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.


“The Making of a Mall

The True Story Behind Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall

Posted on May 22, 2018

F rom the 2010 edition of the Magazine of Albemarle County History comes this incredibly well researched back story about Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. Architectural Historian Sarita Herman (now at the University of Virginia) connects the dots between the destruction of the Vinegar Hill community, the multiple iterations of a proposed design for a controversial pedestrian Mall, and what happened next.

One of the takeaways is certainly the fact that Charlottesville, due to budget restraints and perhaps other factors, did not build the full proposal that the design team offered. To this day, much of that visionary design remains completely unrealized. The City cherry picked Lawrence Halprin’s proposed design and built only some of the aspects of the original plan. Halprin had proposed a Mall that connected neighborhoods (including public housing neighborhoods) in the City Center. But Charlottesville created instead a pedestrian island in an urban setting. It is fascinating the extent to which the original unrealized plan can powerfully inform some of the very designs and development challenges with which the Charlottesville community is now faced. Read it all for yourself here OR click on the image at right. The article includes rarely seen images of the design. Enjoy!

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