The western end of Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall has been officially designated as Vinegar Hill Park.
Charlottesville’s Historic Resources Committee has spent much of the last four years planning a new park to memorialize Vinegar Hill, a predominantly African-American neighborhood and business district that the city razed in 1964.
The Charlottesville City Council on Monday unanimously approved a $15,000 funding request from the committee that will bring wayfinding signage for the park to the Downtown Mall. The park itself will include interpretive markers displaying a narrative of Vinegar Hill’s history.
“I strongly support this on every front,” said Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer. “[The park] just continues the aesthetic of the Downtown Mall, but in a way that adds to our knowledge of our history.”
The committee estimates that purchasing and installing seven wayfinding signs will cost the city $10,773. The committee will use its own funds to provide the interpretive markers at a cost of about $25,000.
Vinegar Hill Park is located on two adjacent plazas between the Main Street Arena and the Omni Charlottesville Hotel. Landscape architect Lawrence Halprin reserved green space for a park on this site in his original plan for the Downtown Mall more than 40 years ago.
Historic Resources Committee co-chairwoman Melanie Miller also asked the council to consider supporting a second phase of the project in the future that would “develop the area even more as a park and be even more robust than this initial step.”
Councilor Kathy Galvin told Miller and co-chairwoman Edwina St. Rose that it was important for the Vinegar Hill Park signage to match the appearance of similar commemorative projects in the area, and to align with the recommendations of the city’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces.
“If signage isn’t being coordinated, you’ve wasted some money here,” Galvin said.
The current signage plan for Vinegar Hill Park calls for colors and lettering that are identical to the green wayfinding signs currently in place on the Downtown Mall.
Councilor Wes Bellamy said he hoped the park was just the beginning of a renewed effort to educate Charlottesville residents about Vinegar Hill’s significance.
“This is not something that can just be identified or quantified with a marker,” Bellamy said. “I hope that we are going to figure out different and creative ways that we can truly show the vintage brilliance of Vinegar Hill.”
The Historic Resources Committee expects the new signage to be installed within the next year.