Until Monday citizens might have had trouble identifying any of the characteristics of the Roanoke City seal. “I think there is a woman in it,” said Fran. Another citizen said she knew it was white.
City Manager Chris Morrill brought the details of the 107 year old seal to city council’s attention at the Monday morning briefing. Details in the seal create an industrial town look he said with billowing smoke emanating from smokestacks behind the goddess of justice.
City clerk Stephanie Moon dug around in the archives and discovered the original 1884 pen and ink drawing of the city’s original seal that was 20 years older. Morrill had it digitized for council to see it in color.
The 1884 seal is simpler with mountains and a steam passenger train behind the goddess of justice. Morrill surmised that in 1906 leaders changed the seal to reflect Roanoke’s future as a large industrial city. “Is this how we want to portray ourselves officially to the world,” said Morrill.
Anything official has to use the 1906 seal. It is codified in the city’s charter and would have to go before the General Assembly to be changed. It needs to be long lasting explained Morrill and in this case the past represents the future too.
Pen and Ink drawing of the original seal.
The train in the older seal is a passenger train but was changed to boxcars in the current seal. “The original seal is more classic in form,” said Morrill. He suggested that no changes be made to the original seal and that input be gathered from the citizens before any action was taken.
Councilman Sherman Lea asked, “where is the city.” He thought that Roanoke’s urban look was missing from the older seal. Dave Trinkle said he liked the older one better but wondered if Mill Mountain should be in the background.
Councilwoman Anita Price thought the older seal looked more modern than the 1906 seal. Bill Bestpitch liked the older seal because the mountains were prominent in the background. He thought it signified the promotion of the area as Virginia’s Blue Ridge. “Our seal seems so cluttered to me,” said Bestpitch.
Councilman Ray Ferris in comparing Roanoke City’s seal to other localities seals remarked, “Ours sticks out like a sore thumb … it’s just not the image we want to project.”
All council members liked the older seal except Lea and Mayor Bowers. “I do not support this initiative … I see something plain and unimaginable. For 125 years that lady has stood well over our city,” said Bowers.
Bowers said he has heard comments of dissension from the citizens. “That’s not what we’re about,” he said.”We should be about unity.” Bowers fears it will cause unnecessary division in the city. He mentioned hearing citizens say “the heart is out of the city market … now the shaggers are going to Dalevile … I don’t think this is timely or really necessary.”
Trinkle countered saying he had heard not heard dissension but has received emails complimenting good city planning. “I’ve had a lot of positive comments … I disagree with you on that.”
Vice Mayor Court Rosen told Bowers “we don’t need to manufacture a fiscal cliff type dissension.”
It wasn’t clear how citizens can send their input to the idea of reverting back to the original 1884 seal so stay tuned.