Timeline of
Washington Park
Charlottesville Va Parks and Grounds
Other Features
1820: John H. Craven, farm manager for Thomas Jefferson's Tufton property, purchases the Rose Hill Estate. Rebecca McGinnis, a Charlottesville native, remembers picnicking in "Craven's Woods" prior to the establishment of Washington Park.

1861: The American Civil War begins on April 12, 1861, when the Confederate army opens fire on Fort Sumter. The war lasted until May 26, 1865.
By 1868 the Craven family retained only 50-60 acres of their former estate, which is divided into 23 lots. The family sells lots 16 and 17 to local businessman Frederick M. Wills and Sally H. Wills for $610.80.

The lots, one very flat and low-lying and the other containing a steep slope with mature oak trees, have been referred to as both Craven's Woods and Will's Grove by early twentieth -century deeds and oral histories.

1894: "The Grove Lot," lots 16 and 17, are sold back to Craven descendants.

1904: Cravens convey the property to James R. Hayden for $1,400.

1905: Charlottesville is paralyzed by a Scarlet Fever epidemic. As the city hospitals are full of patients, the City Council suggest, that "a detention camp be provided for by the Board of Health."

"Will's Grove" is considered as a possible site for the pestilence house.

August: Hayden sells "the Grove lot" to the City of Charlottesville for $1,600.

August 25: County citizens enact an injunction restraining the City from building the "pest house." The injunction was granted on the grounds that since the hospital was to be used to house patients with contagious diseases, "said building being not over one hundred yards from the public highway..." was in conflict with the statute law.

By August 28, plans to erect a Pest House on what is now Washington Park are abandoned.

1910: NAACP is formed.

1911: The Commonwealth of Virginia passes recreation legislation mandating cities with a population of ten thousand or more to provide and maintain at least one public playground for the city's youth.

1916: The land alongside Preston Avenue is annexed by the City of Charlottesville.

The "Grove lot" becomes an unofficial dump for local residents.

1926: On January 7, the City sells the "Pest House Property" to Paul G. McIntire for $1,000.

McIntire then donates the land to the city as "a public park and playground for the colored people of Charlottesville."

March: "Old Pest House Property" officially named "The Washington Park."

Jefferson School opens. African Americans no longer have to attend school outside of the city limits.

Oral histories suggest that soon after the creation of Washington Park local residents, primarily those living in "The Heights" (Preston Heights), begin clearing the park.

1933: The first Recreation Board to govern city parks is created. This board holds fundraising events that support the maintenance of both Washington Park and McIntire Park.

Recreation board plans a music festival, whose main talent will be "the colored singers."

Mrs. Nincie Currier hired as the first director of the Department of Recreation.

1934: In January, the "Colored Recreation Board" is formed.

April: Colored Board asks for water at Washington Park.

May: City assumes salary for Recreation Director.

Three tennis courts under construction and baseball diamond improvements planned at Washington Park. Park to be open all day. Negro Board announces that the croquet set and piano for park have been paid for.

December: Construction on "The Barn," the Negro recreation building, is completed at Washington Park. The Barn was erected with the use of labor from the Civil Works Administration.

May: Recreation Board concludes that Washington Park needs water, the ballpark needs to be scraped and tennis courts fixed.

1936: Dr. Jackson requests lights be installed at Washington Park.

Six swings and some see-saws are approved for Washington Park.

1938: 350 children attend a Christmas Party at Washington Park.

Lights added to Washington Park.

Petition from joint Recreation Board sent to City Manager. They suggest: more and better lighting, steps at two doors of recreation center, drinking fountain in lower field.

August: Miss Nannie Burwell Crow becomes City Recreation Director.

1939: Charlottesville's black Elks petition for use of the lower portion of Washington Park for organized recreation.

1939: The Colored Mother's Club has secured shrubs from the Garden Clubs of the city and are carrying out a program of beatification for the park. Bulbs are also planted.

1940: "...the colored recreation board had been dissolved about 3 months ago because of misunderstanding and lack of interest among the board members."

1941: In March, a water fountain is requested for Washington Park. City estimates installation of water and sanitation in park to be $500.

April: Sanitation improvements made and outdoor fountain repaired.

1942: Outdoor water fountain furnished for park.

1944: Garden Show held at Washington Park.

1947: A "newly cut embankment" presents a danger to park users. Mr. Burley reported that a temporary fence was erected along embankment. Fences cited as "unsightly."

1948: Recommended that 5th Street area be named Benjamin E. Tonsler Park.

November: Meeting called to discuss swimming or wading pool for park.

1949: The two recreation boards (white and black) are dissolved and a single board comprised of seven white members and three black members is created.

Board wants to approach City Council again to get a "swimming pool for Negroes in Charlottesville."

During the 1950's the music of black rhythm-and-blues artists becomes known as rock and roll.

1950: Wading pool is built at Washington Park, same size as one at McIntire (75'x40'). Park is in need of adequate dressing rooms and toilet facilities. Also need fencing and lighting around pool.

Playground at park consists of three baby swings, six swings for older children, one slide, one spinning jenny, one jungle gym.

Tennis tournament held at Washington Park.

1951: Burley High School opens. Serves city and county black students.

1954: The city presents a Master Plan for Recreation, also known as the Graves Report. The report recommends a swimming pool, bath house and community center be built as the park for the "Negro population." Also suggested is a 30 car parking lot, a multi-use paved area and a croquet court.

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Tribune makes its debut.

1959: Black students of the City of Charlottesville are admitted to the formerly all white public schools.

1960: In May, Carl E. Barnett submitted the lowest of nine bids offered on the construction of the new brick recreation building at Washington Park. His bid was premised on 30 days construction time.

1961: The Barn is demolished following the completion of the new recreation building. Site of old building is paved to make area suitable for basketball, shuffle board, and dancing.

1963: September: 25 black students admitted to Albemarle County Schools.

1964: Merry-go-round installed at Washington Park.

1965: Voting Rights Act passed.

1966: Nan Crow retires as recreation director.

1968: City asks for bids for construction of pool at Washington park.

August: Pool opens. Marred by drowning of youth prior to opening.

1971: Juke box and drink machine installed at park.

1974: Improvements to park completed. Work behind schedule due to discovery of springs in park. Improvements include: regarding and reconstruction of baseball and softball fields, construction of a new lighted basketball court, new playground area, installation of walks and patios, placement of 26 park benches, and planting of new grass areas.

1980: City votes to add lights to softball fields after neighbors protest.

1983: City funds "rock" concerts in Washington Park.

1988: 5 Dogwood trees, 250 iris, 100 daylilies, 50 azaleas, and 600 bare root ivy plants were planted.

1990: City of Charlottesville swim team formed (home meets held at Washington park).

Washington Park basketball goals replaced and asphalt paving done.

1993: City of Charlottesville swim team becomes member of the Jefferson Swim league.

1996: Charlottesville City as a Park process begins.

1997: Washington Park redesign and pool construction begin.

1998: Phase 1 (pool construction) nears completion. Phase 2 (upper level design) out for bid.

2001: Completion of playground facilities and shelter in "the Bottom".

 1998 Washington Park Renovations and Community Involvement

2001 Washington Park Home Page

last updated 6/2/01 by Stowe Keller
Charlottesville City Home Page