History of Charlottesville, VA and Albemarle County


To better serve clients in the Piedmont region and the Valley, the personal injury law firm Allen, Allen, Allen and Allen opened its Charlottesville branch on March 17, 2008. The office is located in the former Charlottesville Veterinary Hospital on Route 29 in the Rio Hill Center across from Lowes.

Charlottesville and the surrounding Albemarle County are home to over 134,400 residents and are located about 110 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., and about 70miles west of Richmond. According to the county website, Albemarle County is one of the most attractive and desirable locations in Virginia, with excellent school systems, low crime and unemployment rates.Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville offer a wide range of cultural, historic and recreational activities.

Albemarle County was formed in 1744 by an act of the Virginia General Assembly. Its original land area included today’s counties of Amherst, Buckingham, Fluvanna and Nelson, as well as much of Appomattox and part of Campbell. Albemarle County assumed its present boundaries in 1777. It was named in honor of William Ann Keppel, second Earl of Albemarle, who was then governor of the Virginia colony. The first county seat was located in Scottsville. In 1761, county government was moved to Charlottesville, which was established as a town in 1762 and established as a city in 1888.

Charlottesville, known as Thomas Jefferson’s city and the home of the University of Virginia, is situated among the red clay foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near the Rivanna River. As the seat of Albemarle County, Charlottesville has been an important crossroads since the late Colonial times. Its Main Street follows Three Chopt Road, one of the first trails from Tidewater to the West. (The old Monacan Indian trail from Richmond west over the Shenandoah was reputedly marked by three chop marks on a tree; hence the name Three Chopt Road).

In its youth, Charlottesville and the county of which it was the social and commercial center produced several men, whose lives contributed richly to the Nation. Thomas Jefferson, who was both governor of Virginia and the third President of the United States, made his home at Monticello, just outside the city of Charlottesville. In order to be near Jefferson, the fifth President of the United States, James Monroe, came to Charlottesville in 1789 and later made his home at Ashlawn, adjacent to Monticello, where he lived for almost twenty-five years. Two men whose expeditions identify Charlottesville with the opening of the great West were George Rogers Clark, born at Buena Vista and Meriwether Lewis, born near Ivy.

A few Historical points of interest include:

1. University of Virginia, founded in 1818 by Thomas Jefferson: The first session opened March 1825 with 40 students and 7 faculty members. Before Jefferson’s death on July 4, 1826, the number of students increased to more than 140. (Interestingly, the property of the University is always referred to as “the grounds” and never as “the campus”.)

2. Albemarle County Courthouse (NW corner Jefferson & Park St). (The grounds of the courthouse once held a whipping post, pillory and stocks. Religious services for several denominations were held in the courthouse, which Thomas Jefferson called “The Common Temple”. He was a frequent visitor.)

3.Site of the Old Swan Tavern (NE corner Jefferson & Park Sts) (The tavern was built about 1773 by John Jouett, father of Jack Jouett, whose late night ride and warning saved Thomas Jefferson and the assembly from the British cavalry sent to capture them.)

4. Lee Monument and Park, Jefferson St between 1st and E. 2nd Sts. (Begun by H. M. Schrady and finished after his death by Leo Lentelli, the monument was dedicated in 1924. The statue stands at the highest point in a pleasant one-acre park downtown, with many benches and flowers, that is a nice lunch-time retreat.)

5. Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea Memorial, Ridge and Main St. bronze by Charles Keck. (This statute was dedicated in 1919 and commemorates the 1803-1806 journey of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with its guide and interpreter, Shoshone Indian Sacagawea.)

6. Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson (Designed by Thomas Jefferson, the building and grounds are currently maintained by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation as a museum and educational institution.)

7. Ashlawn, home of James Monroe (Named “Highland” during his lifetime, it was re-named Ashlawn after his death. It is currently maintained by his alma mater, the College of William and Mary.)

I have lived in the Charlottesville area for ten years. One of my favorite places is the downtown pedestrian mall – any time of day or night! Recently refurbished brick pavers make the mall a wonderful place to have lunch, dinner or just take in the shopping opportunities. There are usually musicians playing, with their cases out for a donation if you find them entertaining. Sometimes there is as a family of jugglers that is well worth watching. There are a number of restaurants with tables outside on the mall, and a relaxing lunch or dinner there is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening.

As I write this I realize I will need to create a follow up article as there is so much more to say about the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Be sure to check the city and county website for more information: http://www.charlottesville.org/.