Victory demo: crushing for founder's granddaughter

victoryshoestore-web Downtown's Victory Shoe Store, as Ethel Crowe remembers it from her childhood. HISTORIC PHOTO

While the unceremonious demolition of the art-deco glass storefront of the old Victory Shoe Store on the Downtown Mall has angered city planners, preservationists, and fans of the classic storefront–and contributed to some spirited discussion on the function of the BAR, property rights, anonymous comment posting, and “unconsciously bourgeois pathology”–for Ethel Crowe, it’s been like losing a piece of her life.

“It has made me so sick, I can’t tell you what it has done to us,” says Crowe, whose Russian immigrant grandparents, Isaac and Freda Kobre, opened the store in 1921.

“I was born in that store,” says Crowe, “That’s all I ever knew. It has been crushing. I hope they can put it back the way it was. But it will never be the same.”

As Crowe reveals, her grandparents put a new store front on the building around 1947, modifying what was already there.

Crowe says her parents, Tillie (“Miss Tillie,” Crowe says people called her) and Bernie Miller, eventually took over the store and operated it until 1995, when Tillie passed away. Crowe says she managed to keep the store going for another year, but finally closed and gave all the shoes away to charity.

“We were there for 75 years, that’s a long time,” says Crowe, struggling for words to describe the loss.

Crowe said she’s already called the building’s owner, Joe Gieck, to ask why he demolished the store front; his explanation that the glass was cracked was not well-received by Crowe.

“I hope something is done,” she says. “Maybe a petition to have it restored.”


"J. Cook" = "Joe Gieck"?

J. - did they really have the "Right"?

J Cook-- that's the issue. The owner purchased several protected properties on the Mall and agreed to abide by the rules. People are angry because the owner feels he shouldn't have to abide by the same rules that everyone else does, though he's been more than willing to reap the many benefits of owning properties in a historic district.

You may not care, or see the value in protection, but many others feel differently.

Times change. Should we stay "historic" forever? Perhaps we should get rid of all buildings, road, technology, etc., and just live off the land with sticks and stones.

Now, back to digging slugs out of the ground with my bare fingers. I really need some protein. My loincloth is falling right off my body.

Give it a rest! A glass front store being modified is not a cause for all this wringing of hands. The current owners have the Right to use their property (and that includes modifying the front of the establishment) as they determine is in their best interest as long as it doesn't interfere with the long range Plan for the Mall. To those who want to keep everything as it is , BUY the property and then you can preserve it as you wish.

Dearest viewer from the country,

I believe that the use of the word "historic" when referring to the mall is generally meant to refer to the buildings and not the mall itself. You don't argue against the bulk of the buildings deserving that designation, which according to routinely used guidelines for the designation of historic areas does make that area qualify a historic district.

In addition, the Mall itself is arguably historic by the reasoning laid out for you in the post that preceded your own. If you would re-read Mr. Byrd's comment, he has kindly listed a few of the criteria that may be used to determine the historic nature of a particular place. It is reasonable to believe that ownership of a place is not the only sort of association with a historic figure which would qualify it as historic. For instance, Mr. Jefferson wasn't the owner of the university he founded and designed, yet few would argue that the Lawn isn't "historic."

The Mall itself was designed by Lawrence Halprin, one of the most important landscape architects this country has ever produced. I would argue that the recent renovation destroyed the patina of the Mall, was an extravagant waste, and should never have been approved, but the result is largely in keeping with the designer's original intent and has moved closer to it in some respects.

Barracks Road Shopping Center dates from 1959 and is one of the oldest in the country. It may legitimately be regarded as historic, but whether it is or not has nothing to do with downtown.

Excerpted from the obituary page of the Washington Post 10/27/09:

Lawrence Halprin, 93, a legendary American landscape architect who designed the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial along the Tidal Basin and San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square, marrying ecology and aesthetics in scores of the nation's urban spaces, died Oct. 25 at his home in Kentfield, Calif. No cause of death was reported.

Mr. Halprin designed scores of public places from Seattle to Fort Worth. Smithsonian magazine called him "one of the preeminent place-makers of the 20th century," and Charles Birnbaum of Washington's Cultural Landscape Foundation called him a trailblazer and one of the most important landscape architects of the modern era.

maybe he should turn it into an adult book store with peep shows. That way they could have nekkid mannequins in the historic windows wearing clear heels in honor of the former shoe store.

Outskirts Guy-- that's easily the dumbest argument I've heard in a long time. Only a few areas/buildings are protected in Charlottesville. There are plenty, both old and new, that are not protected, nor will they ever be. People know what they're getting into when they buy one of these FEW protected properties.

Digging slugs out of the ground? Are you for real?

are going to petition that the hospital in which I was born be preserved for all eternity. I mean, this is ME we're talking about.

In all seriousness, I fail to see why the feelings of someone that owned the property over ten years ago is worthy of a column in the hook. There are far, far, far greater tragedies, just on the downtown mall.

Should we fight to preserve the boarded up storefronts? Seriously. Someday those storefronts may be sold and are the new owners going to have to go in front of the BAR to remove the plywood currently there? Because in the future, that plywood will be "historic".

@businessowner_ whenever I hear a business owner complain about rules being unreasoable, like you are, I know that business owner isn't really that interested in the community, theya re just interested in themselves and how they can make one more buck off of everyone else's back.

Anyone starting a business on the Mall is obviously trying to be a part of an environment that they feel is good for their business model. It's location location location. There are rules that exist to maintain that environment. If you want to be a part, you have to play by the rules, and it behooves you to know those rules before hand.

If you don't like them, go to another environment more suited to what you want to do with your business model and store front.

Have a hearing, either make him restore it on not and move on.

If the BAR was a little more reasonable you wouldn't have people trying to skirt the law.

If the city wants to really solve the problem then they should use taxpayers money and PAY anyone selling a building a bribe to put a clause in that keeps the storefront original perpetually.

Then it is solved forever without hearings etc. If somone violates the clause they either fix it or forfeit the property.

and if it were preserved, it would be the biggest tourist attraction of all time.

A building doesn't have to be "historic" to be in a "historic district" and have it exteriror regulated by the BAR. In fact, it can be brand new or even under the design phase.

So often I hear it referred to as the "Historic Downtown Mall"

Barracks road shopping center was here before the mall !

And, that sure as H~~ ain't historic

Make an offer to buy it and if successful, do with it what you want. Everything is for sale.

As former Chairman of Virginia's Board of Historic Resources (the board that designates Historic status in Virginia), we argued these fine points many times. What IS historic. And since history is not static, then is it ok to change or add to a historic structure and still have it remain "historic". The Department of Historic Resources has guidelines that they follow to "score" a structure. If the structure meets criteria (such as having a historic figure as an owner, or that the current architecture is a worthy example of its time period), the the Board usually passes motion o accept the report of the Department (which is comprised of architecture historians and preservation professionals). The BAR in Charlottesville has a different role, in that though it tries to preserve the architecture that exists IF it finds the property worthy, it also addresses new structures and remodeling/rehab projects as well. The owner is under no obligation to the Virginia's Dept of Historic Resources, but IS obligated to submit his plans to the BAR for approval, which is then passed along to city council for final approval. We don't know what the BAR nor the Council would have done, or will do now.

While I am absolutely a property rights proponent, and feel owners should be able to do with their property as they wish, we do live in a "society" which creates rules of conduct. The city has created their laws, and the owner has violated those laws. He has the right, should he be turned down for his project, to sell the building and move on. He also should have had the foresight (knowing that Charlottesville's BAR and council is always always ALWAYS fighting with developers over these kind of issues) to not even attempt changing a structure's architecture in a Historic District. Dumb dumb dumb. Sorry Joe, but you could have asked me to represent you to the BAR or the Council. We could have asked the Dept Hist Resources to at least look at the building and see if they thought it was worth preserving. If they thought it would not meet the historic criteria, you could have used that as ammunition with the BAR or City Council to do with the building as you wanted. But now you're just a scofflaw.

"Historic Downtown" space "Mall".

Thanks Byrd for your opinion, well-stated whether others agree or not.

Hey Reality Check. Here are three words you can investigate when you get time: humor, sarcasm, serious.

Nothing I say is ever serious. Seriously.

Back to digging for slugs. Mmmm...tasty little bits of history.

Mr 72 year old- no, Main Street doesn't look anything like it did when the shoe store was open- it was cool wasn't it? But then again, Main Street doesn't look anything like it did 20 years ago with the Mall. Even then there were a number of different businesses, and now, it is just a glorified food court the taxpayer is dumping tons of money into. They even gave the Mall money that had been set aside for Belmont, cheating Belmont, and its enterprising regentrifying population yet again.

I think Store Fronts are empty for a variety of reasons, but it certainly has little to do with radically changing the store front. People build studio apartments out of old manufacturing workrooms all the time, and you can still see that it was a manufacturing work room. It adds to the charm.

There is a lot of commercial space around town available, so I don't think the Mall is unique, and I think rezoning properties for business uses at this time is only going to make it harder on businesses, not easier.

I just have some pretty simple economical rules- location location location. To maintain a location there are rules. If you don't want to play by them, go somewhere else where the rules are different. Or adapt your business model. Personally in these economic times, i would much rather not change anything in a structure I absolutely didn't have to for security of functional reasons.

Congratulations on being born in a manger. I hope that works out for you.

When does "historic" start ? In 1947 when the building's front was modified ? Should we bring back the "historic" traffic that existed before the mall was bricked over? How about that "historic" front on Splendora's or the "historic" feel of the Transit Center. Within reason, I support the community dictating rules that benifit the community, but for the life of me I just don't see this as a big deal. The building's owner is attempting to provide a space that will attract a new business to the Mall and avoid yet another empty space. Glass front 60 years old ? Pleasant memories for some, but is it really "historic".

"If you don’t like them, go to another environment more suited to what you want to do with your business model and store front"


I am 72 years old and main street looks NOTHING like it did when the shoe store was open.

@businessowner- what constitutes "a little more reasonable?" Please use verifiable examples to explain.

Important to a few doesn't mean important to all. She has fond memories of the store which is fine. That is all they are though.....memories. I have great memories of my childhood as well but I dont need a building or certain place to remain the same to keep those memories. I hope that this issue is resolved soon becaues it really isnt important enough to be news-worthy.

This whole conversation makes no sense. The "rules" people keep referring to appear to be completely arbitrary, as building design on the Mall is ridiculously varied.

Additionally, I'm unclear why preserving the inefficient fire traps that represent "historic" buildings on the Mall is a priority for anyone. We're not talking about Monticello here. For all the talk about "going green", I'm wondering why there isn't a bigger push for modern architecture with modern insulation, modern electrical systems and modern appliances.

If you ask a Buddhist, non-attachment is the cure for suffering. Take their advice and let go so the rest of us can move on.

@Verifiable Examples-- you just move on with yo bad self then. The city preserving some of the cool buildings downtown shouldn't impede your progress towards enlightenment one bit.

Old buildings and green are not mutually exclusive. I live in a modernized, energy efficient old house and love it. I love creative modern architecture too and wish there was more of it in Cville. The BAR encourages energy efficiency and modernization, and their guidelines don't restrict what happens inside structures. Modern and old co-exist beautifully in design control districts, and there are many great examples of this around Charlottesville.

I'm sorry you don't care about these buildings, however plenty of people do.

Of course Mr. 72 can see the value of rules. He asks himself all the time "What if somebody builds an out house next to mine, will I be unable to sell my home in order to pay for the nursing home?" Often times it's a question of maintaing value.

If the reason you're arguing to keep a storefront is that it's "cool", your argument doesn't hold water. There's no reason to think a redesigned storefront wouldn't be just as "cool". Never mind that "cool" is completely arbitrary.

And while I appreciate the fact you've modernized your private home, that's not relevant here. Many of the structures on the Mall are not, and I can attest to this firsthand, as I've worked down here for years and the fire marshalls are a talkative bunch.

And finally, I'm not Buddhist. Inferring that I am because I mentioned Buddhism is a strange leap of logic. But hey, so is wanting to "preserve" a commercial storefront you don't own because you think it's "cool".

When will Mr. Minor's erection on the mall become historic? A thing that should have never been started in the first place and will never be finished. Please let's tear it down before the BAR declares it historic.