Named to honor an evergreen mountain plant native to the region that was in great demand by florists, Galax was platted in 1903 as the town of Cairo. Laid out in a grid plan of twenty-six blocks on the Grayson-Carroll county line, Galax was situated just south of an earlier village, known variously as Bonapart or Blair. Galax succeeded Bonapart as the regional economic center due in part to a topography that was more suited to development. Like many rail-oriented communities in Southwest Virginia, here with the assured presence of a Norfolk and Western Railway depot, the new town developed as a somewhat speculative venture under the oversight of a locally owned real estate development company. Through the first half of the twentieth century, commercial and manufacturing facilities were added to the downtown commercial mix. Vaughn Furniture Company, one of the town's principal manufacturers, developed facilities alongside the railroad and remains one of the community's largest employers. But economic shifts in the early twenty-first century saw the closure of several textile and furniture plants. Galax has achieved regional and national stature as the home of the Old Time Fiddler's Convention, an event that each August draws thousands of music lovers to the community. The city is encouraging other art ventures in order to revive its economy and has supported numerous physical improvements to its historic downtown.
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