Greensboro has for quite a long time been known as “The Gate City.” Indeed, the “GateCity” nickname is itself memorialized in the names of many of our local institutions, such as Gate City Pharmacy, GateCityBaptistChurch, GateCityAnimalHospital, Gate City Vineyard Fellowship, Gate City Lincoln Mercury, and Gate City Community Development.
The name itself derives from the days of Greensboro’s glory as a railroad transportation center. In fact, if you look at a railroad map of North Carolina in 1890, Greensboro is undoubtedly the railroad center of the state, having rightfully earned the name “the railroad gateway to North Carolina.”
In that 1890 map there are tracks leading east through Gibsonville and Burlington toward Raleigh and on to the coast, southwest through Jamestown and High Point and on to Charlotte, west through Guilford College and Colfax and Kernersville and on to Winston Salem, northeast through Browns Summit to Danville, northwest through Summerfield and Stokesdale to Martinsville and Roanoke, and southeast through Pleasant Garden and Climax and on to Sanford.
So, as is obvious from these older maps, not only was Greensboro itself impacted by the railroad, so were so many of the communities around it. Imagine the day when you could catch a train in the morning from Greensboro, head up to Summerfield, and come back by train at the end of the day. It sounds nice.
It is hard for us today in the world of interstate highways, great fleets of trucks, and shipping even by airline to appreciate the transportation problem that the piedmont terrain offered to anyone living in the interior of the state. There was just no easy and fast way to travel or ship goods apart from the few crude roadways such as the old Salisbury Road. Access to the outside world was difficult and limited. Though competing with the plank roads developing at the same time in the mid 1800’s, the railroad offered the best possible way of getting both agricultural and manufactured goods grown and made in Guilford County and Greensboro to any destination outside. The coming of the railroad, and the development of Greensboro as a central hub of North Carolina rail traffic, was probably the single most influential event in the history of Greensboro.