The City of Bristol began as the small incorporated town of Goodson in 1856, the same year the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad arrived in the community. Named in honor of its founder, Colonel Samuel Goodson, the town was situated immediately north of the town of Bristol, Tennessee. The southern border of Virginia's Bristol has always been the Virginia-Tennessee state line, which extends along the middle of State Street, the main commercial corridor for both towns. A sixty-foot-tall steel sign spans the state line on State Street at 3rd Street and is illuminated with the slogan “bristol . . . a good place to live.” During the Civil War, Union forces raided Goodson, as Bristol was then still named, in 1863 and 1864, both times burning the railroad depot and warehouses. In 1871 the town purchased about sixty acres north of the commercial area and the land was laid out in a grid and divided into lots that were sold at auction. Today this area forms two neighborhoods known as Virginia Hill and Solar Hill. Residential development continued to expand to the north into the early twentieth century. In 1890 the town of Goodson was renamed Bristol, Virginia, and incorporated as a city by an act of the state legislature. That same year the Bristol Land Company acquired several tracts of land northwest of Solar Hill that became the Highlands and Virginia Park neighborhoods. During the early twentieth century, this area became Bristol's premier residential neighborhood.
The founding of higher educational institutions in Bristol contributed to the growth of the city. In 1891 Virginia Hill was chosen as the site for Virginia Intermont College (WS33). Bristol's houses, mostly built between the 1870s and the 1930s, offer an array of architectural styles that is unequaled in far southwestern Virginia. Bristol today thrives in large part due to its sister city in Tennessee, home to the Bristol Motor Speedway that is on the NASCAR circuit.
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