Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Charlottesville, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Greater Downtown

 
 
Greater Downtown Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, April 9, 2021
1. Greater Downtown Marker
Inscription.  
Welcome to Historic Charlottesville
Charlottesville's rich historic legacy creates the City's unique sense of place and represent one of its primary economic and cultural asset. The City's character-defining historic resources include the Downtown neighborhoods, featuring the Pedestrian Mall and Court Square; the University of Virginia and its environs, encompassing the University Corner and Venable neighborhood; and West Main Street, a historic transportation route connecting Downtown with the University. Other historic neighborhoods include Ridge Street, Fifeville-Tonsler, Oakhurst Circle, Woolen Mills, Martha Jefferson, and Fry's Spring. The City's historic preservation program strives to protect these resources through a combination of regulations, education, and incentives such as tax credits.

Downtown Mall (East and West Main Street)
Economic activity in Charlottesville originally centered on Court Square, however, Main Street emerged during the mid-19th century as the social and commercial heart of the City. After a century of prosperity, downtown business declined due to new suburban centers

Greater Downtown Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, April 9, 2021
2. Greater Downtown Marker
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and roads that moved activity to the perimeter of the city. During the early 1970's, a pedestrian mall was designed for Main Street by Lawrence Halprin & Associates. The first five blocks of East Main Street were "pedestrianized" in 1976. Two blocks on West Main Street were extended in 1981. The west end in front of the Omni hotel was completed in 1985. The east end with transit center, amphitheater, and free expression monument were built in 2006. The entire mall was refurbished in 2009. Today, the Downtown Mall is the City's entertainment and commercial center and a popular place to live. Both Main Street and Market Street retain many late 19th century and early 20th century commercial structures.

Midtown (West Main Street)
West Main Street was part of an important 18th century Virginia transportation route, the "Three Notch'd Road," that connected the Tidewater region to the Shenandoah Valley. By the early 20th century, West Main Street was the main hotel district and commercial corridor with twelve service stations and six car dealerships. This area also developed as the institutional core of Charlottesville's African american community, including the Delevan (First Baptist) and Ebenezer Baptist Churches and Jefferson School. Further east, Vinegar Hill, an African American residential area and primary commercial center, was razed in 1964 for an urban

Greater Downtown Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, April 9, 2021
3. Greater Downtown Marker
renewal project. West Main Street remains the primary urban connector between the University of Virginia and Downtown. Its historic roots are still evident in the busy Amtrak and bus stations, new hotel buildings, and adaptive use of historic auto buildings for restaurants and retail shops.

Warehouse District
The intersection of two railroads contributed to the prosperity of Charlottesville. The railroad activity led to warehouses and industrial buildings being constructed along the tracks, including the Water Street, South Street, and Garrett Street areas. An older African American residential area, near Garrett Street, was cleared in 1967 to create public housing. Historic buildings that housed early Charlottesville businesses are still identifiable, such as the King Warehouses, Norcross Transfer and Storage, Brown Milling company, H.M. Gleason Co. farm supply warehouse, Matacia Fruit Company, the Albemarle Grocery Company (pink warehouse), and the Frank Ix & Sons textile factory. These buildings have been revitalized with new businesses, offices, and residential units that can be accessed from Second Street SE.

North Downtown and Court Square
Charlottesville was established as the county seat for Albemarle in 1761 and, a 50-acre town grid was laid out adjacent to a wooden courthouse. That original courthouse was replaced by a

Greater Downtown Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, April 9, 2021
4. Greater Downtown Marker
brick building in 1803, still visible as the rear wing of a larger building. During the late 18th century, Court Square was a hub of community, religious and political activity. By 1835, the area included two hundred mostly brick houses, four churches, three hotels, a tavern, and other businesses. The old Albemarle County Jail, built in 1875, still stands. In 1918, the McKee Block, a lively, mixed-use street was purchased and demolished by Paul Goodloe McIntire to create Jackson Park. Court Square is now occupied by offices and inns, accessed from Fifth Street NE. North downtown includes a large area of mostly 19th century homes.

Downtown Belmont
The Belmont neighborhood was developed as a suburb of Charlottesville, similar to other established City neighborhoods. "Downtown Belmont," Belmont's commercial area, is located along Monticello Road, near the original Belmont Mansion. Development south of the railroad tracks had been limited by sole access through a railroad underpass at 4th Street, built in 1883. However, upon completion of the Belmont Bridge in 1905, the neighborhood became directly linked to downtown Charlottesville by East Main Street. Belmont's commercial area started with a grocery store in 1907 and, as the number of Belmont residences and families grew, Clark School was built in 1931. A new Belmont Bridge was built in 1960, funneling traffic

A temporary sign sharing a history of Vinegar Hill image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, April 9, 2021
5. A temporary sign sharing a history of Vinegar Hill
away from "Downtown Belmont" and to the newly widened Monticello Avenue. Later, as the Downtown Mall grew in popularity, residential areas within walking distance to the mall became more desirable. Today, Belmont is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Charlottesville and its "downtown" is a destination for neighborhood events and stylish dining.

Woolen Mills
The Woolen Mills neighborhood was founded as a mill village in the early 19th century to take advantage of the water power generated by Moore's Creek and the Rivanna River. The Charlottesville Woolen Mills were built to become a major producer of cloth for uniforms from the late 19th century through the 1950's. The surviving mill buildings were built circa 1900, or during the 1920's - 1930's, on the foundations of earlier mills that date to the 1830's. Brick and frame dwellings in a range of styles were built as homes for generations of families working in the mills.

Carlton Road
The Carlton Road commercial area is located near the CSX railroad tracks, between Belmont and Woolen Mills Neighborhoods. A downtown pedestrian may reach this area by following East Water Street to City Walk to Carlton Road. The same CSX railroad tracks from east-west from West Main Street through the downtown Warehouse District, under Belmont Bridge and by Belmont Neighborhood, past Carlton Road,

An additional sign sharing the historical significance of Vinegar Hill image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, April 9, 2021
6. An additional sign sharing the historical significance of Vinegar Hill
and continue on through Woolen Mills Neighborhood. This area was originally developed with industrial uses, but has more recently become popular for its eating and drinking establishments.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansIndustry & CommerceRailroads & StreetcarsSettlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1976.
 
Location. 38° 1.848′ N, 78° 28.89′ W. Marker is in Charlottesville, Virginia. Marker is at the intersection of East Main Street and 1st Street South, in the median on East Main Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 102 1st St S, Charlottesville VA 22902, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Together We Grow (within shouting distance of this marker); Charlottesville (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Robert Edward Lee (about 500 feet away); Catholic Church of the Holy Comforter (about 700 feet away); First Baptist Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); Stone Tavern and Central Hotel (approx. 0.2 miles away); Paul Goodloe McIntire (approx. 0.2 miles away); Nelson Sanitorium (1895-1902) (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Charlottesville.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 11, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 11, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 30 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on April 11, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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May. 12, 2021