Waynesboro’s unique attributes combine to create a perfect location for business, recreation, and culture. Some say it is the quality of life that makes a location what it is. Our safe neighborhoods, abundance of outdoor recreation, and quality of education at all levels contribute to Waynesboro being a great place to live, work, and play—and Where Good Nature Comes Naturally.
The present City of Waynesboro was included in the 118,491-acre Beverley Patent of 1736, issued to William Beverley by Governor William Gooch under the direction of King George II of England. Joseph Tees purchased 465 acres from Beverley in 1739. His widow operated a inn, the Tees’ (or Teas’) Tavern, a widely known landmark. As the settlement developed, Samuel and Jane Teas Estill and the developer James Flack promoted the area, which was named Waynesboro as early as 1797 in honor of the Revolutionary War hero General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. The town was officially established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1801.
Waynesboro flourished during the following decades. It was incorporated as a town in 1834. Twenty years later, the east-west railroad reached Waynesboro, which accessed major trading markets with the completion of the Crozet railroad tunnel through the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1858. Waynesboro was reincorporated in 1874. In 1881, the north-south railroad reached the area, crossing the east-west line at Waynesboro Junction, east of the river, at a place promoters called the “Iron Cross,” which formed the nucleus of the new boomtown, Basic City, incorporated in 1891.
For 32 years the two towns enjoyed a remarkable period of rivalry and expansion, often punctuated by recession and depression. They finally consolidated under the name of Waynesboro-Basic, following a referendum in both towns in 1923. Renamed Waynesboro by the legislature the next year, the consolidated town soon experienced industrial investment that brought unparalleled growth.
DuPont opened its doors in the 1920s to produce acetate rayon fibers. By the 1950s, General Electric moved a facility into Waynesboro, and both plants continued to have a significant and growing presence in the city. Together along with other manufacturers, they employed thousands. However, the nature of manufacturing gradually changed. Some companies relocated to less expensive labor sources, others shifted to reliance on robotics. Some began to substitute materials. As a result, manufacturing employment in Waynesboro declined.
In response to the loss of major manufacturing employers, Waynesboro transitioned from its previous and vulnerable reliance on manufacturing to an economically more diversified community. Today, with The Lycra Company (formerly the DuPont and Invista facility), Berry Plastics, and Lumos on one hand, and Target, Lowes, and Home Depot on the other, the greater Waynesboro region has a diversity of well-paying jobs and a sizable source of public revenue from retail sales taxes and the taxation of tools and machinery. The city’s efforts to incentivize the development of the Town Center and surrounding commercial real estate have paid dividends. The city’s creative work within the Downtown Enterprise Zone continues to transform Broad Street, just as Waynesboro’s investments downtown are showing results. The city’s commitment to continue to develop its industrial park has attracted new employers and means it has the potential to fully leverage its rail lines and location on I-64. New high-quality housing is being developed in Waynesboro. Older traditional neighborhoods are slowly being rediscovered. Small businesses are successfully operating downtown.
While our industrial make-up has evolved over the decades, the city continues to have a strong heritage of manufacturing excellence, and is a regional retail center and cultural and recreational hub. We also boast incredible natural assets, including a less-than-four-mile traveling distance between our downtown and the Shenandoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Appalachian Trail. We have one of only two urban trout fisheries in the state, and a downtown waterway navigable by canoe and kayak. An emerging artistic, craft beverage, local food, outdoor recreation, and entrepreneurial cluster is nascent in our economy and particularly strong in our downtown. Successes like the redevelopment and reopening of the Wayne Theatre Performing Arts Center, the expansion and redevelopment of the Shenandoah Valley Arts Center, and the opening of the P. Buckley Moss Gallery in our historic district serve as jewels of our renaissance.
–Portions Excerpted from the City of Waynesboro Comprehensive Plan.