UVa plans pocket park at site of old restaurant, gas station; Buddy’s played role in civil rights movement
The University of Virginia will create a small park at the corner of Emmet Street and University Avenue. In the process, it will tear down a gas station and a small brick building built as Buddy’s restaurant, a Charlottesville institution for two decades, famous both for its hamburgers and for sit-ins during the civil rights movement.
David J. Neuman, architect for the University of Virginia, said the university would buy the gas station across from the Cavalier Inn and combine it with the adjacent parcel it already owns at 104 Emmet St. The park would be about 0.41 acres and sit alongside Carr’s Hill turf field.
“The ground lease expires at the end of this month,” Neuman said about the gas station. “The university is not going to renew that lease … and it will acquire the property from the [UVa] Foundation.”
“We’re going to ask the foundation to work through the city’s process and demolish both of those buildings and declare it open space,” Neuman said. “It will become a permanent landscape area.”
“It’s not in a historic district nor individually protected so they could demolish it with just a building permit,” said Mary Joy Scala, the city’s preservation and design planner.
Neuman informed the Planning and Coordination Council’s technical advisory committee — a planning body representing the university, the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County — at its meeting Thursday that the park project also created an opportunity to widen and improve a stretch of University Avenue.
“At the moment, we are going to do what we have funds to do inside the curb line,” Neuman said. “But if the city can participate, we can together move the curb line about six or seven feet, which would offer [an opportunity] to widen the lanes and provide a bike lane in that intersection heading west [onto Ivy Road].”
Neuman described the site as “the most prominent gateway” between the university and the city. Existing parking spaces will be eliminated, the large trees preserved and an underground stream will be day lighted.
Neuman said the buildings would be taken down in September or October. The most recent use of the Buddy’s restaurant building was as offices of the Institute for Environmental Negotiation.
Buddy Glover opened a hamburger stand near 104 Emmet St. in the late 1930s. A Charlottesville institution until 1967, Buddy’s street sign declared it to be “The Biggest Little Place in Town.”
Steven G. Meeks, president of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, has Buddy’s cash register in a second floor storage room still adorned with a small sign reminding all that the restaurant was “just a nice place to eat.”
Meeks said Glover served in World War II, and upon his return had local architect Thomas Craven design a new brick restaurant building that matched the character of the surrounding university.
The restaurant contributed to the community’s civil rights history, as it was the scene of important sit-ins and demonstrations in May 1963.
One protester who was beaten outside the restaurant was UVa professor of history emeritus Paul M. Gaston. Gaston writes in his 2010 autobiography that on the fourth day of demonstrations, when violence erupted, he had just been the first white person promoted to be captain of the protest group.
“Buddy’s sit-in was a major turning point in Charlottesville’s history,” Gaston wrote. “We had been negotiating for years with local restaurants, motels, hotels and theaters, with almost no success. Our sit-in movement accomplished what negotiation did not.”
Gaston’s autobiography describes Glover as “genial” and notes that The Daily Progress editor at the time called Glover “one of the finest and most spirited citizens of this community.”
Gaston notes that on occasion Glover had permitted blacks to eat at the restaurant. That is not a memory shared by another local civil rights leader, Eugene Williams.
“I have no knowledge of a single black being served in that restaurant,” Williams said in an interview.
Williams and Gaston both agree the building is significant.
“It ought to at least have a marker for that history,” Williams said. “We need to mark these historical places of segregation, there’s no question about it.”
Glover never desegregated Buddy’s. When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964, Gaston wrote, Glover posted a closing notice later that same evening — “Passage of the Civil Rights Bill forced us to take this unfortunate action.”
“Buddy closed his restaurant because he was a firm believer in the rights of private property,” Gaston said in an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow. “Buddy remained true to his principles.”
Glover managed a catering business from the restaurant building until 1971. In 1976 he became director of the Dietary Department at Martha Jefferson Hospital, a position he held until retiring in the early 1980s.
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