Changing Face of West Main: Midway, 1917

getStaticImage-1 - Version 2This is “Midway” in Charlottesville, late winter, 1917. Today, this is the location where Ridge-McIntire Road meets West Main Street at the Lewis and Clark Monument.  That monument would be erected in the island park seen here just two years later.  It was one of several to be donated to the city by Paul Goodloe McIntire.

There is much worth taking a closer look at in the above photograph.  Most prominent is the Midway School, which served as a public school from the late 19th Century until Lane High School opened in 1940.

getStaticImage-30This photo from around the same time shows a class (perhaps graduating class?) standing on the steps in front of the school. This photograph, from Special Collections at UVA Library, is undated and unidentified but C’ville Images places the date probably between 1917 and 1919 based on the clothes and other elements in the photo.  We also have no doubt that this is the Midway School (west entrance) based on the architectural elements.  A young woman in the front row is holding a magazine called “The Bumble Bee” which was the school’s magazine at least through some of the years at Lane High School.

IMG_5037In the center of the top photograph is a horse-watering fountain identical to this one still standing on Court Square, a few blocks away. In the era when many citizens and businesses still used horse-drawn vehicles, these fountains were a necessary public service.

getStaticImage-1A sign posted on the utility pole reads: “Speed Limit 15 Miles – 6 Miles Around Corners – Mufflers Must Not Be Opened”

getStaticImage-2We have not been able to locate any photographs of the dedication of the Lewis and Clark Monument but this image from several years later (undated, but our guess is early 1940s) shows the monument in place and the buildings on the north side of West Main Street appearing much as they would have in the late 1910s. The City Manager at this time, Seth Burnley, is seen on the right in the light-colored suit. The group is posing with a newly-acquired street sweeper.

IMG_4165This is the same view as the previous image, 70 years later.

getStaticImage-1 2This view, taken on the same day in 1917 as the top image, shows the buildings on the north side of West Main on the right.  The car seen here, we believe, belonged to the photographer, Rufus Holsinger.

getStaticImage-1Two architectural features are seen on the horizon in the top image: a steeple (just beyond the fountain) and a bell tower (above the Pepsi-Cola sign), both of which are now long gone.

getStaticImage-1 3The steeple belongs to this Methodist church which stood on Second Street, SW until the congregation built their current location on East Jefferson Street around 1925.

getStaticImage-10The bell tower belonged to this firehouse on Water Street that stood until the Charlottesville Fire Department built a new firehouse on Ridge Street.

getStaticImage-3 2Yet another angle of Midway taken on the same day in 1917, this one looks southwest and includes Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Ridge Street as well as the newly-built Charlottesville and Albemarle Railway Company office building on the corner.  Midway School is out of view to the left.  A sign posted on this utility pole reads: “Do Not Spit On Sidewalk – Fine $1-$5 – Board of Health”

IMG_4152This is the same view as the previous image, nearly 95 years later.

getStaticImage-1 - Version 4One final point worth noting in the 1917 photograph is the trolley tracks running through the brick pavement. The trolley system connected Downtown Charlottesville with the University of Virginia and at one point went as far as Fry’s Spring Beach Club. The street car system was in operation from the 1880s through the 1930s.

getStaticImage-17 - Version 2This photograph shows the interior of a streetcar from the 1910s.

EPSON MFP imageThe Midway School Building was used from 1940 through 1972 for a variety of city services and other offices. This photo, by Ed Roseberry, shows it just prior to demolition.

ERApr1972DemoMidwayThis last image shows  the demolition of the building in April of 1972.  An apartment complex would be built here that still stands today.

 All images by Rufus Holsinger except: the street sweeper photo and firehouse photo, by Ralph Holsinger, the 1972 photos by Edwin Roseberry, and the current day photos by Steve Trumbull.  The Holsinger photographs are courtesy Special Collections, UVA Library.

Leave a Reply