Thursday, February 12, 2009

Latest Archive Request on WINA

Satyendra Huja, Dave Norris, Holly Edwards, Julian Taliaferro, David Brown

Charlottesville, Va.—Today I made my first call to the Schilling Show on WINA. I asked Councilor Holly Edwards to use her position to help get published the Housing Authority urban renewal archives. Below is my email to Edwards and her fellow city councilors. Also is an abbreviated timeline of local urban renewal and the sustained, public efforts on my part to preserve the remaining history by photographing and publishing the archives. Currently this blog has more on Charlottesville’s urban renewal than any other online source.

Dear Holly Edwards, Charlottesville City Council:

Thanks for taking my call today on the Rob Schilling Show. I hope you are able to follow through with success in having the Redevelopment and Housing Authority historical archives published onto the Internet. According to Dr. Scot French of the Virginia Center for Digital History at the University of Virginia in a Nov. 2007 phone call, the archives have been scanned into digital format and the original documents have been returned. However, there’s still no mention of this project on the VCDH website.

In January 2009, the Carter G. Woodson Institute at UVA, to whom the archives were originally donated, confirmed that they had given the archives to Dr. French. I sent a copy of this latest inquiry to Dr. French through the VCDH, but have not received a response. If the archives cannot be posted online, I can make an appointment to copy them onto CD or DVD, or begin the process anew by scanning or photographing whatever documents survive.

The archives comprise 6,845 documents and 1,189 photographs, according to Luann Williams at a presentation Feb. 24, 2007. Dr. French also spoke on Vinegar Hill history at this presentation at First Baptist Church on West Main, site of the original Jefferson School 1865 in the old Delevan Hotel and Civil War Hospital.

Below is a timeline listing a few highlights of urban renewal locally and my efforts. I hope you have success where I and others have not. Please let me know by email, phone or mailing address the results of your efforts on this matter.

Blair Hawkins


Timeline of Urban Renewal and Archive Pursuit

1954 – Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority created by referendum.

1960 – Vinegar Hill urban renewal referendum.

1964 – Westhaven public housing at site of Cox’s Row. Vinegar Hill clearance completed and vacant for next 20 years. Omni Hotel, originally the Radisson, was built 1980s and continues to be subsidized by the city.

1967 – Triple referendum for Garrett Street Urban Renewal, now called the Warehouse District. Urban renewal (redevelopment or public housing) for Garrett Street first developed 1860 and site of town’s first public school 1870, South First and Sixth Street SE (Old Scottsville Road), and Ridge Street Revised (backyards of eastside of Ridge). Ware Street, site of Garrett Square / Friendship Court, not part of referendum.

1968 – Mitch Van Yahres first elected to City Council. Elected to House of Delegates 1981.

1970 – First HUD subsidy $3 million for Garrett Street project, 50+ acres.

1972 – First wave of demolitions to remain parking lots for decades. Includes Madam Marguiretta de Crescioli’s opulent bordello 1922-1951 at 303 Fifth St. SE and Levy Avenue now a parking lot the Housing Authority has stepped up efforts to sell in recent years.

1973 – Satyendra Huja becomes city’s urban planner and is elected to City Council Nov. 2007. “Urban renewal planner Huja runs for Council”, Apr. 8, 2007. In comments, Huja denies his involvement with urban renewal by invoking the Vinegar Hill myth. At this early point in the campaign, he didn’t know I was the nephew of Thomas Dowell, who ran 3 times for Council in 1970s on anti-urban renewal platform.

I wanted to comment on your blog about me. I would like to correct some incorrect facts you have in this blog. You credit me with the Vinegar Hill urban renewal project and dislocation of families. This is to inform you that these actions happened in the 1960's long before I arrived in Charlottesville in 1973. I would appreciate you correcting these factual errors.

For further information please see my campaign website.

I would be happy to discuss this with you if you wish.

Satyendra Singh Huja

Hawkins’ response:

Thanks for your feedback. I did not credit you with Vinegar Hill urban renewal. Specifically, I said "non-Vinegar Hill urban renewal" and Midway Manor. Most notably, I refer to what you call:

"Rickety shacks rattled in the wind that blew through the weedy fields on the other side of the tracks - a black and white photograph of one of them hangs across the room from his desk, where he can see it every day. "I keep it here to remind me," he said. "What we do here has meaning in people's lives."("A Matter of Balance" by Theresa Reynolds Curry. Courtesy Real Estate Weekly.)

Here are a few photos of what you call "rickety shacks". This street and its side streets were razed in 1977. Numerous public housing projects were built while you were planner. I'm not saying these events were your fault literally. But how can you have so much experience and not remember anything? Original Time Machine to Heal the Wounds of Urban Renewal

I agree, what you do has meaning in people's lives. This demographic was invisible then, and we still are.

1974 – Feb. Council vote approves Pedestrian Mall as part of “Downtown Renewal.” 2 councilors in favor (Van Yahres, Charles Barbour), 3 abstain (Francis Fife, Jill Rinehart, George Gilliam).

1977 – Ware Street razed, had been seized early ‘70s and rented out, in some cases to families who had owned the houses. Debate for elderly high-rise to be at top of Vinegar Hill site of Midway School (Charlottesville High School) or in “Garrett Street Urban Renewal Area”. Midway Manor was built in parking lot of Midway School demolished. Crescent Halls elderly public housing was built 1976 in middle of South First St. $6.2 million grant “to construct a 58-unit housing project on First Street and four other smaller complexes scattered around the city”.

1979 – Garrett Square public housing opens, sold to private sector and becomes subsidized, low-income housing. Purchased 2002 by Piedmont Housing Alliance and renamed Friendship Court.

2000 – Spring. Blair Hawkins runs for City Council. “2000 Revenue Sharing speech on video”, March 10, 2008. Includes speeches by 8 of 9 candidates and summary of Hawkins campaign with documents.

2000 – June 5. First speeches on urban renewal and eminent domain.

“Letter to Mayor Daugherty to investigate Urban Renewal”

“Property Street for Sally Hemings and Laura Dowell”

2001 – Feb. 28. “Free Enterprise Monument Instead of Free Speech Wall”, The Observer Constitutional argument in a newspaper.

2001 – Aug. 27. The Witness Report pamphlet/newspaper debuts. Includes all 19 pages and 4 pages of “Letters of Charlottesville” which, Sep. ’02, broke the story that 1977 drought was worst on record and first mandatory conservation.

2002 – Jan. Original Time Machine To Heal The Wounds Of Urban Renewal. Includes photos.

Index of articles posted 2002 including Jefferson School.

2002 – Feb. 22. “Five Letters Endorse Bern Ewert’s Urban Renwal Involvement.”

2002 – Feb. 26. “Bern Ewert Responds to Urban Renewal Association - HealingCharlottesville Stands Firm and Connects Renewal to Fifth Amendment”.

2002 – Aug. 20. “Housing Authority is controversial because of urban renewal’s history”, The Daily Progress

“Urban renewal is the big story today not because it was wrong or unjust, but rather because of the excessive number of historic buildings destroyed and because half the population moved away, taking their oral and documented histories with them. As a result, Charlottesville has suffered a major break with its recent and distant past.”

2003 – Hawkins Campaign for House of Delegates against Mitch Van Yahres record of supporting urban renewal, inlcudes timeline and documents. Hawkins failed to win Republican nomination, Democrat Van Yahres ran unopposed in his final campaign. Mar. 5, 2005 Van Yahres announced his retirement on Hawkins birthday in Hawkins’ childhood neighborhood torn down while Van Yahres was on City Council.

2004 – Feb. Time Machine To Heal The Wounds Of Urban Renewal website is archived. Hawkins begins posting reports and essays to Charlottesville Independent Media, which became defunct early 2006. First story: “Is Buck Mountain Reservoir eminent domain abuse?”

2004 – Mar. 25. Initial request to view the Housing Authority archives. Republished with this article (scroll down).

2005 – Jun. 23. Supreme Court ruling in Susette Kelo case in New London, CT. Suddenly Hawkins’ unique political views didn’t seem so unique. On same day, Council interview of School Board applicants for last appointed school board in Charlottesville’s history. Hawkins cites his eminent domain campaign as an example that he can follow an issue over the long term.

2005 – Nov. 21. Council votes 4-1 to approve Charter Amendment Sec. 50.7 to expand urban renewal powers. Must be approved by General Assembly.

2006 – Jan. 5. Letter to Delegate David Toscano and Senator Creeigh Deeds in opposition of amendment. Blair’s Blog debuts.

2006 – Jan. 18. “Charlottesville’s affordable housing amendment is amended: Officials back off eminent domain”.

2006 – Jul. 17. “An Inconvenient Truth”: Report from Housing Authority: Update on archives, HUD request. Includes photos of 10 unidentified properties I was allowed to photograph June 2005 and 8 photos of 6 houses on Ware Street I photographed August 2005.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request I filed July 26, 2005, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development responded in a letter dated November 9, 2005. Holly K. Salamido responded that HUD policy is to destroy whichever archives are the most historic at the time of scheduled archive reduction.

“The records you requested are at least 34 years old and have since been destroyed in accordance with standard records retention schedules,” wrote Salamido.

2006 – Nov. 21. “Council refuses to release urban renewal archives: Jefferson School conflict of interest: Blighted House has until Feb. 15”. Includes “Housing Authority archives out on loan for preservation”, Mar. 29, 2004, Charlottesville Independent Media.

2006 – Dec. 4. “Origins of Jefferson School and Public Education in Virginia”.

2006 – Dec. 11. “Urban renewal archives now open to public by appointment”. Letter from Assistant City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney and Hawkins’ response.

2007 – Feb. 25. “First Baptist Church site of first Jefferson School”. Dr. Scot French, UVA historian and director of Virginia Center for Digital History, gives 2-hour lecture on pre-1950s Vinegar Hill history. Luann Williams says the archives comprise 6,845 documents, 1,189 photos and 189 blueprints and maps. Small-Toney says she knew about 1865 date of Jefferson School despite telling newspapers the 1894 date of the 4th schoolhouse and repeating that date to the Historical Society’s quarterly meeting.

2007 – May 23. “Asst city manager Small-Toney resigns, blocked access to public records”.

2007 – Feb. 12. “Update on urban renewal archives: 287 more photos”.

2007 – Jun. 3. “Democrats nominate Huja, Edwards, Brown: Challengers Seam, McKeever to remain active”.

2007 – Jul. 16. “Jefferson School: The Original Model for Public Education in Virginia”. Letter to Daily Progress and speech before Council. Progress declines to print the letter because it’s “Fact-based.”

2008 – Jan. 8. “2007: The Jefferson School Rule”.

2008 – Jan. 12. “2007: Virginia Reforms Eminent Domain”.

2008 – Jan. 28. “2007: Levy Avenue one of Many Stories”.

2009 – Jan. 6. Email from Carter G. Woodson Institute in response to latest inquiry. Copy sent to Dr. Scot French through Virginia Center for Digital History contact page.

Dear Blair Hawkins,

I regret that I can't be of much help to you concerning your request for information about the Charlottesville Urban Renewal Archive Study. Luann Williams is currently out of the office (we are still effectively on Winter Break), and Scot French, with whom she worked on this project, is currently in Ghana, conducting a January Term course for the College. This Charlottesville Urban Renewal Archive Study was begun (and obviously completed) prior to my arrival as director of the Institute.

I can verify that the Carter G. Woodson Institute does not hold any public archives and thus none of the files referenced below are in our possession. Most of the research carried out under the banner of the Woodson Institute, during Professor French's tenure here, is now available through the Virginia Center for Digital History, Scot French director, so I would suggest you contact him some time after mid January when he will have returned from Ghana. I'm suggesting that you contact Scot French, rather that Luann Williams, simply because she was a graduate student assistant on the project and Scot, the project director.

Best regards,
Deborah McDowell

Deborah E. McDowell,
Director, Carter G. Woodson Institute
P. O. Box 400162
Charlottesville, VA 22904
Fax: 434-924-8820

Alice Griffin Professor of English
University of Virginia
402 Bryan Hall
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Office: 434-924-6661
Fax: 434-924-1478

-----Original Message-----
Subject: Charlottesville Urban Renewal Archive Study

January 5, 2008
LuAnn Williams, Graduate Student
Phone: 434-924-8891

Deborah McDowell, Director
Phone: 434-924-3109

Dear Ms. Williams,

Please give me an update on the urban renewal "Vinegar Hill" study you talked about on Feb. 24, 2007, at First Baptist Church at 632 West Main Street, site of the original Jefferson School in 1865, the model for public schools in Virginia.

At that Historical Society meeting, Mr. Scot French spoke about some of the Vinegar Hill history. I asked French for the study or link to it in Nov. 2007. He said they wouldn't be available until Jan. 2008. I've searched for the study several times in 2008, but with no results.

At the Feb. 2007 meeting, you listed the number of documents that comprise the study.

1,189 visual media files
6,845 physical documents
189 maps and blueprints
6,199 files related to GIS mapping

What is the link to this study? How can I gain access to these public archives in the possession of the Carter G. Woodson Institute? If not online, can you copy these archives to CD's or DVD's for me? In Nov. 2007 French said the actual documents are now back "wherever they came from."

Below are links to my documentation of the meeting where you talked about the project, and a photo of you and French. The second link is un update on my research and its relevance. There's been much resistance to my efforts to study and publish this history and documents. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Blair Hawkins

"First Baptist Church site of first Jefferson School", Feb. 25, 2007

"New Urban Renewal Director, Same Old Lies", Dec. 23, 2008

The Carter G. Woodson Institute Course for Spring 2009:

HIUS 403 - Virtual Vinegar Hill: Visualizing an African American Memoryscape (4)
Instructor: Scot French and Bill Ferster

2009 – Jan. 22. “Eugene Williams’ selective civil rights outrage”. Originally comment posted to The Hook. Another instance where this archive pursuit is documented.

Contact Virginia Center for Digital History.

2009 – Feb. 12. Hawkins calls Schilling Show and asks Councilor Holly Edwards for help.

Email the Councilors:

“Holly Edwards” <>
“Satyendra Huja” <>
“Dave Norris” <>
“David Brown” <>
“Julian Taliaferro” <>

Vinegar Hill 1960
Vinegar Hill 1960


After Vinegar Hill clearance at Ridge and West Main, Lewis and Clark Statue.

Charlottesville map 1935 shows Vinegar Hill and Garrett Street urban renewal, Preston Ave. clearance for 4-lane highway to nowhere, West Main St. loss of buildings and business due to zoning, and "Downtown Renewal" Mall.

Madam Marguerite's opulent brothel 1922-1951 at 303 Fifth St. SE. Built 19th century, razed 1972 in Garrett Street clearance.


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