Spanning eight city blocks, the Charlottesville Downtown Mall Historic District is a pedestrianized segment of Main Street located at the heart of the city’s commercial district. The Downtown Mall, which encompasses approximately four acres within the listed Charlottesville & Albemarle County Courthouse Historic District, signifies an important period in the city’s community planning and development efforts led by elected officials, business leaders, and local citizens in the years following the Second World War. It also exemplifies the work of Lawrence Halprin, a renowned landscape architect of the late 20th century, and his firm, Lawrence Halprin & Associates. Completed in two phases between 1976 and 1980, the Downtown Mall serves as an excellent example of Halprin’s urban design vision to accommodate for movement through space. The Downtown Mall’s design provides for the continuous flow of pedestrians while also incorporating areas for reflection, respite, and social interaction using focal points such as fountains. The only extant work of Halprin in Virginia, the Downtown Mall includes a variety of features, such as brick and granite paving, bosques of deciduous trees, historic fountains and bollards, planters, seating, and public artworks. In 1981, six steel sculptures by University of Virginia artist and professor James Hagan were installed at various locations, adding to the Downtown Mall’s historical significance as an attraction for visitors and shoppers on foot. While 200 downtown streets were pedestrianized across the United States between the 1960s and the 1980s, only about 30 remained pedestrian-only by the end of the 1990s. The Downtown Mall, which was one of those 30, continues to be preserved as the sole pedestrian-only portion of a Main Street in Virginia. The construction of the Downtown Mall was a turning point for Charlottesville’s commercial success and its 20th-century revitalization – one that helps maintain the significant role that Main Street has played in the city’s history for more than 200 years.
Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark