The Alexander-Gish House is located in the heart of Roanoke City’s Old Southwest Historic District. This circa 1830 clapboard covered log house is nestled among the towering trees of 100 year old Highland Park, and is one of the backbones of the historic neighborhood.
There is a gazebo (circa 1900) on the property that was moved from its original Mountain Avenue location, as well as plenty of green space for outdoor gatherings, parties, and weddings.
The exact age of the Alexander/Gish house is undocumented, but it is undoubtedly one of the oldest dwellings in Roanoke. Built on property that has been a home site since before 1750, the house is located in an attractive setting with wide lawns, two lovely holly trees, and a boxwood hedge.
Alexander-Gish House History
In 1776, the land was surveyed by William Preston for George and James Alexander, sons of William Alexander, the original owner. In 1817, it was acquired by George Howbert, who in 1818 conveyed the house and the 35 acres to his son Michael upon his marriage to Hannah Peffley. Tradition has it that the log portion of the building now standing was built for Michael’s bride.
In 1836, William Coon acquired the property, and lived there until his death in 1860. His nephew inherited the property, died in 1863, leaving the property to his widow, Nannie Coon. Nannie married Samuel H. Gish about two years later, and the property became known as the “Gish Woods”. In 1901, Nannie Gish sold “Gish Woods” to Roanoke for $10,000 and it became Roanoke’s first park. During the 1920’s, an addition was made to the structure. Originally the house faced the river. With the addition the house faced, as it still does, to the north, towards the road winding through Highland Park.
Until vacated in 1974 in preparation for demolition, the house was occupied by the park caretaker. Through organized efforts by Old Southwest, Inc members, the Alexander-Gish house was saved from demolition and restored. Caretaking responsibilities eventually were transferred to Old Southwest, Inc through an agreement with the City of Roanoke that remains in effect this day.
Currently the Alexander-Gish house serves as a meeting place for organizations, classes and workshops, and is headquarters for Old Southwest, Inc., which has continued the renovating and restoration efforts in progress since 1982.