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ABOUT THIS PHOTO

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.

Tunnel Talk and Tour

A Special Event with Historian and Author Mary Lyons

Posted on October 8, 2018

 

W e were so proud to host author and historian Mary Lyons this past Saturday, October 6 at the Crozet Library for a standing-room-only talk about the history of the Virginia Railroad and Crozet’s Blue Ridge Tunnel, which was built between 1850 and 1858. It was a fascinating look at a little-known story. Mary’s dedication to this research and al the years of hard work that she has invested in telling these stories is a treasure for us all. Our sincere thanks to Mary, the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library and Librarian Haley Tompkins for making this wonderful event possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary’s talk was followed by an unforgettable visit to the historic Blue Ridge Tunnel in Afton. This was actually only one of four tunnels built in the 1850s to move the new railroad through the Blue Rige. Closed to the public since 1944 when another tunnel was built, this was a rare and wonderful opportunity to see this historic landmark. It was built by hand over nearly a decade by thousands of Irish immigrants fleeing famine in Ireland and hundreds of enslaved African Americans, fifteen of whom died during construction. The deadly work was done by clearing the granite rock with ignited black power — a decade before the invention of dynamite. When it was completed in 1858 it was the longest tunnel in America, at over 4,200 feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 50 yards of the tunnel at the entrance was flooded with recent rains, but beyond that it was mostly dry. Our thanks to Paul Collinge, Nelson County and the Friends of the Blue Ridge Tunnel who helped make this one-time tour happen — and all of whom are working so hard to make the tunnel a public park, linking Waynesboro to Afton by a greenway trail through the tunnel. The plan is for the park to serve as a memorial to the thousands of men and boys who worked under deadly conditions (and some in slavery) to build the railroad and tunnels. Mary’s free public talk is part of an all-new “Community Speakers Series,” generous sponsored by Tuel Jewelers. Click here to learn more about our new free public lectures, and take a look at the Calendar for upcoming events.

 

Click here to visit our Facebook page for more photos!

Click here to watch news coverage of this event on CBS19.


 

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