Avon demo commences

news-avondemo-0901Halfway down, as of the morning of December 23.

A familiar sight from the Belmont Bridge for over a hundred years began to come down today–- the former Charlottesville Lumber/Better Living Mill Shop building at 310 Avon St. The building's owner has no plans to develop anything on the site, and said it was being taken down for safety reasons. You can read more about it here. The demo, which will also include the former Rent-A-Center space, should take a few days, workers on the site said.

While the building was built around the same time (1890s) as its historically protected neighbor, the Brown’s Milling Company/Beck-Cohen building (to the right in the photo), the old Charlottesville Lumber building appears to have had the misfortune– or fortune, depending on how you feel about old buildings– of falling just outside the boundary of the “Charlottesville-Albemarle County Courthouse historic district” that was listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register in 1980, and the National Register (NR) in 1982.

“I read the boundary description, “ says City preservation planner Mary Joy Scala, “and it’s not clear why the boundary was drawn there except they probably wanted to include some industrial buildings to help describe how Charlottesville developed along the railroad tracks. The Norcross warehouse on 4th Street was the only other building included in the NR district from south of the tracks.”

In 1985, says Scala, the Downtown Architectural Design Control (ADC) district was put in place around Main and Water Streets, but it did not include any properties south of the tracks.

“Later, in 2006, we expanded both the Downtown and North Downtown ADC districts so that, taken together, their boundaries would align with the original Courthouse NR district boundaries,” says Scala. “Therefore, the Brown Milling building became protected from demolition. We did not look to expand the ADC boundaries past the original National Register boundary.”

Check out this great demo video by Hook reader and commenter chikadee.


Here's an example of absurdity to explain the absurd. Let's take a house for example, your house if you have one. Let's think back to before you made all the upgrades and did any kind of remodelling. Think about how ugly and dated it was before you made all those improvements. How would you feel if you owned a house that was in original condition and didn't have the right to make all the value-added improvements and upgrades. Think about how silly that sounds. Now think about this story. You can preserve it if you want, buy it with your own money. Would anybody complain if it were for a new art building or affordable housing? And how many times have you heard "oh have you seen the old mill building lately??" before the demo? Wake up and smell reality reality check.

this town needs a roller skating rink!

@FDR - there's no political motivation or hindrance in allowing historians a few hours to document a building before demo. It's standard operating procedure and doesn't delay demolition. You say it's "decripid" (possibly decrepit was the word you were grasping for?), and that it's merely old, not historic. Please tell us about the research you've conducted to back up your assertion. It'll run counter to the research done by UVA, the City, and Historical Society, but go ahead and tell us anyway.

@boo!, yeah whatever, just try to deal with this horrible inconvenience. Mocking the locals like you're doing here is one of the reasons that feckless newcomers like yourself cause chronic eye-rolling. When I moved here several decades ago, I had the sense to try and understand the way things were done around here. That included acquainting myself with local history. If someone gave me directions as you described above-- and they most certainly did-- then all I had to do was respond that I wasn't from around here, and therefore wasn't familiar with the building in question. They usually laughed at themselves, acknowledged that they were talking about something before my time, and then gave directions I could understand better. No harm, no foul, and I actually learned something in the process. On the whole very polite natives here. It certainly wasn't a horrific ordeal worth ranting about like a little b**ch. Jeez, with those limitations, how the heck would you ever get around in the boonies, or a foreign city?

A couple of weeks ago in "The Rant" somebody was complaining about the provincialism of native Cville'ers, and the way they can't give directions in a normal way. Instead, they give directions based on where old, former buildings used to be. "You know where the old Sears used to be?" or "Take a left at the old ____ building." etc. I had to laugh because I've experienced that too many times to count, since I'm not from here myself. People directing me around based on where some old building *used* to be, totally locked into the past and can't let go, and assuming that I just know what the hell they're talking about. "Oh yeah sure, that building, the one that ceased to exist in 1986, yup, I gotcha, uh huh...." (Sorry, but not everybody is a native rural Cville-ian who's been here their whole life, never living anywhere else. But that's a side topic!)

Well, this ties into that. I bet people will be referring to this building for the next 150 years when giving directions. "Go past where the old Charlottesville Lumber mill used to be, then take a right....." blah blah blah. Can just see it now. ;D

@Reality Check - Take things waaaay too seriously much? Over exaggerate situations and make them out to be more than they are much? You seem a little high strung and tightly wound. All I said was that I could relate to that rant I read in the Cville Weekly and made a joke about how this building will become the next "no longer exists building" in a long line of buildings that no longer exist which will be included in the locals' directions.

Chill out.

galileo.... let it go man.. the building is gone...

sometimes a building is just a building.....

as for leveling belmont.... it ain't nothin but a neighborhood that 30 years ago people aspired to LEAVE because it was nothing special. Now it is special because????????

While I admit to having some mixed emotions about old buildings coming down, the truth is that seeing them demolished in person is pretty darn cool.

This is what we saw this afternoon:


I was actually in that building 2 years back, and it was indeed worthy of demolition. Not everything can or should be saved.

this is historicide for everyone. that's a waste of significant history as far as buildings go

I walked by the demo site and I was shocked at the waste.
"m sure theres some precious hartpine beams, and not small ones but huge monsters, I wouid definitly appriciate someone getting in touch with me so maybe I could aquire some of this limited resource.John 293-9519 981-6613
Its a shame how they toreit down instead of dismantaling it.
There should not have been the total waste that there is.

This is an amends. I just thought about what I wrote, and I really have no way of knowing how the project was managed or what was involved so I"m going to have to retract what I just said.
I still am interested in buying some salvaged lumber though.

Considering the extreme haste with which it was demolished, I doubt there was much salvaging going on. Additionally, I don't know anyone in the local salvage community that was contacted about any potential wood etc to purchase.

This, added to the fact that historians were not allowed to do a standard survey of the building, tells me that something wasn't quite above-board in this situation. Better Living won't be getting a penny of my money after this, and that goes for any of their family businesses. The building is gone, and they were within their rights to demolish it since it wasn't protected. But there was no reason to deny volunteers access to do a historic survey, and to then send the building to a landfill. That smells.

You're right Jim, what was I thinking? Let's knock the old train station, the King Building and the C&O down too! What the hell, lets just level all of Belmont while we're at it. Nothing but insignificant the whole damn lot is!

That is so wrong!!! I can't believe someone would have so little regard for the history of this town or a great building!

I can't believe anyone is broken up about this one coming down. It's like Beta House all over again: a massive overreaction to the demolition of an insignificant building. The best hope for that place is for a brand new building that takes the best architecural details from the Pavilion and the Bus Transfer station and starting a new.... nevermind, I just figured it out. This building should have been saved only to prevent that from happening.

Sure hope this building is going to Van der Linde Recycling and not the landfill.

The speed with which they've acted stinks like week-old fish. What about the salvage? Is the whole lot going to the landfill?

Why did the owners refuse to allow the old sawmill to be documented by historians for archival purposes in the weeks before it was demoed? The building is a part of Charlottesville's history. Their refusal to allow a standard documentation of the building is shameful and tells me that something isn't quite what it seems to be. I'm guessing it's the classic demolition by neglect.


Thanks for linking to your video. Way cool! I've updated the post with a link to it.

Dave McNair

Reality Check, they probably didn't let the building be documented because it might cause plotical roadblocks to demolishing it. Frankly, it looked like an old decrepid building. Nothing historical about it, just old. I recall a small store in Stanardsville that was torn down. People yelped about it but the owners had tried to find someone who wanted it and would refurbish it. No takers, just complainers.

Some kids would probably have gone in the building and gotten hurt, and then the owners would be blamed.

Well, I've updated the post again, with some information about why the building right next to it, built around the same time (1890s),is protected from demolition. I've also given chickadee's video the prominence it deserves.

Dave McNair

Just don't let Lee Danielson anywhere near the new building they put up in its place... PLEASE.

This is the future site for the new Walmart. No more fighting traffic on 29N!!!

"Significant history?" Okay, Monticello is "significant history." But an old mill building? I don't know about that.....

How did this happen? Don't we have a historical society in this area? I thought they we looking out for this sort of thing and stopping it. THis isn't right. What's happening here any way? Wow, did all the transplants want this for the town they picked to move to? Why did they move then?

This is very sad. Sad indeed. The mill that existed there is one of the very oldest businesses in Charlottesville's history it is nearly as old as Martins Hardware, Which is the oldest business in Charlottesville. The mill building was part of Charlottesville's heritage in a way that so many of the short sighted commenters fail to see. That building is where a great deal of the buildings and structures in Charlottesville were built from. In essence it is where the majority of building materials in the town came from. So, to those of you who love Charlottesville but don't really care about the old mill in Belmont, think again. Much of what draws people to Charlottesville is it's historic and cultural richness, it's funky downtown, Jefferson's "academic village", its proximity to Richmond, D.C., New York, it's rural beauty throughout the county of Albemarle. All of the wealth and vast cultural richness that makes Charlottesville so desirable comes from, not only the history of Monticello or the Downtown Mall, but also places like the old mill.
As a note. For those newcomers to Charlottesville who are unaware, or those who generally don't know. Charlottesville has a long history of demolishing historic or cultural assets. The sad history of Vinegar Hill is a shining example of what happens when redevelopment occurs without oversight and thoughtful planning. The process of growth does not always require demolishing antique structures. The H.M. Gleasons project is proof of that. It's not to say that growth should be stopped but it should be thoughtful and scaled to need, not desire. The unfinished hotel on the mall is a perfect example of thoughtless planning, and who pays for it in the end, those who are invested in our community for the long term.
I would like to ask those who believe there is no harm done. Do they really think something better for our community will come from it? Well, if they don't really care about the future of Charlottesville as a community I guess not. But for those of us who DO CARE, it is alarming and upsetting. It saddens me that to know that one of my neighbors would prefer to carry out their plans in secret and hide behind the age old trick of "by right" land use. It is certainly "their right", but what does it say about a person or people, who own a significant piece of downtown real estate, but choose to be disengaged and isolated with how they plan to redevelop it. What might it imply about what kind of plans they have beyond this. I'm not sure that those plans have any consideration in mind for our community. In high school they called that "not a team player". Maybe I appear naive, shortsighted, and imply an attitude of arrogance. If so, I apologize, it's just that I've been watching this happen to this town all my life and I'm so tired of it.
Lastly, I walked through that building the week they were vacating the machinery, several months back. There were heart pine beams 12 x 12 or bigger, and beautiful pine and oak flooring throughout. The building was so awesome, it was very industrial and just seemed incredible. It was not "decrepit" it was antique and full of character, needing love and creative energy. Expensive as a project, maybe, but it was valuable for sure. I've salvaged 5 barns so I have some experience. This was a waste...

Well said Zack. The signs pointing to the "Historic" downtown are becoming more ironic every year.

I concur with cookieJar - well said Zack.

There is a local group that I believe is suppose to be the watch dog for demolitions - Preservation Piedmont. They along with the Piedmont Area Preservation Alliance hosted a Preservation Week back in May I believe. These are the groups that have been silent on the matter. Where are they? I understand there is even a City Historic Preservation Committee - what is their position?

Eventhough it was a part of history this town needs to move on to greater things. All the developement is outside of the city. In order to keep revenue in this place it would be best to see some chain stores.

Chain stores take revenue and send it somewhere else.

In order to keep tourist dollars coming in, it would be best to keep this place worth visiting. No one is going to visit to spend money in chain stores, and I as a resident would rather spend my money at locally owned business like Martin Hardware, or Meadowbrook Hardware than Lowes, or at Cafe Cubano rather than Starbucks.