"But My City Was Gone": Real Estate Development and the Transformation of Moneta, Virginia

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Virginia Tech


For over a century, Moneta, a small unincorporated village in rural central Virginia, served as the center of commercial, civic and religious life for the families who lived on a number of area farms. The construction of nearby Smith Mountain Lake in the mid-20th century brought an influx of newcomers to Moneta—a change that has not always been welcomed by longtime residents of the village and its environs. This thesis explores how the concept of community has been affected by the infusion of new people and new ideas into Moneta's existing civic, religious and political life. After interviewing civic, religious and political leaders in the Moneta area, the author concludes that rather than ending community in Moneta, real estate development and the concomitant migration of newcomers to Smith Mountain Lake has actually had a transformative impact on community in Moneta. Instead of a broader community based on traditional connectors such as kinship and/or shared history, values and experiences, community in contemporary Moneta is narrower, based upon shared common interests, allowing for the creation of a number of smaller communities within the same geographical area. The author concludes with a discussion on the effects such transformations—occurring nationwide as suburbanization accelerates—are having on American democracy.



religious institutions, local government, Moneta, civic associations, real estate development, community, Virginia