Return to the Road: Lynchburg, Virginia

Home of the Hillcats offers stunning views and historic shoes

Lynchburg's Craddock-Terry Hotel is located in a converted shoe factory. One of the city's first teams was named the Shoemakers.

By Benjamin Hill / | June 7, 2019 12:40 PM

I spent two nights in Lynchburg, home of the Hillcats. While there I wrote about extensive ballpark improvements, Cheesy Westerns and a pitcher who lives in the parking lot. Before moving on to other locales, I'd like to share a little bit more about my experience in this scenic Virginia locale. It has to do with shoes, mostly. 

One of Lynchburg, Virginia's first professional baseball teams was the Shoemakers, who played in the Virginia League from 1906 through 1912 (and again in 1917). According to an article from the website Baseball History Daily, the Shoemakers were founded by a peripatetic and not-entirely-trustworthy man by the name of Jack Grim who, among other things, claimed to have alerted the Detroit Tigers to the existence of Ty Cobb.

Lynchburg's team was called the Shoemakers because Lynchburg was home to the Craddock Terry Shoe Company. Founded in 1888 by John W. Craddock, it grew to become the fifth-largest shoe company in the world. It was a company large enough to sponsor an NBC radio program, which provided a mass audience for a white, affluent Lynchburg woman who "transcended social norms." 

The Craddock Terry Shoe Company declined during the latter half of the 20th century, and the company's Southland Factory Annex in downtown Lynchburg was eventually abandoned. In 2007, after an extensive renovation, the factory was reopened as the boutique Craddock-Terry Hotel (the hotel also incorporates the King Building, a former tobacco warehouse).   

At the Craddock Terry Hotel, shoe-themed art adorns the walls and breakfast is delivered each morning in a vintage wooden shoebox. The hotel is located along Lynchburg's Lower Bluffwalk, with views of the James River below and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

Like the Craddock-Terry Hotel, most of the businesses along the bluffwalk are in buildings dating back to Lynchburg's industrial past. While my stay was brief and exploration time was minimal, it was very cool to see that the town has breathed new life into an area that was once decaying and abandoned. Original signs adorn these brick buildings; Hillcats general manager Chris Jones told me that keeping the signs intact was a prerequisite of the renovation process.

It's a beautiful area day and night. 

My time was short in Lynchburg, and I wish I had more of an opportunity to explore. But between bad weather -- I learned why locals refer to it as "Drenchburg" -- and baseball, my wandering time was at a minimum. It was recommended that I go to Fifth and Federal; I did not. I also would have liked to see the Texas Inn, home of the aforementioned Cheesy Western. 

On my way out of town, before heading to Richmond, I did enjoy a barbecue meal at Pok-E-Joe's. Nestled in a strip mall, what the restaurant lacked in charm it made up for in flavor. 

That'll be it for me from Lynchburg. I hope that this post and my other articles and numerous tweets and Instagram posts gave you at least a small sense of the team and the place. Thank you for reading. I will always appreciate it. There's still more to come from my visit to the Richmond Flying Squirrels and my next trip kicks off on June 12. For more info on that, as well as everything else that I'm currently working on, please bookmark the following easy-to-remember (and even easier to visit) URL:

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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