This school house was built at Midway (intersection of Ridge Street and West Main Street) in 1894 to serve as a public school for Charlottesville’s white children. Charlottesville was racially segregated until 1964 and African-American students attended nearby Jefferson School. The location of the school building was on the site of the Midway Hotel built in 1818. That building, according to architectural historian K. Edward Lay of the University of Virginia, was a four-story frame structure. The hotel would serve, along with other area hotels, as a hospital during the Civil War. More than 23,000 sick and wounded soldiers were treated in Charlottesville. There is a cemetery at UVA for the many Confederate soldiers who died here.
This postcard shows the school building, prior to April 1915 when the wood frame houses, partially seen on the right, were torn down to make room for an office building of the Charlottesville & Albemarle Railway Company. We also see horses, pulling wagons, stopped at a watering fountain in the middle of the intersection.
This is the only other image we have been able to find showing these structures before demolition. Unfortunately, they are mostly obscured but we believe they were residential properties. In the foreground, of course, is a trolley. The trolley tracks ran along Main Street but intersected here at Ridge Street to go the short block to the trolley garage. The garage was located just on the other side of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church, the steeple of which can be seen here.
This next postcard image shows a slightly different angle from Ridge Street. By the early 1910s serious over-crowding led to the construction of McGuffey School on Second Street, NW, between Market and High Streets. McGuffey would open in September 1916. Other primary schools would follow and the school at Midway would become Charlottesville’s high school (again, only for whites; blacks attended nearby Jefferson School on 4th Street).
This final postcard shows the school building after the Lewis and Clark monument was erected in 1919. Postcards from this era were often made from black and white photographs with color added for effect. Based on the tree growth compared to other pictures, this is probably the late 1920s or early 30s. It would remain a school until Lane High School was built a few blocks away in 1940. This building would then be used for city services such as the Health Department and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Lane High School was named for James W. Lane, long-time teacher and principal at the school at Midway, although, according to historian John Hammond Moore, the old school at Midway was sometimes referred to as “Lane High School” .
The postcards are from the Norris Collection. Former Charlottesville mayor and councilman Dave Norris was an avid collector of Charlottesville area postcards and his collection grew to over 800 over 15 years of collecting. The postcards are now part of the permanent collection at C’ville Images.
Thanks to journalist and historian Phil James for the article clipping from the Daily Progress (April 1, 1915)
Trolley photo by Rufus Holsinger, Holsinger Collection, Special Collections, UVA Library
Lane High School photograph by Ed Roseberry, circa 1968.