Clifton Forge Main Street, Inc. is a non-profit organization working to improve the historic downtown of Clifton Forge for economic and cultural reasons. It is affiliated with the Virginia Main Street Program, a division of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. In 1992 a group of local volunteers came together to create an entity that, with the support of the town, could obtain the technical assistance of Virginia Main Street toward preservation and enhancement of the downtown area. This effort has produced good results and has revealed many needs yet to be met…
Small towns are unique. They’re initially defined by geography, like the mountain ridges that surround Clifton Forge. They are also defined by the industry that helps the town to grow. Since the turn of the century Clifton Forge has been a major player in the development and growth of the C&O and the CSX railroads. Train tracks snake their way through town and connect Clifton Forge to big cities. Many have ridden the rails to faraway places to get an education, find love and fight wars.
For many years the town and the railroad both grew and prospered. Through those good times the people of Clifton Forge built homes, raised families and they built churches – lots of churches. And they were a patriotic bunch – still are. The local community college is home to a detachment of the 116th Infantry of the VA National Guard. Most recently they’ve completed missions in Kosovo and in Iraq, a broad calling for citizen-soldiers.
When the railroad slowed down in the mid-60’s, many workers lost their jobs and the City of Clifton Forge suffered like many small towns that rely on a single industry. The city became a town a few years ago just as the C&O Heritage Center was getting started. Today it’s the history of the C&O that is helping fuel the re-birth of the town. New businesses are springing up, there are major infrastructure renovations underway and it’s getting harder to find parking in the three block-long downtown area. Those who return to town for reunions, marriages and funerals just can’t get over how good things look. The number of folks retiring to the area or investing in second homes is a good measure of the hope and trust they have in the future of Clifton Forge.
There’s lots more that needs to be done but small towns like Clifton Forge tend to be built on solid cultural foundations: God, family, patriotism and a belief that hard work – and working together – will make a difference.
Chuck Almarez, Fire and Light Gallery, 2012
The Clifton Forge of the future is once again “scenic, busy, friendly!” Come visit historic Clifton Forge!