Victory Shoes Façade Destroyed.

The Victory Shoes façade has been illegally demolished, Dave McNair wrote in The Hook a few days ago. (Here’s how it looked when the shoe store was still in business.) One of the few remaining examples of art deco architecture in town, the building—just to the left of Mudhouse, the recent location of Oh Suzannah—was built in 1921 by sisters, Tillie and Faye, who named the shoe store in honor of the recently-won Great War. It was in business for over 70 years, with those sweet old ladies running it until the end. McNair writes that the owner is one Joe H. Gieck, while Liz Palka reports for CBS-19 that property manager Bill Rice was in charge of it. Rice says that it’s “an innocent mistake,” that he didn’t know that he needed permission to destroy the building entryway. The work was being done without a permit (period), and the city has halted construction on what is intended to be a frozen yogurt shop.

The worry with this sort of thing is that Gieck and Rice knew exactly what they were doing, but figured that it was easier to just do it illegally and pay a little fine than to ask permission and likely be denied. I don’t know what the appropriate punishment is for this sort of a thing, but like any punishment, it’s got to be worse than the benefit that was gained from committing the offense in question. It’s up to the city to figure out what that’ll be.

82 thoughts on “Victory Shoes Façade Destroyed.”

  1. Rice says that it’s “an innocent mistake,” that he didn’t know that he needed permission to destroy the building entryway.


    It’s a clear case of let’s just go ahead and do it and once it’s done it will be too late to do anything about it so they’ll just have to let us have our way.

    They should make them do the restoration of the storefront. Anything less and the scofflaws win.

  2. Time to hear from the preservation extremists and the cultural elitists on how anything built before they were born is a historic gem that must be preserved. Have at it, architectural luddites. Wield the sword of tyrannical nostalgia.

  3. Of course Rice knew about it, as did the owner. When I made the decision to move here several decades ago, the Victory Shoe Store and other similar storefronts were a real draw for me. So much of the charm of Charlottesville is tied up in it’s more modest architecture, and it’s sad to see that destroyed due to greed and shortsightedness.

    Mr Dobbs, I’m sorry you’re so cynical about this loss, and that you associate preservation with zealotry. These places count for something, and we’re incredibly fortunate that so many feel this way. Charlottesville cares about its shared history and considers that history to be an asset to the community and a draw for tourists as well.

  4. I was really hoping a Central Place Pillory would be a part of the re-bricking project. It would be perfect for situations like this one, and talk about a way to get the public excited about going downtown!

  5. Refuse them a permit to do any further work on the building until they either sell it or restore the facade with period-accurate materials and workmanship.

  6. Wow, these guys don’t even have business sense. They should have left the facade and called the shop “Victory Yogurt”. That’s so much cooler than putting up a “McStarbucks Yogurt with consistent architectural branding across the chain.” Or whatever the goal was.

    The city should make him repair the facade to the original design just so people know they can’t get away with the “ask forgiveness” thing.

  7. Freddy Dobbs is right, and Sabbath Lil since store fronts, old store fronts, are a big criteria determining where you live, may I suggest a small town in West Virginia. Any small town in West Virginia should do nicely for you.

  8. Here’s what I don’t get: does the property owner want the entire downtown mall to be stripped of character and turned into a bunch of lookalike boxes like any strip mall anywhere in the US? or did he buy the property thinking “here’s a unique place that’s going to attract people because it’s not like a strip mall and it has some character”? i would tend to think the latter, because otherwise why would he have bought property on the downtown mall? and if so, i’m wondering how happy he would be if every other property owner on the mall decided to disregard the zoning regulations (that they all know about when they bought their properties) and stripped their properties of all the unique historic characteristics and we ended up with a very bland, non-charming strip mall. would he feel that the value of his property, insofar as part of it derives from being located in a historically protected unique district, has been damaged by the other property owners disregard for the zoning regulations? in other words, what if every property owner did what he did? i would think he might be squawking a bit that his investment was diminished by the selfish actions of other property owners.

  9. Bill Rice has been on the mall forever. He knows exactly what he was doing. And while I am all for allowing owners to tear down routine building of no unique architectural value or historical significance, it does appear that the Victory Shoe store front may have had some of both. I suspect that a little creativity the part of an architect and owner could easily overcome the issues at hand.

    Of course, with a stop work order in hand those guys are just looking stupid.

  10. Thanks for the link, Dave.

    “We didn’t think we needed approval to remove this glass,” says Rice, a long-time Downtown real estate broker. “The glass contractor, who was hired by the new tenants, didn’t apply for a permit to change the glass because they didn’t think it was a problem. No one was trying to pull a fast one.”

    From the pictures, it doesn’t look like they simply changed the glass. It looks like they also ripped out the bottom of the display cases, too — in the “before” picture, there’s the glass coming halfway down the facade and then there are the surfaces of the display space. Now it’s all gone. Doesn’t that make Rice’s statement above disingenuous?

  11. I saw that store front on Friday and could not believe what was done. That was a great front to any type of business. It’s too bad the owner and the realtor made the choices they did.

  12. Both Bill Rice and Joe Gieck are entirely familiar with what can and can’t be done under BAR regulations. Just because they’ve never been caught before doesn’t mean they are innocent. Gieck owns quite a few properties on the Mall and has been before the BAR in the past. If he can’t handle the regulations, he should sell his properties to people who can. Lord knows he has more than enough money to comply with what would be asked of him.

    If the city’s fine is too small, it will only encourage other owners of similar political leanings to do likewise, so let’s hope it’s a whopper.

  13. Gee, the owner could have saved everyone a lot of heartache and himself a lot of money if he just moved out to one of those bland look-alike strips on 29 North.

    I don’t understand why anyone would destroy such a distinctive and attractive entryway; preservation issues aside, purely from a business sense it is foolhardy. The value of the building and storefront are as part of a larger collection of interesting, in some cases unique, historic buildings that together define the Downtown Mall as a special place. Why pay the premium on owning the real estate there if you’re going to squander the very thing that makes it worthwhile?

    Sure, it may be “just one” storefront, but this is exactly the kind of incremental destruction that erases the sense of place that makes us love where we live and gives it its special character that is memorable. Without it, we might as well take down the “historic downtown” signs and direct the tourists to Wal-Mart. That’ll be awesome for the city’s sense of pride and the local economy, won’t it?

  14. I hope we can keep a watch on this situation. I remember when a property owner was fined $50,000 to demolishing a property along West Main. The code has been revised to allow the City to levy even higher fines.
    Joe gieck agreed to the ground rules when he bought property in a known historic district. Does anyone think he would go in and remove the windows in the University Chapel withut getting approval?
    No, this is certainly not a question of proerty rights, because the property carried the restrictions with it when it was sold.

  15. One of the things that really angers me about this is Rice’s attempts to downplay this as being just about some windows. Bullshit. I think his hope is that folks not familiar with the façade will say “oh, this is just people getting bent out of shape over a few pieces of glass.” They demolished the entire storefront.

  16. Elitists to the whip!

    Never mind that we never went into Victory Shoes in our lives, art deco-ish or not.

    Let alone spent a dime there.

    Never mind that we have zero experience running a contemporary business behind an outdated store front on a mall, with or without a recession.

    That’s what makes cultural elitism attractive. Without a dollar or a drop of sweat invested, we feel totally qualified to tell others what to do.

    Before reaching for the whip of preservation extremism, I would do some research and learn how much a mall store pays in rent, and how much business the store must do just to cover the cost of being open. Then count the vacant spaces.

    So far as the comment about rural West Virginia, it’s true. There probably isn’t a backwater community anywhere in the country that doesn’t have a glut of early 20th century store fronts that dilettante preservationists expect other people to maintain and preserve for them. No surprise that they demand the same when they come here.

    We all enjoyed noticing quaint Victory Shoes when we walked by. But quaint doesn’t pay the rent, and a successful community works with developers for our mutual benefit; it doesn’t dictate.

  17. I agree with you, Waldo. I hope, in this instance, that there’s some spine in City Hall. Then, again, I must say it always depends upon “Who’s asking” and these two genglemen are very popular. We don’t have a government that operates upon principle, so one can never bet on anything around here.

  18. @Bonny Butler, calling people you don’t know names shouws your elitism. Youps wreaks of it and something brown from a dog’s butt.
    Yes, I shopped in the Victory Shoe Stre quite a few times, thank you.
    If the property didn’t suit the owner’s purpose, HE SOULDN’T HAVE BOUGHT IT!
    I no you rugged individualist don’t believe much in laws, but, this clown broke and I hope that the city code is followed. Gieck is not a child, Ric is not a child. Their actions however, do not reflect that they are both mature adults (old) and should set an example for the likes of you, although I doubt if it would have had much of an effect upon you.
    Just a few observation.
    Oh, if you can’t afford the rent, locate somewhere else. Everybody else does.

  19. @Bonny Butler– you obviously don’t understand the concept of cultural elitism. Elitism is deeming only high-style architecture and culture worth of preservation. It’s ignoring the important contributions of African-Americans, people like Tillie and Faye, the Timberlakes, and so many other citizens who’ve long been the backbone of the local economy.

    We’re not discussing West Virginia history and preservation here. Charlottesville is the topic of conversation. Yes, I know– if I want to live near palm trees I should move to Hawaii. If I want to live near a canyon, I should move to Arizona. What on earth does that have to do with the wanton destruction of a cultural and architectural resource that the city and its citizenry feel is worthy of preservation? Do you think that the Downtown Mall has no architectural and historic merit?

    As for your comments regarding the difficulties of owning a business– quite a few business owners post here. No one is forcing you to locate a business on the Mall. Go help yourself to any of the generic ugly strip malls lining 29 north. They’d be glad to have you.

  20. Never mind that we never went into Victory Shoes in our lives, art deco-ish or not.
    Let alone spent a dime there.

    Who is this “we” you’re talking about? I went in there many times. I bought shoes there.

    Never mind that we have zero experience running a contemporary business behind an outdated store front on a mall, with or without a recession.

    Again, who is this “we”? I’ve run two businesses on the Downtown Mall. I see that at least two other people who have commented here critically have also owned and operated businesses on the Downtown Mall.

    What’s the opposite of having somebody pegged? Because, yeah, that.

  21. Looks like “unslim” Jim Tolbert has found a new revenue stream for the city in these troubled financial times.

  22. Yeah, definitely the city is behind this! somehow (and that’s the part I’m still unclear on) Tolbert and his Evil Cabal lured this unsuspecting property owner into making hugely obvious renovations in broad daylight in a district where the restrictions on such renovations are equally obvious and clearly spelled out. then, once the poor property owner had stumbled into this trap, they leapt out with their copy of the BAR restrictions, of which the property owner and every other property owner on the DM already has and presumably read before signing on the dotted line, and said “ah HA! you fell right into our revenue-stream-increasing trap!”

    or, maybe the property owner simply violated the regulations in a screamingly obvious manner and put the city in the position of either ignoring it (and thus raising questions up and down the DM among other property owners about what can be gotten away with and whether or not their investment in a historically protected area is going to be damaged) or following through on the clearly stated penalties for screamingly obvious violations of the regulations.

    yeah, definitely the conspiracy theory — that’s WAY more fun than the boring explanation that people are doing their jobs.

  23. Intelligent discourse recognizes there are different tastes in architecture. To insist your taste is superior, that’s cultural elitism.

  24. Bonny, it might be cultural elitism to say that my preference for 1930s style downtown drugstores is superior to someone else’s preference for a standard strip-mall box, but aren’t you kind of missing the point? The point of this story is that the man bought property in a designated historic district. There are restrictions on making changes to your individually protected property. There are penalties for ignoring the restrictions. The property owner ignored the restrictions.

    It seems a stretch — a red herring, in fact — to say that this is about some people being snobs. The fact that the properties on the mall, and the mall itself, is a historic district might arguably be the result of cultural elitism, but this isn’t an argument about whether or not we should have historically protected districts. It’s an argument about whether or not a property owner should be able to freely ignore restrictions that everyone else is respectfully observing.

    Unless you want to argue that the whole idea of having a National Register of Historic Places and trying to preserve them is wrong. Which you should do, in that case.

  25. Sorry Bonnie, but at least two of the posters I see here have experience running successful businesses on the downtown mall and in old buildings. And both came down on the side of keeping the storefront as it was.

    So I guess you may need to change your tune.

  26. I think I remember the case where a property was demolished on West Main Street illegally.It ws Parham Construction Company and the building I seem to recall was a former UVa dorm.
    Remember people saying that they probably regarded the fine as just part of the cost of doing business and it was no deterrent.
    Sorry to see yet another old local landmark go. The issue though is not whether the Victory storefront was worth preserving-the issue is that Gieck and Rice broke the rules! Break the rules, face the consequences.
    Along the same line, sorry to see that UVa is planning to demolish Tuttle dorm on Alderman Road, my old dorm, which was called one of the “new dorms” back then. I wonder though why Uva has never considered demolishing the “old dorm” on McCormick Road. I remember them as cramped dungeons, compared to which the Alderman Road dorms were palatial.

  27. Waldo,

    Thank you for highlighting this issue. The City’s response to this incident will become an important precedent, and I am glad that your blog will make it clear to the City’s leaders that people will be closely following how it is handled.

    Section 34-86 of the Charlottesville Code is exceedingly clear regarding enforcement of a violation of the architectural design control regulations.

    I am excerpting the section below (you can link to the entire Code from the city’s web site). Note that the Code language states that any person who violates the regulations “shall” be subject to a penalty equal to twice the assessed value of the property (“shall” is used in this section, versus “may” in other sections of the Code that deal with other kinds of violations).

    If Jim Tolbert has found a violation, then what would be the excuse for not following the clear wording of Section 34-86? Granted, the violation would have to be proved in court, but if the case is as clear cut as the City is making it out to be, wouldn’t it be easy to prove and isn’t it worth the effort?

    This incident will be a true test of whether residents can (should) have faith in City Hall to apply the rules as written. There are MANY property owners who spend tons of time and money getting things approved before the BAR, and I hope all of those people who do the right thing will be kept in mind when the City makes its decision about how to address this violation.


    Here’s the excerpt from the Code (Section 34-86):

    (c) Any person who demolishes, razes or moves any building or structure which is subject to the regulations set forth within section 34-277 without approval of the BAR or city council, shall be subject to a civil penalty equal to twice the fair market value of the building or structure, as determined by the city real estate tax assessment at the time of the demolition, razing or moving.

    (1) For purposes of this section, the term “person” shall include any individual, firm, partnership, association, corporation, company or organization of any kind, which is deemed by the Charlottesville Circuit Court to be responsible for the demolition, razing or moving.

    (2) An action seeking the imposition of the penalty shall be instituted by petition filed by the city in the Circuit Court of the City of Charlottesville, which shall be tried in the same manner as any action at law. It shall be the burden of the city to show the liability of the violator by a preponderance of the evidence. An admission of liability or finding of liability shall not be a criminal conviction for any purpose.

    (3) The defendant may, within twenty-one (21) days after the filing of the petition, file an answer and, without admitting liability, agree to restore the building or structure as it existed prior to demolition. If the restoration is completed within the time agreed upon by the parties or as established by the court, the petition shall be dismissed from the court’s docket.

    (4) The filing of the action pursuant to this section shall preclude a criminal prosecution for the same offense, except where the demolition, razing or moving has resulted in personal injury.

  28. I for one don’t see anything elite about being sad to see such a beautiful store front tossed into the dumpster. I can’t say I know either of these men, though I have had business dealings with Mr. Rice before.

    The city can try to fine the owner, but in the end it will remain as I said before, a shame.

  29. The issue though is not whether the Victory storefront was worth preserving-the issue is that Gieck and Rice broke the rules! Break the rules, face the consequences.

    That’s an important point, HollowBoy, a separation of issues that hadn’t occurred to me with anything approaching such clarity.

  30. Was it thoreau who noted, “There is no rule so foolish a fool will not obey it.”

    On a related point, who could imagine anyone LAMENTING the loss of the Alderman Road cinder block cell room dormitories.

    Goes to show we have a soft spot in our head for anything old no matter how artless and sterile, especially something we inhabited. Some people are committed to preserving anything, so long as someone else must do it.

    Every burger joint in town is no less “historic” than Victory Shoes, just a different era. Jac ‘n Jill, McDonalds, Wendy’s … someone, maybe not you but someone, will want them all just as they are, forevermore.

    And knee-jerk preservation rules people bow and scrape to will see that it happens.

  31. “Bonny,” rather than merely lamenting the state of things, perhaps you could describe for us what sort of laws ought to exist on this front? Should any property owner be free to do anything with his property, without restriction? Is there such a thing as architecture that warrants government protection?

  32. Bonny,

    The scary part is that as a noted right winger conservative, I look at you as a silly little dips-t.

    Comparing McDonalds to a store named after a World war victory, run by locals for decades, with a unique storefront invalidates you, and you argument as little more than a silly web troll. And quoting Thorueau puts you somewhere in the sophomore status.

    Now run along and play some video games young man.


  33. When Joe Gieck bought the property, he tacitedly agree to abide by the laws until they were changed. Instead he chose to ignore them. In other words, he buys property BECAUSE of its worth in a “protected” district to take advantage of the of commercial traffic that the district inherently provides, destroys a part of it, and expect the rest of the property owners to maintain the area in order to provide him with profit. Who can justify this?
    There was no compelling reason for his buying this specific property and he was under no duress to destroy the facade. He has failed to provide a reasonable reason to the public for doing so, so it seems awfully strange to me that there are people supporting his actions. They must have another agenda.

  34. Talk about elitists. Have you ever been to or watched a BAR meeting on TV. I for one would rather go ahead and violate the rules, take a chance on getting away with the rules infraction than put up with their BS and this is probably what happened in this case. The BAR are a perfect example of elitists.

  35. As one approaching the autumn years I may have misremembered but isn’t Joe Gieck the same dumbass ( UVA Trainer?)who stepped off the sideline and tripped a Hokie who was running for a touchdown a few years ago against the Hoo’s. If so this should be no surprise. Cheat & beg forgiveness. If this is not the one & same then please forgive my wasting your time.

  36. Jogger, I’m probably insane to try and speak rationally with you, but aren’t you being elitist in saying that the Victory Shoe Shop is unworthy of being preserved? Why is one position elitist and the other not?

  37. Crikey!

    From The Hook 11/22/07:

    As for Gieck, who retired as the top UVA trainer in 2005, he found himself wearing orange and maroon in April.

    Gieck has his own place in the history of the UVA-Tech rivalry. On the last play of the 1995 game, as Hokie Antonio Banks ran down the sideline with an interception to seal the win for his team, Gieck stuck his leg out conspicuously close to Banks’ feet. The alleged trip/joke resulted in outrage from Hokie fans, national media attention, and Gieck’s suspension from UVA’s trip to the Peach Bowl.

    To this day, Gieck insists he was only trying to “distract” Banks, and he says he anticipates “a spirit of camaraderie” November 24. But he adds that it won’t take long for fans to get wrapped up in the game.

  38. So the guy is more than happy to go outside the spirit of the game, or laws at his egocentric pleasure.

  39. How about “The Caravan” hamburger joint that used to be right across from COMDIAL? Maybe that should have gotten historic protection. But maybe that’s into the county’s jurisdiction. Don’t have my boundary map handy.

  40. Waldo, I would say ALL architectural laws and rules unrelated to health, safety, and (now) sustainability are government meddling and despotic elitism.

    That doesn’t mean some don’t like or want those laws and rules, but let’s not fool ourselves they are something greater than the personal choices of the people who pick the people who enforce them.

    History shows there was no problem changing and modernizing the Victory Shoes storefront in the past to give it an art deco look. Had there been a BAR, a Tolbert, a Mary Joy Scala in power 60 years ago to frustrate change and hobble development, Victory Shoes might never have looked as we knew it. Government would likely have insisted it perfectly reflected its origins the way it was, and could not be given a contemporary art deco facelift.

    Government involvement with aesthetics has nothing to do with absolute values and everything to do with personal taste. And taste evolves over time, thanks to nostalgia. People are passionate about things from their past. We know with certainty that someday there will be dogged preservationists passionate about the Golden Arches, Shoney’s Big Boy signs, and A&N and Pep Boys storefronts.

    IMO government has a controlling role in health, safety, and welfare. If it has any role in aesthetics, that role is advisory and encouragement. Advisory, to suggest what standards the community prefers, if any, encouragement like giving tax breaks to people who spend extra money to achieve those standards. Any more power becomes small-scale tyranny almost immediately.

    To illustrate. IMO the BAR is this community’s biggest affront to a free society, as sitting through their meeting ample demonstrates. I’m especially reminded of the Feb. 2002 meeting that devoted hours to whether the wood chosen for the door to Fellini’s Restaurant could or could not be painted, and what color, and what brand of paint.

    These were not suggestions by people taking community standards seriously; they were petty, prissy demands by tyrants inflicting their personal tastes.

    And they fought over whose taste would prevail.

  41. You’re making a pair of arguments here, if I understand you properly. First is that there should not be any government-enforced architectural or design standards (save for health, safety, and sustainability), because, as a (presumed) libertarian, you believe that’s all that government should do. Second is that any efforts to regulate architectural or design standards will inevitably lead to things like spending hours arguing over what color a door can be painted, which is to say that the execution of that mission is flawed, and likely to be inherently flawed.

    If that is correct, then what I’m wondering is whether you regard the basic seedy Vegas-style strip (examples: 1, 2, 3) as something that should be permitted here. That is, if a business owner wanted to festoon his store with blinking neon, construct a thirty foot tall lit-up arrow pointing at the store, and surround it with large billboards promoting it, that’d be OK? If I wanted to buy Monticello and knock it down to put in condos, that’s something that government should have no say in? And if McDonald’s wants to buy Timberlakes, raze it, and install a standard McD’s location, that’s their right as the owner of that property?

    Are we on the same page here?

  42. Oh, and I’m sorry, one more question, “Bonny”: Is it your belief that because these guys violated a law that you oppose, they should go without punishment? If not, what do you think the proper penalty is?

  43. As someone who’s had mall cops relentlessly hassle him for YEARS for doing something that’s perfectly legal, I have to wonder why the cops didn’t walk up and say “Hey buddy, you got a permit for this?” BEFORE they completely destroyed it.

    Oh wait, one is a rich developer and the other is just some guy trying to make a meager living. Capital is king.

    In their defense, frozen yogurt shops are a fad that’s at least 30 years old by now. That is sorta kinda historical.

  44. I feel honor-bound to defend my old dorm,Tuttle House. It was the first place I lived away from my family home full-time
    I remember it fondly.Five rooms around a central suite, each shared by two students. I considered myself so fortunate, being a transfer student,not to have to live in a Mccormick Road dorm-talk about sterile pits.
    But then again we didn’t seem to demand the amenities that today’s students insist upon. We crtainly didnt have all the electronic gadgets they have now. And no one in our suite of 10 had a car(of course UVa car rules tighter back then).
    There was a TV room downstairs next to a nice lounge.And having a radio or a cheap stereo in your room was considered fortunate indeed. And having
    some spare cash to go down to the Corner and buy the latest Bob Dylan album. That is, for those of us who preferred the Prism Coffeehouse on Saturday night to a frat party.

  45. Aren’t you are mingling two issues. Preference (in this town a worship) for preservation is one, control of eyesores and advertising is another. Very different issues handled by different laws.

    Do you recall when a certain city official required a bar & grill on High Street to remove an innocuous trade mark cow from the porch roof? Beyond question it was the neatest looking thing on the street, way more interesting than the huge, ugly, and legal outdoor billboards a few feet away.

    But billboards in our city are legal and roof statuary is not, so Huja put the cow out to pasture. The eyesore billboards? They’re still there. Is that a law you respect?

    There are laws and there are laws. Some might not have taken a drop of alcohol from the start of prohibition until the end, but most treated the law for what it was: an attempt by some to inflict their beliefs on others, unworthy of respect.

    We see the same thing with marijuana outlawed everywhere. This is a law we respect? Laws against fornication, fellatio, suicide are to be honored because the majority of a legislative body was pressured by churches to vote that way?

    In the New England state where I grew up it was illegal to sell condoms because Catholics were the voting majority and the Catholic church opposed them. Would you fine or jail the thousands of pharmacists who did the right thing and sold condoms from under the counter?

    Some people do whatever they are told. Some people believe they are free. Sensible people balance the two views, always recognizing that man is as capable of making errors as he is of making laws.

  46. Is that what Dobbsy meant at the beginning of this thread when he wrote, “Time to hear from the preservation extremists …”

    Was he reminding us they act like a religious cult?

  47. And a last point:

    What do you think the TJ Center for the Protection of Free Expression might opine about the BAR and its tyrannical rulings: “You can’t paint the porch Colonial Blue; it must be Colonial green.”

    What over-riding interest of society is served that warrants allowing the BAR to nullify the 1st Amendment guaranteeing the right of personal free expression?

    When we stop valuing the protections the constitution grants to individuals, we lose them because they are the only wall against the flood of controls churning beneath the surface of society.

    Small towns are famous for their small minds, their preservation extremists and their cultural elitists, but doesn’t Thomas Jefferson’s town have a broader obligation?

  48. Hey Waldo, like Bonnie said there are laws and there are laws. The BAR members are extremist, in that they and they alone dictate what others can can cannot do with their property. This rubs every notion of freedom of expression the wrong way. Sure, a city should set the tone of what certain areas should look like. But, not to the point of having a few dictate like the BAR does. BTW, putting the Victory Shoes Façade in the same category as Monticello is very disrespectful to one of our founding fathers. Shame on you!

  49. BTW, putting the Victory Shoes Façade in the same category as Monticello is very disrespectful to one of our founding fathers. Shame on you!

    No, shame on you for a gross misinterpretation of my remarks and for using that misinterpretation to pretend that I believe something that I don’t. That sort of behavior does everything to stifle useful discussion and absolutely nothing positive.

    Bonnie, you’ve presented a lot of philosophical talk, but that’s so very different than the day to day problems of running a city. Like a legislator who runs on cutting taxes, only to get in office and discovers that it’s expensive to run a state, you’ve got ideals, but how would you apply them to the situations that I described? Can the Downtown Mall look like Reno? Could Monticello be turned into condos? Do you truly believe that a business tearing down a 90-year-old façade in a historic district is a constitutionally protected form of self-expression? What do you tell the homeowner who can’t sleep for the flashing neon outside of her window in what she thought was a protected historic district?

  50. Waldo, I’m not sure if I should applaud you or chastise you for letting this one go in your reply above. Life is short though and idiocy does seem to be long.

    “The BAR members are extremist, in that they and they alone dictate what others can can cannot do with their property.”

    Do non sequiturs not offend thee as much as the hoary straw man?

  51. I’m actually sick, and I’ve spent the day sitting at home and feeling lousy, and I don’t really have the energy to be annoyed at but one thing at a time. :)

  52. Issues should be handled one at a time, on the merits. Otherwise we are letting the state do our thinking, while we vacillate between robot and slave.

    Bonny has had a long tour here and it’s time to bid adieu. Sorry you’re under the weather.

  53. Bonny says:
    “What do you think the TJ Center for the Protection of Free Expression might opine about the BAR and its tyrannical rulings: “You can’t paint the porch Colonial Blue; it must be Colonial green.””

    Bonny your blue vs green argument is ridiculous. The BAR doesn’t make rulings like that. You’re amping up the hyperbole and scare tactics to bolster your Libertarian agenda. Here’s some advice for you: If you don’t want to own property in a historic district, THEN DON’T. Just because you don’t give a damn about historic preservation, and see no merit in it, doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t care.

  54. So, just what is the BAR trying to protect. The look of the historical buildings or the preservation of them. Seems that they have the authority to protect the look. But lack any authority to force the owners to preserve them. As long as the buildings are up to code, there is nothing the BAR can do to force an owner to spend the money necessary for historical preservation.

    As for the Victory Shoes Façade, it has been repaired over the years. So, how much of it is actually original. At what percentage does it loose its historical status. Just because it looks like the original, does not make it so. For example, the church on Earlysville Road near the airport just lost its historical status for replacing the siding. And now it’s going to be torn down to expand CHO.

    Historical preservation takes a considerable amount of time and money. Which the average business owner does not have. Since the citizens of C’ville want the BAR to protect historical buildings. Then the city should budget appropriate funds to maintain them. Just because you buy an historical building does not mean promise to maintain it as such. If the BAR really wants to preserve historical buildings, then put up or shut up.

  55. Steve, it does take time and money, which not every business has to spare. So why buy a building in a historically protected district? Why are you against business owners being willing to accept the consequences for their decisions? Why do you want the citizens of this area to subsidize the business owner’s unwillingness to abide by their contractual agreements?

  56. Cecil: I seriously doubt that any owner of a business/building in the downtown mall has agreed to spend thousands of dollars to do the historical preservation necessary to up keep the buildings beyond what is required by code. The owners may have agreed to not change the appearance of their structures (depending on what the BAR determined as historical). But, that is all. The BAR cannot require the owners to do anything else. And buying an old building does not have a de facto clause that says you promise to spend thousands of dollars. So, if the city wants these buildings to remain historical in their original materials, workmanship and appearance. Then absolutely the city should pay for it. Business people buy property for its location, not because the buildings is old.

  57. he changed the appearance of his structure by ripping out the glass and the display case. nobody was asking him to SPEND any money on his building — they just wanted him not to change the appearance without getting permissions.

    and business people who buy property in historically protected districts want that location to remain historic, because that’s why they pay extra.

  58. Although I no longer live in Charlottesville, I had lived there long enough ago to remember the still-simmering resentments among some in the African-American community over the 1960s-era destruction of the Vinegar Hill neighborhood in favor of the federal courthouse and the Omni. What white liberals back then thought was a slum would now be seen as a vibrant working class neighborhood with viable small businesses owned by people with generations-long roots in the community (perhaps).
    What I see lost in the contemporary debates over these things in Cville today is any sense of whether there isn’t something wrong with the WHOLE show–yogurt shops AND historic preservation districts alike. When a community is no longer affordable for many of those who work there (the cops, the teachers, the janitors, the hospital orderlies, etc.), then a certain kind of unconsciously bourgeois pathology has set in. I remember the Advance Auto on the mall (fka “East Main Street”); I remember A&N and the fish market near the Omni end. Those businesses, which catered to ordinary folks, have been squeezed out and shunted into cookie-cutter malls (if they survived at all).
    Alas, Cville long ago became a latte town and I fear it will require a certain income level just to be permitted view mountains even briefly in the future.

  59. What history is BAR trying to preserve? Buildings and artifacts from a bygone era that show a time when people built nice things. Profit motivated unique and new designs that attracted customers. Today profit somehow inspires cheap ugly bland structures.

    Since we now have laws against the history we’re forcing owners to preserve, the city sends mixed signals. We allow trees to grow tall and block the entire “historic downtown viewscape”. We wouldn’t want youngsters strolling with parents window shopping on a summer’s day to get the impression that this level of architectural and economic diversity is permitted today.

    It’s funny how we get upset when the owner of a historic property makes alterations. But we don’t bat an eye when the government destroys hundreds of historic properties owned and preserved by others. I have to agree with CrossTieWalker. Who cares what downtown looks like if you moved to Waynesboro because you can’t afford anything here? Funny– the more we (government) erase blight elsewhere (Vinegar Hill, Garrett, West Main, Preston), the more blight has multiplied on the Mall itself.

  60. I remember the Advance Auto on the mall (fka “East Main Street”); I remember A&N and the fish market near the Omni end. Those businesses, which catered to ordinary folks, have been squeezed out and shunted into cookie-cutter malls (if they survived at all).

    That’s not quite right. I don’t know what happened with the fish market (although I did go to high school in that store, after it was a fish market, of course). But A&N went out of business state-wide, and never had any trouble paying their rent (I happen to know), while Advance Auto sold their building to Gabe Silverman when they realized it was worth more on the real estate market than in auto part income.

    It’s funny how we get upset when the owner of a historic property makes alterations. But we don’t bat an eye when the government destroys hundreds of historic properties owned and preserved by others.

    Blair, I’d think you of all people have ridden this hobby horse long and hard enough to know that’s wrong. If nobody has any problem with the razing of Vinegar Hill, why are we talking about it right now, forty years later? Why is there a plaque there? Why does it come up at City Council meetings routinely? Why did Council pass a resolution apologizing for Vinegar Hill just a couple of months ago?

    You can be upset about it as you like. But don’t pretend you’re some lone voice in the wilderness. That bandwagon is full up.

  61. I agree with CrossTie Walker on the importance of preserving the city’s more “modest” history, i.e. Vinegar Hill, older storefronts etc. But I think the affordability argument is a separate issue.

    If Vinegar Hill were still extant today, it would probably be protected. I think that’s what people are trying to say: that it’s not just the places like Monticello, UVA, and Court Square that should be protected.

    Additionally, because Vinegar Hill was stupidly and criminally demolished doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be smarter now and start preserving representative examples of Charlottesville’s diverse history.

  62. Aren’t there some ugly storefront (or not very historic ones). I ‘m thinking of the a modern one to the right of the Jefferson.
    While not in favor of what happen to Victory Shoes is everything that hasn’t been changed need to stay the way it is ?

  63. I’m not an architect, and I don’t even play one on TV. But I believe that architects have a general concept that some types of architecture are significant, either in general or in a particular location or from a particular time. The significance of Victory Shoes’ façade was that it was of the Art Deco movement that sprang out of the 1900 Universal Exposition. Even folks like me who don’t know much about architecture could look at Victory Shoes and think “that building dates to the 1920s or 30s.” That authenticates the building, the block, and the Downtown Mall as being not the product of some property group’s mid-nineties design concept, but a genuine article, an organic process that has unfolded over decades (and, indeed, centuries).

    The idea isn’t to keep everything the way that it is forever, but to avoid having a downtown that’s monolithic, caught up in the design scheme of the lowest bidder. People can see crap like that at any downtown in the country. People visit downtown Charlottesville because they like it the way it is—or, rather, the way it was, and hopefully the way it will continue to be.

  64. Yes Waldo, there are well-accepted national and international standards for significance associated with important design styles. While a single building may not be individually significant, it has importance as a part of a larger group such as a district, which may contain an eclectic variety of historical styles, contributing to the overall unique flavor of a place such as downtown Charlottesville.

    Additionally, there is a substantial national awareness of the importance of historic main streets and the value of their particular character to communities. see the National Trust Main Street program at

  65. Blair, I’d think you of all people have ridden this hobby horse long and hard enough -Waldo

    Thanks for keeping me straight. I can be dramatic sometimes because I want the piece to be interesting. A resolution is not the same as reform. There’s still the question of the archives, local heritage/history/roots. Then I’ll put this hobby horse out to pasture and trust others to keep the history alive. What a decade it has been!

  66. The fact of the matter is, for Steve and all others who think otherwise, the City does have the authority to designate historic districts, structures, etc., to establish a Board of Architectural Review, and Charlottesville’s BAR does indeed have the authority to act as they act. This authority is granted in the Code of Virginia, § 15.2-2306. Preservation of historical sites and architectural areas. I invite you to read the whole at cod 15.2-2306.

    While some may disagree with the very idea of designated historic districts, the Downtown Historic District was proposed and established, following appropriate public comment. Of course, what is “historic” (and why) is open to debate – and it should forever be. To willfully and knowingly destroy a portion of the architectural fabric of a designated historic district without having first following the required permitting process is a crime and the fact that the violator or his/her defenders find issue with the law itself does not matter. Those who chose to “renovate” first, ask questions later decided for themselves what constitutes “historic.” They are the elitists, not those who protest their actions.

    If one wants to learn how to successfully petition the BAR and gain approval for a proposed Partial Demolition and Storefront Renovation go no further that seeking out the broadcast of Giuseppe “Joe” Finazzo’s appeal to replace the aluminum door of Sal’s Pizza on the Mall back on November 20, 2007. On that note, if anyone out there can find a copy of this classic Channel 10 clip, please post it.

  67. Sean. Sorry, I got the date wrong. It was a month later – the BAR’s Dec. 18, 2007 meeting, Item D.

  68. On another front, how many out there like the “christmasy” lights now adorning the trees on the mall? They appear to have been part of the re-bricking project given that each tree has its own dedicated utility pole so the lights can be plugged in. Personally, I find them extremely distasteful, cheesy even. Did the BAR actually approve these things? Were they even asked? Is it imagined that they serve a purpose? Are they good for business? Are they supposed to be decorative? Don’t these things detract in a big, big way from the mall’s historic and aesthetic character? I say bring them down, and save some money in the process.

  69. “Non-permanent” fixtures can be approved administratively without the BAR’s overview. Signs, for example, are affixed and therefore need BAR approval, whereas a Xmas tree is not and would not.

  70. I’m not talking about Christmas trees. I’m talking about the strings of christmas-light-like, strings of slightly bluish small lights that have been up in the hardwoods growing on the mall for at least several months now. I don’t spend a whole lot of evening time on the mall and only really noticed them with the recent time change and earlier dusk/darkness. Certainly these lights went up well before the City began putting up its temporary holiday displays. The trees are clearly permanent. The strings of lights can be unplugged or pulled down altogether. Though as I mentioned, the tree lights appear to have dedicated black, metal utility poles about 12 feet tall with outlets at the tops – these clearly are permanent fixtures and appear to my eye to serve no other purpose. My sense is these lights have nothing to do with seasonal decoration and will be left up there burning for months or years to come.

  71. This is not the first time the permanent trees have had lights. The BAR does not review them. They are administratively approved.

  72. I thought those trees have had lights for years, not just this season. Me, I like them.

    Why would the BAR have anything to do with how the trees are decorated? Their purview is buildings, isn’t it?

  73. They were there several ears ago and then they were removed. Those had a yellow-ish hue. Now some different ones are being used after they installed more electrical outlets.

  74. The old lights were probably regular light strands. The new ones appear to be LED, judging by the quality/color of the light. I think they’re just more noticeable because white LED isn’t at all yellow to our eyes.

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