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June 01, 2012

Brothels shaped Charlottesville’s history

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, June 1, 2012

The Garrett Street neighborhood, just south of Water Street, was once well known as Charlottesville’s very own red-light district. Daniel Bluestone’s History Week presentation, “The Other Side of the Tracks: Charlottesville Prostitution and Environmental Justice,” revealed the impacts that the brothel industry had on neighborhoods and architecture in Charlottesville.

Daniel Bluestone at a February 2012 briefing to the UVA School of Architecture. Photo by Sabrina Schaeffer, The Daily Progress.

Bluestone, a professor of architectural history at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, connected the history of prostitution in the now redeveloped Garrett Street neighborhood to the present day efforts to redesign the Belmont Bridge. He spoke Wednesday in City Council chambers, as part of Celebrate 250.

Bluestone said he noticed that the approaches to the bridge separated a predominately white neighborhood from a black neighborhood on the west side of the bridge. He then began to research the history of those neighborhoods before Charlottesville’s urban renewal program, which demolished Vinegar Hill and the Garrett Street area in the 1960s and 1970s.

“I started looking around that neighborhood on the west side of the bridge approach and I noticed [in photos that] there were a few rather large houses and I started throwing myself into the task of how we could explain that,” Bluestone said. “How we could explain those larger houses?”

The answer was brothels. So-called “houses of ill fame” were common in this area during the 19th and 20th centuries and their presence shaped the design of the neighborhood.

Continue reading "Brothels shaped Charlottesville’s history" »

May 31, 2012

Legacy of Vinegar Hill remembered in film

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 31, 2012

This week’s celebration of Charlottesville’s 250th birthday shone a spotlight on the 1964 demolition of the Vinegar Hill neighborhood.
“What has never been the same since that time has been the economic footprint African-Americans had,” said former City Councilor Holly Edwards in a film screened Tuesday before a packed house in City Council chambers.
Edwards and others appeared in the 2010 short documentary “That World is Gone: Race and Displacement in a Southern Town,” which tells the history of the neighborhood and its importance to those who were displaced.
Vinegar Hill was the center of the African-American community,” said Scot French, one of the film’s producers. “After the Civil War, you have a very large population of formerly enslaved people looking for places to live and looking for places of employment.”
French, who spent many years as a historian at the University of Virginia, said Booker T. Washington encouraged former slaves to empower themselves by becoming business owners.
“People living in and around Vinegar Hill needed services,” French said. “They needed groceries. They needed laundries. They needed insurance. A whole dual economic system emerges here with African-Americans providing services to the black community.”

Continue reading "Legacy of Vinegar Hill remembered in film " »

May 23, 2012

County planners support museum for Teddy Roosevelt’s rural retreat

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 23, 2012 

A proposal to build a historical center at President Theodore Roosevelt’s rural Albemarle retreat near Keene has cleared its first step in county government. 
The county Planning Commission recommended approval Tuesday of a special use permit allowing for construction of a small museum and restroom facility at Pine Knot. 
Beazley addresses the Albemarle Planning Commission
Pine Knot is a rustic cottage nestled in the middle of southern Albemarle,” said Paula Pierce Beazley, president and chair of the Edith and Theodore Roosevelt Foundation. 
Edith Roosevelt selected the spot as a getaway for the 26th president of the United States.
“He needed a place for rest and repairs within a day’s trip of Washington, yet remote enough and deep within the woods so as to leave his presidential cares behind,” Beazley said. 
Pine Knot is currently not recognized as a historical center under the zoning code.
“They’re looking to bring the use of the site as a historical center with special events into compliance with our zoning ordinance,” county planner Andy Sorrell said. “The events would promote the mission of the historical center.”

Continue reading "County planners support museum for Teddy Roosevelt’s rural retreat " »

March 30, 2012

Community gets engaged on West Main's past, present and future


On Thursday night at Charlottesville Tomorrow's monthly News n' Brews, about 70 community members packed into Zinc to talk about the evolution of the West Main Street area.

Curious about who owns property there?  So were we...

Here's how we captured the conversation...

March 28, 2012

Event discusses past, present and future of locally grown food

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Increasing awareness of how closely Central Virginia’s history is tied to farms and produce was the topic of discussion at the first Central Virginia Food Heritage Gathering.

20120326-Food-Heritage-CTMonday’s event welcomed those invested in increasing local food efforts to share stories and recipes, and to even swap seeds.

“The hope of this project is that by building what we know about our food heritage we will be able to grow a local food system that promotes our food-based heritage,” said Tanya Denckla Cobb, associate director for the Institute for Environmental Negotiation at the University of Virginia and one of the founders of the Virginia Food Heritage Project.

The event featured interview stations to capture locals’ food-related memories and displayed maps where attendees could mark historical food production sites such as farmers’ markets and mills. The Virginia Food Heritage Project will use this information to create an interactive map that will be posted online, allowing anyone to contribute knowledge of historical food sites.

Denckla Cobb stated that the positive impacts of food heritage on the local economy are significant. She briefly named cider, tomatoes and beans as local products that possibly could increase economic vitality of agriculture in the region.

Continue reading "Event discusses past, present and future of locally grown food " »

September 23, 2011

Rosehill, Kellytown residents share concerns with council

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, September 23, 2011

Residents of two of Charlottesville’s central neighborhoods had the opportunity Thursday night to give advice to city councilors and department heads about how local government can work more effectively to serve their needs.

The City Council’s latest town hall meeting was targeted at residents of the Rose Hill neighborhood and a nearby community that is only now finding an identity.


“We’ve discovered a lot of people don’t know what Kellytown is,” said Tom Bowe, the president of the Kellytown Neighborhood Association.

One city councilor said he could understand that sentiment.

“I’ve lived on Rugby Avenue for thirty years, and I wasn’t really sure if I was a resident of Kellytown,” said City Councilor David Brown. “Part of it in my view is that neighborhoods form around a community of interest, and that’s often a problem. What are the problems that can bring an identity to this neighborhood?”

City government recognizes many neighborhoods, but does not make decisions about their boundaries.

Bowe said problems facing the neighborhood include cut-through traffic on Rose Hill Drive, as well as the pressures of more development. He said the neighborhood is considering seeking historical status from the city in part to help protect its residential character.

“We’re concerned about commercial development on Rose Hill Drive and Amherst Street," Bowe said. He pointed to a pending development by Artisan Construction that will consolidate four businesses into one medical clinic, which he said will include an inappropriate access onto Amherst Street.

“That is a neighborhood street,” Bowe said. “If [patients] want to go to Barracks Road after they go to the clinic, they would cut through our neighborhood.”

Susan Hoffman, a resident of Augusta Street, said she felt a developer outmaneuvered the neighborhood during a rezoning process that allowed for the development.

“It is difficult for a neighborhood to pull together and come to a consensus in a short amount of time,” Hoffman said. “For the developer, that’s their business, and they have lawyers. We felt like we didn’t have any voice in the matter.”

Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services, said he understood the neighborhood’s concerns, and that his department tries to inform citizens about how rezoning and other development applications work.

“If neighbors have concerns, we’ll give you advice on how the process works,” Tolbert said. “We’re not going to tell you how to defeat it, but we’ll put you in touch with the developer and help you strategize.”

Neighborhood resident Anne Colony is helping to research the history of Kellytown.

“It’s apparently one of the first free black neighborhoods in Charlottesville,” Colony said. “We are talking about doing a historic plaque to give a little of the history.”

Colony added that many in the neighborhood believe that Thomas Jefferson looked at the area as a potential location for the University of Virginia.

Tolbert also used the meeting to educate people about a new honorary street name that is being applied to Rose Hill Drive. The street will gain a second name, Jackson P. Burley Drive, from Preston Avenue to Madison Avenue.

James Hollins, the president of the Rose Hill Neighborhood Association, asked the council to increase police patrols.

“Rose Hill is basically a quiet area and we like to keep it quiet and have the police come through late at night,” Hollins said.

In 2009, Councilor Kristin Szakos campaigned on a platform to hold town hall-style meetings in order to reach people who might feel uncomfortable coming to city hall for a regular meeting.

“I think they are going probably better than we expected,” said city spokesman Ric Barrick.

The program will continue next year, but Barrick said neighborhood associations will be encouraged to take a more active role in planning them.

The next town hall meeting will be held on Oct.13 at Walker Upper Elementary School for residents of the Greenbrier and Rugby neighborhoods.

August 06, 2011

UVa plans pocket park at site of old restaurant, gas station; Buddy’s played role in civil rights movement

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, August 6, 2011

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.

20110804-104Emmett 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.

20110804-Chevron2 “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.


December 05, 2010

West Virginia company buys 4,500 acres in Albemarle near Ash Lawn-Highland and Monticello

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, December 5, 2010

The family that owns The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia has acquired 4,500 acres in Albemarle County south of Ash Lawn-Highland and Monticello.

The James C. Justice Cos. purchased 55 parcels from MeadWestvaco Corp. for $23.75 million in a deal that closed last week.

20101205-MeadWestvaco James C. Justice II is CEO of the family-run West Virginia company known for its coal mining, farming and timber operations. Justice bought The Greenbrier in 2009 when it was facing bankruptcy. Justice company representatives did not respond to a request to comment on their intentions for the property in Albemarle.

James H. Hill, a MeadWestvaco vice president, confirmed the sale and said the property was no longer needed for the company’s timber operations.

“Several years ago, MeadWestvaco launched a rural land sales program,” Hill said in an e-mail. “These properties have been managed for decades to the highest standards … ideal for investors or outdoor enthusiasts. This 4,500-acre tract has been managed for fiber supply and is no longer strategic for the company’s needs.”

MeadWestvaco’s land sales website advertised the property as the “Presidential Estates” given its location near the homes of U.S. Presidents James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson. The advertised price was $38.5 million and the land, zoned for rural use, has an assessed value of $21.5 million. It sold to the Justice Cos. for $2.25 million over the tax assessment.

Rex Linville, the Piedmont Environmental Council’s land conservation officer for Albemarle County, said he thought the land had the potential for about 450 residential units.

“That’s a best-case scenario, not accounting for critical slopes and road access,” Linville said. “That said, I don’t know what they intend to do. We would like an opportunity to work with an owner like this on preservation of the property, and we hope that’s the new owner’s intent.”

‘Historically significant’

Leslie Greene Bowman, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello, said in a prepared statement that “the land to the south of Monticello is historically significant, since it remains largely as Jefferson saw it.”

“We are committed to working with our community partners to ensure protection of the viewshed from Monticello,” Bowman added. “We welcome our new neighbors and look forward to working together to protect Jefferson’s views for future generations.”

Christopher Owens, a historic preservationist from Spotsylvania, has been working since 2004 to complete a mapping project of land once owned by President Monroe.

“Monroe’s home, Ash Lawn-Highland, is a 535-acre remnant of what was a 3,500-acre estate,” Owens said. “The MeadWestvaco tract has 700 acres of Monroe’s original Highland estate.”

“Ecologically and historically, it is really an historic piece of property,” Owens said. “The use has remained unchanged throughout civilized history. Owners have always used this land for timber. In fact, Monroe had a sawmill on the property and it is likely that his old grist mill was there too.”

Bigger than Biscuit Run

At 4,500 acres, the MeadWestvaco parcels combined are 3 1/2 times the size of the Biscuit Run development that the state bought last year for a future state park. The commonwealth paid $9.8 million for the 1,200 acres, plus an unspecified amount of Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credits.

Bill Kittrell, director of conservation programs at The Nature Conservancy, said the MeadWestvaco land had been identified as an attractive site for a park prior to the state’s acquisition of Biscuit Run. His organization got involved soon after MeadWestvaco put it on the market in 2006.

“We were involved in trying to find a way to protect the MeadWestvaco property either through state ownership or conservation easements with private ownership,” Kittrell said. “I think whatever timber liquidity there was, they have already extracted what was of any value. Given its location near Monticello, the value is less in timber and more in other forms of development, like residential and estate land.”

In 2008, The Nature Conservancy had local Charlottesville-based Nelson, Byrd, Woltz Landscape Architects prepare a master plan for a public park and nature preserve. At that time, Biscuit Run was poised to become Albemarle’s largest residential development in history, having already been approved for up to 3,100 homes.

The conceptual master plan for “Jefferson Monroe Park” was shared with state officials and potential investors. Ridge Schuyler, a former member of the local Nature Conservancy staff, said he toured the property when the park concept was being developed.

“It has beautiful bones,” Schuyler said. “It’s a nice, rolling piece of property with spectacular views back towards Monticello and the Southwest Mountains. In its post timbered state, it’s not the most attractive, but you could see the potential.”

“I don’t know how much value it has as timber property,” Schuyler added. “MeadWestvaco sold it because it wasn’t close to their sawmills, and it hasn’t moved any closer.”

Hopes for the future

Owens observed that a unique opportunity exists with the University of Virginia’s ownership of the adjacent Morven Farm.

“My goal was to at least get [Monroe’s] 700 acres back somehow,” Owens said. “One could easily create an almost 12,000-acre park unifying the land with Morven, Ash Lawn-Highland and Monticello. It’s a very historic landscape. Mr. Justice could still harvest timber and do that.”

The PEC’s Linville questioned such a high price being paid for a long-term timber investment.

“I called contacts in the timber business, and they said that the price didn’t make sense from a timber investment perspective, you wouldn’t recoup your investment on timber alone,” Linville said. “It’s also equally unlikely someone would pay that price from a residential development angle. Since neither scenario really makes sense in today’s market, my hope is it’s a conservation transaction.”

Besides The Greenbrier, the Justice family has owned or developed other large recreational properties. According to Marshall University’s website, where Jim Justice received his undergraduate and MBA degrees, the family developed the Stoney Brook Plantation, a 15,000-acre hunting and fishing preserve in West Virginia’s Monroe County.

May 19, 2010

City prepares to celebrate 250th birthday

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The City of Charlottesville and several non-profit groups are planning for the 250th anniversary of the town’s founding. In 1762, Charlottesville was formed as an outpost along the Three Notch’d Road between Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100517-CC-History

City Council has set aside $50,000 for a celebration to mark the event in 2012, according to city spokesman Ric Barrick. Staff have been meeting with community leaders and potential partners to discuss how to proceed.

Download Download Ric Barrick's staff report to council on the 250th anniversary

“This event should represent a broad range of historic views of all backgrounds and cultures in our city, and should look at both topics we are proud of and topics that we are not proud of,” said Barrick.

Charlottesville's history will come into focus during the 250th anniversary (Click for larger image)
On Monday, Council approved the formation of a committee to formally plan for the event, which Barrick said would need at least two years of preparation.  Ideas to commemorate the 250th anniversary include the new art celebrating history, collections of stories, new tourism initiatives, and documentaries.

Councilor Kristin Szakos said one outcome of the city’s ongoing dialogue on race will likely be a renewed emphasis on teaching Charlottesville’s history.

“This is a great opportunity to begin building that,” Szakos said. She also encouraged the city to focus on efforts to market the event internationally.

Mayor Dave Norris warned staff against not stepping on the toes of groups such at the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, who he said has already begun planning for the event. Council directed staff to form a small group to assess current efforts to prepare for 2012.

“I just want to make sure this is all coordinated so that we can maximize the resources we do have,” Norris said.

Editor's note:  Charlottesville Tomorrow hosts the community wiki cvillepedia.org which is a public repository for local news, information and history that all community members and organizations can utilize.