By Phil Varner
The Belmont neighborhood derives its name from the Belle Mont Estate, a 500+ acre plantation on which much of the neighborhood was built.
The Belmont Mansion plantation house, now converted to apartments, was likely built around 1820 for John Winn, the postmaster of Charlottesville for many years. Immediately prior to residential development, the estate was owned by Slaughter Ficklin, a white man, who, in the 1860 census, was listed as enslaving 18 Black people.
Ficklin died in 1886, and in 1891 the area bounded by Avon Street, Monticello Road, and Moores Creek was platted for single-family homes by the Belmont Land Company (later, the Charlottesville Land Corporation), founded and run by Bartlett Bolling and Micajah Woods.
While most of Belmont was platted in 1891, it wasn’t until 1912 that Graves Addition was formed at the northwestern tip of Belmont by subdividing 45 individual lots surrounded by a triangle of streets — Monticello Road, Graves Street, and Goodman Street.
Initially, Graves Addition was formed from a 13 3/8 acre tract, known as “the Goodman property” or “Hors-de-ville” — French for “out of town” — as the properties lay just outside the town limits until the city annexed them in 1888 when it incorporated.
In January 1913, when lot No. 36 first sold, it contained the following restriction:
“It is understood and agreed, as is evidenced by the acceptance of this deed, that the land hereby conveyed is never to be owned or occupied by any persons other than respectable white people.”
This racist covenant remained with the property’s deed until 1966 when the “respectable white people” clause was removed and not replaced with any additional restrictive tools.
An important aspect of looking at the history of a small city like Charlottesville is the interconnectedness of the people and institutions. Frequently, the same family names that appear in records as having significant property prior to 1865 continue to appear as landowners and arbiters of capital through the 20th century. It is important also to examine their roles in enslaving people, as it was through this that many white families obtained and grew their wealth.
One of the first sales of this land was in 1888, when A. G. Garnett and his wife sold the property to Mrs. E. A. Butler. Four years later, in 1892, she then sold it to David R. Goodman, which is how it comes to be known as “the Goodman property”. (David was named after his uncle, Col. David R. Goodman [b. 1794 – d. 1867])
In the 19th century, David R. Goodman’s father, Horsely Goodman (b. 1801 – d. 1883), owned a sizable estate in Albemarle County near the Burnley family at Rio Mills, northwest of what would later become Charlottesville, as seen here in the 1864 C.S. Dwight and the 1907 Frank A. Massie maps.
In the 1850 census, David was living with his parents. And in the 1850 Slave Schedule for that same census, the Goodman family is listed as enslaving seven Black people:
In the 1860 census, Horsely Goodman is listed as enslaving four Black people, and each of his three daughters, in the same household, is listed as enslaving one person each. David is living with two other men at this time, all of whom have the job of “boss on railroad.”
In May 1861, Goodman voluntarily enlisted in the Confederate Army, mustering into the 19th VA Infantry, which consisted primarily of men from the counties around Charlottesville. During the Civil War, he was wounded four times, the last wound being so severe that his leg was amputated.
In the 1870 and 1880 censuses, David was living with his parents again, likely due to the loss of his leg. In 1892, David purchased the Hors-de-ville property that would become Graves Addition, and when he died, sometime between 1900 and 1903, he passed it on to Mary M. Garnett (neé Goodman).
In 1903, Mary and her husband James bought properties from Mrs. E. A. Butler, Miss Fannie L. Goodman, M. L. Goodman, and Mrs. J. E. Harris, likely consolidating adjacent properties. In 1904, the Garnetts sold the entire 13 3/8 acre property that would become Graves Addition to its namesake, Lewis W. Graves, who in 1906 then sold it to his relative William C. Graves, who then sold it back to Lewis 1909.
In 1911, Lewis W. Graves began subdividing the land, selling individual lots, with No. 36 being part of the second platting in 1912.
A bit of history:
In 1895, Lewis W. Graves (1862-1940) founded the Charlottesville Lumber Company and developed Graves Addition because he wanted his workers to live nearby.
In the book “History of Virginia Volume IV” (1924), Graves’s grandfather (also named Lewis Graves) is described as being “a large land and slave owner in Orange County,” though “the Civil War impoverished the Graves family.”
In the 1860 census slave schedule, Graves’s father, James R. Graves, was listed as enslaving six people. “History of Virginia” also states that “Mr. Graves has had no desire for political activity or public office, but has ever been a stalwart supporter of the principles of the democratic party,” which at that time, especially in Virginia, had an overt platform of white supremacy. Graves owned a significant amount of land in Orange County, and was wealthy enough to be the founder and president of National Bank of Gordonsville.
In 1913, Graves sold five plots of his new self-named subdivision, including No. 36, to Mrs. L. J. Herring, who then resold the property six months later to C. V. Lang, who was listed as a carpenter and contractor in the censuses, and likely built the (identical) houses on No. 35 and 36. To make this purchase, Lang put up $350 in cash and secured two $500 bonds with Albert S. Bolling as the trustee. If the name Bolling sounds familiar, it’s because A. S. Bolling is the son of Bartlett Bolling, the developer who platted the rest of Belmont.
A little more than a year later, in 1914, the Langs sold three of these lots to A. S. Bolling’s brother, Douglass T. Bolling, for $650: $150 in cash and a $500 bond. He then flipped two of the lots back to the Langs two years later for a $175 profit.
The Langs then used A. S. Bolling as the trustee for $1,500 in bonds, presumably as a construction loan for building houses on No. 35 and 36. In July 1916, the Langs sold No. 35 and No. 36 to John E. Sheperd, who then sold both to Woods Stockton in October 1916, who then sold No. 36 to Ernest. L. Moyer in October 1919.
In the 1920 census, Ernest and Mamie Moyer and their two kids were listed as living there. Moyer’s occupation was listed as a miller at a flour mill, possibly at the nearby Brown Milling Company (now the Beck Cohen “barn” below the Belmont Bridge) or one of the other mills on Garrett Street.
The Bolling family, through Colonel Robert Bolling (b. 1646 – d. 1709), is one of the “First Families of Virginia,” referring to the first white English planters to colonize Virginia.
During the Civil War, Bartlett Bolling served in the 43rd Virginia Cavalry, a notorious Confederate unit more commonly known as “Mosby’s Men,” headed by John S. Mosby.
Bolling was commander of the local John Bowie Strange Camp of Confederate Veterans from 1918-1919, and his obituary in the Daily Progress praised that he “was always active in preserving the memories of the trying days of the Confederacy and in installing respect and reverence for the great cause for which they fought.” He also had a tie to banking, as the director and vice-president of the Jefferson National Bank for some time.
Bartlett’s son, Albert Stuart Bolling, was a banking lawyer, and served as trustee for many bonds secured to purchase various properties, including the one examined in this work. A. S. Bolling was also a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, the commander of the local R. T. W. Duke Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), and later the commander of the entire Virginia Division of the SCV.
The name R. T. W. Duke, Jr., son of the Confederate officer for which the local SCV Camp was named, appears on several of these deeds, as he was the City Clerk for many years.
Micajah Woods, Bartlett Bolling’s partner in the Belmont Land Company, was also a neo-Confederate activist and self-avowed white supremacist. Woods served as a staff officer in the Confederate Army, and, like Bolling, was an active member of the John Bowie Strange Camp of Confederate Veterans, notably as the chair of the committee that erected the “At Ready” Confederate soldier statue in front of the Albemarle County Courthouse.
Woods was Commonwealth’s Attorney for Albemarle County for 40 years, including in 1898 when John Henry James was publicly lynched and he filed no charges. Woods also developed the Woods Addition subdivision, which was also solely restricted to white residents.
Over the years, as these properties were sold and resold, this graph shows how the value of the property has increased. This doesn’t take into account the utility service improvements (e.g., water, sewer, fiber, gas, paved road) or the numerous additions and renovations to the house, but it does give a general idea of how the value of the property has increased at a rate far greater than inflation, and how racistly restricted properties have been used to attain wealth over the years.
While most of Belmont has the city’s most restrictive zoning designation, R-1, for single family homes only, Graves Addition is mostly R-2, allowing for duplexes, with a few lots even designated as the least-restrictive Neighborhood Commercial Corridor (NCC) and M-I (Industrial).
With its proximity to the Downtown Mall, it is now some of the most valuable property in the City. In January 2020, plot No. 37, which is adjacent and identical to No. 36, sold for $276,100, and then $20,000 was spent to demolish the house on it, amounting to nearly $300,000 for an empty lot– a lot that first sold for $200 in 1913, or about $5,200 today.
Editor’s Note: This post was written by a resident of the neighborhood. If you would like to write about your property, or your neighborhood, please email the site editor at: firstname.lastname@example.org