Friday, July 11, 2008


In May and June of 2008 we received considerable correspondence regarding the re-enactment of the Timberlake-Branham Farm's 1993 historic overlay.

June 2, 2008

Dear Council, Planning Commission and B.A.R. members,

I am writing as a former Virginian, and as a former UVa student. I have been following the various reports of the Woolen Mills neighborhood controversy in your city with interest. I am reminded on one central fact that I discovered of being involved in community issues over the years in Berkeley and Jefferson Counties of West Virginia, Loudoun County Virginia, and now Nantucket, Massachusetts: Watch out for the staff.

In the past, well meaning citizens gathered together, debated and spoke to a common cause of quality of life in the community, and sometimes reached a consensus and were successful in causing the passage of laws, designations, and sometimes the creation of commissions and authorities to insure that certain protections be established and maintained as insurance to maintain the quality of life in their communities. These protections were typically developed and created over many years, sometimes decades. The protections were designed to stand for the future, in order to insure a future for our children in an environment that would be similar in important ways for our children to enjoy as we have. We expect these protections to stand, once they are in the form of law and policy.

We think that we have done our jobs as citizens, by coming together and making these agreements, sometimes at the expense of our personal property rights, in the interest of the greater good. Usually these sacrifices are made under the name of historic preservation, environmental preservation, and community preservation. We citizens charge our elected bodies with the authority to enforce and maintain these policies, which have been approved by the majority of the community.

These elected bodies hire staff to administer the polices of the community preservation activity. Staff of these boards and arms of government are almost never elected. Staff are professionals, often from outside the community, supposedly experts in their fields, hired to administer and carry out the day to day activities of the various boards empowered to protect the community. Staff of land use boards and commissions find themselves in daily contact, and working with, proponents and applicants of change within these districts. Often it is applicants and their agents, attorneys, and other hired professionals who pay the fees that support the staff payroll. Very often it is a proponent driven process - driven by the proponent and the enabled by application fees.

It has been my experience, that over time staff can subvert the wishes of the original intent of the legislation that was meant to protect the community. The staff are constantly being bombarded by project proponents and their attorneys, and they begin to sound like lawyers themselves, speaking about the intent of how this or that is illegal, or they increasingly narrow the scope of what can be voted on, impacted, and commented on by their respective Boards. More and more they tend to constrict their Boards, to lead them toward ever narrowing options, and decreasing choices. More and more it seems as though the lawyers are running everything - increasingly things get more and more complex, and increasingly the original intent of the law or created safeguard becomes more and more distant.

It is almost as though that with staff, a siege mentality sets in to their organizations, and the citizens who show up at meetings for public comment become the enemy. The citizens, who originally acquiesced in agreeing to these community restraints, are now ridiculed, belittled and attacked for showing up subsequently and asking what happened to those commonly agreed upon community protections? The developer, the agent of change, the proponent, is seen as the victim, the ones whose property rights are attacked. Its those whiney neighbors again, how dare they complain? It even gets to the point where often the developer sues, and the city joins in suing the citizens for speaking up.

Communities disappear in this process. Neighborhoods disappear as citizens are intimidated at the prospect of losing everything for speaking up. Attorneys create murk, and drain the opposition of resources. The community eventually gets a deal, often a development in direct opposition to the intent of the community preservation act that was supposed to prevent such a thing, Quality of life declines, community character changes forever.

We live in a time when many communities are in decline as a result of the mortgage debacle. We live in a time when cities are trying to hold neighborhoods together, trying to build coalitions to preserve neighborhoods in the face of disinvestment. Yesterday's development deal is becoming today's disaster as whole neighborhoods empty out of families, and vacant houses become a draw for crime and vagrants.

The Woolen Mill District is a cohesive neighborhood, struggling for recognition. It has proved itself to be vital and cohesive in this issue. Rather than looking the other way and allowing one of their few protections to be lost due to a clerical error, support these people in preserving their neighborhood in your city, by upholding agreements that you and your predecessors have already made.

At this time of national disillusionment and fear, while millions lose their homes, and cities are left to grapple with vacant and neglected properties, you should celebrate the strength of the Woolen Mill neighborhood, support the neighborhood stability by honoring promises made in the past, and by insuring that those same promises be kept for the future.


Moncure Taylor

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008


In May and June of 2008 we received considerable correspondence regarding the re-enactment of the Timberlake-Branham Farm's 1993 historic overlay.

May 28, 2008

Dear Members of the City Council, the Planning Commission, and the B.A.R.,

With all due respect, I am writing on behalf of the citizens of Charlottesville to request your attention to the preservation of the Woolen Mills neighborhood.

I am a former resident of Charlottesville who unfortunately had to relocate because of his work. I look forward to retiring there someday.

What appeals to me the most is that Charlottesville has, so far, successfully retained its links to the past while carefully navigating the path to the future.

I regularly follow what is going on in the communities I love by reading newspapers and commentary online. In the past year or two, I have become very interested in the activities around the Woolen Mills neighborhood. Of course, I have friends there and have visited many times, so I am familiar with the issues and the neighborhood in question. I am not one who protests change for the sake of being a reactionary, but occasionally I choose to get involved when I see what appears to be a ?crack in the dam?.

On the surface, the fissure seems a small one, but even small cracks become bigger ones, and that is what concerns me.

As we know, there are two issues involved here. One is about diminishing the integrity of the Timberlake-Branham Farm and the other is about how this happened. In respect to the latter, an error was made which can be easily corrected, no doubt. Only an inattentive or unconcerned person would let the mistake remain.

The long-term issue is this: places of historical importance need protection. The property of interest and the entire neighborhood stand as an example of one of the great things about America - that working families can build a beautiful, family-friendly neighborhood that can last as an enduring testament to an industrious and sociable community. It says that this community spirit is important and can be maintained by subsequent generations who, with the promise that the neighborhood will last, will be the real stewards and caretakers who protect and nourish it for the generations that follow. Woolen Mills is blessed with that rare combination of people who grew up there and newer residents who chose it as a home because of what it is. Inevitably, there are many who care about it enough to want to preserve its special character.

So on June 2nd, please seal up the crack in the dam. Return the Timberlake-Branham property to its rightful protected status. Listen to what the residents have to say, and stand up for the rich history of your town. That history is Charlottesville?s greatest asset. Curiously, it can be the best path to the future.


James L. Orr
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008


(left to right, dais) Van Yahres, Gilliam, Hendrix, Barbour, Wiley, Rinehart, Fife, (foreground) Ewert, Rush-- photo by Rip Payne ca. 1975

Mayor Charles L. Barbour
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902

June 2, 2008

Charlottesville City Council
Charlottesville Planning Commission
Board of Architectural Review
P.O. Box 911
Charlottesville, VA 22902

Dear Council, Planning Commission and B.A.R. members,

June 2, 2008 Council will consider initiating the rezoning of the historic Branham-Timberlake property in the Woolen Mills.

This case caught my attention, I have not studied the matter in depth but I recognize a pattern that I believe is worthy of a letter.

The Recreation precinct was one of my weaker precincts. In 1974 I received one in four votes cast in Recreation. But throughout my time on Council, my time as Mayor, we did our best for all the people of Charlottesville. We made significant progress, we made history. We upgraded transit, parks, housing, we approved and constructed the downtown mall, we built sidewalks. We sat in your chairs and did our best to serve all the people.

The Branham-Timberlake historic zoning issue needs your careful attention. This is a remaining piece of a larger equity issue, there is work to do.

We started the work in the 1970s. Neighborhoods are our homes, they are our place of refuge, neighborhoods deserve protection. When I first came to Council, there were no neighborhoods for Blacks. This was two years after the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act. When I say there were no neighborhoods for Blacks, I mean there were no Black neighborhoods zoned residential. There was no neighborhood in the inner city where a family was safe from a service station opening for business next door.

Zoning is a process designed to protect people and maintain the health of a living city. With zoning we make our people secure at home. We located pools and parks that could be reached safely by pedestrians. Working with the newly formed Department of Community Development and the neighborhood associations we pursued the goal of the common good.

Between 1970 and 1978 we called attention to the prejudice in the existing zoning and we labored mightily to fix it, working with Mr. Huja, to reconfigure the zoning map.

There are three things that protect a neighborhood.

1--Strong families, education and hard work protect a neighborhood. 2--Government process and services protect a neighborhood. 3--Wealth protects a neighborhood.

Through our efforts as a community, walking together, I believe these things are achievable, but we have miles to go.

Who would approve Manufacturing zoning in a residential neighborhood? Who would say that a six storey factory should be built next to a two storey home? Who would say the safe place for children to play is next to a concrete plant? There is work to be done.

Who applied Manufacturing zoning to residential neighborhoods? This is left over, segregation-times zoning. Segregation doesn't apply only to race, people are segregated by income as well.

In the 1970s we worked with CRHA to distribute housing throughout the city, to avoid isolating the poor in enclaves. We worked on the zoning map to create strong and secure neighborhoods, but there are still miles to go.

The pattern I recognize is the unequal protection of neighborhoods by the zoning map.

Ownership and property rights are important in our country. We don't take from a man what he has earned. But ownership isn't a license to abuse. Absentee ownership must walk hand in hand with stewardship, fairness, justice and equal protection. The small man must receive the same level of regard as the big man when he deals with the City, and the City must communicate with the neighborhoods.

Why is the Manufacturing zoning in Charlottesville located in less privileged neighborhoods? Because these neighborhoods were disenfranchised in the 1950s, there was a poll tax, these neighborhoods were not represented, they did not have champions in City Hall.

The fifties were a long time ago, but traces of the wrong done in those years remain. The peoples faith in the fair exercise of authority requires robust, consistent, transparent governance. This faith requires the evenhanded application of legislation. The peoples faith requires due-process.

This zoning caught my attention, this type of discriminatory zoning in residential areas is an old, familiar adversary.

I read that legislation passed by Council in 1993 to protect this historic property, was erased by accident, by a clerical error, or by the interpretation of staff. That cannot happen. If the process was not followed the protection was not lost.

Localities adopt zoning ordinances to ensure the orderly development and strengthening of community. Destruction of neighborhoods was once labeled as progress, let that thinking stay in the past.

We work towards unity, we fight for equal protection. Give your best effort to the people of Recreation, Carver, Clark, Tonsler, Walker, Alumni Hall, Venable, and Jefferson Park. Restoring order, equity and fairness to the zoning process is critical for all.

This matter is before Council tonight. I recommend that you move to correct the substantial reduction in size of the Branham-Timberlake I.P.P. between 1993 and 2003. Approve with a unanimous vote in favor of the Resolution, the general welfare and good zoning practice require no less.

In the coming weeks, the proposed rezoning will be before the Planning Commission and the B.A.R. for recommendations and then back before Council.

I urge you to work until the work is done.


Charles L. Barbour
Member of Council, 1970-1978

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Letters are a valuable source of historic data. We hold out hope that we'll turn up a nineteenth century Woolen Mills Village letter writer or a diarist whose writings would provide a glimpse into the daily rhythm of life in this village.
History doesn't stop. For certain purposes we classify the Woolen Mills Village's "period of significance" 1795-1958, but truly, all of the past is history, from the Paleoindian period to yesterday afternoon.
Part of our mission here at Woolen Mills Road is preservation, preservation of photos, letters, archaeological and architectural resources.
In May and June of 2008 we received considerable correspondence regarding the re-enactment of the Timberlake-Branham Farm's 1993 historic overlay. The note above arrived yesterday. It will be archived, Annie Dillard's voice is added to the chorus.


Friday, May 30, 2008

down to the river

Woolies, 1909

At their June 2nd meeting, Charlottesville City Council will vote on a resolution to consider restoring the Timberlake-Branham Farm's "protected property" designation.
A move in that direction would be a win-win land use decision. The continued recognition of this special Woolen Mills place will positively affect the property owner, the Woolen Mills Village, and the larger Central Virginia community for generations to come.
For details of how to help, please read this flyer.
Walk with the Woolies!

"the fightin' sheep"

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

38 52.351 N 77 04.133 W

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

7396 miles 63 years

Battle for Iwo Jima- Between February 19 and March 26, 1945, four thousand, five hundred and fifty four Marines were killed in action. Both of James and Bannie Branham's sons served their country during World War II.
James Leake Branham Jr., USN, died July 7, 1991.
Thomas Eugene Branham, USMC, died February 19, 1945 on Iwo Jima.

James and Bannie Branham visit Arlington National cemetery with their daughter Mildred and grand-daughter Jane

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

selling by sample on the road

Timberlake-Branham House, 1512 Woolen Mills Road

Traveling agents, ranging widely, provided contact with buyers outside the immediate environs of Charlottesville. The mill did not utilize during this period the services of commission houses which possessed both selling and credit facilities, although nationally the industry had adopted that method long before the War. In the eighties, woolen mills "learned the advantages of selling by sample on the road, and by their traveling salesmen solicited the custom of the whole country." The Charlottesville factory, having escaped the fetters of an exclusive selling agreement, was nearly a decade ahead of the industry in that respect. Its sales were made directly to the merchants, to tailors, and to a few military schools.--Harry Poindexter

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

November 1952

Sometimes a thoughtful individual, aware of mortality, aware of forgetfulness, will write names on the back of a photo. On the back of this photo, left to right, Ernest Bibb, Clarence Spencer, James Branham, Leo Johnson and John Drumheller.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007


click here to read text of Daily Progress June 23, 2007 article

The Daily Progress continues its excellent coverage of the Timberlake-Branham "taking by typo" issue. Its an ongoing story, which is complicated to the point that a few supplemental comments are in order.

"Emory and some neighbors believe the city accidentally removed the historic protection status from the site several years ago."

We, the concerned neighbors, do not believe that 75% of the 7 acre protective zoning overlay was removed by accident. Zoning is a conscious, legislative act which must follow procedures as outlined by law. We believe that the 7 acres continues to be protected because the proper procedures were not followed. The City of Charlottesville is the proponent of the zoning by accident argument.

"A letter written by zoning administrator Read Brodhead in February stated that a "technical mistake" might have caused the parcels to lose their protected status, a position Coiner and some others dispute."

The zoning determination written by Read Brodhead didn't contain the word "might". Brodhead said that a technical mistake caused the removal of the historic designation. (click here to see letter)

"Emory brought his case to the Board of Zoning Appeals..."

One of the issues in this case has been that of "standing". Someone who has been affected by the purported loss of the zoning overlay has to ask for corrective action. There are many people who have been affected and will be affected if the City fails to address the "taking by typo" loop-hole. Formally, this case has my name on it, "William Emory v. City of Charlottesville". But informally this case is "Concerned Citizens v. City of Charlottesville", a class that includes regional, state and nationwide supporters.

"Next, Emory petitioned the City Council to consider his case and change the site's zoning classification."

To date, the neighborhood has not petitioned Charlottesville City Council regarding the Individually Protected Property status of the seven acres.

"Emory said he's disappointed that he had to file a lawsuit in order to coerce the city into fixing what he believes was a clerical error."

1. to compel by force, intimidation, or authority, esp. without regard for individual desire or volition: They coerced him into signing the document.
2. to bring about through the use of force or other forms of compulsion; exact: to coerce obedience.
3. to dominate or control, esp. by exploiting fear, anxiety, etc.: The state is based on successfully coercing the individual.

We are the supplicants here. There is definitely no "coercion" afoot. We hope that the City will correct a clerical error which, if upheld, has serious import for all citizens of Charlottesville.

I would urge you to think both about fairness to the parties here and what the most minimum due process requires, which is notice and an opportunity to be heard. And then also to think about the precedent and the way in which this kind of taking by typo would really threaten and jeopardize all of our ability to trust the stability of the records.
--Anne Coughlin, speaking before the BZA during the 4/19/07 appeal

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Timberlake Branham- "zoned out"

Tom Kirk rides in the backyard of his grandfather's historic farm at 1512 East Market Street. Monticello and Brown's mountains are visible in the far distance. In the near distance, the fence which separated the house from the "front pasture".
City Council touched on the issue of the Branham farm during their June 4, 2007 meeting.
The Hook reports:
For a transcript of Council's discussion: click here
For audio of Council's discussion: click here


Thursday, May 31, 2007

Twilight Zoning

James Branham's grand-daughters in the backyard of 1512.

The Hook has weighed in with an article about James Branham's farm in the Woolen Mills. "Twilight Zoning--BZA procedure trumps reality"


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Independence, interdependence, bootstraps

The Woolen Mills was independent for a long time. For a hundred years the people of Woolen Mills Road looked after each other.

After the Mill shut its doors in 1963, that independence, formerly an asset became, in one respect, a pronounced liability. The independent Woolies didn't have client status with either the County of Albemarle or the City of Charlottesville. They didn't have friends, champions, in the government.

Thursday, May 17, 4 p.m.-- the taking by typo saga will re-commence in the basement conference room of City Hall.
What does the future hold for the Woolen Mills. Will the stability of legislative action taken in 1993 prevail? Will the future of a historic property be dictated by a typographic error committed in 2003?

Invest in the future of this community with an hour of your presence. A watchful and concerned public makes the difference. The Board of Zoning Appeals will be at the top of their game before a room full of people-- and the Woolen Mills needs their very best.

I would urge you to think both about fairness to the parties here and what the most minimum due process requires, which is notice and an opportunity to be heard. And then also to think about the precedent and the way in which this kind of taking by typo would really threaten and jeopardize all of our ability to trust the stability of the records.--Anne Coughlin 4/19/07

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

mapping memory, mapping intent

The map above created by James Branhams grand-daughter, Dorothy.
Woolen Mills Road (Market Street) is at the bottom of the map, the C&O (CSX) railroad tracks are at the top of the map, her grand-fathers seven acre farm is in the middle.

In 1993, Charlottesville City Council placed a protective zoning overlay on this property. Click here to see maps.


Sunday, May 6, 2007

their son, her brother

James and Bannie Branham receive a posthumous award for their son, Thomas Eugene Branham, killed in action on Iwo Jima, February 19, 1945. Lucile Watson, Tom's sister, stands between her parents with her daughter Jane.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Timberlake-Branham 1512 East Market


November 30, 1999- Lucile Branham Watson's ashes are scattered in the pasture behind the Timberlake-Branham house by her daughter, Jane Leitch. The boy behind Jane is Branham Talton, James L. Branhams great-great-grandson.

James and Bannie Branham had ten children, nine survived to adulthood.

Branham was a farmer, ultimately a farmer in the City. He died in 1970, seven years after his property was annexed into the City of Charlottesville.

The Branhams had a tradition of caring for one another and for others. James wife, Bannie, was a nurse as were their daughters Ruby and Mildred.

The Branhams son, Tom (Thomas Eugene Branham Pfc. USMCR) was killed in action on Iwo Jima, February 19, 1945. As a consequence of his sacrifice serving this country, the Branhams received funds from the government which helped facilitate the purchase of the site at 1512 East Market.

The Branhams were a close-knit family who loved their homeplace and used every bit of it, from Market Street to the C&O railroad track. Grand-daughter Dorothy Hesselton describes 1512:

1512 E. Market Street had 7 acres of land and was a little working farm. There were cows,chickens,pigs- a horse named Frank- My Grandfather plowed those fields with a plow and horse. My cousin Jane and I used to have to up pick potatoes and would hide in the corn rows to get out of work.

They produced much of their own food, they canned and preserved everything-DH. James Branham had a smokehouse, hog pen, barn, tool sheds, corn-crib, smoke-house, watering-trough and a chicken coop on site. They had two vegetable gardens, grew corn for the livestock in the field bordering the railroad tracks. The cows and Frank the plow-horse grazed in the front pasture toward the house.

Of the eight surviving children, four spent significant portions of their adult lives living under the same roof with their parents, sometimes being cared for, sometime being caretakers, always enjoying a family supper at the end of the day. The non-resident children visited with regularity, the grand-children had the run of the place and a chilled melon care of their grand-father every morning when in season. Says Hesselton- It was a life that so few are fortunate to have... we were spoiled rotten.

In addition to their devotion to each other, the Branhams were devoted to this property. It was the center of their family life.

In the 80s, Toms sisters Lucile and Mildred began to cast about for a means to recognize and preserve their homeplace. These girls, old ladies then, got the ball rolling with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. In 1981 the property was added to the Virginia Landmarks register, in 1984 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In advance of her death, Lucille asked that her ashes be scattered in the pasture behind the house.

Of James and Bannies ten children, one survives, Lilian. Lilian worked, long ago, for the Charlottesville Woolen Mills.

Many have contributed to the preservation and stewardship of this unique property, they include:

Woolen Mills neighbors Tom and Laura Parmenter
Jeff ODell, Chairman of the Charlottesville Historic Landmarks Commission, 1989
Satyendra Singh Huja
Virginia Department of Historic Resources
Charlottesville Planning Commission
Charlottesville City Council
The Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association 1988-2007
Woolen Mills Road

October 18, 1993 Charlottesville City Council extended "Individual Property Protection" to the seven acre farm, TMP-56.40.4

We thought that the entire seven acres would always be protected. 4/17/07- Dorothy Hesselton, daughter of Mary Ella Branham Frazier

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