Holsinger’s Photos of Charlottesville

Black and white photo of a parade through downtown Charlottesville

The above is a photo of a parade through downtown held in 1917, featuring the Monticello Guard, taken by Rufus Holsinger. UVa’s Special Collections Library has 9,500 photos taken by Holsinger in the first decades of the last century, mostly portraits, but many depicting the goings-on around town during his time. Just under 3,000 of these photos are available on the website, including 800 of Charlottesville and 1,100 of UVa. Most of the Charlottesville ones from the the nineteen-teens.

Some of my favorites are Albemarle Grocery Co. (the pink warehouse), Brown Milling Company, (Beck Cohen), Chancellor’s Drug Store (Qdoba), the Charlottesville Dam, downtown, the Gleason Hotel, McGuffey under construction, Midway (West Main and Ridge/McIntire), a drawing of the National Bank (Wachovia), the post office (the JMRL central branch), the Southern Railroad Depot (Union Station), Temple Beth Israel, Timberlake Drugs, Monticello mountain as viewed from Pantops, and a Charlottesville & Albemarle Railway Company trolley car.

If you’re at all interested in local history, you’d best plan to set aside an hour or two to troll through this list. I’d love to see somebody do a then-and-now series of pairings of some of these images. Maybe one day UVa will provide coordinates and direction data for each of these photos. It would be great to map these.

8 Responses to “Holsinger’s Photos of Charlottesville”


  • Are those convicts building the dam for Rivanna Reservoir (here)?

  • The picture of the C&A streetcar was, indeed, taken in front of the Midway Building, which reportedly served as a hospital during the Civil War, and, later, as Charlottesville High School. I have some film of a city bus going past the building in 1972. The film was shot by Willie Anas, a local guy, who worked in the production department at Jefferson Cable. The streetcar was heading towards the trolley barn, behind the C&A Building, which still stands at the southwest corner of Ridge & West Main. My grandmother, Julia McLennan Ashby, worked there as a secretary.

  • The “Midway” photo, shows both the C&A building and the trolley barn, which appears to be where the Ridge Street fire station is today. According to my dad, Finlay Ashby, and several other local folks, who remember riding the streetcars, reversing polarity was not necessary, as there were loops at the C&O Station on Water Street, the Fry’s Spring Pavilion at the end of Jefferson Park Avenue, and just across the Beta Bridge on Rugby Road. There was a passing section just west of Midway. My grandfather, Buckner Ashby, remembered when the streetcars were pulled by mules. He said that a third mule was hitched to pull the cars up Vinegar Hill, then detached and sent back down. The C&A power plant was just off the C&O tracks at the extreme east end of Market Street. You can still see the smokestack from the I-64 bridge over the Rivanna, and the ruins of the plant, itself, during the Winter. “C & A” is outlined on the side of the stack.

  • That is a great website. I was able to go through the potraits and find my grandfather as a young boy with his siblings and then my great-grandparents as well. Any native with long time roots should go through that and see all the different changes that have been made to this town through the years. A great walk through history….

  • I just found pictures of my wife’s grandmother, great-grandfather, great-uncle, and some other relatives that I can’t place just now, folks from both the Beale and Sandridge sides of the family. I just dashed over to Special Collections (they’re right across the street from VQR) and they’re going to give me high-quality duplicates of each of them. (Free for staff and students, $50/hour for the work for non-UVa folks.) Thanks for giving me the idea, Boxer4h!

    Note to family members reading this: Sssshhhh! These are going to be a Christmas present for my mother-in-law.

  • Wow, I didn’t know that they would give a duplicate of them. I am a hospital employee, I wonder if that courtsey is extended to me? That would be neat…..

  • Reproduction requests can be made online. They ask only if you’re “UVa Faculty/Staff,” “UVa Student,” or “other.” Though there is a weird schism between hospital employees and the rest of us at UVa, I do believe you’d be correct in labeling yourself UVa staff. They’ll provide you with far higher-quality images than you can find on the website.

  • Thank you for your kind words regarding our collection and services. We would like to offer anyone who references this blog entry free digital copies of Holsinger images (not for commercial use). Just so you know, we will be adding another few hundred images within the next year or so of images that were originally too large to digitize with the technology at the time. Secondly, if you have identified any subjects, mis-attributions etc., we would love to hear from you at digitalservicesATvirginiaDOTedu. Part of the original purpose of this site when it was launched almost ten years ago was to enlist community members in helping with attributions.

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