The Charlottesville Canning Company opened for business in the summer of 1905, manufacturing canned fruits and vegetables for what was then a fast-emerging national market for such products. With an abundance of nearby farms producing the needed materials, a surplus of labor, and at the hub of an established east-west, north-south rail network, Charlottesville was an ideal location for such a venture. Supported by local and out-of-state investors, and led by a brokerage company from Philadelphia, the Canning Company was recognized at the time as a symbol of Charlottesville’s emergence as an industrial, manufacturing community. Despite the failure of the Canning Company (it shuttered its doors within a few years), the next few decades saw an increasing number of successful manufacturing and “light industry” enterprises in Charlottesville and Albemarle: from the nationally recognized Woolen Mills along the Rivanna River to the Frank Ix and Sons Silk Mill to Morton’s Frozen Foods in Crozet. Textiles, lumber, quarrying, even a pencil factory all proved to be important sectors in the regional economy throughout much of the 20th century — just as the viability of farming was on the decline. Like much of the rest of the country, most of the manufacturing and industrial jobs were lost to automation or the allure of less expensive labor elsewhere. Most of Central Virginia’s factories began to close in the 1960s and 70s, though a handful of successful companies still prosper in these sectors in the region to this day. Though the building in this photograph has since been torn down, thanks to research by Historical Archaeologist Steve Thompson, we know that it used to stand in what is now the parking lot for Southern States on Harris Street.(Photo by Rufus Holsinger and courtesy of Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia).

Collaborate, Discover, Create

  1. In addition to our many Programs, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society is engaged in a number of exciting projects that explore the history of Central Virginia. We are proud that every project represents a successful partnership or collaboration with other organizations and groups. All of our projects will involve a number of unique deliverables, from historic exhibits to new websites to public events, documentary films and new books. If you are interested in supporting the many creative teams behind these efforts, please consider becoming an on-going member of the Historical Society or consider a one-time donation. Our current slate of projects are detailed below. For the latest information about their progress and on-going updates, please follow us on Facebook.

Preserving Memories

Everyone has an important story to tell

Among our most important projects is an on-going, multi-year effort to record and archive oral history interviews with people here in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area: all neighborhoods, all walks of life. Under the direction of Society staff, this project is an ongoing endeavor with opportunities to create a website experience, TV broadcasts, and a unique museum exhibit. More than 50 interviews have already been conducted and are currently in post-production. If you are interested in being included in this project, or you would like to recommend someone, please let us hear from you. As with all our projects, look for on-going updates about progress on our Facebook page.

The Frances Brand Collection

The Gallery of Firsts

Artist Frances Brand (1901-1990) spent the last years of her life in Charlottesville, dedicated to working on her amazing “Gallery of Firsts,” a unique collection of 150 individual portraits (donated to our Archive by her family) of men and women and even some children, black and white, rich and poor, all of whom Brand recognized as being heroes in some way: helping to bring progressive change at last to the Old South. Our hope is to create a new museum experience to exhibit all the Brand paintings and celebrate her magnificent and important work. Like Walk Whitman with his poetry in the 19th century, or photographers with their cameras during the Great Depression, Frances Brand powerfully captured with her art a pivotal moment of time in the American story. Her Collection is a national treasure. We are currently seeking title sponsorship to help make this dream a reality. Please do what you can. In this photo, Brand (right) stands before some of her paintings and with some of the subjects whom she celebrated in her work, including Charlottesville Civil Rights leaders Eugene and Lorraine Williams (left).

The Old Jail Working Group

The Future of the Past

In collaboration with Albemarle County and Preservation Piedmont, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society coordinated a series of conversations beginning in the fall of 2018 with scholars, historians, archaeologists and members of the business community, to explore future options for the historic “Old Jail” in Court Square. The earliest part of the building dates to 1876, and the jail was in active use by the County until 1974. Though there has been a proposal in the past to convert the building to a museum of some kind, other possible options are worth considering as part of a larger community conversation. We are honored to be working with our partners to help facilitate this process and look forward to exploring future possibilities with the City and County.

Celebrating the Bridge Builders

Honoring the Legacy of Drewary Brown

Drewary Brown was among Virginia’s most important and influential Civil Rights leaders. He is remembered as an icon in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area where he spent his life working on the frontlines of history, striving passionately to bring progressive change to the community he loved. He sought to heal a racial divide in his native Central Virginia, touching the lives of generations of men and women, black and white. In the summer of 2018, we began a collaborative partnership with Preservation Piedmont to launch the Drewary Brown Bridge Builders Project, to honor Brown’s legacy and all of those who have followed in his footsteps. Elements of this exciting project will roll out in phases over the next 12-18 months and will include a new book, museum exhibits, documentary film screening, public events, panel discussion, audio tours, website, teacher’s guide, and a series of videotaped oral history interviews.

TV in Charlottesville

A History of Jefferson Cable

In partnership with the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia, we are currently in pre-production on an exciting new project to explore the very early history of television in Charlottesville. Founded in 1963 by Bob Monroe, the Jefferson Cable Corporation was the second such company in America to offer up to 12 cable channels to its subscribers. They originated local TV production in a small building on West Main Street, over a decade before NBC29 went into business. Thanks to former Jefferson “Cablevision” employee Steve Ashby, we have managed to save hundreds of hours of those early TV programs, including shows about local history. Our goal is to digitize this one-of-a-kind archive and make the incredible footage available online at a new website. We will also produce a number of videotaped oral history interviews with surviving Jefferson Cable employees.

Neighborhood Histories

In Celebration of Community

In collaboration with the City of Charlottesville’s Commission on Historic Resources, we are engaged in a long-term project to document the history, development and oral history memories of the City’s neighborhoods. We will produce a new online exhibit and website that will pull all of this historic material together in one place for the first time. In consultation with area educators, we will build a Teacher’s Guide for the project that will take this information into classrooms, making it possible for students to explore the history of Charlottesville while engaged in themes of community and culture over time.

The Bill Emory Collection

The Art of the Photograph

Photographer, artist and local historian Bill Emory has been taking photographs in the Central Virginia region for over half a century. His collection includes many thousands of unique portraits, unforgettable moments of photojournalism, and timeless scenes of artful expression. Despite a popular blog with occasional posts of images, Bill Emory has never had a professional exhibit of his work nor a published print collection. We are currently working with Bill to catalog his historic and amazing body of work, with the aim of creating a museum installation of photos as well as a new book. Emory’s photo at left is the late City Councilor and beloved community leader Holly Edwards (1960-2017) with her two children.

Faith and Freedom

A History of Religious Freedom

We are now in pre-production on a multi-year project to document and explore the history of Central Virginia’s many faith communities. We intend to produce a new book, museum exhibits, public events, and a rich, multi-media website that will make these histories available in one place for the first time. There is perhaps no better community in America to study the history of faith communities than Albemarle County, the home of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote so eloquently about religious freedom. Jefferson was certainly not alone in the founding generation of our nation, many of whom firmly identified religious freedom and the power of faith communities as a necessary and critical element in defining American liberty. Exactly how that played out over time here in Jefferson’s own neighborhood has never been comprehensively documented. While some churches have already produced in-depth histories, and the story of Charlottesville’s Jewish community has benefited from impressive research, the full story of our many faith communities — especially in rural areas— has never been fully told. We intend to do our part to help make that happen. (photo is the Union Baptist Church, founded in 1865, image courtesy of the Scottsville Museum).

A Virtual Museum

Corks and Curls

We have plans for an online Museum that explores the history of the University of Virginia, the UVA Corner, and Charlottesville. Using the UVA annual Corks and Curls (1888-2008) as a “window” through which to explore student life at the University. The entire archive of the yearbook needs to be digitized and made freely available in the virtual Museum’s online Library, in addition to numerous exhibits, photographs, videos, and videotaped oral history interviews. The Corks and Curls Museum will also include “The Roseberry Collection,” hundreds of rarely seen images from the personal collection of Charlottesville photographer Edwin S. Roseberry, who took pictures for the Corks and Curls from the late 1940s as a student well into the 1980s as a dedicated alumnus.

Third Street Entrance

Documenting a Segregated Past

The past has many stories to tell. Some will inspire. Some will disappoint. And some will want to make us turn away in horror. But as responsible historians, we must be willing to learn from the past: from the good, the bad, and even the ugly. The tragedies of Jim Crow, or racism and segregation in the American South, is a chapter in the American story that was certainly written here in Charlottesville—and not just in words, but in brick and stone. The historic Paramount Theater opened in November 1931 and included an entirely separate entrance on Third Street for people of color. In keeping with the laws of the day, that entrance went straight to the balcony, the only theater seating then open to African Americans. The Paramount closed in 1974 but reopened in 2004 following an extraordinary community-driven restoration process. The Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society is proud to be collaborating with the Paramount to serve as an historical consultant in the theater’s work to more fully tell the story of its Third Street Entrance.

Historic Trails

Exploring a Landscape of History

We are proud to be partnering with a group of key stakeholder organizations in the community — including the Piedmont Environmental Council, Preservation Piedmont, and the Rivanna Trails Foundation— on a long-term project that will see the creation of a number of new trails in the Charlottesville area. The plan is for this growing trail network to connect Downtown to Monticello and beyond. Our role in the process will be to assist in the research and writing of historic trail markers that will be installed throughout this new network: signage about local as well as natural history.

Oral History Collection

The Voices of the Past

Our Archival Collection includes decades worth of audio recordings, oral history interviews with hundreds of people here in the Charlottesville area— only some of which has been cataloged and none of which has been digitized. We are in the process of creating a comprehensive catalog and looking for a title sponsor who can help us digitize this audio collection. We’d like to make this available online through a new, stand-alone website: including photos, timelines, and transcripts of the interviews. This is a multi-year project but one that is a top priority for our creative team.

Visual History Collection

The Images of the Past

The Archival Collection of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society includes many thousands of unique photographs, portraits, paintings, maps, signs and other images that tell the story of Central Virginia. Only a small fraction of this archive has been digitized and is otherwise unavailable to the public. The majority of these images have never been published and are seldom seen. We are currently seeking funding to catalog and digitize this one-of-a-kind collection, with the goal of producing a new, virtual Museum that would make this entire Collection freely available online to the public for the first time.

Partnering with  Educators

Reinventing History

We are proud to be partnering with a team of educators from the City of Charlottesville Schools, Albemarle County Schools, and the University of Virginia to explore ways to reinvent and improve how we teach local history in our area classrooms. This could not be more important in a place like Central Virginia, where our local story is America’s story: beginning with thousands of years of native cultures and continuing through early European exploration, the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement and more. In our K-12 education, we share a strong commitment to increase and enrich the opportunities our students have to engage with the stories of our shared past— not only to more deeply appreciate the historic context of our local communities, but to encourage students to participate in telling their own stories today, to actively participate in making our history.

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At the Historic Public Library
On Market Street Park in Downtown Charlottesville
200 Second Street, NE
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
Monday-Friday (8am-Noon) By Appointment
Phone: 434-296-1492
Email: [email protected]