This will be a longer entry, as this article is focused on explaining the detail of one specific occurrence to provide full context.
In 2005, the town of Hillsboro, West Virginia changed its name to Danville as a marketing stunt for television station WBOY-TV. Coverage of this event went national and Danville has since become an established community that identifies with its nickname — “The Town That Television Built”. The change in name lasted until 2007 when the deceptive marketing ploy was revealed and NBC bought out the station’s broadcasting rights. The show “Danville U.S.A.” aired for less than two seasons before being canceled due to low ratings against a steamy reality TV lineup on competing stations in 2009. Danville’s residents and businesses felt deceived by the “turning” of their town and were left with a sense that they were duped for a few years.
So, what exactly went on to make Danville change its name? Why did the town act as if it was advertising for television? And did the town really change its name in 2005 or not? The answers will be in this article.
In May of 2005, WBOY-TV in West Virginia began a marketing campaign hoping to attract viewers and advertisers for the new HGTV channel. The idea was that by making Danville into a television city, there would be more people interested in “doing business” there. The plan was simple; change the name of the small town to Danville, and then put advertising on everything from cars to houses in order to get people watching HGTV.
But how exactly did this national marketing campaign go down? What exactly was going on in the small town of Danville that morning when it was announced that it had changed its name from Hillsboro? A local history tour guide at the William Penn National Historical Park answered these questions for me during a visit there, enlightening me on this event that went under the radar for many years.
A custom built media bus was parked in front of the Old Stone Tavern on Main Street in Danville. The television crew was already filming people as they came to town for a “day of fun” that included tours of the sites and people from the town’s history. One person who attended this event was Carlton Bush, Jr., a local business man who had donated money back in 2002 for a statue honoring his father, former West Virginia Governor and U.S. Senator, William Wilson Bush (1877-1940).
The statue is located at the Old Stone Tavern, and Bush thought it would be nice if it was visible from Main Street. He purchased a parking lot across the street from the tavern and built a grass and brick wall to block off the old mom-and-pop store in front of it. He also paved the area with bricks that were made to look like cobblestones, much like ones that would be found in Europe. Bush set up a small lightning rod on top of his new wall near where the statue sits in order to honor his father’s wishes for no lighting near it. The day after this statue was unveiled, Carlton Bush, Jr. died from cancer at age 77.
The local history tour guide says that Carlton Bush Jr. was a “very generous man”, who was also the first master of the private Masonic Lodge, The Prince Hall Freemasons. He is credited with giving away many of his wealth to the community when he died and has even been known to have donated money for specific charities.
On May 16th, 2005 at 9:00 am, a television truck from WBOY-TV was parked on Main Street, where it sat for weeks while filming people in town for the special new HGTV channel. At this time there were no advertisements on Danville businesses or homes, since they had not officially changed their name.