Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District
The Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District was nominated for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. Text below was selected and adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†]
Located within the south-central city limits of Charlottesville, Virginia, the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District encompasses a 56-acre residential area that developed primarily during the period from 1890 to 1930. Several dwellings dating from the mid-19th century are also included and help tell the story of the district's growth and evolution from primarily an undeveloped agricultural area to a densely populated collection of residential buildings. The majority of the buildings were occupied by middle-class blue-collar workers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The eastern portion of the district did not have a formal plan, as evidenced by the irregularity of the street layout and the lot configuration. It evolved from early-19th-century landholdings from which small parcels were carved and developed by individuals over the course of the middle decades of the 19th century. In contrast, the western portion of the district was essentially developed all at one time, being part of a large farm that was subdivided into lots in the late 1880s. By 1900 both these areas were densely developed and contained dwellings with common architectural features, thus visually tying together the two neighborhoods.
The Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District boundaries have been drawn to capture the largest concentration of historic resources dating from 1822 to 1957 in this residential area south of West Main Street. The vast majority of buildings are 2-story frame dwellings and their associated outbuildings. A few commercial buildings stand in the district, along with one church located on the south side of West Main Street, and a former brickyard site along the southern end of the district. Ninety percent of the 273 properties within the district contain main buildings that contribute to the historic and architectural significance of the district. Eight of the properties contain primary buildings that date from the pre-Civil War era; 198 have resources that date from the era of Reconstruction to ca. 1915; 16 have ones from the 1920s; 4 have ones from the 1930s; 11 have ones from the 1940s; and 11 have ones from 1950 to 1957. The remaining 25 properties, representing less than 10% of all the properties, date from the last four decades of the 1900s up to 2006. The unusually small percentage of non-contributing resources, mostly modern outbuildings, is a testament to the exceptionally high level of architectural integrity and visual cohesiveness in this district.
Although the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District contains several examples of high-style architecture, most of the buildings are vernacular interpretations of common architectural forms of the period such as the I-house, the side-passage form, and the L- and T-shaped forms. Ten different architectural forms frequently used throughout the district were identified, suggesting they were built at around the same time and perhaps by the same builder or builders. Although most of these dwellings exhibit limited stylistic exterior detailing, these vernacular forms are often ornamented with Victorian-era decorative features such as corbelled brick chimneys, gable-end returns, steeply-pitched central-front gables, bracketed eaves, plain wide friezeboards, and sawn and turned woodwork in the porch detailing. While most of the buildings in the district are of frame construction, approximately 20 are brick, some of which were built with brick from the brickyard in the neighborhood. In addition, the vast majority of the buildings in the district have brick foundations and brick chimneys or flues.
The area defined as the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District is essentially laid out in a grid pattern, with streets running north-south and east-west. The lots in the western part of the district are generally uniform in size, with concrete sidewalks lining one or both sides of the street. The lots in the eastern part of the district are smaller than the ones in the western part, although some of the properties laid out in the mid-19th-century consist of larger lots. The irregular development of the lots in the eastern portion created narrow streets, many of which are one-way with no room for sidewalks. Parking is generally along the street, although many properties contain side gravel or paved driveways. The rolling terrain in the eastern portion of the district also affected the siting of buildings, some of which stand below the grade of the street. Many of the houses sited above the grade of the street feature concrete or stone retaining walls along the front yards. The set back of dwellings along the residential streets throughout the district is fairly uniform with small front yards that allow for larger rear yards that often contain outbuildings. Nearly all the dwellings have front porches and a few contain stoops. Mature vegetation characterizes most of the yards with shrubbery and small ornamental trees in the front yard and larger trees in the rear. The few commercial buildings within the district have little or no set back from the sidewalk or street, nor do some of the houses along the narrower roads, such as 6 1/2 Street.
The Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District is located in an area of the City of Charlottesville that is generally bounded by the C & O Railroad tracks to the north, the rear property lines of lots along the west side of Ridge Street to the east, Cherry Avenue to the south, and Spring Street to the west. The district contains a distinct collection of fairly uniform residential buildings constructed between 1890 and 1930 primarily as middle-class workers' housing. These resources, which also include a handful of commercial buildings, generally retain a high degree of architectural integrity as does the streetscape of the neighborhood. Several larger dwellings, as well as the site of a former brickyard and an African-American church, also help to explain the district's history. The 56-acre Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District has very few modern intrusions and retains a remarkable degree of architectural integrity. The district contains 264 contributing buildings, 3 contributing sites, and 70 non-contributing buildings and 1 non-contributing site. Five buildings in the district were previously listed on the National Register either individually or as part of the Charlottesville Multiple Resource Area nomination (1983).
From a historic perspective, the district is divided into two areas that developed differently, although both were once large rural tracts located on the edge of Charlottesville. The western portion, eventually known as Fifeville, developed systematically in a relatively short period of time in the late 1880s, when it was subdivided into lots from a portion of the farm known as Oak Lawn. The eastern boundary of the subdivision, known originally as Fife's Lots, ran along the rear property lines of the parcels along the east side of 7 1/2 Street, a thoroughfare depicted as Fry's Street on the 1888 plat. The main streets running east-west through Fifeville are Grove, Estes, King, and Nalle and the major north-south routes are 9th and 7 1/2 streets. The area east of 7 1/2 Street was not laid out into lots all at one time, but evolved over several decades of the mid- and late 19th century, explaining their somewhat irregular sizes. Although not as regularized as the western portion, this eastern area, named Castle Hill by some local residents, retains a grid pattern of streets that include 4th, 5th, 6th, 6 1/2 , and 7th streets running north-south, and Oak, Dice, and Delevan streets running east-west.
Architecturally, the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District contains a collection of primarily 2-story, residential, frame buildings that tell the story of the growth and development of this area that was home to middle-class workers from the mid-19th century to the present. Although the western and eastern areas developed differently, they share a strong architectural character that links them together visually. The district's historic architecture is essentially vernacular and fairly uniform in size, materials, and profile. At least 10 types of common architectural forms were identified, most of which are found in both the eastern and western portions of the district, suggesting that not only were they built at the same time but probably by the same builder or builders. The district also contains some fine examples of the popular architectural styles of the period including the Classical Revival, Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival and Craftsman styles.
The earliest historic resource in the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District, Oak Lawn, was individually listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and stands at the southwest corner of the intersection of 9th Street SW and Cherry Avenue. Containing approximately 5 1/2 acres, the setting of Oak Lawn remains surprisingly rural despite its urban location. Constructed in 1822, the main house is comprised of a 2-story, 3-bay brick central block flanked by slightly recessed 1-story brick wings and is an accomplished example of Jeffersonian Palladianism. Oak Lawn is certainly the most elegant and largest dwelling in the district with its brick walls laid in Flemish bond above a water table of 3-course American bond with molded quarter-round bricks.
Built for Col. Nimrod Bramham, a Charlottesville merchant who served in the House of Delegates, the design and construction of Oak Lawn are attributed to James Dinsmore, a Scots-Irish master carpenter who worked on Monticello and the University of Virginia after being brought to Charlottesville by Thomas Jefferson, and is a skillful interpretation of Jefferson's Classical architectural ideas. After Bramham's death in 1847, the property passed to the Fife family, who sold off much of it including the 1888 subdivision of Fife's Lots. The remaining acreage is still owned by members of the Fife family and includes the main house, a brick cook's cottage, and two family cemeteries.
The other early dwellings in the district are located in the eastern portion on land that was once held by a very few landowners and eventually subdivided over the middle and last decades of the 19th century. These houses are primarily of brick construction and are more ornate than the majority of other dwellings in the district constructed later in the century. The house at 418 5th Street SW, known as the Hawkins-Wondree House, was built by local master builder and brickmason Allen Hawkins in 1832 as his home, a 3-bay, 1-story, side-passage-plan dwelling with an exterior-end brick chimney and mousetooth brick cornice. The walls of the Federal-style dwelling are laid in Flemish bond on the faćade and 5-course American bond on the sides and rear. The exterior brick chimney that originally stood on the south end of the house was incorporated into the side, 1-bay, 1-story brick wing added in 1892 and laid in a 7-course American bond pattern. The small brick house is one of the best preserved 19th-century dwellings in the district.
The Barksdale-Totty House, located at 402 Dice Street, is another early brick house within the district. Its vernacular form, an I-house with a central-front gable, is common to some of the other mid-19th-century dwellings in the area and was a very popular form for dwellings in the region as a whole. This is one of several houses in the area constructed by builder Allen Hawkins, who lived along 5th Street at the Hawkins-Wondree House. Others include the Hawkins-Wheeler House at 406 Oak Street, and perhaps the core of the dwelling at 418 Oak Street. Significantly set back from the street, the Barksdale-Totty House stands above the grade of Dice Street at its junction with 4th Street. The front of the 2-story, 3-bay dwelling is laid in Flemish-bond brick, while the rear and sides are laid in a 7-course-American-with-Flemish-bond. A rear 1-story brick wing is laid in 8-course American- with-Flemish-bond and has a mousetooth brick cornice. Victorian decorative elements include the central-front gable, a 4-light transom and sidelights around the front door, overhanging eaves with a plain bracketed frieze, two interior-end brick chimneys, and gable-end returns.
The Brand-Edwards House at 205 5th Street SW, similar in design to the Barksdale-Totty House, is also a brick I-house with a central-front gable. Constructed in the mid-1850s by Chiles M. Brand, the 2-story, 3-bay house features brick walls laid in a 7-course-American-with-Flemish-bond pattern on the front and in a 7-course American bond pattern on the sides and rear. The house is a mild Victorian interpretation of a vernacular I-house and features deeply overhanging eaves, a plain freizeboard, two interior-end brick chimneys with corbelled caps, a transom over the front door, and a split-level brick foundation. The 3-bay Colonial Revival-style front porch was probably added in 1922 when the 2-story, brick rear wing was built.
The Shelton-Fuller House at 301 5th Street SW is the third of this group of fairly large vernacular brick I-houses constructed in the mid-19th century on land in the eastern part of the district. Constructed ca. 1870 by John Fry, probably on speculation, the 2-story, 3-bay brick dwelling features a faćade laid in a 7-course-American-with-Flemish-bond pattern and the side and rear walls and raised brick foundation laid in 7-course American bond. The house is an example of a fairly ornate Victorian interpretation of the common vernacular I-house form and has a bellcast standing-seam metal gabled roof, deeply overhanging bracketed eaves, a central front gable, 2/2-sash wood windows, two semi-exterior-end brick chimneys that pierce through the eaves, and a 5-light transom and 3-light sidelights around the front door. Both the projecting polygonal front bay window and the 1-bay front porch have mansard roofs. The use of a shallow mansard roof as a decorative element on a porch or projecting bay window was observed on approximately 15 dwellings in the district. This late-19th-century Victorian feature is somewhat unique to this area of Charlottesville and may be associated with a particular builder, who as of this time has not been identified.
The Shackelford-Bannister House at 513 Dice Street stands on a large lot on the north side of Dice Street at its junction with 6th Street. The 2-story, 3-bay, frame I-house has recently been renovated and is one of the few examples in the district of a vernacular interpretation of the Greek Revival style. The house, originally 1 1/2 stories, features a shallow-pitched hipped roof, weatherboard siding, a brick foundation, and exterior brick chimneys on each end that pierce the eaves of the building. The original front of the house faces west, on what would have been an extension of 6th Street, and features 4-light sidelights around the 4-paneled front door and a 1-bay pedimented portico.
Other mid-19th-century dwellings in the district include the Barksdale-Coles-Hailstalk House on 5th Street SW, a stuccoed, frame vernacular building, and two houses on 4th Street SW: 223 4th Street SW, and 402-406 4th Street SW. Both of the houses along 4th Street are in a relatively poor state of repair, and represent the handful of surviving modest dwellings in this part of Charlottesville constructed shortly after the Civil War by African Americans. The house at 223 4th Street SW is a 1 1/2 -story frame building constructed in at least three sections that began as a 1-bay dwelling and quickly developed into a 2-bay, side-passage form. The house at 402-406 4th Street is also a 1 1/2 -story, 2-bay, frame vernacular dwelling with several later alterations.
Both 406 and 410 Dice Street are well-preserved frame houses constructed in the mid-1870s by African Americans. The house at 406 Dice Street was built around 1874 by Tyree Thomas who purchased the lot in 1871 and sold half to Elijah Thomas, who constructed the house next door at 410 Dice Street the following year. The Tyree Thomas House is an excellent example of a vernacular interpretation of the Gothic Revival style. While this 2-bay, gable-roof with a central-front-gable form was identified in three other houses within the district, two of which are located on 5th Street and one on Oak Street, this is the most decorative of the group. The two bays are not centered within the faćade, while the prominent central-front gable is, giving the building an unusual appearance. The weatherboard siding, the brick pier with infill foundation, 6/6-sash wood windows, central brick flue, plain friezeboard, overhanging eaves, and the gable window crowns supported by brackets are all original. The 3-bay front porch has a shallow mansard roof, turned posts and plain pickets and may have been remodeled because it covers the first-floor window and door hoods.
The original ca. 1875 section of the house at 410 Dice Street is the 2-story, 2-bay, side-passage-plan portion constructed by Elijah Thomas. The recessed 2-story, 1-bay side wing was built about two years later and gives the house its current 3-bay, center-passage form. Both sections of the house are unified by the 3-bay hip-roofed front porch with turned posts and plain pickets. One of a series of vernacular frame houses built by free blacks along this part of Dice Street, it well illustrates how many of these dwellings that began as fairly modest buildings were expanded as family needs grew and funds allowed.
One of the district's best examples of the additive quality of some of these early African-American dwellings can be seen at the Benjamin Tonsler House located at 327 6th Street SW. The frame house is also notable as it combines architectural elements of the Italianate, Second Empire, and Gothic Revival, all popular Romantic styles of the period, into a unique vernacular adaptation unlike any other in the district. The house was constructed between 1875 and 1879 and had attained this basic configuration when it appeared on the 1907 Sanborn Map. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Charlottesville Multiple Resource Area District, the house was constructed by Benjamin Tonsler, a very prominent local black citizen who was the principal of Jefferson School from 1895 until 1917. The asymmetrical dwelling is comprised of a 1 1/2 -story, 2-bay, gable-roofed main block with an off-center gable- roofed front wall dormer that pierces through the overhanging eaves and gives the house its Gothic Revival aspect. This section contains the front entrance door which is topped by a 2-light transom. The walls are stuccoed and the standing-seam-metal roof contains a central brick chimney. A 3-bay hip-roofed front porch is supported by turned posts, typical of many mid-to-late-19th-century Victorian-era styles. A visually prominent 2-story, 1-bay tower with a mansard roof projects forward along the northeast side of the main block, lending Second Empire and Italianate elements to the dwelling. Locally the house was referred to as "The Castle" which is likely the source of the name Castle Hill for this neighborhood. This reference probably alluded to the castle-like quality of the corner tower.
The Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District contains only one institutional building, which stands on the south side of West Main Street at the northern boundary of the district. The cornerstone of the Delevan Baptist Church was laid in 1877 and the building completed in 1883. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Charlottesville Multiple Resource Area nomination, the building features a projecting brick square entrance tower topped by an octagonal wooden lantern on a square base. The 6-bay sides of the brick church contain double-hung, round-arched stained-glass windows and a corbelled brick cornice articulated by projecting piers that also serve to buttress the high walls. The Delevan Baptist Church is directly related to the African-American community that was growing in the eastern portion of the district by the 1870s and is a significant contributing resource and visual landmark.
Several dwellings constructed in the 1880s are located in the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District, including two similar vernacular brick houses located near the northern end of 7th Street just south of its junction with the railroad tracks. The Hawkins-Lee House at 204 7th Street SW is a 2-story, 2-bay, side-passage-plan, gable-roofed brick building that is nearly identical to the one next door at 208 7th Street. Both dwellings are laid in a 7-course American-with-Flemish bond brick on the faćade and are 2 bays wide on the first floor and 1-bay wide at the second, with the second-floor window opening lining up with the first-floor window. City records reveal both of these houses were constructed by James B. Hawkins, who later sold them to local African Americans.
Research has revealed that while a fairly large number of the citizens living in the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District during the late 19th and early 20th centuries worked on the railroad or at other service jobs, many were also employed as carpenters, brickmasons, or other building tradesmen. Although specific craftsman could not usually be matched with individual houses, the district inarguably contains a repetition of architectural forms and decorative detailing that strongly suggests that similar houses were constructed by one or more of the same builders. An architectural survey identified ten prominent building forms repeated throughout the district that date to ca. 1890-1920. The majority are vernacular interpretations of popular architectural styles, while only a handful can be categorized as high style. This phenomenon is directly related to the fact that the most of the dwellings in the Fifeville-Caste Hill area were built for the working class who could not necessarily afford large ornate dwellings. The references to popular high styles are made in the use of central-front gables, a form that comes from the Gothic Revival; varying roof lines, projecting bays, and various cladding materials suggesting the Queen Anne style; and overhanging eaves with bracketed cornices that look to the Italianate style. The unusual detail of a mansard roof on the front porch or projecting bay recalls the Second Empire style and the use of turned spindles, balusters, and brackets on the front porches are typical of many of these Victorian-era styles.
The house at 1004 Grove Street is the only example in the district of the Queen Anne style. The large, 2-story, 4-bay, cross-gable-roofed, side-passage-plan, frame dwelling features a projecting, 2-story, front, cross-gabled, polygonal, cutaway bay with a pedimented gable end with wooden shingles, a rectangular attic vent, and a decorative vergeboard. The 1898 City Directory lists this as the home of C. G. Page, a conductor on the Southern Railroad, and his wife Lena. In addition, G. A. Ballew, a fireman on the railroad, boarded here at that time. The dwelling's builder is not known.
The Nalls House located at 224 9th Street SW was constructed by Jacob H. Nalls, a local building contractor who purchased three lots at the corner of Mansion Road (9th Street SW) and Nalle Street in 1885 and built several buildings there. Nalle Street, which runs along the south side of this house, was named for Nalls, who may have built many of the houses along that street as well. The 2-story, 2-bay, cross-gabled, frame dwelling retains much of its Victorian detailing, including a projecting front bay contained within the front porch, interior corbelled brick chimney, and a front porch supported by turned posts, with segmental arched bays that are formed by the double-pierced two-stage frieze with Eastlake-style detailing.
Another identified builder in the district is the bricklayer Eston B. Updike, whose family owned the Updike Brickyard, located nearby on Ridge Street. Updike and his brothers moved the operation to a location at the east end of Elm Street near its junction with 7 1/2 Street in the early 20th century. Eston Updike built his home at 417 7 1/2 Street SW in what is now called the Updike-Anthony House in 1897. The 2-story, 3-bay, brick, vernacular I-house features Victorian decorative elements including a hipped roof, a plain brick frieze, two central brick chimneys with corbelled caps, 2/2-sash wood windows with wooden sills and molded surrounds, and a double-leaf wood and glass front door. Four other brick dwellings on this block of 7 1/2 Street survive: two follow a hip-roofed double-pile-plan pattern; one is a hip-roofed single-pile plan with two central interior chimneys; and the last is an example of a Craftsman bungalow. All of these were developed by the Updike family, brick manufacturers and brick layers, and were presumably constructed for either members of the Updike family or prominent workers at the brickyard. In addition, several other brick dwellings in other areas of the district that date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries were probably built using Updike bricks and/or brickmasons.
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
The Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District, located south of the main railroad tracks and the primary retail and business thoroughfare in the City of Charlottesville, Virginia, is significant as a remarkably intact collection of primarily modest 19th-and early-20th-century dwellings associated with the development of the central Virginia community. So named for a large property owner, James Fife, whose estate was ultimately subdivided for residential use in 1888 and for the name used by some early African-American residents in the eastern portion of the area, the district stretches from 4th Street on the east to Spring Street on the west, incorporating the early development of one of Charlottesville's peripheral suburbs between downtown and the University of Virginia. The northern boundary is essentially the railroad right-of-way and the southern line is Cherry Avenue. The district well represents the typical evolution of agricultural land that bordered small 19th-century communities into planned and unplanned neighborhoods of mostly modest dwellings on small lots that ultimately were absorbed by the City. Several imposing 19th-century dwellings that were homes to early landowners in the area are scattered throughout the district. The district also retains a large collection of houses sited on small lots that served the middle-class blue collar workers who labored on the railroad in varying capacities as well as small business managers and provided manpower for the service, building and manufacturing industry in Charlottesville. A number of enterprising African-Americans lived at the eastern end of the district, including teachers, a school principal, business owners and preachers, along with laborers, craftsmen and laundresses. Included within the district's boundaries is the 1877-1883 First African Baptist Church (Delevan Church), the only surviving institutional building in the district. The Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District's history is particularly illuminating about the evolving relationship between the white and African-American communities in Charlottesville during the last years of the 19th and the first three decades of the 20th century. Examination of local land and population records and city ordinances reveal the initiation of Jim Crow laws and efforts to legalize residential segregation, a movement that was mirrored in other areas of Virginia and the South between 1890 and 1930. In addition to residential use, the district also features a few commercial structures and the site of a former brick yard. Only a scattering of commercial buildings stand in the district, the small number resulting from most such enterprises such as "eating houses," barber shops, hotels, and grocery stores, being located along Charlottesville's primary mercantile street, just north of the district in Vinegar Hill.
The district is eligible for nomination to the National Register under Criterion C as a remarkably intact collection of vernacular dwellings that draw from a variety of popular architectural styles and building traditions, with a very few number of non-contributing resources (mostly modern outbuildings). A relatively unchanged grid pattern and streetscape further substantiate the district's significance. The district is also eligible under Criterion A for its association with the growth of Virginia's premier university towns and its relationship with one of Charlottesville's leading African-American communities.
Likely the first documented reference to area that became Fifeville-Castle Hill dates from 1803 when Thomas Mann Randolph sold 448 acres to Alexander Garrett for 1,070 pounds. The parcel was located on the "Three Notched Road," an early road that paralleled present-day Route 250 and ran from Richmond to the Blue Ridge. In Charlottesville, it ultimately became "Main Street." Garrett also received an additional parcel of 600 acres from H. B. Trist in the same area. Another transaction involving Randolph and Garrett is dated 1817, and is likely related to a trust agreement between them, but unfortunately the document is nearly illegible. Thomas Randolph was a relative of Thomas Jefferson's and following Jefferson's death in 1826, was the grantor in a transaction selling Jefferson's Shadwell plantation and its slaves to Alexander Garrett and Valentine Southall. There is no indication that the 448 acres he sold to Garrett in 1803 had belonged to Jefferson, although it is not unlikely. Land tax books for Albemarle County in 1826 show Garrett charged with 1,183 acres described as "adjoining Charlottesville" and "North Garden" with $4,600 worth of buildings, a substantial amount for that day. Garrett's house was known as "Midway" (also called Oak Hill) which was located on Garrett Street at the end of 2nd Street SE, just east of the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District. Midway served as both a hospital during the Civil War and a boys' school. Alexander Garrett was active in the Charlottesville-Albemarle real estate market until his death in 1860. He was proctor of Jefferson's Central College, predecessor to the University of Virginia, and served as the first bursar for Jefferson's University from 1819 to 1850. His brother Ira served as clerk of the Albemarle County Court, and his name appears on a number of deeds of the period as purchaser or trustee. Deed and tax books for the period indicate that Alexander Garrett sold a seven-acre parcel to a George Sprigle in which reference is made both to Ridge Street and to the "road leading to the University."
More pertinent to this discussion, Garrett sold what is described as a "part of the tract where said Garrett now resides" to Allen W. Hawkins. At the same time, Hawkins paid $400 for another four-acre parcel, again referred to as part of the land where Garrett lived; the deed cited an 1829 survey by Achilles Broadhead. Language in the deed mentions lots numbered 40 and 41 recorded on that survey. Unfortunately a copy of Broadhead's plat does not survive; however it does point to recognition by all parties that this formerly all-agricultural land immediately adjacent to the town of Charlottesville was destined to be subdivided for residential use. Further substantiating this premise, a memo attached to the deed from Garrett to Hawkins indicated that Hawkins would relinquish land within his boundaries that were to become "streets" to be laid off with "a view to establishing them as public highways." Garrett was selling numbered lots within the town boundaries at the same time, but it is clear that the parcels conveyed to Hawkins were outside the corporate limits since Ridge Street is given as the eastern boundary. Beyond the area's proximity to the principal east-west route through town, it was also adjacent to the main road south that ran to Lynchburg, now known as 5th Street, a location that early real estate investors recognized as advantageous for its convenience and ultimate growth.
The other large portion of the historic district is the property known as "Oak Lawn", dating from the first quarter of the 19th century. Known earlier as "Oak Grove", it is located today at 501 9th Street SW at its intersection with Cherry Avenue (National Register of Historic Places, 1973). The original Oak Lawn estate stretched from Fry Springs on the west to Ridge Street on the east. The present dwelling on the property was built in 1822 by Nimrod Bramham, who was active in both local political and religious affairs. Bramham died in 1845 and was buried in a cemetery on the property. In 1847, James Fife, a Baptist minister, farmer and businessman, purchased Oak Lawn from Bramham's estate. Fife was active in the Charlottesville community for nearly 30 years, and it was his name that came to be identified with this area; by the late 19th century it became known as "Fifeville." Fife is recorded as selling a small parcel of land in 1860 to Virginia Shackleford where she built a house that still stands today as the Shackleford-Bannister House at 513 Dice Street. Census records for the period suggest that the Shacklefords did not reside in this house, indicating that it likely was rental property. The Bannisters who acquired the house in the early 20th century continued to rent the house out, again suggested by their absence from the census records for the City of Charlottesville for that period as residents of the neighborhood. James Fife died in 1876 and, after an impressive funeral service at his home, was buried in a second cemetery on his property. The Fife property was not subdivided until 1888 when it was laid out into small city lots in a predominantly grid pattern, on present-day Nalle, Grove, Spring, and King streets and Cherry Avenue.
The phenomena of subdividing previously farmed land adjacent to towns was common around the state and in the Charlottesville area and is substantiated by the land tax books of the 1830s. Only seven structures dating from the period before the Civil War stand today to recall the early development of this neighborhood. A number of sales of very small parcels of one to ten acres described as "adjacent to Charlottesville" were recorded. Allen Hawkins acquired another "strip of land" near Charlottesville along with several other small lots. Allen W. Hawkins was charged in the tax books for 1831 with 10 3/4 acres described as "next to Alexander Garrett." In 1839 he acquired yet another parcel from Alexander Garrett in the same vicinity. By the time of the 1840 census, Hawkins is listed as having a wife and two small children and his name appears in other land transactions in the area recorded as property adjacent to "Hawkins." Hawkins' fine brick residence at 418 5th Street SW; now known as the Hawkins-Wondree House, is recorded in the 1856 tax books valued at $1,800 and may have been built as early as the 1830s. Later tax books value his residence at $2,200 in 1867 and at $2,800 in 1868. Hawkins was a "master brick mason, brick maker, and builder," who along with other family members were responsible for several brick structures in the area on the land he had acquired from Garrett. Rhodes suggests that he was probably responsible for building a brick dwelling on nearby Ridge Street (outside this district) and possibly the Barksdale-Totty House at 402 Dice Street. Relatives of Allen Hawkins appear in the records with property in the immediate vicinity, including James B. Hawkins charged in 1855 with several small parcels with modest improvements of $200 and $300. By 1857, James Hawkins had a 1/2-acre parcel in the same location – being approximately 1/4 to 1/2 miles southwest of the Albemarle Courthouse with the location described as "Charlottesville" with $1,000 of improvements. It is likely that this is the Hawkins-Wheeler House at 406 Oak Street. In the 1860 census, James Hawkins is described as a "brick layer" and his real property is valued at $600. It has been suggested that there may be a cemetery on the large undeveloped parcel formerly belonging to the Hawkins family at the southeastern edge of the district, but state investigations have not uncovered any burial sites.
The Barksdale family was also among the early lot holders and residents of the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District. John Barksdale bought a lot in 1854 and built the house now known as the Barksdale-Coles-Hailstalk House at 217 5th Street SW. In 1867 Barksdale sold the house to John C. Coles, an African-American carpenter who likely added a rear addition. The Coles family owned the property for more than 50 years. The 1895 City Directory indicates that at least four members of the Coles family were carpenters and likely were involved in construction of houses in the district that date from the last quarter of the 19th century. James Barksdale appears to have lived on the 4-acre parcel bounded by Dice, 4th, Oak and 5th streets. He is charged with this 4 1/2 -acre parcel in 1856 when no improvements are recorded; but by 1859, the parcel shows $4,000 worth of buildings, a substantial sum for that period. It is likely that the Barksdale-Totty Houses stood on this parcel at 402 Dice Street and was built ca. 1857. Ownership was transferred to John T. Barksdale and John Fry in 1857. By 1895, it was occupied by a black plasterer, Frank Burton and in 1898 by Bella Cave, a laundress, indicating that it was probably rental property by then. John Barksdale went on to become one of the largest lot holders in this part of what ultimately would be incorporated into Charlottesville. Barksdale and his partner John Fry owned considerable investment property both in Albemarle County and the area of this historic district, as their names appear in the land books throughout the 1860s and 1870s charged with small improved and unimproved lots. Barksdale was deceased by 1881 when his estate is charged with at least four parcels with improvements valued at as much as $1200. The extent of Barksdale's ownership is attested by a street being named for him. The Charlottesville City directories for 1895 and 1898 describe Barksdale Street as "commencing at Ridge Street and running west;" according to local residents, today it has been reduced to an alley and is outside the district boundaries.
Alexander Garrett, who also had a street named for him east of the historic district, continued to hold numerous lots within Charlottesville's corporate limits until his death in 1861. A particularly interesting sale was for a three-acre parcel in 1831 from Garrett to William B. Philips, one of Jefferson's well-known workmen who worked on the Academical Village at the University. A Thomas Hawkins acquired a small parcel from Philips in 1856 with $400 worth of improvements. Unfortunately, this dwelling, possibly built by Philips, does not survive. John Hartwell Cocke, close associate of Thomas Jefferson, is recorded as receiving 29 acres from Garrett; Cocke's property is cited in an 1852 plat as in the area of present-day 6th, 6 1/2 , and 7th streets. Once again, there do not appear to have been any structures on Cocke's property that survive today.
Two other real estate investors appear in the tax records for this area. Chiles Brand bought one of the parcels on 5th Street adjacent to John Barksdale in 1854, at 205 5th Street. He sold this lot with "a new brick dwelling house" to Elizabeth Norris in 1857. Dr. Reuben B. Dice owned most of the block bounded by 4th, Dice and Ridge streets. His mansion, which stood at 301 Ridge Street, was valued at $6,500 in the federal census of 1870 and $3,000 in tax books for 1881. His house was likely built sometime between 1860 and 1870 as prior to 1860 he had lived elsewhere in Albemarle County. Again, his name was the source for one of the Fifeville-Castle Hill District's primary residential streets, and the western portion of his land sub-divided into lots on 4th and Dice streets.
Local historians have contended that the area at the south end of Ridge Street, adjacent to but not within the district's boundaries, was occupied by free black families prior to the Civil War. It was common that areas where free blacks owned property in the antebellum period became the center of African-American neighborhoods after emancipation. The African-American presence among the property owners in the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District grew in the years immediately following the Civil War as many African-American freedmen who had been slaves on farms in the surrounding county made their way to Charlottesville. Already mentioned, the Coles family acquired the property at 217 5th Street in 1867. Both "colored" (and mulatto) and "white" families lived in the area; the 1870 census, the first taken after African-American slaves were freed, shows that most colored or mulatto family heads were listed as "farm hands," while white family heads were listed as "farmers," recalling the occupation of most in the period prior to the Civil War. The area's transition from agricultural to urban following the Civil War is reflected in the placement of new houses at the front or street-side of the lots, with backyards large enough to accommodate small gardens and space for poultry and other livestock. The area around the old Delavan Hospital on West Main Street was obviously occupied by black families, as in 1866 a Captain William Tidball, director of the local Freedman's Bureau, complained about a black woman living near the hospital who was not taking sufficient care of her hogs. This comment substantiates the mixed use of the neighborhood for both residential and limited agricultural use. In 1867, the Delevan Hospital was also the site of the first political gathering in Charlottesville in which blacks participated with whites. Various issues revolving around what civil rights the newly emancipated freedmen would have after Reconstruction were amicably debated, perhaps for the last time. Land tax books for the years 1867-1873 reveal that there were a number of property owners in this area who held small parcels and lots, often with modest improvements. The families of Allen Hawkins, James Barksdale, John Barksdale who partnered with John Fry to invest in small lots in the neighborhood, along with others like Robert Scott, John Patterson, and Harman Kinney are recorded as tax payers during the period. It is impossible to relate all these parcels to modern addresses, but clearly the demand for modest worker housing was substantial and the neighborhood viewed as having valuable investment potential. In subsequent years, tax record notations suggest that many land holders bought their lots from either the Hawkinses or the Barksdales.
By 1880, occupations had shifted from the agricultural area to broader areas and included craftsmen such as carpenters and plasterers. The change reflects the shift from the former agricultural nature of the area to a more urban or town environment. In 1871, Tyree Thomas, an African-American, purchased a parcel at 406 Dice Street. Land tax records for Charlottesville show that Thomas was charged with a 3/4-acre parcel with $150 worth of improvements. Thomas was listed as a "servant" in the 1880 census; Elijah Thomas, also a servant, is listed as his neighbor, having bought part of the Tyree Thomas parcel acquired in 1871. Coincidently, the name "Tyree" appears frequently as a surname in the enumeration of free blacks prior to the Civil War, indicating that family would possibly have had the means to acquire lots in the area following emancipation. Another prominent African-American land holder was Benjamin Tonsler who acquired the lot at 327 6th Street SW; (Multiple Resource Nomination, National Register of Historic Places, 1982) in 1876. Tonsler, a graduate of Hampton Institute and friend of Booker T. Washington, went on to become principal of Jefferson School and is remembered as one of Charlottesville's leading educators. Other houses in the area that were constructed by blacks prior to 1880 include 223 4th Street SW built ca. 1870 by Armistead Smith and most likely home to his son Philip, who was described as a "seafarer" in 1874. 412 Dice Street dates from ca. 1875 and was likely built by John Buckman, a black dining room servant, or Patrick Ferrell, also black who may have used the property for rental purposes. John Shelton, also black, and listed as "working on a farm" bought the house "in which they were living," at 301 5th Street SW in 1876 from John Fry, who presumably built this brick house. Shelton is listed as a "carpenter" in the 1880 census and by 1895 the City Directory lists him as a teacher.
Substantiating the growth of the African-American presence in the district was the construction of the First Baptist Church, now known as Delevan Church located at 632 West Main Street at the corner of 7th Street in the district. Black Baptists who had formerly worshipped at Charlottesville's white First Baptist Church purchased the property on which the Delevan Hospital stood (formerly known as "Mudwall") in 1868 and began construction in 1877 of what would be called the First Colored Baptist Church, completed ca. 1883. Although several other Baptist congregations split off from the "first" church, this building made a bold statement for the African-American community in downtown Charlottesville. It stands today as the only institutional building within the district's boundaries and would have been convenient to the growing number of African-Americans in the Fifeville-Castle Hill neighborhood.
In the period from the end of the war to the incorporation of the City of Charlottesville in 1888, land owners like the Barksdales, Hawkinses, Dices, and Frys continued to subdivide their holdings and lots, selling them to both white and African-American families. Census records indicate that many properties were occupied by renters, as many service and blue collar workers would probably have been unable to purchase a residence.
With easy access to the horse-drawn (later electric) street cars that ran along Main Street and the Virginia and Midland Railroad that later would be incorporated into the Southern rail system, residents of the neighborhood were able to enjoy transportation to various places of employment, including the industrial operations in the eastern part of the City, retail establishments along West Main Street, and the University to the west.
The residential lots were also attractive because of their proximity to the retail shops and stores that lined West Main Street that provided the essential services such as grocery stores, barber shops, shoe repair shops and pharmacies. Both African-American and white residents worked in the area, with many employed either with the railroad or the hotels like the Gleason Hotel that was built to accommodate rail travelers. Examination of the census records for the period reveal that the eastern portion of the Fifeville-Castle Hill district was primarily home to African-Americans, although a number of white families lived along Oak Street, 5th, 6th and 7th streets. The Hawkins family, who built houses and sold several large parcels, were white, and continued to live in this portion of the district well into the early 20th century. Their property, discussed earlier, lay in the area between what is now Cherry Avenue, Oak Street, and 5th Street. Long-time resident Dr. Reuben Dice's large parcel that occupied the entire block between 4th Street and Ridge and between Dice Street and the railroad; it was subdivided for a number of the dwellings that stand on both 4th and Dice Streets today such as the Houchens-Diggs Cottage, ca.1881 at 618 Dice Street and houses at 233 4th Street SW, ca. 1875, 223 4th Street SW, ca. 1870, and 402-406 4th Street SW, ca. 1870; the Tyree Thomas House, ca. 1875 at 406 Dice Street, the Ferrell House, ca. 1880 at 412 Dice Street and another unnamed house, ca. 1874 at 404 Dice Street. These properties were largely occupied by African Americans, many of whom probably were renters, who worked as craftsmen, wheelwrights, laborers, carpenters, nurses, seamstresses, waiters and tinners. Miss Minnie Ferrell, who lived at 412 Dice, was listed in the 1895 City Directory as a "music teacher," and her sister, Julia as a "seamstress." R. B. Hardy, a Baptist pastor, lived at 320 Dice Street. "Carpenters," usually meaning builders, George Coles and Charles Goodloe, lived in this area as well.
Although several important thoroughfares, like the Old Lynchburg Road, dated to before the Civil War, other streets evolved to accommodate the new construction of single-family dwellings. The Delevan property was purchased and subdivided by both Barksdale and Hawkins. A number of parcels from these subdivision actions are at the heart of the district, such as those along 6th, 6 1/2, and 7th streets; Hawkins-Lee House, ca. 1881-1889 at 208 7th Street and the Hawkins-Parker House, ca. 1876. These two brick workers' cottages, built as rental property, were constructed by James Hawkins, whom the census lists as a white "brick mason" in 1880. There does not appear to have been any particular street plan, possibly due to the very hilly topography and the lack of a single developer; hence the awkward naming of 6 1/2 and 7 1/2 streets and the disappearance of streets like "Barksdale," and "Fry" streets. Duplexes were constructed in the 800 block of Estes Street ca. 1895 and initially were rented to white occupants but by 1900 were occupied by African-American renters, an indication of the changing racial character of the neighborhood. The census records confirm that over all, this neighborhood was in flux as far as racial residential patterns were concerned, emblematic of the period before the solidification of both Jim Crow laws in the 1890s and residential segregation ordinances in the first decade of the 20th century.
According to memoirs of Rebecca Fuller McGinnis who grew up in the Castle Hill-Fifeville Historic District, she lived at the corner of 5th and Dice Streets at 301 5th Street NW which was built ca. 1870 and is known as the Shelton-Fuller House. Her family subsequently moved to a residence on 6th Street. Mrs. McGinnis, who was born in 1892, provides one of the most vivid descriptions of African-American presence and residential life in the district at the turn of the century. "Our community was very close-knit," she writes in 2000. "We called it Castle Hill because it sat on a hill." A visual inspection of Ms. McGinnis' neighborhood confirms that this area of 5th, 6th, Dice and Oak does indeed sit atop a small hill. She noted that the neighborhood was "integrated" and African-American and white children played together. Ms. McGinnis contended in her memoirs that integration of the late 20th century had led to the disintegration of African-American neighborhoods because African Americans could live anywhere they chose.
Big changes in the area marked the period from 1888 to 1910 for the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District. First, the area which had always been described as "adjacent to Charlottesville," and anywhere from 1/8 to 1/4 mile southwest of the courthouse, finally was incorporated within the town's boundaries. Prior to that, lots and parcels for the district were variously recorded in different parts of the land records for Albemarle County, making accurate analysis of land ownership in the district difficult. Charlottesville was incorporated as a city in 1888, essentially dividing the official records like deeds and wills and land tax records for the city and the county. The introduction of the electric street cars that ran along nearby Main Street made this neighborhood particularly attractive to investors struggling to provide adequate moderately priced housing for workers in the new City. Real estate investment and development topped the list of business activity in the Charlottesville area in the period after Charlottesville became a city. Land that was adjacent to the rail lines or electric street car lines was in great demand. Randolph Kean, writing in 1975 about the early street railways in Charlottesville said that beginning ca. 1887 real estate development companies such as the Charlottesville Industrial and Land Development Company and Charlottesville West Land Company were purchasing small farms and estates along existing and potential transportation corridors and dividing them into residential lots. The consolidation of the various rail lines, with the north-south Southern Railway that ran from Washington through Charlottesville to points south like Lynchburg, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, the primary east-west rail line from Richmond to points west, were expanding and thriving. Plans to develop street car lines from downtown to the University abounded, and most of them ran either adjacent to or through the property belonging to James Fife's heirs. It was at this critical time that the Fife family sold off a large portion of the Oak Lawn estate to the Charlottesville Land Company which divided it into city lots. The plat for the "Fife Estates" dated 1888 shows 135 numbered lots of varying sizes laid out in an essential grid along Nalle, Grove, King, Locust, Elm, and Pine streets. The easternmost street in Fife's Estates appears to have been called "Fry Street," perhaps for John Fry, an early land investor in the area. Today this is 7 1/2 Street. Present-day 9th Street appears to have been named "Mansion Road," probably to mark the Oak Lawn house property which is shown as "Fife Residential" or Oak Lawn. A notation on the map says that King Street runs along the City line, indicating that part of the Fife Estates was still located in the county. Also shown on the plat is the C & O Rail Line where it coincides with the Virginia Midland Railroad (later the Southern Railroad) where there was a "junction." The prominent location of two major rail lines that formed the northern boundary emphasizes the importance of the railroad to this area, as census records and directories reveal that many residents both black and white who lived in this portion of the Fifeville-Castle Hill district worked for the railroads in some capacity. City directories of the period show large proportions of those who lived in this part of the Fifeville-Castle Hill District working as railroad engineers, conductors, brakemen, and motormen as well as railroad firemen and railroad agents. There is no record that the railroad companies built any of the houses, but local historians claim that the railroad was instrumental in financing some of the houses for their employees that were built during this period along Cherry, King, Grove, Estes, Nalle, 7 1/2 and 9th streets. The Charlottesville Weekly Chronicle of June 24, 1887, announced the sale of 20 lots in Fife's Addition for $600 each. By 1891 the paper reported that $31,150 had been spent in the previous year alone on new buildings in "Fifeville," a sum larger than any other single section of the new City. Nearly eighty houses in the western portion of the district survive from the decade preceding 1900, as substantiated by the 1907 Sanborn Insurance maps and the City directories for the period. The area gradually came to be known as "Fifeville," although initially it was called "Fife's Addition" or "new addition" in the tax records. Ms. McGinnis writing in 2000 recorded that her neighborhood in the 5th Street area "bordered Fifeville," confirmation that the two "neighborhoods" were clearly defined in her mind.
Beyond being an important transportation center, Charlottesville boasted large numbers of service workers, including builders, carpenters, plasterers, brick masons, shop clerks, hotel workers, waiters, laundresses, janitors, shoemakers, chambermaids, grocers, nurses, and day laborers, many of whom lived throughout the district. African-American professionals such as church pastors, nurses and particularly teachers like Benjamin Tonsler and Rebecca Fuller McGinnis, lived in the district by the turn of the century, and new construction thrived with new houses on 4th , 5th, 6th, Dice, Estes, Oak, and 9th streets. Fourteen houses on 5th Street, seven on 6 1/2 Street, ten on 6th Street, and eleven on Oak Street date from this period. Many of these streets were home to both whites and African Americans, a situation that would change over the succeeding 20 years. It can be presumed that African-American carpenters such as John and Richard Coles, James Fergusson, Beverley Watson, James Goodloe, many of whom lived on 5th, 6th, and Dice streets, would have been involved in the construction of many of these houses. At least two houses on 6 1/2 Street at 331 and 333 were built by Alan Watson, an African-American carpenter. Another African-American resident on 6 1/2 Street lived at 325 whose name was Joseph Newman, described as a "dyer." He likely worked at the Charlottesville Woolen Mills in the eastern section of Charlottesville.
White carpenters and builders like W. E. Baker, W. H. Bishop, C. E. Bunch, J. L. Blake, C. M. Davis, C. A. Ford, J. E. Leake, J. M. Lamb, Enoch Nalls, P. W. Norvell, G. M. Paris, Charles Reynolds, J. B. Tompkins, and J. E. Payne who is called a contractor, all had residences in the district and likely would have been involved in building houses in their neighborhood, although it is impossible to link them with specific dwellings. Supplementary building tradesmen like tinners, plasters, painters, and brick masons are also well represented in the district. The durability of these modest houses is a testament to the skills of these long forgotten craftsmen. It appears that a number of blocks like the 900 and 1000 block of Grove and the 700 and 800 blocks of Nalle Street were built at one time between 1890 and 1900, confirming both the optimism and success of the Charlottesville Land Development Company.
The only manufacturing resource that can be identified within the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District is the Updike Brick Yard located southeast of the intersection of 7 1/2 and Elm Streets which is also the only recorded archaeological site within the district. In 1889, Robert L. Updike, who lived on nearby Ridge Street, established a brick yard located just west of the present site. He manufactured hand-made bricks, which likely were used in the building of many of the brick dwellings in the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District. Brothers Abraham, Walter, and Byrd followed their brother in the brick making business; Eston purchased the brick yard in 1904 and moved the operation from a tract between 5th and 7 1/2 streets to its present location at the end of Elm Street. Eston Updike lived at 417 7 1/2 Street in what is now called the Updike-Anthony House, which had been built ca. 1897. The brick yard complex included a large steam drying building and three kilns, along with a commissary and several dwellings. Given the volume of new construction recorded in Charlottesville during this period it is not surprising that the venture was very successful. Apparently bricks for the First Baptist Church on Jefferson Street, outside the district, were made in this facility. Sometime around 1920, Eston purchased his brother Walter's share of the brick yard operation and used minerals found on his property to manufacture coins in addition to making bricks. By 1930, the mineral deposits gave out, and Eston sold the business to the Monticello Brick Company, which continued operation until the early 1940s. Several of the buildings were demolished by the City in the 1970s and the commissary no longer survives. Brick rubble and possible foundations survive on the site today.
It was not only white developers alone who saw the potential for this residential neighborhood south of Main Street. A fascinating notice in the Richmond Planet on August 2, 1890, said:
Charlottesville: The Piedmont Industrial and Land Improvement Company is making such rapid progress that some of the shareholders who were beginning to feel said have begun to rejoice and be glad, knowing that they are not throwing their money away. They all come to the front as men should do, and pay up their dues every pay day. Even the Companies [sic] greatest enemies, the Kickers, including many whites, acknowledge the company's progressive merits, and now they come to kick. It also proves that colored men can do something if they try. So do not throw away one of the best chances of your life, but apply to the president for general information: R. Kelsor, President, and B. C. Tonsler, Secretary.
The property owned by the Piedmont Land Improvement Company was described in the land tax books for 1890, in the listing for "colored" property owners, as being located on the north side of the cross street that ran from Ridge to the Lynchburg Road. This would most probably be Dice or Oak streets where a number of African-Americans already lived. In the same tax book, again in the "colored" section, John Fry's lots on 6th Street are listed. Benjamin Tonsler lived on 6th Street and several of his relatives and children lived in houses on the same street; R. Kelsor is recorded in the City Directory of 1895 as having a business at 225 West Main Street and living at 205 6th Street NE, which would have been in the Vinegar Hill neighborhood, north of Main Street. A number of other African Americans were directors of the development company, including Charles Goodloe who lived at 604 Dice Street and John and Charles Coles who lived at 217 5th Street. John and Charles Coles, along with presumably their brothers or sons are all listed in the 1898 City Directory as "carpenters," who clearly would have played a part in building on whatever land the Piedmont Land Company developed. The company was not long-lived, as it does not appear in the 1895 or 1898 City directory, but it does indicate that the African-American community was involved in the land development business in Charlottesville the booming years between 1890 and 1907.
As in the rest of the South, the road to separating the races in Charlottesville was a winding and evolutionary one. The society faced with large numbers of freedmen following the Civil War had no structure or institutional framework for addressing the place of former slaves. From the earliest years, African-American freedmen and their children were educated in separate schools. But the residential patterns were more complex; the Black Codes introduced immediately following the War and prior to Reconstruction were designed to limit the freedman's political rights and did not directly address residential and social segregation. In the case of neighborhoods, there would have been reluctance to limit where persons of different races could live because so many white families had African-American servants who lived with them in their homes. Often times, lands that the freedman obtained were from their former owners. In the case of the Fifeville-Castle Hill area, large land holders like the Barksdales, Hawkinses, and others often sold their small parcels to African-Americans who had the means to purchase them. There was no discernible pattern of racial ownership but as mentioned earlier, most parcels owned by African Americans were in the vicinity of where free blacks had lived prior to the war. The area east of 7th Street and south from Main Street to Cherry appears to have had the largest concentration of African Americans. The area was dissimilar from the western part of the district that was primarily part of James Fife's land and was not subdivided until 1888, a premise that is substantiated by the larger number of pre-1890 dwellings in the eastern portion of the district.
During the years until about 1900, segregation "did not systematically govern black life and race relations." In Charlottesville it was not until 1891 that racial identification was recorded in the City's land tax books. It was in the 1890s that the City's business and residential directories clearly separated the listings for each race. The U. S. census for 1880 as well as for 1900 (the 1890 Census was destroyed) that were conducted street by street, show African Americans and whites living sometimes side by side and often on the same blocks. It was also during the 1890s that the great majority of the Jim Crow laws were enacted that essentially separated the races in public transportation and all other public facilities. The Plessy v. Fergusson decision by the U. S. Supreme Court in 1896 affirmed that separation of the races in educational facilities was constitutional, and by extension in all public facilities. An examination of the land books in 1892-1900 and the U. S. Census in 1900 for the City of Charlottesville, reveal that both African-American and white families and residents lived in and owned property in both the Third Ward, which includes most of the east portion of the historic district and was referred to as the "new addition" and the Fourth Ward, also noted as "new addition," which incorporates most of the western portion of the district. For example, Oak Streets residents included seven white families and five black or mulatto families in the 1900 census. It does appear, however, that black and white families lived on different sides of Oak Street. A measure of the coming residential segregation, however, is reflected by the fact that nearly all of 6th and 6 1/2 streets were occupied by African-American residents while 7th and 7 1/2 were all white except for a few servants. By 1910, one side of Oak Street continued to have white residents; but all of Dice with two exceptions were occupied by black or mulatto residents. The streets of 4th, 5th, 6th, and 6 1/2 included primarily African Americans; nearly all of the western part of the district was inhabited by whites.
A number of noted historians have addressed the entire issue of residential segregation. One suggestion is that blacks were equally as mobile as whites, but unlike whites, who tended to move out of city centers to suburbs, usually moved into cities from rural areas, believing that towns offered a better life than living on a farm. In the case of this historic district, job opportunities abounded in the service and retail arenas as well as in a more limited manufacturing industry. The U. S. Census shows only moderate changes in racial residential patterns in the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District in the first decade of the 20th century, but sentiment for mandating residential segregation was growing throughout the state. Following the lead of Richmond where a residential segregation ordinance was enacted in 1911, saying that "It shall be unlawful for any [white/colored] to occupy as a residence or to establish and maintain as a place of public assembly, any house upon any street or alley...on which a greater number are occupied as residence by [colored/white or the other race] people."
The annual report of the Richmond City Attorney for the year ending 1911 indicated that there had been no problems with this ordinance and said that the ordinance was justified by the existence of Jim Crow laws relating to transportation and other public facilities. The issue in Charlottesville was somewhat more contentious. On February 13, 1912, Mayor E. G. Haden, vetoed a residential segregation ordinance entitled "An Ordinance to secure for white and colored people a separate location of residing for each race" passed by Charlottesville's City Council unanimously on February 8, 1912. The reasons given by the Mayor for his veto were that such action would depreciate property values throughout the city. The Council immediately called a special session at which it unanimously overrode the Mayor's veto, thus putting in place Charlottesville's mandate for segregation of residential occupation of all streets and neighborhoods. The language was similar to that of the Richmond ordinance.
It is unclear whether the segregation of residential neighborhoods, particularly the Fifeville-Castle Hill neighborhood happened because of the ordinance, or whether it happened as a natural progression to racial segregation in all areas of life in the community that had begun in the 1890s. But close examination of census records indicates that by the 1920 census, nearly all streets in the district were occupied by one race or the other, not both. The Virginia Supreme Court upheld the residential segregation ordinance in a 1915 Decision, Hopkins v. City of Richmond, saying that such ordinances "strive to do a public good," and were a "natural outgrowth of existing conditions." But in a surprising decision by the United State Supreme Court in 1917, Buchanan v. Warley, city ordinances which forbid "colored persons to occupy houses in blocks where the greater number of houses are occupied by white persons" were found to be unconstitutional. The decision was based on the Fourteenth Amendment, with the court saying that such ordinances deprived a property owner of the right to dispose of his property in any way he wished. The decision stated "[T]he effect of the ordinance under consideration was not merely to regulate a business or the like, but was to destroy the right of the individual to acquire, enjoy, and dispose of his property. Being of this character, it was void as being opposed to the due-process clause of the constitution." This remarkable decision came at a time when the nation and particularly the South had fully embraced the concept of separation of the races. Whether Charlottesville ever erased the ordinance from its records after 1917 could not be discovered; however, examination of various subsequent editions of Charlottesville's City Code does not uncover any language like that vetoed by Mayor Haden in 1912. Residential segregation continued however, because there were no legal prohibitions on private restrictive covenants in the sale of property. Those covenants became illegal in 1948 when the U. S. Supreme Court outlawed them in Shelly v. Kramer.
A resource in the historic district that does not survive is Fife's Chapel, which appears on Sanborn Insurance maps from 1920. Located at the corner of 9th and Grove streets, and replaced with a modern warehouse structure, the chapel was apparently the meeting place for a rally of the Ku Klux Klan in 1926 where "Christian patriotism" was extolled, followed by a large parade and rally that took place along Charlottesville's Main Street. It is somewhat ironic that, given the proclivities for the Klan strenuously to oppose intermingling of the races, such a meeting should take place in the middle of a district where for many years African Americans and whites had lived peaceably side-by-side.
The Fifeville-Castle Hill neighborhood continued to be home to hundreds of hard-working Charlottesville citizens both black and white throughout the 1920s and 30s, with white families occupying the area from 7 1/2 Street west and African Americans living in the areas east of and including 7th Street. Owner occupancy varied throughout the district, with about half owning their residences and half recorded in the 1930 census as renters. Nearly all the white residents were railroad workers, retail clerks, city employees, and other service workers; many were in the construction business. The African-American residents tended to be cooks, clerks, domestics, and janitors, as well as teachers and business owners. The neighborhood's proximity to both the business establishments of Vinegar Hill (the large African-American commercial and retail area that was demolished in the late 1960s) and Jefferson School, the city's only African-American school, continued to make this area an attractive one in which to live for educated and prosperous African Americans.
Two scholars writing in the late 1920s and early 1930s present an excellent picture of the African-American portion of the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District. Helen De Corse, writing in 1933 describes the African-American portion of the district as having "living conditions approximately those of middle class white homes..." She says that "most of them (the residents) are church going, but as was commented by several intelligent persons living in this district, they have their 'parties' on Saturday nights,...and then go to church on Sunday, 'just like the white people do.'" Another scholar writing in 1929 provides one of the best descriptions.
From Main Street one goes south on Seventh Street to Oak and from Seventh Street east to Ridge Street. (nb. This would be the African-American portion of the district). In this section are the homes of many of those Negroes known among their own people as the "four hundred." These houses are of good quality, some of them unusually nice looking. They are lighted with electricity, heated with heatrolas, good stoves, or even with hot water systems, have bathrooms, separate dining rooms and kitchens and comfortable furniture.... In this area...live preachers, doctors, dentists, insurance agents, teachers and the well-to-do of all trades and professions. Vice is not smiled upon or ignored in these regions. They are areas of high respectability and high morality.
John Hammond Moore writing in 1976 discusses the "four hundred", saying that "some, but by no means all, of the 'four hundred' were virtually white." The census records from as far back as 1880 confirm that many of the well-to-do and successful freedmen were indeed "mulatto," or having a mixed racial background, a term that was not used officially after 1920. A map drawn for this study by Marjorie Irwin confirms that with a few exceptions, residential segregation was firmly in place in the Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District by 1929.
Although no such graphic descriptions exist for the areas west of 7th street where the great majority of the residents were white, it can be assumed from Ms. Irwin's description that the houses and life-style of the families there were not dissimilar from their neighbors to the east. Surviving architectural evidence confirms this---modest, well-built houses on relatively small lots in a somewhat irregular grid pattern. We do know that according to the 1927 and 1929 City Directories, one of the few grocery stores in the neighborhood was operated by Alexander L. Branham, a white man who lived and operated his store at 225 7th Street SW, built ca. 1910. Also listed at the same address on 7th Street was C. W. Rogers, a shoe repair man whose business was known as "The New Method Shoe Shop." The building has now been converted to residential use, but retains much of its integrity from when it was a retail operation. Being located on the boundary line between the African-American neighborhood and the white residential area, it can be presumed that Mr. Branham and Mr. Rogers served both communities. Horace C. Richardson, who was black, operated a grocery store at 307 1/2 5th Street according to the 1927 City Directory, which undoubtedly served the Castle Hill area, while Eston Updike, who also owned the brick yard, operated a grocery store on Elm Street near 7 1/2 Street, presumably the commissary building mentioned earlier. Dennis Mowbray, also white, had a grocery store at 907-909 Nalle Street, which had been constructed ca. 1915. According to census records for 1920 and 1930, white residents in this part of the district were builders, railroad engineers, printers, merchants, butchers, insurance agents, as well as other jobs associated with the railroad.
The remarkable thing about the Fifeville-Castle Hill district is that visually it remains little changed since the early years of the 20th century, distinguished by narrow streets, modest lots and a remnant of community vitality. Strong cultural ties persist, with a number of the residents both black and white continuing to live there. Due to the growth of the University of Virginia, demand for new housing in the neighborhood continues, with student rentals side by side with early-20th-century dwellings. Though threatened by new construction because of Charlottesville's demand for housing adjacent to the central business area and the University, the Fifeville-Castle Hill District retains its comfortable scale and a surprisingly large proportion of historic architectural fabric, recalling the early history of Charlottesville's African–American and white tradesman, professionals, educators, builders and brick makers and how they lived together in this fascinating neighborhood.
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[†] Kalbian, Maral S.; Peters, Margaret T., Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District, Charlottesville VA, nomination document, 2007, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.