Roaming Roanoke: The Jefferson Center

This edition of Roaming Roanoke visits a cultural icon in the region – The Jefferson Center in Roanoke!

My older daughter has taken dance lessons at the YMCA for two years. Due to Covid regulations, most of the performances were small. Now that restrictions are slowly being lifted, the spring YMCA dance recital was held at the Jefferson Center this month! This was our first time inside the historic building! I know the Jefferson Center has many functions and purposes, but I will focus on the performance hall because that is where we spent all of our time!

First, a little history on the building. The Jefferson Center building was once Jefferson High School, built in 1922 and served as the largest high school in Roanoke for decades. It eventually closed in 1974. After years of being empty, the building got new life in the 1990s when community members stepped up, created fundraising efforts and boards and renovated the building into what it is now. The auditorium was completed in 2001. It is now called the Shaftman Performance Hall and is a beautiful facility that can house local dance studios to famous performers and musical groups.

The entrance to the building makes you feel like you are entering something grand! Once inside, the art work and ornate finishes and decorations makes the performance hall feel like a premiere place to perform or attend a show! My daughter and her fellow dancers enjoyed looking at the entry ways, staircases, walls, etc. The decor provided plenty of nice backgrounds for pictures once the show ended!

The auditorium itself has comfortable seats, elegant finishes, and a large stage! It was a great place to watch a show and there appears to be no bad seat in the house! My son wanted to go up to the balcony but we did not. Maybe next time we are there!

Backstage had plenty of dressing areas for all of the dancers or other performers. There is plenty of room for big groups to line up backstage. The recital appeared to move smoothly backstage (kudos to all of the teachers and volunteer helpers!). The dancers, both young and old, enjoyed their time on stage and being able to perform in a revered space like the Jefferson Center.

We enjoyed our time at the Jefferson Center and learning about another piece of Roanoke’s history. I am glad this building was saved from deterioration and now serves the community in multiple ways! You can find the building’s detailed history and all of the organizations housed in the building on its website,

The Jefferson Center is located on Luck Avenue in the downtown Roanoke area. In addition to the performance hall, it also has rental space for other events, non-profit groups, and educational purposes. You can also make a donation to it to keep it going providing arts and other services in the community.

If you have a place or event for Roaming Roanoke to visit, please let me know!

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Angela Evans

Angela Evans is a former tv reporter turned stay-at-home mom. She and her husband Cody have three children. They moved to Virginia in 2018. When she’s not Roaming Roanoke, she is probably drinking sweet tea, reading a book or dancing.
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