The 100 block of East Main Street, looking west toward the intersection of First and Main Streets. This image is from a postcard from more than a century ago. Note the building with columns on the left. A bank at the time, that location has been the Jefferson Theater for more than 100 years. The postcards of this era were created from black and white photographs that were colorized, giving them an almost cartoon look to today’s viewer. However, back then the color images were striking, making postcards favorite souvenirs and collectors’ items. Postcards were also a great way to send short messages relatively quickly, much the way we might use texts or emails today.
This next image, also from a postcard of the same period as the first one, shows the view looking toward First and Main, though this time from the west. We see the Leterman Company Building on the left and the Perley Building on the right. In the distance we again see the bank that would become the Jefferson Theater in 1912 and also in the far distance we can spot the tower (bell tower?) that was on the Charlottesville Hardware Store prior to 1909.
Today’s view is largely obscured by the trees but note the Leterman building on the left with a reconfiguring of the windows (the four middle bays now only two) when the building on the corner of First and Main (now Hamilton’s) was built circa 1914.
Another postcard view of the The Leterman Company at First and Main. Leterman’s was a department store with reportedly 50,000 square feet of floor space. A 1906 promotion of the establishment read, “Aside from apparel, they have complete assortment of carpets, mattings, oilcloths, notions, toilet articles, fancy goods, etc.” The awning out front, seen in this image, boasted simply “The Big Store.”
This next postcard was produced from the original black and white negative and not colorized. The view looks east on Main Street from the base of Vinegar Hill, the west end of today’s downtown mall, just two blocks from First and Main. Many of the buildings seen in this view are still preserved today. The brick building at the left with the three windows on the second story is the Mudhouse coffee shop today. The building in the distance with the ornamental dome is the aforementioned Leterman Building. Interestingly, Main Street was first paved with bricks (as seen here). It was a dirt street prior to this. Asphalt would come a few years later and then Main Street would return to bricks in the 1970s as the pedestrian mall we know today. An electric trolley (also seen in this photo) ran down the street in the early 20th Century and continued to the University.
This current day photo gives a close approximation of the same view. Again note the unpainted brick building on the left with the three windows. The trim window and brick detailing of the cornice is still intact a century later.
Postcard Images are from the Norris Collection at C’ville Images.
Current Day photos by Steve Trumbull © 2014