We’re officially more than 75% of the way through Round 1, which means we’ve successfully logged more than 450 deeds! And that means we’re ready to do some more mapping.
For our next plotting, we’re heading over towards the University of Virginia to an area known as Montebello, in the larger Jefferson Park Avenue neighborhood.
When it was created, the entire Montebello neighborhood was racially restricted to white people.
You might say, “Well, just map the whole neighborhood then!” And we thought about that, because there are a lot of neighborhoods that put racist restrictions in their deeds from the outset, and it would be an easy way to see the sheer scope of all these covenants right away. But then we thought about the final eventual map that we’re creating, and how much more interesting it will be for people to be able to see each individual deed when they click on the property. So we’re being rather methodical in our process, and mapping each property as it gets logged and retired in Zooniverse.
So for this next post we’re mapping 14 properties in Montebello.
7 of these properties were sold in 1921, 1 in 1923, 1 in 1927, 1 in 1929, 2 in 1931, 1 in 1934, and 1 in 1938. And within these deeds, because it’s over a long enough timeline (1921-1938) several properties get resold—two (Lots 18 & 19) are sold to family members for a nominal fee in 1921 and then get resold in 1932 for $2,000. And one that gets sold in 1921 (Lot 35), again to a family member for a nominal fee, gets resold in 1927 for $1,600. With these resales, you can begin to see how wealth is generated from these racially restricted properties.
A little bit of history: For thousands of years, this area was traveled through and lived in by Monacan Indians. In the early 18th century, white Anglo-Americans pushed into the area, gradually taking over, using a self-imposed system of land grants, trades, and sales to secure the land through multiple generations.
By the early 1800s the land where Montebello is today was part of a larger series of conjoined tracts owned by John M. Perry, one of Thomas Jefferson’s most trusted white builders. Two of these tracts were purchased in 1817 by the Board of Visitors and would later become the University of Virginia. Within this sale contract, Perry required that his services as a main builder be used in the construction of the Rotunda and the surrounding Pavilions, reportedly giving him an additional $30,000—about $611,000 today.
In 1820, Perry placed a solicitation in the Central Gazette to re-capture a 22-year-old man named Winston, or Shank, who had escaped Perry’s enslavement and was believed to be headed north. He was an expert “House Joiner,” said Perry in the notice.
Winston was one of the 37 people that Perry enslaved. At least 30 of those people were involved in the construction trade, and are believed to be among the scores of people forced to construct UVA—terracing the land, hauling dirt, digging foundations, shaping and firing bricks, doing tinwork, carpentry, roofing, stone masonry, and more.
In 1827, according to Kirt von Daacke’s research, there is also a record of a Black woman named Prudence, enslaved by Perry, being paid by the University for washing linens that had been used in the school’s practice of dissecting dead human bodies—often those of Black enslaved people, pulled from graves illegally.
In 1814, Perry acquired the Montebello land and oversaw the building of a large brick mansion between 1819-1820.
When Perry moved to Missouri in the 1830s, George Spooner, another lead white carpenter at UVA and also Perry’s son-in-law, took over residence of Montebello where he eventually died in 1865.
By 1870, UVA mathematics professor and Lost Cause celebrant Charles Scott Venable owned the property. For more on Venable, a Charlottesville City School namesake, see Phil Varner’s work here.
In 1904, the Venable family sold Montebello to Eva Warren, who I wasn’t able to find anything more about, but who, three years later, turned around and sold it to Zack Holladay. Soon after, the Holladay family began subdividing the property into the current neighborhood, selling off lots as it did. And these lots are what contained racist restrictions, which we’re now mapping.
In 1917, the Holladays sold the mansion to Isaac Kimber Moran, a retired UVA Treasurer and Bursar, and a Civil War veteran, having served in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. His daughter, Sarepta Moran, lived in the Montebello mansion with her two sisters for most of their lives. A career teacher, Burnley-Moran elementary school was named after her. The Morans finally sold the property to UVA in 1962, the year after Sarepta died. For a more detailed history of Montebello, click here.
Today, the property and mansion are assessed at $894,900. The surrounding neighborhood is a giant circle. There are some remaining homes, assessed starting at $304,000—some are occupied by students, some by families.
Some of the lots have been developed into massive arrays of student housing, valued between $1.15 million – $6.7 million.
By 1910, around the time when the Holladays began subdividing the property into a neighborhood, Charlottesville had a population of 6,760 people:
White residents: 4,236 (62.6%)
Black residents: 2,524 (37.4%)
Since 1900, the Black population had decreased by 89 people, and by 3.1% of the whole population, while the white population increased by 402 people.
One thing we’re documenting with this project is how this racist language evolved.
In 1921, the deeds say…
“The lots hereby conveyed are not to be used for commercial purposes or sold to negroes. The house erected to cost not less than $5,000.00.”
Beginning in 1923, the deed language changes to…
“Said lot is not to be sold to any person not of the Caucasian race.”
And in 1929, a couple of the deeds show an interesting shift…
- Said lot shall not be sold, rented or leased to any one other than of the Caucasian race.
- Said lot shall not be sold, rented or leased to any one of the Jewish race.
- Said lot shall be used for residence purposes only, and shall not be used for apartment house purposes.
This occurs as a 40-year-old Adolf Hitler is rising to power in Germany along with the Nazi party. But what’s especially interesting in this case is that both of the Montebello properties we’re mapping that include restrictions against sales to Jewish residents, were sold by the Presbyterian Orphan’s Home.
Additionally, we’re mapping 4 more properties that have been logged along Lexington Avenue. More on these later, but here’s what they look like on our new map.
And lastly, here’s a snapshot of the analog map that lives at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, in the Isabella Gibbons Local History Center.