Wertland Street Historic District
The Wertland Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2007, The Gombach Group.
The Wertland Street Historic District is a fifty acre residential area situated in the western section of the City of Charlottesville northeast of the University of Virginia. The district is composed of thirty frame and brick residences that front tree lined Wertland Street between Tenth Street to the east and Fourteenth Street to the west. Only five buildings in the district are considered noncontributing elements. An enclave of mostly turn-of-the century Victorian vernacular structures, the collection of residential architecture is one of the most undisturbed and cohesive turn-of-the century neighborhoods in Charlottesville. Among the more academic architectural styles represented in the district are the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles.
The Wertland Street Historic District's development is not tied to any of the areas surrounding it in terms of character and design. To the south lies the commercial area along West Main Street. To the north and east are more modest neighborhoods of smaller homes, while to the west is a residential neighborhood developed primarily at a later date. As a result, the Wertland Street District stands out as distinct and cohesive.
While a majority of the homes along Wertland Street are of Victorian vernacular design origins, there are representatives of other styles. The Wertenbaker House (1301 Wertland Street) is the oldest house in the district, and is a good example of local Federal vernacular style. The Marshall-Dabney-Cubbage house (1107 Wertland Street) possesses interesting Queen Anne qualities, with its 23 story octagonal tower. At 1206 Wertland Street, the Watson House, with its imposing Ionic portico, is reminiscent of Jeffersonian Revival architecture. Many of the Victorian vernacular design homes found on Wertland Street have common characteristics, including two story frame construction, wrap around front porches with decorative sawn work, and hipped roofs.
The streetscape of the Wertland Street Historic District reflects the street's development pattern. The earliest houses, between Tenth Street and Thirteenth Street on the north side, are located on large lots with a standard setback, creating a spacious and orderly arrangement not found anywhere else in the University area. The houses on the south side, generally being of later construction, have smaller lots and are closer to the street. With the exception of the apartment complex at 1215 Wertland Street and the old Sears Department Store parking lot that abuts the District's southern boundary, both of which are excluded from the district, the Wertland Street Historic District remains relatively unchanged since the early 20th century.
The Wertland Street Historic District is significant because of its historic and architectural associations with both Charlottesville and the University of Virginia. Beginning with the 1830 construction of the Wertenbaker House, home of the University's second librarian, through current times as a residential area for faculty and students, the development of Wertland Street has closely paralleled the growth of the University. Containing the most undisturbed and cohesive collection of Victorian vernacular design houses left in Charlottesville, the district has remained relatively unchanged for seventy years, avoiding the forces of change that have altered the area surrounding it and many of the other neighborhoods surrounding the University of Virginia. While the recently listed Rugby Road–University Corner Historic District includes many significant buildings that reflect the history of the University over more than a 100 year period, nowhere else in Charlottesville is the history and architecture of turn-of-the-century Charlottesville as well preserved and self-contained as in the Wertland Street Historic District.
Wertland Street takes its name from the family of William Wertenbaker, the second librarian appointed by Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia. Mr. Wertenbaker built his home in 1830 at what is now 1301 Wertland Street. The property originally fronted on West Main Street, at that time the old "Three Notched Road." What is now Thirteenth Street, N. W. was originally the Wertenbaker House driveway. In later years, Wertenbaker built houses on either side of his own for his two daughters, but neither of these homes is still standing.
Another of the early houses still standing is the McKennie-Miller House (1201 Wertland Street). C. P. McKennie was a well known Charlottesville figure in the mid 1800's and was the publisher of Charlottesville's first newspaper, the "Central Gazette." Mr. McKennie purchased 7 1/2 acres of this property in 1842, later adding 58 acres north of it.
Wertland Street began to be developed as one of the fashionable University area residential neighborhoods in the 1880's when the owners of four large tracts subdivided their land. One of these owners was William Jeffries, one time owner of the Jeffries House at 909 West Main Street. After his death in 1885, his property in the Wertland Street area was subdivided for development. In 1892, George B. Marshall purchased the McKennie-Miller property and also subdivided. Other property acquisitions involved land on the Tenth Street and Fourteenth Street ends of what is now Wertland Street. Wertland Street arose in the early 1900's. By 1910, more than fifteen houses had been built.
The Wertland Street District today is bordered by commercial uses to the south, and different, more dense, residential uses to the north, east and west. For years the area was deteriorating as more and more once stately houses were bought and cheaply divided into numerous apartments for University students. In recent years, however, this trend has been reversed as more of the homes are acquired by owners who are rehabilitating them because of their unique architectural value.