Rowan County

Over its three-century history, Rowan County has been a transportation hub for railways, a jumping-off point for western travelers and even territory occupied by enemy troops during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. But one thing remains the same: Rowan County is a genteel Southern place where neighbors wave from their front porches and the contributions of past generations aren't forgotten. History never stops, and today Rowan County is evolving economically and culturally. Rowan County - the birthplace of Food Lion, one of the nation's largest supermarket chains, and home of the popular Carolina soft drink, Cheerwine - offers a place to live that strikes an easy balance between rural and urban offerings.

Salisbury, named for a cathedral town in England, is the county seat and the cultural and business center of the county. Home to almost 30,000 people, Salisbury was incorporated in 1755. During the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the largest city in western North Carolina and a major center of trade and politics. Spend a day strolling the tree-lined streets and discovering the shops and historic sights of Salisbury and you'll find evidence of that rich history everywhere.

Near the center of town, be sure to notice the Bell Tower, part of the old Presbyterian Church built in 1892. The church was torn down in the early 1970s, but the tower serves as a reminder of its significance. Another historical building is The Plaza Building, one of Salisbury's tallest. In 1991, Ralph and Anne Ketner of the Food Lion dynasty bought the structure, renovated it and gave it to the city.

Rowan County's strategic location halfway between Washington and Atlanta made it an important point in the development of the railways. In 1896, that tactical location prompted the Southern Railway Co. to build the company's largest steam locomotive servicing facility in the neighboring town of Spencer (named for Samuel Spencer, the first president of Southern Railway). That facility, which has been renovated, is now the N.C. Transportation Museum. A popular attraction for tourists and schoolchildren, it offers a tribute to the evolution of transportation, including exhibits on antique cars, trains and planes.

Though less dependent on rail traffic than a century ago, Rowan County remains strategically located thanks to nearby major interstates, including I-85, I-77 and I-40. That location has helped attract and retain major employers such as trucking giant Freightliner Corp. and textile company KoSa. Those companies have found that Rowan County offers employees affordable housing, state-of-the-art health care and excellent educational opportunities.

Residents find caring and responsive health care at Rowan Regional Medical Center. This private, not-for-profit hospital, in operation since 1936, has grown into a 298-bed facility with a staff of 120 doctors and dentists. Rowan Regional Medical Center operates a round-the-clock coronary care unit and emergency room, and it's also known as a wonderful place to deliver a baby. Whether you're the parent of a grade-school student or an adult learner looking to enhance your skill set, Rowan County offers plenty of chances to further your education. The Rowan-Salisbury school system is the state's 13th largest system, with more than 20,000 students enrolled. The system recently revised its entire curriculum to ensure that graduates are prepared for the workplace in the 21st century.

Those looking for a college degree can choose between Catawba College and Livingstone College, both in Salisbury. Catawba College is a four-year liberal arts college on a 210-acre campus near downtown. Livingstone College traces its roots back to 1879 as an educational institution for clergy in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Today the college enrolls 1,100 students and offers degrees in arts and sciences and graduate degrees in theology. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, which serves the two-county area with two campuses, offers students a convenient campus and reasonable cost to pursue day, evening and weekend classes.

The tie between Rowan and neighboring Cabarrus County to the south is evident in Kannapolis, Rowan County's largest city of 35,000 people, which straddles the county line. Kannapolis is a major textile producer, thanks to Pillowtek Corp. (formerly Fieldcrest Cannon) which is headquartered here. Cannon Village, a Williamsburg-style downtown shopping district, is a popular place to shop for home furnishings.

Kannapolis is also home to the Intimidators, a single-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team. If you're like many other Rowan County residents, you'll enjoy attending one of the 71 home games played each year in the 4,700-seat Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium, built in 1995. In fact, the team had a record-setting year of attendance in 1999.

If your idea of recreation includes a shopping bag rather than a team pennant, be sure to check out the many unique shopping venues in the county. Aside from Cannon Village, downtown Salisbury offers a variety of old-fashioned general merchandise stores, ice cream shops, health-food stores and antique emporiums.

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