Georgia O'Keefe was here

If there was any doubt before about which house artist Georgia O’Keefe resided in while she was here, it’s now official: it was 1212 Wertland Street, and there’s a historical marker to prove it.  

O’Keefe’s house isn’t the only historic landmark sign added to Charlottesville’s streets last Thursday. “The Farm” on Jefferson Street, site of Col. Banastre Tarleton’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War, garnered a marker. And an oak tree there could be the real Tarleton’s oak, although “No one is alive to tell us, and the tree won’t talk,” says Satyendra Huja, City director of strategic planning.

The Farm, its sign notes, was also the home of Nicholas Lewis, uncle of Meriwether, and General George Custer occupied the house in 1865. What isn’t noted on the sign is Daniel Boone’s alleged imprisonment.  

Some records show Boone was imprisoned at The Farm, as a DAR sign on the property attests. “There wasn’t enough support from primary sources to prove he was there,” says Huja. The City included the Boone lore in the text for the sign it submitted to the state, but ultimately the Historic Resource Board in Richmond decided that the claim wouldn’t fly.

The City tries to add two or three historic markers every year, according to Huja. The Historic Resource Taskforce here does local research and is currently debating new candidates for markers. Once they decide, the request goes to Richmond. If approval is granted, the sign is cast, and then VDOT puts it up, a six- or eight-month ordeal in all.

“It’s a lengthy process,” says Huja, “but one that’s worth it.”

The City usually pays the $1225 cost of each marker. In the case of the O’Keefe house, its owner, Jim Stultz, agreed to pay for the sign, and The Farm’s owner, Michael Bednar, will pay part of the cost, according to Huja. Such contributions make historical landmarks a pretty good deal for the City. 

 “We’re very proud,” says Stultz, who recently invested $8,000 in a handmade Victorian wrought-iron fence to go around the yard. When the Marriott hotel was constructed nearby, Stultz helped save the former O’Keefe house and now rents it to UVA students.

Julian Aylor from VDOT is one of the people who install and maintain the signs. He and Huja pick a location on the property for maximum visibility and then, “We just hope it doesn’t get vandalized,” says Aylor.



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