We moved to Henry County in the spring of 2014 from McKinney, Texas. Now, I loved McKinney and I still love McKinney but it had just become too popular. It was voted the best place in the country to live in 2014 by Money Magazine. I could walk from my home in the Historic District and pass by the McKinney Equine Patrol out on patrol or Happy Trails Carriage Rides out with a load of tourists on my way to the downtown square where there were shops and restaurants and wine bars surrounding the old courthouse that had become a performing arts center. What’s not to love?
People here all seemed mystified as to why would leave Texas to move to Henry County. They didn’t even know how wonderful McKinney was (is). There is just a pervading sense of “anywhere’s a better place to be” here. While McKinney was wonderful, Henry County (and the independent city of Martinsville that sits in the middle of it) has a great deal to offer. Somehow, a lot of the locals just don’t see it.
In fact, we are both amazed that this whole area seems to have been entirely overlooked despite some extremely obvious advantages:
- All Four Seasons, including a leaf change – Texas is just incredibly hot. We got out before the weather truly became what I call “biblical” -floods washing away trains, cattle, and roads followed by droughts that make the black clay crack and shift. The climate here is perfect for anyone who wants all four seasons and the winters are not significantly different from Texas except that, where Texas gets ice, Virginia gets snow (at least, most of the time). Summers are hot by Virginian standards but it seems rare that it breaks 100 degrees while that is fairly common in Texas during the latter half of the summer (from August into October).
- Economy – this may seem counterintuitive to the locals but the same economy that’s been devastated by NAFTA means that everything is cheaper … much cheaper. Real estate, groceries, restaurants … In our experience (with certain exceptions), the cost of living in Martinsville-Henry County seems to be about half of what it was in Dallas. Granted, there aren’t any jobs to speak of but if you are on a fixed income or a telecommuter, this is great.
- Proximity to “Big City” Life – There really has been no sacrifice in terms of stores and culture. Martinsville has a good museum that is connected in some way to the Smithsonian. The Piedmont Arts Center has constant art exhibitions. The Patrick Henry Community College has an active performing troupe that offers several musicals throughout the year and there is live music everywhere. The Harvester Performance Center in Rocky Mount (Franklin County), about thirty minutes north brings in big name entertainers to an intimate setting (Amos Lee, Keb Mo, Colin Hay, just to name the ones that I’ve been interested in). Roanoke, sometimes called “Festival City” because they have something going on every single weekend, is only about an hour north. Greensboro, NC, is only about 30 minutes to the south. Danville, our immediate neighbor to the east has a lot of the chain stores for shopping and going out, plus an active river walk restoration project.
- Jobs are not that far away – If you have a degree and the wherewithal to commute, the lack of local jobs is not a problem. Greensboro and Roanoke are both large(ish) cities and there are plenty of jobs available. Of course, as more and more people are being able to telecommute, work can be as close as rolling out of bed; making for the perfect combination … life in a sleepy hamlet of friendly people and outstanding beauty while not having to worry about how to make the car payment. If your entire life goal is to amass as much money as possible, this may not be the place for you. If you are looking for a good quality of life, this just may be ideal
- Healthcare – Since we’ve moved my mother to Henry County in 2016, I’ve had to acknowledge the whole healthcare concern. So far, we have had a little trouble finding a GP but I haven’t truly made a concerted effort. We may need to drive down to Greensboro which would be annoying but it would also give us an excuse to get some shopping and sightseeing in occasionally. However, the big picture stuff is covered. Martinsville has a hospital and I’ve heard good things about it. More importantly, there are two fantastic hospitals not far away, just in case the worst happens. Wake Forest Baptist, about an hour away, and Duke University Medical Center, about two hours away, are both highly ranked on the list of best hospitals in the US (for cancer). Wake Forest is ranked #17 in 2016 and Duke ranks #27. UNC, at #32, isn’t far either. This is actually a trade-up for Mother as the local leading hospital in Dallas, UT Southwestern, ranks at #50.
Hopefully, this post answers the question of “why?” and “why here?”
It is my hope to share some glimpses of our area here and there. Primarily, this blog is a creative release for me but it would also be nice for someone to sing some praises for this area. It deserves it.