Nestled between the steep slopes of the Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains rests the Town of Buchanan. A charming place to live, shop and stroll, the town has been an important stopping point for travelers since the 1700s.

A view of the James River from Buchanan.

A view of the James River from Buchanan.

Incorporated in 1811, Buchanan features a historic movie theatre, town park, and more than 200 structures dating from the early 1800s through the 1950s, making up Botetourt County’s largest Historic District. The Town of Buchanan is in the Virginia Civil War Trails Program.

The quintessential example of “small town America,” Buchanan is surrounded by farmland and National Forest, yet minutes away from Roanoke and Lexington.

History of Buchanan

From its earliest development, the Town of Buchanan, Virginia was a principal crossing of the James River via the “Great Valley Road” and other regional transportation networks. As an early transportation-oriented community, the Town included taverns and ordinaries, stables, blacksmith shops, wagon and carriage makers, general merchandise stores to service travelers, teamsters, and producers of goods being sent to external markets from the region.

Civil War Reenactment in Buchanan Virginia

Buchanan is home to a rich Civil War heritage, including reenactments in present day.

In the 1740’s the earliest trace of the Great Road from Philadelphia to western Virginia first crossed the James River at Looney’s Ferry, whose approximate location is marked with an historic highway marker along route 11 west of downtown.

By 1851, the James River and Kanawha Canal was completed from Richmond to Buchanan, at this time the town experienced a boom in commercial and artisan activity during the decade before the Civil War. During the Civil War Buchanan served as an important Confederate supply depot for shipment of agricultural produce and pig iron to Richmond via the James River and Kanawha Canal. Federal General David Hunter marched through Pattonsburg and Buchanan on June 13, 1864 on his ill-fated raid of Lynchburg. After the Civil War commerce and manufacturing declined in Buchanan. Industrial growth and revival of commerce followed completion of the Norfolk and Western and the Chesapeake and Ohio lines through town because the new railroads hauled heavy freight to distant markets faster and at a lower cost than earlier wagons and canal boats.

Today, after decades of physical and economic decline during the 1970’s and 80’s, the Town of Buchanan has become a leader within the area for economic development within the context of Historic Preservation.

Things To Do in Buchanan

  • Window shop on Main Street – Historic setting featuring a mix of traditional shops, art galleries, antique shops, restaurants and more.
  • Recreate in Buchanan Town Park – Six acres with access to the James River for fishing, canoeing or rafting.  Park contains a ball field, picnic tables with grills, swings and Carnival buildings for special events.
  • Take photos on the Buchanan Swing Bridge – A steel suspended bridge crossing the James River with beautiful iews of the river and surrounding Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains.
  • Take in a show at the Buchanan Theatre – Historic Theatre that features weekly movies, monthly concerts and seasonal plays.
  • Take a tour of Wilson Warehouse – The starting point for guided walking tours of Buchanan’s historic downtown district. Served as the terminus of the James River and Kanawha Canal and continues to serve as an important landmark for the community.

Buchanan by The James video