The Charlottesville Historic Downtown Mall is described as “a place where history is intertwined with a thriving city center.” This is an incredibly accurate description, as my boys and I found out on our visit to this bustling college city last month. The day we arrived, we weren’t sure what to do with ourselves, everyone raved about the Charlottesville Downtown Pedestrian Mall though, so we had to go check it out.
Turns out, many of the buildings within the Historic Downtown Mall are actually part of the self guided walking tour that you can take through downtown Charlottesville. If possible, I always try to get to the downtown area of any city I visit, particularly a city with as historic a past as Charlottesville has. It is here, that you truly find the history of an area, where you can walk in the footsteps of those who have come before, and where an effort at preservation has usually been taken. Downtown Charlottesville is no exception. In the downtown mall, full of boutique shops, outdoor courtyard style seating, and modern accents, lies the history of an area that was once home to historical figures like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe once strolled.
When you enter the mall, stop to sign your name or express yourself through writing at the Free Speech Monument. The boys had a blast doodling on the wall with chalk, and I even wrote our #70dayroadtrip hashtag. It is a beautiful tribute to one of our most precious inalienable rights.
Strolling down brick paved streets, even in the sticky summer air, there is a wind of the past that can be felt blowing through the breeze here. It would be easy to get lost in the new shiny storefronts that are located at eye level, but the real magic happens when you look up. Here, you can see remnants of the past. Many of the old building facades still remain at the upper levels of the building’s structure, like that of Miller’s Drug Store. Open from around 1896-1968, the old lettering is still in place.
The Paramount Theater is another gem that is not so hidden in the Charlottesville Historic Downtown Mall. In fact, this “movie palace” built in 1931 still operates as a performing arts theater.
It is hard to miss The Jefferson with its classic-revival style as you stroll through the pedestrian mall. Once home to The Jefferson National Bank, it became repurposed as a theater in 1913. At that time, the building had a much different look that has been originally designed in the Greek-revival style. Due to a fire that took place in 1915 though, The Jefferson was revived bigger and better than before in the building you see now. Today, it is undergoing renovation to once again become a performing space.
The history in Charlottesville runs deep and there are many places to experience it. If you are in the mood for good shopping, great food, and a bit of exercise, few places are better for exploring the city’s history first hand than the Charlottesville Historic Downtown Mall.