Mill Mountain’s gigantic neon star is THE Roanoke icon, and it turns 60 today. It was conceived as a Christmas-shopping promotion back in 1949 and has wormed its way into the consciousness and hearts of Roanokers and visitors ever since then.
My colleage Kevin Kittredge had a story about the star’s history in Sunday’s Extra section. It’s a good one. If you missed it check it out.
By far the best walk in this city (and one of the best in any city in the United States) is the “Old Road” up the mountain to the star overlook. You should check out this marvelous road if you haven’t already.
A hike up and down it is a great way to work up an appetite for Thanksgiving dinner!
If you do walk the almost 2 miles up that road, you may run across Kevin and Nancy Dye, who own the beautiful home perched on the mountain just below the star. They’re often working to bring back the wild roses that grow along the mountain’s banks above the road’s stone walls. Say hello – they’re friendly folks.
Here are some Star facts printed as a graphic in the paper but that I didn’t see in the online version. They’re interesting:
- Support structure: 100 feet tall
- Star itself: 88.5 feet tall
- Hours of operation: Illuminated at dusk and turned off at midnight.
- Cost to build: $27,000. That is worth a little more than $245,000 in 2009 dollars, according to an online inflation calculator sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I don’t think it could be built for such a sum today.
- Height above the city: 1,045 feet
- Height above sea level: 1,847 feet
- Neon tubing length: 2,000 feet
- Current consumed: 17,500 watts per hour if burning only in white. The blue tubes use the same amount of current as the white ones, but the red tubes use less. So when it’s burning red, white and blue the current consumed is under that.
- Annual electric bill: $1,017 between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009.
- Designers: Roy C. Kinsey (neon) and Robert L. Little (structural steel).
- Owner: Roanoke Merchants Association (1949-82); City of Roanoke (1982-present).
- First illuminated: Nov. 23, 1949, 8:22 p.m. That was Thanksgiving Eve that year.
- Visibility from air: 60 miles
- Renovations: 1971 (structure painted and repaired); 1979 (star painted); 1987 (structure painted); 1997 (improvements to neon tubing, wiring, metal work and paint).
- Number of Roanoke Valley businesses on Switchboard.com that have business listings beginning with “Star City:” 44.