Visual History Tour: Vinegar Hill destruction 2.0
Just as the City mulls a master plan to redevelop its public housing stock, which could cost an estimated $115.5 million over ten years and increase available units from 373 to 558, digital history students at UVA have created a dynamic visual archive of another redevelopment project– the demolition of the Vinegar Hill neighborhood, which eliminated 29 businesses, 154 dwellings, one church, and ran a four-lane road through the middle of the predominantly African-American neighborhood.
Once the center of African-American business and social life in Charlottesville, the neighborhood was razed under the federally funded Urban Renewal program of the 1950s and '60s by a largely white, poll-tax-paying voting class that narrowly approved destroying the “blighted” neighborhood and relocating its residents, many to the public housing developments, such as Westhaven (which the city now wants to redevelop.)
Using deeds, maps, photos, oral histories, and other archives, students have painted a unique digital portrait of this controversial history called “VisualEyes Vinegar Hill,” which is part of the Vinegar Hill Project, an initiative of the Virginia Center for Digital History.
For example, an interactive map created by student Kate Wellons, using a Web-based tool developed by a UVA humanities initiative called SHANTI, shows the migration and forced relocation of property owners and tenants along 4th Street from 1961 to 1964. There’s also a side-by-side visual timeline of the lives of two prominent Vinegar Hill land owners: one white and one African-American. One can also see an aerial visual timeline of the 20-acre swath of destruction complete with local news story summaries along the way.
The project includes an interactive map that could turn an appraiser or a realtor green with envy, as it’s built on an original 1960 Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority map that, along with photos, provides property assessments, identifies owner-occupied structures, African-American-owned properties, and even substandard properties, with a query option that allows one to view specific combinations–- such as all houses on Preston Avenue that are owner-occupied and assessed under $5,000.
Other neat features of the interactive map include pop-ups of aerial shots from specific directions, links for ground level photos, a guided tour, and a video interview with Wyatt Johnson, the last tenant of Vinegar Hill. Now that's a map!
There’s also a link to flickr photo stream with nearly 200 archival photos, including annotated aerials to help identify landmarks.