In the heart of Appalachia lies Big Stone Gap, the quintessential Southern town. Founded in 1856, Big Stone Gap, which boasts a population of roughly 5,700, allows residents and visitors the opportunity to step back into old Americana—when life was simpler and land was abundant.
During the 1870s, much was published about the mineral and timber resources of the Appalachian Mountains. General John Imboden focused on Three Forks as the location for industrial development, touting it as the new Pittsburgh of the south. The town, which was then called Mineral City, was incorporated as Big Stone Gap in 1882.
A number of developers flocked to Big Stone Gap, including the Fox family. John Fox Jr. wrote about his experiences in The Gap and the surrounding region in his 12 novels and 45 short stories. He became the most popular American novelist of his time and immortalized Big Stone Gap in his 1908 novel, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. A theatrical production of the book, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, has taken place in Big Stone Gap since 1964. It is the longest continually running outdoor drama in Virginia.
Today, Big Stone Gap is best known for hometown author Adriana Trigiani’s series of novels, Big Stone Gap, Big Cherry Holler, and Milk Glass Moon. In 2013, Trigiani brought our incredible town to the big screen with the filming of Big Stone Gap, the movie. The movie was filmed totally on location, premiered at the 2014 Virginia Film Festival and opened in theaters Oct. 9, 2015.
In addition to the two best-selling authors, the town produced C. Bascom Slemp, private secretary to President Calvin Coolidge; Abner Linwood Holton Jr., a Virginia governor; Leanza Cornett, the 1993 Miss America; and Thomas and Julius Jones, a pair of NFL running backs. Numerous artisans and musicians, a Grammy-winning recording studio, and many others who have contributed to our state, nation, and world have called Big Stone Gap home!
Big Stone Gap’s Historic District contains several architecturally significant buildings. The Slemp Federal Building, June Tolliver House, Christ Episcopal Church, John Fox House, SWVA Museum, Terrace Park Girl Scout Cabin, and Tri-State Coach Bus Terminal are all Federal and/or State listed historic structures. Very few communities have such a number of historic edifices within easy walking distance of one another!
The Gallery below provides a look back into the past of Big Stone Gap.