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Introduction to the Corridor

The Ivy Road Corridor developed initially as a landscape primarly populated by affluent, rural and suburban property owners but now also reflects recent periods of commercial and residential development related to the growth and development of the University.

Still, this corridor remains the least developed edge of the University and the City of Charlottesville.  The current Ivy Road, Old Ivy Road, and U.S. 250 West in Charlottesville and Albemarle County are the successors to—and in some places still align with—Virginia’s Three Notch’d Road, the historic overland route connecting the Virginia capitol in Richmond and the James River ports and markets with the agrarian landscapes of the Virginia Piedmont and Shenandoah Valleys. The original English land grants established the historic ownership pattern of large agrarian land holdings in Central Virginia and in the Ivy Road Corridor. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century travelers through this rural landscape followed Three-Notch’d Road’s overland earthen alignment with its path marked along the way with the characteristic three chops cut into hardwood trees lining the road’s edges. This marked route traversed the developing courthouse town of Charlottesville and the grounds of the newly established University of Virginia. West of the University, the road’s alignment responded to the topography of the Ragged Mountains and the hydrology of Morey Creek to wind its way through the increasingly steep elevations of the road’s westward alignments. Historically, tobacco and grains were the principal crops that travelers would have observed, but livestock also played a major role in this hill and valley terrain, giving Ivy Road Corridor a pastoral quality that remained until after World War II.

For a quick view of the Ivy Road Corridor, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pABHHkZ0oWI to view the north side and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BDP9wPkL2E to view the south side.

Pivotal Properties

Most land west of Lewis Mountain remained in large parcels owned by prominent, affluent, and often politically significant families who continued many of the original plantation economy’s agrarian patterns through World War II. These families included the Garths, Rineharts, and Faulconers, and several others who influenced agriculture, livestock production and sales, as well as other business trends in local banking and in the financing and construction of residential and commercial development in Charlottesville/Albemarle. Beginning in the late 1940s and early 1950s and continuing through the present time, growth of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and Albemarle County has influenced the residential, commercial, business, and other developments that have transformed the properties adjacent to the Ivy Road Corridor. Although agricultural land uses persisted through most of the twentieth century, this incremental roadside development has occurred on almost every parcel with road frontage. Still, several historic properties, notably the Lewis Mountain Estate, Birdwood, Westover, Ednam, and Faulkner House, are still distinguishable within the Ivy Road Corridor, and continue to portray their origins as significant Albemarle County country estates.

Beginning in the 1920s, two significant new development trends emerged in the western segments of the corridor: construction of architecturally distinctive country houses developed to orient toward or overlook Ivy Road and the founding and initial development of Farmington as an exclusive residential community—a country club subdivision designed by landscape architect Earl Draper and incorporating a golf course. Infilling slowly between the Farmington Country Club at its western edge and the university-oriented Lewis Mountain neighborhood, the corridor developed incrementally in response to the expansion of the University of Virginia and other local growth and development following World War II.

Following World War II, the Bellair subdivision developed to appeal to a growing interest in suburban living.  This large lot subdivision included a number of architect-designed residences and included deed restrictions for race and religion.

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Business and Commercial Uses

As the twentieth century progressed, Emmet Street (also U. S. Route 29) slowly developed as a linear service and retail district, first serving primarily the University community and then later the increasing commercial needs of the region. This first commercial growth occurred along Emmet Street north of the Lewis Mountain neighborhood as service establishments such as a dry cleaner, and a small number of gasoline and service stations, restaurants, and motor hotels developed for a clientele increasingly arriving by automobile. Modest shopping and service centers began to occupy some of the road frontages along Ivy Road in the 1950s to serve visitors and those traveling U.S. 250 West to the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway, the affluent population living west of Charlottesville, and an influx of married and graduate students living nearby who contributed to a local boom in business and development in the period following World War II. Low-scaled hospitality services also emerged along the Ivy Road in the early 1950s. A one-story motor court (now called Commonwealth Court) developed on a portion of the lower elevations of Lewis Mountain; another out-parcel closer to Ivy Road (where the University of Virginia police is currently located) provided a restaurant site with a convenient onsite parking lot adjacent to the south edge of Ivy Road. As originally designed by architect William Hale, the mid-century commercial buildings were similar in style to many houses that he also designed within the Corridor and in other Charlottesville neighborhoods in the 1950s.

The 1963 development of the Boar’s Head Inn just west of the entrance to Farmington Country Club on the south side of the corridor established new outer limits of Ivy Road Corridor development, expanding once more Charlottesville’s western peri-urban edge. The Boar’s Head Inn was intended to provide a setting and atmosphere evocative of an English countryside inn. The University Foundation purchased the 573-acre property in 1989, and operates the inn, providing up-scale amenities and services, for the well-known venue for academic and other conferences, conventions, weddings, and other large gatherings attracted to its somewhat secluded and semi-rural setting. The University offers several varsity and intramural sports at the Boar’s Head Inn, including tennis and squash. Varsity golf is headquartered at the adjacent Birdwood property. The Boar’s Head Inn delineates the western boundary of the University of Virginia as well as that of our 2015 Ivy Road Vortex area. 

Land Development

As the University began to grow, land subdivisions occurred in the Lewis Mountain vicinity, and John Emmet, the University’s first professor of natural history, received special permission to live apart from the University’s Academical Village, beginning a precedent of university-related development that was separate from the grounds of the University. Professor Emmet purchased land west of the University for the construction of his own residence, Morea, in 1834-1835, perhaps establishing the University’s first peri-urban western edge. Following Emmet’s death, Morea experienced different ownerships and ultimately several land subdivisions for additional single-family residential development in an area now identified as the Lewis Mountain neighborhood. This neighborhood that gradually developed west of the current Emmet Street and U. S. Route 29 remains an a popular residential neighborhood convenient to the University. The City of Charlottesville has extended its boundaries several times since its founding but did not reach the intersection until 1916.  In 1938 the boundary extended just to about St. Anne’s Belfield School.  It arrived at its current western boundaries in 1963 to include all of Professor Emmet’s former land as well as neighboring parcels that developed as part of this early twentieth-century suburban-type neighborhood. 

Education and Housing

The University, using the barracks and temporary mobile unit models of World War II-type military housing, developed married student housing west of Emmet Street in the area north of the railroad. Over time the University discontinued this temporary housing used for the influx of older, married student families following World War II. The University developed garden-style apartments in a wooded area north of the temporary housing site and south of the current Barracks Road Shopping Center.

The University redeveloped the post-World War II housing area in 1965 with the construction of 8,457-seat University Hall to relocate major athletic uses from the by-then too small Memorial Gymnasium on Emmet Street. University Hall, like Memorial Gym, still exists and also is now used for smaller athletic and other events, having been supplanted by the 14,593-seat John Paul Jones Arena, which is used for UVA basketball, as well as musical and other public events. Both the Emmet/Ivy Parking Garage and the John Paul Jones Arena construction projects have incorporated best practices in stormwater management through creation of the Dell pond at the eastern edge of the Lewis Mountain Neighborhood, the constructed wetland at the garage, and the use of biofilters, vegetated swails, and a reconstructed flood plain as part of the arena landscape.

Educational uses developed relatively late within the Ivy Road development timeline. In 1939, St. Anne’s School, Charlottesville’s one private preparatory school for young women, had relocated to the western edge of the Lewis Mountain neighborhood and adapted a historic house and its environs to create a small academic campus. Early in its history, the St. Anne’s campus also housed a private kindergarten and the first elementary grades where well-off families sent their young children—both girls and boys. Later, after World War II, there was a small private elementary school overlooking the lake at Bellair, on the property that was developing within the corridor as Bellair, a large lot and exclusive subdivision with restrictive covenants restricting religious and racial backgrounds of property owners and residents. That school formed the basis for Belfield, a larger private elementary school that developed on a formerly rural residential property north of Bellair and east of Westover. Many of the families who lived in Farmington or within the Ivy Road Corridor sent their children to Belfield which later merged with St. Anne’s to form the current St. Anne’s Belfield School, which continues to operate two distinct private school campuses within this corridor. The University established its first dormitory for academic female students in 1954 with the construction of Mary Munford Hall (now part of the International Residential College) on an elevated site overlooking the southwest corner of the Ivy Road and Emmet Street intersection. Prior to its coeducation in 1970, the University admitted women in some schools, notably as upper-level undergraduates in its education school and in graduate programs.

UVA

University of Virginia and University of Virginia Foundation Ownership

Over time, the University of Virginia has acquired several significant properties within the Ivy Road Corridor as has the related University Foundation. Acquisitions have occurred by purchase, donation, and bequest. These properties include the Boar’s Head Inn, which continues to operate as a hospitality and conference center and has a number of retail and professional rentals. The University Foundation occupies the site on the lake that was the former Amvest headquarters designed by former School of Architecture Dean Jacquelin Robertson, for whom the Vortex Visiting Critic Chair is named.

The University acquired the 500 acres of the historic Birdwood plantation in 1974, and recently transferred the property to the University Foundation. Its primary use is as the University’s golf course. The Birdwood Golf Course is a certified member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program encouraging best management practices in environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, and reduced chemical usage. In 2012, the Foundation completed its acquisition of the 199-acre Foxhaven Farm property south of Birdwood and Bellair; 85 acres of Foxhaven are under conservation easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. There are also several University of Virginia medical facilities located within the Northridge Medical Park that have developed on U.S. 250 West beyond the Boar’s Head Inn. The former Children’s Rehabilitation Center is no longer occupied now that the new Children’s Hospital has opened on West Main Street. Future uses have not yet been determined but university-related medical uses are likely to be planned for this approximately 23-acre site. This site has been used as a medical facility for children since the early twentieth-century when the Rucker Home for Children adapted a historic stone house overlooking Ivy Road for use as a hospital for children with tuberculosis of the spine.

The University Foundation also owns much of the land immediately west of the Ivy Road/Emmet Street intersection on both the north and south sides of the corridor, and University-related development is likely to occur in the future. The future of the Ivy Road Corridor is inextricably linked with and influenced by the growth and westward focus of the University of Virginia. Emmet Street/Ivy Parking Garage was developed in the last decade just west of the Ivy Road/Emmet Street intersection and is available for various types of University permit parking. In addition, the University houses two of its best-known centers in adapted historic houses on Old Ivy Road within the Corridor: the Miller Center of Public Affairs and the Center for Politics at Montesano. The Miller Center occupies a portion of the historic property that was the residence of one of Virginia’s most influential U.S. Senators (1895-1919) and majority leader Thomas Martin. Other University centers and offices are located on Old Ivy Road, and include the Information Security, Policy, and Records office, the Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life, the Cooper Center for Public Service, and the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.

University’s North Grounds Expansion and post-1970s Private Sector Housing

In the 1970s, the University of Virginia established graduate level academic centers first for law and then for business in an area now known as North Grounds; that move influenced the construction of multi-unit apartment and townhouse developments that occurred on the north side of Old Ivy Road and even on the elevations south of Ivy Road. These units today include a mix of condominium and market rate rental units and attract a broad range of residents—both homeowners and renters and those affiliated with the University as students, staff, or faculty as well as those with no connection to the University. These units have a mix of residents of varying incomes and ages. Some have significant concentrations of international students as well as households that have been assisted in resettling to the United States through the International Rescue Committee. There are also at least two housing facilities for aging populations. The University Village north of Old Ivy Road offers luxury independent living units that are primarily owner-occupied and that are restricted to those aged over 55.