back to top

Nonprofit Launches Stewardship Campaign for Continued Upkeep of Villa Heights Community Center

The end of construction is just the beginning when it comes to old houses. Non-profit Restoration Housing completed a $900,000 renovation of Villa Heights in Northwest Roanoke City in the Fall of 2019.  It has since thrived as a community resource, providing space for four nonprofits to operate their programs that serve Roanoke families.

But the 200-year-old property and associated 3 acres of park land require diligent upkeep and care. Restoration Housing recently launched a stewardship campaign running through May 31, 2023 to ensure Villa Heights flourishes long into the future.

Villa Heights was originally constructed circa 1820 for War of 1812 veteran, Lieutenant Colonel Elijah McClanahan and his wife Agatha Strother Lewis as a two-story, one room deep home in the Federal style.  The McClanahan’s were a prominent family with Elijah helping to establish the Presbyterian Church in the Roanoke Valley and serving as representative for Botetourt County in Virginia’s General Assembly.

Villa Heights Before and After; Photo Credit Digital Precision Photography & Meagan Williams Photography

Villa Heights remained largely unchanged until Sallie S. Compton purchased the property in 1910 and added the two-story rear ell, adding a kitchen, additional bedrooms, and a lavatory.  The house soon turned over to Ernest E. Bateman in 1923 who created the Villa Heights we know today.  Under his direction, the Classical Revival details including the dramatic two-story portico and interior trim, mantels, doors, and chair rail were added.

In the years that followed, suburban development engulfed Villa Heights and it was turned over to the City of Roanoke for use as a recreational center.  It became the center of social life for the surrounding community, hosting everything from neighborhood meetings to afterschool dance classes, until the City vacated the property in 2007 after a budget shortfall.  It sat empty for ten years during which time it was heavily damaged by fire.  It was in such a dire state that Preservation Virginia and the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation included the historic home on their endangered sites list in 2013.

In 2017, Villa Heights was awarded to Restoration Housing and after a successful nomination to both the National and State Historic Registers, an 11-month restoration commenced.  Once completed in 2019, the property was affordably rented to nonprofits serving the surrounding community.  Since that time, Villa Heights has provided the backdrop for numerous community enrichment activities hosted by nonprofit tenants in addition to serving as a satellite education center and vaccination site during the pandemic.

“One look at Villa Heights and you can easily see why it is my favorite rehabilitation that our organization has undertaken,” said Executive Director Isabel Thornton. “It is a stunning home with beautiful architectural details both inside and out, surrounded by expansive park land and veteran trees, and it has an incredible history connecting back to Virginia’s early frontier era. We are so proud to be a part of its legacy in the Roanoke Valley and to continue to invest in its future.”

100% of gifts made to Restoration Housing between now and May 31, 2023 will go to this significant piece of Roanoke’s history.  Donations of $500 or more will be celebrated on a recognition plaque installed in the grand entrance hall at Villa Heights with all donors receiving a ‘Villa Heights Steward’ decal.  Complete campaign details including a before and after video may be found at

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Related Articles