Rufus Holsinger (1866-1930) took this photo of “Midway” looking east on March 7, 1917. This part of town at the crest of Vinegar Hill along the historic Three Notch’d Road (later West Main Street) was known throughout the 19th and early 20th century as Midway or sometimes Midway Square (being roughly mid-way between the original downtown Charlottesville at Court Square and the University of Virginia, which opened March 7, 1825). This photo was taken two years before the Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea statue was installed. The busy street trolley tracks are visible on the left, which covered much of Charlottesville from the 1880s to the 1930s. The 1894 Midway School is in the center (built on the site of the historic 1818 Midway Hotel). This school served the City’s white children, elementary through high school, while African-American children attended the nearby Jefferson School. A new McGuffey Graded School opened in 1916, and the Midway School thereafter became more commonly known as Lane High School, after teacher and school superintendent James Waller Lane. That school was replaced by the more modern Lane High School down the hill (today’s County Office Building), which opened in 1940 and was not replaced by today’s Charlottesville High School until 1974. The 1894 Midway School building later became municipal office space until 1966. The building was razed in 1973, and in 1977 became the site of the Midway Manor Senior Housing complex. (photo is courtesy of the Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia.


“With a thousand others”

P.Q. and the Letter of February 1829

Posted on May 25, 2018

I t was the first mention of the formation of an organization dedicated to the study of local history in Central Virginia. It came on Saturday, February 7, 1829 in the pages of the Virginia Advocate, a short-lived weekly newspaper serving the town of Charlottesville.

Written by someone identified only as “P.Q.,” the letter to the editors proposed the creation of a “literary and historical society in our neighborhood.” The author makes clear the impetus for such a group would be not only the rich history of the area and of Virginia, but specifically the recent founding of the nearby University.  Despite the impressive and on-going work of historians and scholars at UVA, the Albemarle County Historical Society wasn’t founded until many years later, in the spring of 1940. And it’s interesting to note that organizational meetings that led to that founding were held at the University Library. So our organization’s ties to the University of Virginia certainly go back to the very beginning. The historic 1829 letter by “P.Q” reads in part:

GENTLEMEN: I have been surprised that no effort has been made to organize a literary and historical society in our neighborhood, since the establishment of the University. The members of that institution, with others, who would probably unite in such a scheme, might form a society which would be a source of amusement and instruction to themselves, and the public. The materials for such an association, would not be wanting, if you would enlist the talents of the Faculty and Students of our University — of its Visitors, and of those men of education, within a circle of fifty, or even an hundred miles, who are qualified to impart interest or lustre to so worth an enterprise.”

Besides underscoring the central place of the University in such an effort, P.Q. also made clear the topics such an organization might study: “Very little light has been shed on the history of our State. The investigation and preservation of those abundant materials which exist, on this subject alone, would richly compensate the pains that would be necessarily employed in the task. The field of inquiry is extensive and diversified. It embraces the melancholy and mysterious fate of the aborigines of this country — their habits, languages, traditions, &c. &c. — the natural phenomena of North America, the history of the migration and original settlements of our ancestors, their Colonial intercourse with the mother country, their growth from a handful of adventurers to a powerful and independent Commonwealth, the peculiarities of their laws and civil polity — the development of those vast moral and physical resources which time has subjected to our control. These, with a thousand others, are the subjects on which curiosity might dwell with intense interest. … I should be glad, Messrs. Editors, if you would encourage this suggestion, if you think it deserves consideration, and call the attention of your readers to the subject.   P.Q.”

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