Vinegar Hill Historic District

Bounded by West Main Street, Preston Ave. and 4th St. NW, Charlottesville, VA 22902


Until the 1960s, "Vinegar Hill" was a large African American neighborhood located in Charlottesville just west of the city's present-day Downtown Mall. The origins of the district's name have become obscured among varying legends and interpretations. Some accounts maintain that Irish immigrants who prospered in the area during the early nineteenth century called it Vinegar Hill after the location of an agrarian revolt in Ireland; others claim "vinegar" was a code word for moonshine used by bootleggers who operated on the Hill; another legend involves a keg of vinegar falling from a horse-drawn wagon, saturating the sloping road now known as West Main Street with its pungent smell. Regardless of its name's genesis, the area defined as "Vinegar Hill" became a focal point for black residential and social life following the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and continued until the city's urban renewal project in the 1960s. Today the area formerly known as Vinegar Hill constitutes roughly the triangular segment of central Charlottesville bordered by West Main Street on the South, Preston Avenue on the North, and Fourth Street on the West. A small plaque located on a partial wall marking the entry to the Downtown Mall at Ridge McIntire Road and Main Street commemorates the once-thriving African American neighborhood