E.D. Root was a man whose vision went far beyond his publishing career. He was convinced that Broadway had the makings of the “Ideal City.” In his Prospectus of Virginia Valley Land and Improvement Company of Broadway,” he wrote: “exaggerated statements always work damage to all concerned, therefore, we present the merits of our claims for recognition from men of all classes and all avocations, feeling convinced the course adopted will build our town and make Broadway the leading town of the Shenandoah Valley.”
Root sold stock in the company to enthusiastic buyers. Company officers included representatives from Broadway and from Wall Street in New York.
The prospectus boasted that “Broadway is the nucleus of a coming city of manufacturing and commercial status.” It assured prospective buyers that “…even the most conservative citizens believe Broadway will have from eight to ten thousand (population) before two years go by.”
Root talked of the vast iron, lead and zinc ores, and the abundance of timber in Broadway. He also praised the many successful businesses already established in the town. He noted “one large pottery, one flour mill, one corn and plaster mill, one creamery, one tannery, one lime kiln, five general stores, one drug store, one foundry and machine shop, one broom handle factory, two wagon manufacturers, one sash, blind and door factory, one saddle and harness factory, one barrel factory, two weekly newspapers, one hardware store, one jewelry store, three churches, one school, one Masonic Temple Hall and one opera house.” Root had also made plans to build a grand hotel in the center of town.
There were several factors that contributed to the demise of Root’s dreams. For starters, the city he planned required a vast amount of capital. The “rich resources” he had depended on were not as plentiful as he had hoped. Contrary to his expectations, Wall Street investors did not hurry to the tiny town to buy parcels of land.
Nature also worked against Root. In July of 1884, a cyclone struck Broadway, and in September of the same year, a hurricane swept over the area.
Root finally gave up his dream of the “Ideal City.” Before he left the area entirely, he moved to Harrisonburg and tried running for the Senate as a Republican candidate. When he lost to Democrat S.S. Turner, he took what was left of his finances and moved elsewhere.
The town of Broadway is still not close to Mr. Root’s population estimation of 8,000 – 10,000 residents. Recent annexation and a barrage of building projects have, however, set the town on a path of steady growth. Perhaps Broadway will never become the hub of activity envisioned by that optimistic Northerner, but it seems to be humming along just fine.
(Information from “Regards to Broadway: The Story of an American Town Cullers and Lilliendahl)