Locust Grove hasn’t changed much since the 90s — except that its gotten wealthier and more white
City planner Brian Haluska was surprised when he heard the 2020 Census population count for the City of Charlottesville.
Haluska was certain that it would be the year that the city’s population hit 50,000 residents, with all of the young families with children he’s seen from his front porch in Locust Grove. But he was off by a few thousand: The Census counted 46,553.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted some data collection in the Census and might have caused errors, so it’s possible that the city is closer to that 50,000 number.
“But nonetheless, it’s like, maybe my experience is just not what’s actually happening,” said Haluska. “Maybe that data shows something completely different, and I’m just in a bubble of my block, that what I’ve observed is not what’s going on throughout the city, like I thought.”
The data does show that young adults between 20 and 39, and their children, are starting to make up a bigger percentage of Locust Grove’s population, as longtime and older residents move out or pass away. But the data shows that the shift isn’t as rapid as it appeared to Haluska.
The overall population of the neighborhood appears to have declined by about 200 people from 2019 to 2020, according to the data. One explanation could be that the 2019 data being an American Communities Survey estimate, whereas the 2020 data is a Census count.
When Haluska and his wife moved into their current home in Locust Grove in 2010, an elderly couple lived across the street. The husband frequently told Haluska stories about growing up in the house next door — with his parents and 6 or 7 siblings.
“It’s a really nice house, but it’s, like, 1,500 square feet,” Haluska said, laughing. “I’m looking at it like, ‘How did you bring that many people into that house?’ My house is bigger and it feels cramped with four of us.”
Nowadays, families are smaller, but they’re living in bigger houses like those in newer homes in the Lochlyn Hill development near the Meadowcreek Golf Course.
The Locust Grove neighborhood became part of the city through various land annexations, from 1916 through 1963.
The former Locust Grove farm, also once known as “The Farm,” is this neighborhood’s namesake. The original farmhouse, built in 1844, still stands at 810 Locust Avenue and is now technically part of the Martha Jefferson neighborhood. The initial Locust Grove subdivision was the first known neighborhood in present-day Charlottesville to use racial covenants in its property deeds, said Jordy Yager of the Mapping Cville project. Starting in 1893, these rules for sale legally excluded Black people — who were starting to accumulate property and real estate after Reconstruction — from buying property in the neighborhood. More than 140 properties in Locust Grove included rules that Black people could not own that property, and over the next 75 years, these covenants were inserted into thousands more properties throughout Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
Mapping Cville is working to identify and catalog those properties in order to understand the effects those rules had, and continue to have, on the city’s development.
Locust Grove was one of Charlottesville’s more rural neighborhoods until it was built out significantly between the 1940s and 1970s. Dirt roads were paved to accommodate increasingly common automobile traffic. The construction of the Route 250 Bypass starting in the late 1940s contributed to the development of the neighborhood.
According to “From Porch Swings to Patios: An Oral History of Charlottesville’s Neighborhoods 1914-1984,” hundreds of homes were built in the neighborhood during the 1940s through ’70s, adding tract housing, some bungalows, and larger colonial revival-style homes between older, Victorian-style ones. Census data shows that the neighborhood population doubled between 1970 and 1980.
Locust Grove, the neighborhood where racial covenants began, is still overwhelmingly white today. Over 86% of residents are white according to the 2020 Census, much higher than the city’s 65% white population.
“From Porch Swings to Patios,” published in 1990 by the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development, described Locust Grove as having “a comfortable mix of white- and blue-collar families. Now, it’s a neighborhood with higher incomes than the city as a whole: In 2020, 18% of households had incomes of less than $50,000, while 39% had incomes above $100,000. About 35% of households in the neighborhood are rental units.
Locust Grove is mostly residential, though there are a number of businesses along its main roads, particularly where the neighborhood meets with the Pantops area of Albemarle County. Notably, both the Locust Grove and Greenbrier neighborhoods have quite a bit of green space — the Meadowcreek Golf Course, a public golf course managed by the city parks and recreation department, takes up nearly half of the Locust Grove neighborhood’s acreage. This helps make the neighborhood among the least dense in the city.