priced entertainment. A note about parking in Blacksburg. There is parking available behind the Main Street buildings on the north side and at a parking garage on the corner of Washington and Draper.

'Round the Mountain Craft Trail.

Sinkland Farms. Located two miles south of Christiansburg on Route 8 (I-81 Exit 114). In addition to having a nature trail, Sinkland Farms hosts the annual Pumpkin Festival (Saturdays and Sundays, October through early November), A Chili cookoff, a corn maze, the Cottage Shoppe for unique gifts, Christmas supplies and trees, and fresh produce from Montgomery and Floyd Counties. It is well worth a visit, especially between September and December.

The Starlite Drive-In. One of the few working drive-in movie theaters left. It is located on the south side of Roanoke Street, half way between the 3B exit and the light at Depot Street.

Antiques, Toys, and Cool Businesses.

The Cambria Toy Station. The Cambria Toy Station specializes in environmentally friendly toys, including wooden trains, blocks, and puzzles, cooperative games, and other cool stuff from Maple Landmarks, Haba, Imagiplay, Family Pastimes, Keva, Goobi, and others. Corner of Cambria and Depot Streets, Trackside waiting room in the Christiansburg (Cambria) Depot, Cambria Historic District, Christiansburg, Virginia.

The Cambria Emporium. Unique, high quality antiques from 15 different dealers. The Emporium is located in a three story, brick commercial building constructed in 1908 and located at the corner of Cambria and Depot Streets. Cambria Historic District, Christiansburg, Virginia

Blue Ridge Heating and Air. & Crab Creek Country Store. Blue Ridge carries a broad range of wood stoves and accessories, as well as Joan Baker stained glass.

Embroidery Etcetera. Embroidered Gifts plus embroidery, Sewing, Doll Making, and Quilting Supplies. Embroidery Etcetera is located in the Dew Drop Inn building (the site of the first hospital in Montgomery County) at the intersection of Cambria and Depot Streets, in the heart of the Cambria Historic District.

Main Street Automotive LLC. If you need your domestic or your foreign car repaired, tuned up, or gandered at, this is the place to take it. Graves and the guys are located at 615 Depot Street (at the intersection of Depot and Cambria). They are our local experts in all things automotive and model railroading.

Antiques on Main. An antique mall located on "Courthouse Square" (corner of Main and Franklin), Christiansburg, Virginia.

Where to Stay: Bed and Breakfasts

The Oaks Victorian Inn.. An award winning bed and breakfast (a four star rating), located in an 1889 Victorian Mansion in the East Main Historic District in Christiansburg, Virginia. The Oaks is within easy walking distance to downtown Christiansburg (3 blocks) and a slightly longer walk to the Cambria Historic District.

The Inn at Hans Meadow. An award winning bed and breakfast located in a 154 year old mansion at the corner of Roanoke and Depot Streets in Christiansburg, Virginia.

Maison Beliveau Bed & Breakfast. North Fork Rural Historic District. Blacksburg, Virginia (Opening, July 2007)

Evergreen :The Bell-Capozzi House. East Main Historic District. Christiansburg, Virginia

Where to Eat: Getting away from the Chains

Amelia's Italian Restaurant. Located just north of the Cambria Historic District on Cambria Street, Amelia's has first rate food served in a railroad themed atmosphere. We recommend the calamari and the eggplant parmesan. Reviews available at Urban Spoon and Yelp.

Buffalo and More. Okay, so this restaurant isn't quite in Cambria, or even in Christiansburg, but there is a connection. The Cambria Depot remained a working depot (until 1960 when the railroad was displace by trucks) in large part because of the amount of produce and livestock being produced in southern Montgomery County, including Riner, and Floyd County. Besides, this place is terrific. They have, inarguably, the best burgers around....and sweet potato fries...and sides....and deserts...and..... They are located in Riner (4 miles south of Christiansburg on Route 8...going towards Floyd) and are well worth the trip south. Check out the food review in The Roanoke Times or take our word for it....this is a great place.

Charlie's Chinese Restaurant. A Chinese restaurant in the heart of downtown Christiansburg. Charlie's is located at 35 West Main and is known for Sesame Chicken, General Tso Shrimp, or their tasty Crab Rangoon. Within easy walking distance from the East Main Historic District. Check out the reviews at Yelp and the Urban Spoon.

Coffee Depot. Located just down the street from Charlies, in Downtown Christiansburg, and an easy trek from the East Main and Franklin Street Historic Districts (a bit of a hike from Cambria!), the Coffee Depot combines coffee, lunch options that do not smack of fast food, and a gallery. They also have free wi-fi, so you can catch up on email. Check out the work of local artists, sip a leisurely cup of coffee while reading the newspaper or one of the books, or plan your day while watching the downtown come alive in the early morning.

Dude's Drive-In. Located on Roanoke Street, next to the Starlite Drive-in Theater, Dude's is the quintessential local drive-in burger joint, complete with car-hops. By all accounts, they have great burgers and great milk shakes. It's the kind of place reminiscent of Happy Days, so if you are in the mood for nostalgia, this is a good place to go. For a review, check out RoadFood.com

Due South Barbeque. If you like barbeque, go here. The food is excellent, and they also have live blue grass on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays to boot. If you are traveling through on a Wednesday, kids eat free with the purchase of an full priced adult dinner plate, and Tuesdays are "all you can eat." Their website includes a calendar of events. You can check out the reviews at Urban Spoon and Yelp.

Hunan House. Located on the "strip" (US 460/Rt 11), Hunan house is a local favorite. In addition to a buffet (which is what we usually get), you can order off the menu or have the Mongolian grill. We recommend the hot sour soup and the sesame chicken. The service is good and the atmosphere is reasonably low-key (not particularly garish). Into is located on the north side of the street, and it is easy to miss if you are not looking for it. You can check out the reviews at Urban Spoon or Yelp.

Lucie Monroe's. A personal favorite. Terrific food, daily specials, and the best coffee in town. Lucie Monroe's is comfortable, much like one's favorite blue jeans jacket. The best way to check the doings and their "soups of the day" is through their facebook page (which they update more often than their website). Our recommendation...try the curry tuna salad sandwich and any of their soups. They have free wi-fi, so you can work while having a cup of really excellent coffee. They are located close to the interstate and the 460 bypass, so they are fairly easy to get to by car. Unfortunately, their location is not particularly walkable. You can check out the reviews on Urban Spoon and Yelp.

The Summit Restaurant. One of two upscale restaurants in town and the only one that can be described as gourmet. Located in one of the remaining grand old houses in downtown Christiansburg, it combines a beautiful understated atmosphere with excellent food. If you are looking for an a restaurant for a special meal or you just like really excellent food, this is the place to go. It is within easy walking distance of the East Main Historic District (site of most of the town's bed and breakfasts). Located on College Street, it is tucked away one block off Main. You do need to make a reservation because of both its popularity and its limited space. You can check out the reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp.




Shopping Small / Shopping Local

Cambria has what is these days a unique distinction. There are no big box stores, no chain establishments. We don't have a fast food joint (although Amelia's has a terrific lunch buffet during the week); we don't have large stores with large advertising budgets. All of the businesses in Cambria are locally-owned, and most are family-owned. Some of our businesses are fairly new, but most have been here for decades (Bane and Electrical Supply probably vie for the longevity award).

While we may be small, every business down here is known for quality customer service. Indeed, customer service is the hallmark of small and locally owned businesses. We not only pay taxes here and contribute to the local economy, we live here. We volunteer our time to local organizations, root for the local teams, and believe in the value and future of our communities.

We believe in building relationships not only with our community, but also with our customers. Most of us know our customers by their first names. We take the time to get to know our customers and to get know what they want or need.

The Cambria Business Directory

Spend some time in Cambria and you'll be hooked...

Small central business districts are the historic hearts of communities. Cambria, Christiansburg, Blacksburg, Shawsville, and Radford downtowns are not different. But they thrive only if they are visited and supported. An added plus? All of the stores in Cambria are family owned businesses.

Small shops encourage browsing, encourage looking for that one great or unusual present that can't be found anywhere else. The Historic Cambria Downtown fits just such a bill. We have the unusual, the unique. Whether you plan to spend a few minutes or a few hours, Cambria is a great place to shop for interior accents and furniture, decorative objects or hearths, toys for play or for show, art and embroidery supplies, and conversation starters.

  • Historic Cambria Depot
    • Check out the toys in the Cambria Toy Store;
    • Try your hand at Keva Planks (a Virginia Owned Toy Company);
    • Check out The Scale Cabinetmaker miniature exhibits in the Dorsett Publications workshop and learn about scale modeling;
    • Take a paper modeling/paper craft mini class or join in the fray at the Friday Brown Bag lecture series
    • If you are over 55, stop in on Senior Thursdays and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, learn a craft, or shop the Toy Store with a special senior discount; and
    • Learn about the history of Cambria and the Cambria Depot.
  • Cambria Emporium
    • Browse the booksellers on the first floor and find the perfect vacation or snow day read;
    • Wander through the antique booths and find hidden treasures (these folks are always bringing new stuff, so the place is never quite the same); and
    • Check out the new "local artisans" area, which features Appalachian crafts and fine woodworking. Note: The Emporium is just beginning to develop the local crafts area, so periodically check back and see who is new. Our first artisan is Trev Smih, a craftsman from the Blacksburg area, who makes wooden bowls and hand crafted furniture. Really nice stuff....his bowls are getting rave reviews.
  • Amelia's Italian Restaurant
    • Enjoy their lunch buffet (a bit everything on the menu...pizza, pasta, subs, and much more. Their lunch comes with a fresh side salad, so come hungry; or
    • Stop in mid-afternoon for a drink and dessert. A good place to go relax, have a bite, and enjoy being out of the weather.
  • Crab Creek Country Store
    • Check out Crab Creek Country Store. While you are there, ask about Vermont Castings stoves and soap stone stoves and "the Egg" (the world's best barbeque equipment), and their great selection of candles and primatives. A terrific place to find that unusual gift

The Cambria Toy Station * Whistle Stop Books

Located in the Historic Cambria Depot (c. 1868), on the south side of the Cambria Street railroad crossing, the Cambria Toy Station specializes in traditional and unusual toys, toys created with both children and adults in mind, including toys from Melissa and Doug, Folkmanis, ToySmith, 4-M International, Maple Landmarks, KEVA Planks, Klutz, ImagiPlay, Haba, Family Pastimes, and many other companies. We specialize in toys that encourage children and adults to engage in active play and active learning. We also carry a wide variety of art supplies, craft and science kits, and our personal favorites...puppets.

Address: 630 Depot Street NE

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Phone: 540.382.6431

Website: www.cambriatoystation.com

Facebook: Cambria Toy Station

The Cambria Emporium

Located in the Surface Block/ Lee Mercantile (c. 1908), the Cambria Emporium is one of the oldest antique collectives (est. in 1987) in this end of Virginia. In addition to a wonderful array of antiques, the Emporium also features vintage and collectibles, books, and work by local artisans and craftsmen. Starting this spring, the Emporium is opening a new area on the first floor that specializes in the work of local artists and artisans. Whether you are looking for a perfect gift, a great piece of furniture, a good read, or the ideal accent, the Cambria Emporium should be your first stop.

Address: 596 Cambria Street (at Cambria St / Depot St. Intersection

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Phone: 540.381.0949

Website: www.cambriaemporium.org

Crab Creek Country Store
Blue Ridge Heating & Air

From Vermont Castings and Hearthstone to the best in country interior accents and barbeque equipment and tools, Blue Ridge is the place for getting everything to make your home warm and comfortable. A family owned company since 1989, Blue Ridge is on the north side of the tracks on Cambria Street in the Cambria Historic District.

Address: 925 Cambria Street NE (right across the tracks from the Cambria Emporium...don't ask about the street numbering here).

Hours: 8 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. 9 a.m to 1 p.m on Saturday.

Phone: 540. 382.1086

Website: crabcreekcountrystore.com

Facebook: Crab Creek Country Store

Dorsett Publications & The Scale Cabinetmaker

Founded in 1963 and moved to Cambria in 1983 (located in the livingroom while we rehabbed the Depot), Dorsett Publications, a second generation family owned company, has long been known as one of the premier publishers for architectural and furniture scale modeling books and for the scale modeler's journal, The Scale Cabinetmaker. In 2010, the company branched out and began publishing The Community Planner, a how-to journal on government and planning (think Popular Mechanics meets local government). Their modeling workshop and publication offices are located in the street-side waiting room and in the freight house of the Historic Cambria Depot.

Address: 630 Depot Street NE

Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday - Saturday; International Sales Office is open until 11 p.m. Monday - Thursday.

Phone: 540.382.6431

Website: www.dorsettpublications.com

Embroidery Etcetera

Founded in 1997, Embroidery Etcetera is one of the new businesses in the Cambria Historic District. Embroidered Gifts plus embroidery, sewing, doll making, and quilting supplies. Embroidery Etcetera is located in the Dew Drop Inn building (the site of the first hospital in Montgomery County) at the intersection of Cambria and Depot Streets, in the heart of the Cambria Historic District.

Address: 599-A Depot Street

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday

Phone: 540.505.6290

Website: www.embroideryetcetera.com

Tech Express

Also located in the old Dew Drop Inn/Altamont Hospital Building, Tech-Express (founded in 1992) provides high quality graphic-related products and services, including display hardware; display graphics; signs, posters, and banners; offset printing; graphic design; scanning; and photography. These guys do very cool work.

Address: 597-A Depot Street NE

Hours: 8:30 - 5:00 Monday through Friday, but they are around most weekends and are available by email if you don't catch them in the shop.

Phone: 540.382.9400

Website: www.tech-express.com

Amelia's Pizzeria & Restaurant

A local favorite, Amelia's is a family owned Italian restaurant and pizzaria and is the only restaurant in Cambria. It is within easy walking distance (about two blocks) from the main business district and is great place to go for lunch (lunch buffet is excellent and is very reasonably priced) or for those evenings when you just can't face the kitchen.

Location: 1130 Cambria Street NE

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Phone: 540.381.7878

Menu available online from Urban Spoon

Facebook: Amelia's Pizzaeria & Restaurant


Electrical Supply Co.

Electrical Supply is a local institution. Started by Charles Ashworth an his sons in 1972 , Electrical Supply is a great place to go if you need new lighting fixtures or electrical supplies, including breakers for every panel.

Address: 594 Depot Street, next to the Cambria Emporium, at the intersection of Depot and Cambria.

Hours of Operation: Monday - Friday, early until 5 p.m.

Phone: 540.382. 6179

Facebook: Electrical Supply Co.

The Chair Doctor

Need a chair caned or rejoined? The Chair Doctor, established in 1980, specializes in chair upholstery and restoration. While they are not a walk-in business, they can be contacted by phone. You will need to make an appointment.

Address: 945 Cambria Street NE, Suite B

Phone: 540.961.2111

Main Street Auto Repair

Want to multi-task? Take a few minutes and wander around the Cambria Business District while Graves tunes up your car. Main Street Auto is located in the old Cambria Service Center garage at the intersection of Cambria and Depot Streets. It is also right across the street from a Blacksburg Transit/Christiansburg bus stop, so if you have to leave your car, there are transportation alternatives.

Location: 615 Depot Street NE

Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday

Phone: 540.382.8927




Website published by Dorsett Publications, LLC
Historic Cambria Depot
Questions or comments: Cambria Historian
Last Updated: 3 December, 2015