“This area was just called Fifth Street. My family didn’t call it “Starr Hill.” That name has been used a lot since the redevelopment began. The name originated in earlier days when some folks called it Starr Hill because most of the prominent Blacks lived up on the hill here. It was up high, and they prided themselves because they owned their own homes here–no one rented. Quite a few of the ministers lived here. We didn’t know anything about “blacks” then. Everyone used the word “Negro.” Whites and blacks lived together in the neighborhood until segregation was legally promoted and then the whites moved away. Almost all the houses on Oak Street were owned by whites. My neighborhood was close-knit and friendly. Many of the residents were railroad workers, both black and white. (Source: an oral history of Charlottesville)
I cannot hope to capture the history and character of this particular neighborhood, so I won’t even try; It remains one of my personal favorites in the City. From a location point of view, this neighborhood is one of the best.
I sold a couple houses (two of them) in this neighborhood several years ago – one of them twice – and met many of the neighbors along 6th Street NW – all of whom were good folks. Neighbors brought one of my clients some excellent cookies as soon as he moved in and I would gladly hold Open Houses just to hang out on the porch or in the so-narrow-it-should-be-a one-way-street. One of the unfortunate results of this short selling spree was that assessments went up dramatically. Nothing has sold along that street for a couple of years – and perhaps that is a good thing. This is one of those areas that thrives on neighborhood.
When marketing the houses along this street, which range from colorful stuccos to brick to aluminum siding, my marketing tag-line was “Sell the car!” which was a very valid statement (unlike the properties marketed as “walking distance to the Downtown Mall” which are really about 15 blocks!)
The City Yard occupies most of the property between residential Brown Street and Preston Avenue. The City Yard property was once the site of the City Jail. The neighborhood has a history of owner occupied houses and homeownership was recently increased when two new houses were built and two others were rehabilitated. (ed. note: “recently increased refers to about 5-6 years ago)
Starr Hill was historically integrated and remains integrated today. In the early part of the 20th Century many African American professionals and their families lived in Starr Hill. During the first half of the 20th Century the Union Station property on West Main Street was the transportation hub of the Charlottesville community.
One minor irritation – it has taken me this long in the Neighborhood Series to discover the comprehensive maps offered by the Design Center!?
Read about all the neighborhoods I have covered here.