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The Woolen Mills Neighborhood
Charlottesville at work

Dear City Council,

I understand that you are seeking recommendations for additions to the list of Individually Protected Properties, properties outside of the major design control districts that are of special historic, cultural or architectural value.

At the foot of Woolen Mills Road (aka Market Street) lies a little known neighborhood which was referred to as “The Place” by its residents in the 1920’s.

I am neither historian, architect or sociologist so allow me to speak in very broad terms.

In these modern days the Woolen Mills neighborhood has great potential as a “cultural tourism” destination for the City of Charlottesville.

In 1900 the largest employer in Charlottesville was The Mill. Still extant in the Woolen Mill’s neighborhood is a extensive inventory of buildings constructed before 1900. The Mill provided housing for many of its workers. There were private houses as well.

I’d like to see the City pursue the following course:

1) Seek designation of the Rivanna River as a State Scenic River north to the Reservoir.

2) Install appropriate (low profile) markers in front of every
building standing in the Woolen Mills which dates from 1930 or earlier.

3) Enlisting help from qualified historians/sociologists post, on each marker, a number and brief history of the property (to be supplemented with the audio tour CD’s and printed literature).

4) The neighborhood represents a resource unique in the City of Charlottesville. The neighborhood
has a rich history, it retains an extensive core of buildings which were part and parcel of daily life as it was lived in the South from 1830 to 1950 (homes and workplace).Consider a zoning overlay that would encourage the preservation and interpretation of the neighborhood’s cultural and architectural resources.
Still standing in the Woolen Mills are the church, the school, the store, the Marchant house, Riverview Cemetery, the Mill and period housing.

The Woolen Mill’s neighborhood was a keystone in the development of Charlottesville, a robust old-timer by the time the Oakhurst-Gildersleeve area was conceived!

Slightly amended from the City’s tourism site...
(note! the underlined words in the following paragraph are my edits.)
“No trip to Charlottesville/Albemarle County is complete without a visit to its six historical gems:
Monticello, the Grounds of the University of Virginia, Ash Lawn-Highland, Historic Court Square, the Woolen Mill walking tour and Michie Tavern, ca.1784. Each has played a unique role in the history of the nation, and their tours, special events, and educational programs ensure that the spirits of the past remains vibrant today.”

As part of the neighborhood meeting process that lead to the comprehensive plan of 2000 each neighborhood identified its Strengths. The Woolen Mill’s neighborhood listed:

1) diversity (architectural and human)
2) History
3) Parks
4) River, Cemetery, Open Spaces
5) Defined Edges
6) Rural feel

This was an open, democratic and insightful process. I hope the City has heard and I hope the City will heed the wish of the neighborhood to proceed from these strengths, to protect and enhance these strengths.

This is the birthright and character of our neighborhood. The Woolen Mills is a place to cultivate with sensitivity toward the environment and toward historical and sociological treasures. It is not a neighborhood in want of more “steel buildings.”

Preserve the core of this neighborhood: its diversity, its history, parks, cemetery, and rural character.

The Woolen Mills is a green garden, a gem at the foot of Monticello Mountain. A river runs through our neighborhood.

The strengths identified in the 2000 Comprehensive Plan have not been adequately bolstered by action and vision from the City.

The strength of any neighborhood rests squarely on its populace.

We are good people down here!

It is time to honor our past and plan for our future!

Please don’t wantonly discard the unique resource represented by the Woolen Mills Neighborhood!

Bill Emory, 1604 Woolen Mills Road, Charlottesville, VA 22902