Most of us are familiar with the legend of Atlantis: a mysterious and magnificent city that has long since disappeared underwater. Well did you know that Virginia has its very own legend of a forgotten underwater city? Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of the ghost town of Monroe is that no one can quite prove – or deny – its existence. If it does indeed have a place in Virginia’s history, its location is most likely under the waters of Smith Mountain Lake.
Many Virginians might not realize that Smith Mountain Lake came to life relatively recently. What we see today as the second-largest freshwater lake in the state (and the largest that is entirely within the confines of Virginia's borders) began to fill up with water in September of 1963. Appalachian Power bought the rights to the land and built a dam that would provide hydroelectric power and a larger lake.
Since the building of the dam and expansion of the lake, there have been several rumors about "lost cities" underwater. One in particular, known as Monroe, would most likely be in the area where Vista Pointe Resort is now located (photographed above). This town was founded by a man known as Abner Anthony in 1818. According to historian Herman Melton, Anthony had elaborate plans for this city. Tax records for the following year showed that some 28 lots existed for the town. But rather mysteriously, Anthony had disappeared from all tax rolls by 1869.
Finding any physical signs of the town of Monroe is nearly impossible, which is why most believe the city is buried underwater, forever submerged when the dam was put in place. This local legend is alive and well at places such as Sunken City Brewery, located nearby in Hardy. The brewery is named for the lost community of Monroe.
The possibility of a submerged town underwater has gotten the attention of many, especially in the scuba diving community. These photographs, understandably blurry, show evidence of a sunken bridge known as the old Hales Ford Bridge.
Another factor that points in the direction of an underwater ghost town is the sheer volume of timber in the lake. Due to murky waters and poor visibility, even scuba divers have difficulty navigating these waters. It's also a rather dangerous place to explore underwater considering the amount of boating activity.
Pinpointing this forgotten town's exact location is difficult, although given the historical background, it stands to reason that it very well could be submerged under Smith Mountain Lake. The buildings and homes might be lost forever, but the mystery around this underwater town will certainly live on.