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.


Belmont Bridge Looking North

An Image from our Historic Collection

Posted on September 19, 2018

F rom our Collection of Historic Images comes this rarely seen image looking north across the Belmont Bridge. We believe this picture was taken at some point in the mid to late 1930s. The original wooden bridge replaced a graded railroad crossing in 1905, connecting the east end of downtown Charlottesville over the Chesapeake & Ohio tracks to the fast-growing Belmont neighborhood— a planned community named for the sprawling, 550-plus-acre Belle-Mont estate that had occupied that area throughout the 19th century. The c.1800 Belle-Mont manor house survives today as an apartment building.

In 1891 developers with the Belmont Land Company began selling parcels in the area for home sites and businesses. The growing neighborhood was linked to Downtown, West Main, the University and Fry’s Spring by a network of electric trolley cars (which were decommissioned in 1935 and initially replaced by four buses). In 1961 a new four-lane, Eisenhower-era highway bridge was installed to replace the original. And a third iteration of the Belmont Bridge is now being planned by the City.

In this photo you can see the 1926 Monticello Hotel in the upper right. The historic hotel opened just two years after Monticello opened as a memorial to Thomas Jefferson and offered tours to the public. In 1973 the hotel was converted to office space and the Monticello Plaza Condominiums, and was re-branded as “500 Court Square.”

According to our research, the three-story brick building in the center was home to “Valentine & Hull, Dealers in Quality Coal, Dry Wood, Building Material, Telephone 1193.” That was located in an industrial part of town that had long been home to the C&O rail yard. We believe most of that building was razed well before construction of the 1961 Belmont Bridge.



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