Pamplin turns 150: Town celebrates past, looks to the future

Published 3:17 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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Pamplin Mayor Sarah Blackwell gets excited when she starts talking about the town. 

“There is an electricity in the air,” Blackwell said. “It feels like everything we have been working for over the last 5 to 6 years is finally taking off.” 

And people outside of town got an invitation to drop by and see what those renovations looked like on Saturday, April 13, as part of Pamplin’s 150th anniversary. History seeps out of every part of the community but now you’re starting to see something else: construction. Renovation projects are popping up in a number of buildings, as this small community, which straddles the Appomattox County and Prince Edward County line along U.S. 460, has been focused on reinventing itself for a while now.

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The day’s events caught Blackwell somewhat by surprise, just as it takes some getting used to. 

“At first I was confused because there were so many cars, but it didn’t seem to equate to the number of people on the street,” Blackwell said. “Then I realized this was the first event we had where there were five buildings open and a lot of the people were inside, not just in the street or in the depot.” 

And that was the vision greeting anyone who stopped off at the celebration. Children rode the Osborne Express train, while parents shopped, picked up bread or maybe a sweet treat or two. It’s a far cry from the way things were 5, 10 years ago. 

It takes some getting used to 

And that’s something plenty of people are getting used to. Now when you walk down Main Street, there’s some open signs, letting folks know they’re welcome to come in. You can go down to MiPa’s Table to get food, stop off at the farmers’ market to get supplies for your own home, pick up ice cream at Bubble’s Sweet Dreams or stop off at P & P Thrift.

So far this year, construction has started popping up at a number of other buildings in and around Main Street, with projects not quite ready to open doors just yet. It ties right along with spring, as there’s definitely a sense of renewal in the air. Earlier this year, we talked about the town’s plans and goals of its residents. Now many of those things are coming into being. 

“What excites me? Everything!” Blackwell said. “The trail will be officially opening later this month and several new business will be opening up on Main Street in the next 6-12 months.” 

Now when she says trail, Blackwell is talking about the High Bridge Trail. The goal is to tailor the downtown, to attract tourists walking on the trail to stop in and look around. 


A look at some of the food out for purchase at Pamplin’s 150th anniversary. Herald photo by John Karratti.

What is High Bridge Trail?

For those of you wondering what High Bridge Trail is, it’s a 31-mile long rail trail, designed around High Bridge. That’s a railroad bridge more than 2,400 feet long and 160 feet high above the Appomattox River. Previously, the trail ended at Heights School Road. 

A land purchase by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation from Norfolk Southern now enables the trail to extend another mile into Pamplin, with the western terminus parking lot square in town. As Blackwell said, work on the parking lot is expected to be finished this month, with fencing up around the lot. But take a quick walk if you’re in town and check it out. Blackwell recruited some of the town’s artists and what was a bit of fencing now is a mural, welcoming people to Pamplin. 

Pamplin looks back and forward

Originally a big manufacturing and tobacco hub, the loss of those industries hit the town hard, to the point Pamplin registered just 199 residents as of 2000. But little by little, the residents are building their home back up, encouraging others to move in. By 2010, the population was back up to 219 and hit 232 as of 2020. Small steps, sure, but movement in the right direction. 

“The seeds we planted are blooming!” Blackwell said. “It’s a great time to be in town.”