Vistas of the Recently Urban: Rogersville

You might ask yourself, “Is Rogersville an actual urban area?” Well, the US Census Bureau says that an urban cluster–whose residents are part of the 80% of Americans who live in an urban area–contains 2,500 residents. Rogersville seems unsure of itself.

The city limits sign on westbound Highway 60 doesn’t offer an opinion:

Rogerville city limit sign

The city limits sign on southbound county highway B says no:

Rogerville city limit sign, population 1508

1508 is the population from 2000, though.

The city limit on Westbound Business Loop 60 says yes:

Rogerville city limit sign, population 3073

I think this population is closer to the mark. Rogersville is a growing community. Not so much because it’s Rogersville or because it offers a lot of good employment opportunities, although there are a number of industrial shops and other employers along US 60.

No, Rogersville is growing because it’s not too far outside of the city limits of Springfield. Many of the new residents are moving into suburban subdivision developments and driving into Springfield for work and probably entertainment.

Rogersville is an old railroad town along the Frisco line, the same as Aurora. As such, it has the obligatory caboose in the old part of town:

Rogerville caboose

The old part of town is really only a couple of small city blocks. Note that Rogersville does not have nose-in parking. It hardly has any parking in the old part of town, and the streets are very narrow. There’s not much in town; just a branch of the Webster County library and an eatery on Clinton street (which was closed when we visited early on a Saturday morning):

Clinton street in old Rogerville

One block south, Front street has the administrative offices for the Logan-Rogersville school district, a CPA, and a storefront whose signage I didn’t see or make out. It might not even be a storefront:

Front Street in Rogersville

As with Aurora, the city grew from that foothold on the train tracks southward toward the US highway and its business loop.

On the business loop, you can find a gas station that has been closed for quite some time:

An abandoned gas station

Sadly, one found a lot of small businesses and storefronts closed north of US 60 in the city of Rogersville, and I couldn’t find a restaurant that was open in which to eat lunch. We settled for a McDonalds on US 60.

The local residents have a number of banks, pharmacies, and other amenities. The grocery store is an Apple Market:

The Apple Market in Rogersville

It doesn’t look to be part of a chain, so if it’s an independent grocery, yay on that.

Driving around the town, I definitely got the sense that Rogersville is a transitional place. It was a small railroad stopping town (in the area described by John E. Hult in Growing Up in the Ozarks), but it didn’t have the advantage to grow on its own as Aurora did with its mining industry. Instead, it stayed pretty much the same until recently, when the new subdivisions moved in and the residents who moved in were just people who lived in Rogersville, not people from Rogersville. For example, the city brochure for Rogersville on the city Web site emphasizes that Rogersville is part of the Springfield metropolitan area.

An example our St. Louis-area readers might understand is the difference between Maryland Heights and Webster Groves. The former is a place to live with a city government, and the latter is a community.

Maybe I’m wrong. We didn’t get out and walk around the city environs as there are no sidewalks nor places to go really. We visited a couple of yard sales in the new subdivisions, and the pickings there were the detritus of younger families, outgrown clothes and whatnot.

It’s not a destination town given these factors. Maybe it could be if some smaller artisanal sorts of businesses moved into the copious amounts of available space, but that would require enough traffic to justify it. And so far there’s not enough to apparently sustain the formerly existing businesses there. Perhaps when they get a couple thousand more residents in subdivisions.

Is it urban? Not in any urban sense. It’s suburban surrounded by expanses of open land connected to an urban area by a US Highway. If Springfield grows out that way, perhaps it will grow into a seamless urban area.

This is the smallest of the urban enclaves I have visited. I might have to dial down my expectations of them as I go. I mean, when I get around to Murry, what will I have to say? At least the page load time will be quicker since it will only contain a single photo.

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