Something of a tradition for C’ville Images, Thanksgiving Day was spent, in part, wandering down Main Street in Charlottesville. This holiday is one of the quietest days of the year and the traffic is at a minimum, allowing for a rare opportunity to photograph many of the buildings without cars in the way. This is West Main Street looking east from near the traffic light at Jefferson Park Avenue.
A century ago West Main Street was a more residential section of town between the bustling downtown area and the Academical Village of Jefferson’s University. A number of shops and business were located here but so were single-family homes. Very few of the houses remain here from that part of history. However, in the 500 block there are these two structures still standing, although they currently have commercial uses rather than residential. The house on the right was built circa 1870 and 100 years ago was owned by Dr. Jay C. Coulter who had his office in the small addition to the left of the front porch.
This short alley is on West Main near 5th Street. For a few decades in the middle of the Twentieth Century the buildings seen here served the automobile industry: a service station on the right and a car dealership on the left. Today the buildings are all about food: a restaurant on the right and gourmet shops, a seafood market, and restaurants in the buildings to the left.
The area where Ridge Street meets West Main has historically been known as “Midway.” This was the top of Vinegar Hill, the commercial section of a predominantly African American neighborhood in the first half of the 1900s. A new hotel is now underway here. The Lewis and Clark Statue (seen here) has stood on the island in the middle of the street for 95 years.
Another recent and major addition to West Main Street is the 7-story Battle Building at UVA Children’s Hospital. With 200,000 square feet, an innovative design, and an extensive list of pediatric services, this prominent building is located near Jefferson Park Avenue. The site was once the home of a small hotel called the Dolley Madison Inn. According to architectural historian Ed Lay, the inn opened in 1920 in a refurbished 1850s house.
The black and white tile on the front porch of the old Hotel Albemarle has survived since the early 1900s. The hotel is no longer in operation and smaller businesses, including the Quest Bookshop, use the space today.
In the 700 block of West Main Street stands this building which stands out from its neighbors because of the painted metal-clad facade that only a few buildings around Charlottesville still have. We are not certain of the date of this building but this architectural element was in use elsewhere in town in the 1890s. This building has been used over the decades as everything from a meat market to a church to a day-labor office. The famous Charlottesville photographer, Rufus Holsinger housed his studio in a building (now gone) a couple of doors to the left of this one.
The west end of West Main Street becomes University Avenue and the few blocks of this section of the street are known as The Corner with shops and restaurants mostly serving the university. On Thanksgiving morning the typically-busy Corner is almost completely void of people and cars.
All photos by Steve Trumbull, © 2014-2015 C’ville Images