You have now helped us log nearly 1,000 property records with racist covenants in them!
This, in itself, is amazing and fantastic, but it also means that, in addition to mapping them, we now have enough data to begin telling the chronological story of how these racist covenants spread and evolved in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
Though these covenants existed for at least six years before, 1903 is the first year the city began typing its previously handwritten property records, which makes it possible for us to scan them with optical character recognition and search them for covenants.
So, for this blog post, we’re going to start at the start, and move through the first seven years of typed records: 1903 -1910. (The next post will cover 1911-1915, and the next 1916-1920, and so on…)
Most properties with racist covenants that were bought and sold between 1903-1910 were in what’s now known as the Martha Jefferson neighborhood, but which was then called Locust Grove, which I wrote about earlier this year, and which originated in the 1890’s.
But in 1904, another neighborhood, immediately to the south was also being formed. It was called Woods Addition:
This new neighborhood consisted of 15 lots, all of which had racist covenants attached to them. Here, for example, is an excerpt of the first 4 lots to sell on December 13, 1904.
Today this area is known as part of the Little High Street area.
A bit of history:
This land was part of “The Farm” — see here for more — where, during the Civil War, many confederate soldiers and officers stayed.
Thomas L. Farish purchased “The Farm” in 1848. His family enslaved at least 36 Black people throughout the county. Even after the Civil War, in 1870, Thomas L. Farish is listed as having nine “servants.”
In 1885, Farish died, and his family slowly broke up the plantation, selling it off in chunks. In 1889 they sold two lots to 45-year old Micajah Woods, which, 15 years later, he developed and called Woods Addition.
Born and raised in Albemarle, Woods joined the Confederate Army at 17 years old, serving under Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. After the war, he received his law degree from the University of Virginia.
In 1870, at 26 years old, he became Albemarle’s commonwealth attorney. In 1872, he was appointed to UVA’s governing body, the Board of Visitors. Woods also commanded a 35-man unit called the Monticello Guard. Every month after the Civil War—and on Thomas Jefferson’s birthday—the group marched down Main Street, ending at a local restaurant for a meal. They frequently held target practice near Cochran’s Mill, where the new housing development, Lochlyn Hills, is now.
In the early 1890s, when the Charlottesville Land Company formed, Woods served as vice-president.
“Virginia today is as new a field to the capitalist as the West was twenty-five years ago. Charlottesville, its central city, now has what many new places give promise of in years to come…standing as it does at the gateway to the New South, it is rapidly becoming an industrial center.”“Albemarle” by John Hammond Moore
On January 29, 1889 Woods bought these two lots of land, at 4.63 acres, from Thomas L. Farish’s estate for $693.25 in cash and bonds.
This is what Woods Addition looks like now, when georeferenced and laid atop of our current day map.
And this is what the boundaries of these lots look like in today’s current parcels.
The average sale price of a lot in this subdivision was $403.75.
• In 1904, two lots sold for $1250, or $312.50 each. In 1918 one of these lots resold for $500.
“That none of said lots are to be sold to negroes.”
• In 1905, two other lots sold for $512.50, or $256.25 each.
“That neither one of said lots is to be sold to a negro or negroes.”
• In 1907, one lot sold for $300. In 1919 it resold for $2,800.
“That said lot shall never be sold or leased to a negro or negroes.”
• In 1909, one lot was sold to Sallie Stuart Woods, daughter of Micajah Woods, for “$1 and love and affection for her, our daughter.”
“That said lot of land is granted, with the understanding and on the condition, that no residence shall be erected thereon which shall cost less than $1000.00 and with the further understanding that said lot of land shall never at any future time be sold or rented to a colored person, – that is, to a negro as defined by the present statutes of Va.”
• In 1909, two lots sold for $800, or $400 each, to James H. Lindsay, the founder and publisher of The Daily Progress, who also ran a life insurance business.
“That neither of said lots is ever to be sold to a negro or negroes.”
In 1914, Frank Lindsay, brother of James H. Lindsay, sold one of the lots for $705. And in 1919, James H. Lindsay sold the other lot for $1,100. By 1922, that same lot was resold for $1,200.
Within just several years, one can see the accumulation of wealth occur through property ownership. Today these properties and lots are worth between $268,300 and $4 million. The average assessment of these properties — including a large office building valued at $2 million and an apartment building valued at $4 million — is $821,407. Without these two properties, the average assessment in this subdivision is $455,425.
What’s interesting about this section of the city though is that, unlike many of these racist covenant properties throughout the city, which are zoned R-1 today, this area contains a mixture of zonings. For example, this Little High entrance corridor is zoned as mixed-use, having converted these former homes into offices.
And then there’s the Mews on Little High Street, built in 2008 with Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, which has designated 39 of the 40 units as affordable for low-income residents.
And on the south side of this subdivision, along Little High Street itself, the homes are zoned R-2 like these duplexes.
Even the few single family homes in this neighborhood are zoned R-2. This one has an empty lot assessed at $85,000 next to it. It’s currently being used as a gated driveway.
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