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Vinegar Hill (Charlottesville, Virginia)

Vinegar Hill was one of the earliest neighborhoods in Charlottesville, Virginia. Located near downtown, it was bordered by West Main Street to the south, Preston Avenue to the north, and 4th street to the east.[1] When it was first populated by Irish families in the early nineteenth century, it was called "Random Row." It was incorporated into the city in 1835.


African American communityEdit

After the Civil War, the neighborhood became a thriving center of Charlottesville's African American community.[2] In the decades when the city remained segregated, black-owned businesses in Vinegar Hill served the needs of Charlottesville's black community and some white customers.[3] Although many of the structures in the neighborhood were rented to the mostly black community by white property owners, more than a quarter of the homes and business properties were black owned.[3]

Razing and redevelopmentEdit

In 1965, the entire neighborhood was razed as part of an urban renewal plan initiated in the 1950s.[4] One church, thirty businesses, and 158 families were displaced, almost all African American.[1] Six hundred community members were moved into the Fairhaven public housing complex.[3] Families who had lived in stand-alone houses now resided in multi-family complexes.[4] The site remained vacant for well over a decade, and it was not until 1985 that a redevelopment project was put in place and the Omni Hotel and surrounding development installed on the neighborhood's site.[3]

Leading up to and following the "Unite the Right Rally" on August 12, 2017, Vinegar Hill's destruction was a central topic of national coverage of Charlottesville's history. In June 2017, Slate published an article on the relationship between Vinegar Hill's destruction and the Robert E. Lee statue in nearby Lee (now Market Street, formerly Emancipation) Park.[5][6] Just three days after the rally, the website Medium posted a Timeline article about Vinegar Hill,[7] and it was the focus of articles in the New York Times and The Atlantic on August 18.[8][9]


The names "Random Row" and "Vinegar Hill" continue to be used in the area where the neighborhood once stood. Random Row Books operated on West Main Street from 2009 to 2013, when the building was razed to make way for a hotel.[10] Random Row Brewery opened on Preston Avenue in 2016. Vinegar Hill Shopping Center operates on Preston Avenue. The Vinegar Hill Theater, a small movie house, operated for 37 years before closing in 2016, and has since that time operated with a variant name and different mission.[11] A historic marker telling a brief history of the neighborhood is mounted on a low wall facing Water Street on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall.[1] In 2011, the City of Charlottesville officially apologized for razing the neighborhood.[12]


  1. ^ a b c "Vinegar Hill | City of Charlottesville". Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  2. ^ "Vinegar Hill Park process to start this summer ⋅ Charlottesville Tomorrow". Charlottesville Tomorrow. Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  3. ^ a b c d "Vinegar Hill | African American Historic Sites Database". African American Historic Sites Database. Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  4. ^ a b "In 1965, the city of Charlottesville demolished a thriving black neighborhood". Timeline. 2017-08-15. Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Abramowitz, Sophie; Latterner, Eva; Rosenblith, Gillet (2017-06-23). "Tools of Displacement". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  7. ^ "In 1965, the city of Charlottesville demolished a thriving black neighborhood". Timeline. 2017-08-15. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  8. ^ Eiigon, John (18 August 2017). "In Charlottesville, Some Say Statue Debate Obscures a Deep Racial Split". New York Times. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  9. ^ II, Vann R. Newkirk (2017-08-18). "Black Charlottesville Has Seen This All Before". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  10. ^ "Going dark: The closure of Random Row Books extinguishes a community light - C-VILLE Weekly". C-VILLE Weekly. 2013-06-18. Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  11. ^ "Charlottesville's last independently owned movie theater goes dark - C-VILLE Weekly". C-VILLE Weekly. 2013-08-06. Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  12. ^ Moomaw, Graham (7 November 2011). "Charlottesville officially apologizes for razing Vinegar Hill". The Daily Progress. Retrieved 2018-09-01.