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Big Stone Gap, Virginia

"Big Stone Gap" redirects here. For the film, see Big Stone Gap (film).
Town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia
Central Big Stone Gap. Little Stone Mountain is visible in the background.
Central Big Stone Gap. Little Stone Mountain is visible in the background.
Template:Infobox settlement/columns
Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia

Coordinates: 36°52′54″N 82°44′50″W / 36.88167°N 82.74722°W / 36.88167; -82.74722Coordinates: 36°52′54″N 82°44′50″W / 36.88167°N 82.74722°W / 36.88167; -82.74722{{#coordinates:36|52|54|N|82|44|50|W|type:city(5643)_region:US-VA |primary |name=

Country United States
State Virginia
County Wise
 • Mayor Leonard Rogers
 • Total 4.9 sq mi (12.6 km2)
 • Land 4.9 sq mi (12.6 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 1,535 ft (468 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 5,643
 • Density 996/sq mi (384.5/km2)
  U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Population Estimates
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 24219
Area code(s) 276
FIPS code 51-07480[1]
GNIS feature ID 1496805[2]
Website Official website

Big Stone Gap is a town in Wise County, Virginia, United States. The population was 5,643 at the 2010 census.


The community was formerly known as "Mineral City" and "Three Forks." The "Big Stone Gap" refers to the valley which has been created on the Appalachia Straight, located between Big Stone Gap and Appalachia. The town had hoped that its coal and iron ore deposits would make it "the Pittsburgh of the South."[3]

The Big Stone Gap post office was established in 1856.[4]

The Christ Episcopal Church, John Fox, Jr. House, Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park, Terrace Park Girl Scout Cabin, June Tolliver House, and C. Bascom Slemp Federal Building are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[5]


Big Stone Gap is home to several museums. The June Tolliver House, located on Jerome Street, is home to the Trail of the Lonesome Pine, the official outdoor drama of Virginia.
File:Southwest Virginia Museum.jpg
Southwest Virginia Museum
The Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park is located in the downtown area. Big Stone Gap also hosts the Coal Museum.
File:Coal Mining Museum.jpg
Henry Meador Coal Museum

Federal court

The federal building named for C. Bascom Slemp was built in 1912 and it continues to house a division of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

Wallens Ridge State Prison

Big Stone Gap is home to Wallens Ridge State Prison, a state prison that has been a part of the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Corrections since 1999. Originally opened as a supermax prison, it has recently been downgraded to a "high level" security facility. Construction and maintenance of the facility generated millions of dollars for the local economy, suppressed from a sagging history of coal mining.[6]

Many groups have expressed outrage at the practice of shipping prisoners across the country into a rural Appalachian community, most notably the Thousand Kites project.[7]

Notable people

Big Stone Gap is the birthplace of professional American football players and brothers Thomas Jones and Julius Jones. Both attended classes and played football at Powell Valley High School, a former public school in the town.

Author Adriana Trigiani grew up in Big Stone Gap and wrote a series of novels about the town.

Film actor, writer, and logger CC Swiney was born and raised in Big Stone Gap.

Novelist and short-story writer John Fox, Jr. wrote about his experiences living among the coal miners in Big Stone Gap. He died there in 1919. Since 1964, a play version of Fox's novel The Trail of the Lonesome Pine has been performed in an outdoor theater in the town.

Miss America 1993 Leanza Cornett was born in Big Stone Gap, as was the opera singer, Roy Cornelius Smith.

Local bookstore owner Wendy Welch wrote a best selling memoir called The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, published in 2012 by St Martins Press, about the experiences of an outsider establishing a business in a small rural town.

Former Virginia governor Abner Linwood Holton Jr. was born in Big Stone Gap.[8]

The former Piedmont blues musician, Carl Martin, was born near Big Stone Gap in 1906.[9]

Around the end of the 19th century, some of Virginia's leading lawyers lived and worked in Big Stone Gap, including former Attorney General Rufus A. Ayers, Virginia Bar Association president Joshua Fry Bullitt, Jr., and Virginia Supreme Court justice Joseph L. Kelly.

Raymond Allen Davis, known for a controversial homicide as a CIA-contracted operative in Lahore, Pakistan, grew up in Big Stone Gap. Davis was a local high school football and wrestling star. He joined the Army in 1993.[10]


Big Stone Gap is located at 36°52′02″N 82°46′28″W / 36.867165°N 82.774471°W / 36.867165; -82.774471{{#coordinates:36.867165|-82.774471|type:city_region:US|||||| | |name= }} (36.867165, -82.774471).[11]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 4.9 square miles (12.6 km2), all land.

Big Stone Gap is at the junction of U.S. Route 23 and U.S. Route 58 Alternate.

Big Stone Gap is closer to the state capitals of seven other states than it is to Richmond, VA, its own state capital, with regards to highway mileage. The other state capitals are Columbus, OH; Frankfort, KY; Charleston, WV; Nashville, TN; Raleigh, NC; Columbia, SC; and Atlanta GA. Additionally Indianapolis, IN is only six miles farther from Big Stone Gap than Richmond.


Historical population
Census Pop.

<tr><td style="text-align:center">1990</td><td style="padding-left:8px; ">4,748</td><td style="font-size:85%"></td><td style="padding-left:8px; text-align: center;">—</td></tr><tr><td style="text-align:center">2000</td><td style="padding-left:8px; ">4,856</td><td style="font-size:85%"></td><td style="padding-left:8px; text-align: center;">Lua error in Module:Math at line 495: attempt to index field 'ParserFunctions' (a nil value).%</td></tr><tr><td style="text-align:center">2010</td><td style="padding-left:8px; ">5,643</td><td style="font-size:85%"></td><td style="padding-left:8px; text-align: center;">Lua error in Module:Math at line 495: attempt to index field 'ParserFunctions' (a nil value).%</td></tr><tr><td colspan=4 style="border-top:1px solid black; font-size:85%; text-align:left">source:[12]</td></tr>

As of the census[1] of 2010, there were 5,643 people, 2,034 households, and 1,075 families residing in the town. The population density was 995.9 people per square mile (384.2/km2). There were 2,197 housing units at an average density of 450.6 per square mile (173.8/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 93.68% White, 4.41% African American, 0.14% Native American, 0.45% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.37% from other races, and 0.93% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.60% of the population.

There were 1,995 households out of which 29.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.7% were married couples living together, 15.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.2% were non-families. 30.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the town the population was spread out with 23.2% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 25.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 86.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.5 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $21,584, and the median income for a family was $34,306. Males had a median income of $26,707 versus $21,915 for females. The per capita income for the town was $13,284. About 22.4% of families and 25.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.5% of those under age 18 and 15.1% of those age 65 or over.


Big Stone Gap is home to three public schools: Powell Valley Primary School, Powell Valley Middle School, and Union High School, formerly Powell Valley High School.[13] Powell Valley High School was consolidated with Appalachia High School in the Fall of 2011.[14]

Big Stone Gap is also home to Mountain Empire Community College.

King College, based in Bristol, Tennessee, has a satellite campus in Big Stone Gap at the Mountain Empire Community College location.


Main article: Big Stone Gap (film)

Adriana Trigiani, who wrote the script for the movie Big Stone Gap, lobbied to have the film shot on location. The former gas station that was the setting for Carmine's restaurant in the movie still contains the soda fountain, tables and nostalgic wall posters used during filming. Next to it is the vacant Mutual's Pharmacy, where Ave Marie Mulligan, the main character in the movie, worked.[3]

2008 Tornado

An EF-1 tornado touched down March 4, 2008, on Highway 58, running through downtown. The tornado caused a 300 yard wide, one mile long path of damage. It destroyed six homes, caused major damage to 15 homes, and minor damage to 25 others. There is a young man that made a Song about this particular event as well. The Tornado hit an area of the town named Poplar Hill, hence the name of this song is Titled Heartbreak on Poplar Hill.


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ a b Hensley, Clayton (27 July 2014). "Big Stone Gap awaits its time on the big screen". The Knoxville News-Sentinel. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  4. ^ "Wise County". Jim Forte Postal History. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  6. ^ – At Va.'s Toughest Prison, Tight Controls
  7. ^
  8. ^ – Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park
  9. ^ [[[:Template:Allmusic]] "Biography by Al Campbell"]. Retrieved September 3, 2011. 
  10. ^ Mazzetti, Mark (9 April 2013). "How a Single Spy Helped Turn Pakistan Against the United States". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  12. ^ "Population Finder: Big Stone Gap CDP, Virginia". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-11-07. 
  13. ^
  14. ^