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The City of Charlottesville is located in west Central Virginia,Banner approximately 100 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. and 70 miles northwest of Richmond, Virginia. Situated within the upper Piedmont Plateau, at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and at the headwaters of the Rivanna River, Charlottesville was established as a town in 1762 by the Virginia General Assembly, and was incorporated as an independent city in 1888. As a result of eight annexations, the most recent of which was effective in 1968, the City now encompasses a land area of 10.4 square miles.

The City is autonomous and entirely independent of any county or any other political subdivision. It does not have the same boundaries with or is not subject to taxation by any county or school district, and is not liable for any county or school district indebtedness.

Charlottesville serves as the economic, cultural, and educational center of a multi-county region in Central Virginia. In 1981, the Bureau of the Census recognized the Charlottesville area as a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA). The SMSA includes the City of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, and Nelson. The 2004 Census listed the population of the City around 40,000 and the Charlottesville SMSA population of nearly 200,000. (For more statistics on Charlottesville, see Community Profile.)