COLLECTIONS CORNER: By Ashley Webb, Curator
As overall Collections Manager for the Historical Society, I often get to see unique
historical items that most people never get to see. This year, the Collections Committee has considered 16 gifts, ultimately accepting 10 for the permanent collection. While every gift is notable in some way, one gift resonated with me: a panoramic photograph of Casselwold taken in 1916.
Raymond Barnes in his “A History of the City of Roanoke” wrote that the frontage of Casselwold (Cassel Wolde) was at 257 feet, including the three-car garage and three-horse stable. The photograph we have shows the front of the expansive Georgian, presumably soon after completion. Three individuals pose in front of the grand entryway and are most likely James Calder Cassell, railroad superintendent and original owner of Casselwold; his wife Emma and their son James Cassell Jr. At the far left are an automobile and five African American servants (the house contained four servants’ rooms).
The house was situated in the woods (Casselwold means “Cassell’s woods”) on a tract of 52 acres joining the Roanoke Country Club off Melrose Avenue.
This gift, a transfer from the Daystar Foundation and Library in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, came the week after a consideration by the Collections Committee of a number of photographs of Elmore D. Heins, Roanoke baseball player, cigar store owner and capitalist. Heins and his wife owned Casselwold from 1921 until 1964.
Heins had a reputation for innovation and for skirting the law. He became entangled with a lawsuit
from Coca Cola over King Cola and Lemon Kola, both Roanoke-made beverages that Coke claimed were too similar to their products. At the time Roanoke enforced a “Blue Law” policy on Sundays, requiring stores to close in honor of the religious holiday. Heins kept his cigar and soda fountain open, maintaining that he was also a news agent. He was taken to court which held that the sale of newspapers was legal on Sundays, but the sale of soda and cigars was not.
Heins outright defied the city, staying open to give away cigars on Sunday. In order to maintain that he wasn’t “selling” sodas, he provided a sandwich with each drink, moving his business into the restaurant category, which could be open on Sundays.
After the sale of his cigar business in 1917, Heins acquired theater properties under the Roanoke Amusement Company with other investors until every movie theater in the Roanoke area was owned by him.
After Heins’ death, Casselwold and 10 acres were acquired by what is now Hermitage Roanoke Continuing Care Retirement Community.