Known historically as one of the City's most ethnically and culturally diverse communities, the Virginia Avenue/Chapel Hill neighborhood  did not really begin to develop until after the Civil War in the late 1800's. The impetus for development came from the continued growth and expansion of railroad operations in the City that had previously given birth to the Rolling Mill and Decatur Heights neighborhoods a decade or more earlier. The neighborhood became home to a German enclave, centered around Oak Street, an Italian community known as "Little Italy" on the lower west side between Third Street and Virginia Avenue, and a less concentrated Irish population that came to work for the railroad. These ethnic communities have given the Virginia Avenue/Chapel Hill neighborhood a rich and colorful cultural heritage that distinguishes it among the City's other residential neighborhoods and helped it produce a special commercial district that has been known as the City's "second downtown.
"The Avenue," as it has been known over the years, originally developed to serve the expanding community of railroad workers in South Cumberland and the residential neighborhood that grew around it. Workers at the nearby Rolling Mill plant earned some of the highest wages that had been paid in Cumberland at that time. Employment opportunities in the neighborhood expanded with the arrival of new industries in the area that were attracted to the railroad. Chief among these industries were the South Cumberland Steel and Tin Plate mill in 1872, the Klots Throwing Company mill in 1902 (along the neighborhood's northern boundary with Rolling Mill), the Warren Glass Works below the neighborhood on Queen Street, and a box factory farther to the south. These jobs opportunities provided a stable source of income for neighborhood residents and contributed significantly to its affluence and ability to support a thriving commercial district.
The Virginia Avenue/Chapel Hill neighborhood is bounded by Oldtown and Lamont Streets on the North, South Street on the East, the CSX Railroad on the South, and the North Branch of the Potomac River on the West. Virginia Avenue runs north and south through the heart of the neighborhood, basically dividing it into two separate U.S. Census Bureau enumeration tracts.
1st Street East • 1st Street West • 2nd Street East • 2nd Street West • 3rd Street East • 3rd Street West • 4th Street East • Arch Street • Ashley Street • Blaul Avenue • Boone Street • Browning Street • Cedar Street North • Cedar Street South • Claybourne Street • Cresap Street • Fairfax Street • Grand Avenue • Industrial Boulevard East • Industrial Boulevard West • Jackson Street • Juniper Way • Lamont Street • Lavender Way • Oak Street • Oldtown Road East • Pennsylvania Avenue • Race Street • Route 51 • Scott Street • Seymour Street • South Street • Springdale Street • Thomas Street • Virginia Avenue • West Street • York Place