Altavista, the largest town in the county, was the creation of two brothers and two railroads. In 1905, when surveys determined where the line of the east-west Virginian Railway would intersect with the existing north-south Southern Railway, John E. and Henry L. Lane—who were building a section of the Virginian Railway at the time—purchased the surrounding two thousand acres. Here they chartered the Altavista Land and Improvement Company and platted a town where they located their machine and repair shops. They laid out the original town in zones: business, restricted residential, unrestricted residential, African American (called “colored” on the plan), and manufacturing. Although the zones are bounded primarily by curvilinear natural features, each was laid out in a grid plan. A number of cost-free lots were offered to encourage settlement of the community. First known as Lane Siding, the town's name was changed to Altavista, the name of the Lanes' farm in Albemarle County. The town was incorporated in 1912, the same year that the Lane brothers established the Standard Red Cedar Chest Company that later became Lane Company, Inc. Until it closed at the turn of the twenty-first century, Lane was the town's largest industry. Altavista's economy, although severely damaged by the closing, nevertheless moves on with the production of machine parts and the processing of adult and infant nutritional products.
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