Fifeville and Tonsler Neighborhoods Historic District
On March 19, 2008 the State review boards recommended listing the Fifeville and Tonsler Neighborhoods Historic District on the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places. However, this recommendation was given on the condition that additional research addressing African American history, especially slavery, reconstruction, and 20th century events, be added to the nomination. This requirement could be completed as an addendum or as a revision of the nomination form. These revisions have been completed and the review boards have accepted the additional research. The Fifeville and Tonsler Neighborhoods Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 18, 2009.
Originally a large tract of agricultural land, much of which was known as Oak Lawn, the property was subdivided during the 1880s to form what later became the Fifeville and Tonsler neighborhoods. The district is defined to the north by the C&O railroad tracks. The southern and western boundaries, Cherry Street and Spring Street, are neighborhood streets while an entrance corridor, Ridge Street, forms the eastern boundary.
The history of this district demonstrates the complex race relations that existed throughout the country, but especially in the South. While middle class whites lived in the western portion of this district, professional and working class African-Americans constructed homes in the eastern section. The Fife family owned Oak Lawn during the subdivision of the land and creation of the neighborhoods, and their name became associated with the area now known as Fifeville. Meanwhile, the Tonsler neighborhood is named for the revered principle of the Jefferson School; the African-American school that was sponsored by the Freedmen’s Bureau during Reconstruction and has continued to be a community focal point throughout Charlottesville’s history.
This district was intensely developed from the 1880s through the 1920s, with few buildings from the 1930s and later. As a result, it is an important and relatively intact example of a Reconstruction era neighborhood in Charlottesville.