Market Street Park

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Market Street Park overview map, ca. 2022
Overview of parks (McGuffey Park, Market Street Park, Court Square Park) located in the Downtown area, ca. 2022
Focal point of park - view looking north (Note: location of fire pit is at the center of the park), 2022

Market Street Park is an urban pocket park in the City of Charlottesville located at 101 East Market Street in the North Downtown Neighborhood. Covering slightly over 1.04 acres, at the perimeter of the park are xeriscape garden plantings and ornamental trees, including dogwoods and a weeping cherry. The rectangular shaped park is traversed by a system of formal and informal concrete walkways dating back to the 1920's. A large equestrian sculpture was once the focal point of the park. Market Street Park is owned by the City of Charlottesville and is managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation.


Market Street Park is locally significant as the first public park established within the City of Charlottesville. For 100 years, Emancipation Park has served as an important space for various types of gatherings, ceremonies, and events near the heart of downtown Charlottesville. It has also influenced the city's urban form, by influencing the siting of several civic and institutional buildings. Land for the park was donated to the City of Charlottesville by philanthropist Paul Goodloe McIntire, in 1917. The property was originally known as Lee Park for the sculpture of the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and his horse, Traveller, commissioned for the space by McIntire. The sculpture was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.[1] [2] Unveiled at a ceremony in 1924, the sculpture and pedestal was removal by order of the City Council in 2021. Unlike the statues of Confederate leaders on Richmond's Monument Avenue that were removed in 2020, there is no pedestal marking the site of Confederate statue after it was removed.


In 1918, at the end of World War I, philanthropist Paul Goodloe McIntire wrote of his intention to donate the Park and a monument in memory of his parents, including his reflections on the chosen subject of the monumental sculpture Robert E. Lee's use of "OUR DUTY."


Market Street Park, a Charlottesville City Park centrally located in downtown at 101 E. Market Street, is bounded by East Market Street, First Street North, East Jefferson Street, and Second Street Northeast. Formerly known as Emancipation Park (2017-2018), formerly known as Lee Park (1922-2017), formerly known as McIntire Park (1917-1922)[3], formerly known as the Southall-Venable property (ca. 1860's-1917), it is On June 5, 2017, the City Council, led by Mayor Michael Signer, voted unanimously to change the park's name to Emancipation Park. The park was renamed by the City Council on June 5, 2017. The succeeding City Council selected the newest name in 2018.[4]

The city's comprehensive plan classifies the property as an 'urban' park.[5] The park is often used for festivals and music performances, and was the site of the Occupy Charlottesville protest. The western side of the park is used as seating space for the Garage. Zoning: DH

Site furnishings

Site furnishings within the park are minimal and include benches and trash receptacles located along the edges of perimeter walks. Low backless concrete benches characterize the southern half of the park, while black powder-coated backed benches are found within the northern half of the park. The black benches are typically edged by domed metal trash receptacles. The concrete benches were added circa 1955, while the black metal benches and trash receptacles are a more contemporary addition. Another historic feature of the park is a stacked pair of millstones set within a circular segment of walkway west of the statue. The millstones are part of the original park design. They are said to have been included for their historical value as a former part of Shadwell, the farm operated by Thomas Jefferson’s father, Peter Jefferson, along the Rivanna River during the mid-eighteenth century.[6]

Use of the park

Occupy Charlottesville members and future counselor Wes Bellamy (standing at left of fire pit), 2011
Overnight camping, September 12, 2023

Overnight encampment

In September 2023, tents were being setup in the park and used by people sleeping overnight. Posted signage in the park: "PARK CLOSED 11PM-6AM".

Curfew lifted at the park

On September 21, 2023, City Manager, Samuel Sanders, Jr. issued a directive to lift the closing time in Market Street Park.[7] A homeless encampment continued to increase at Market Street Park after closing hours were lifted.

City Manager Sam Sanders issued a directive to remove the closing time at Market Street Park after hearing a complaint of a police officer allegedly kicking two homeless people to wake them up after hours. That decision followed an alleged altercation between police and a man who refused to leave the park after hours. The City Manger says he and the police department are looking into what happened. In the meantime, Sanders says the unhoused are allowed to stay in the park overnight. Sanders says he will have a plan to present councilors at their next meeting on October 2nd.[8]


  • 2011 - The park has also been the site of protests. The group Occupy Charlottesville began a protest campaign in mid-October 2011 which involved setting up tents. The city granted a series of permits allowing the occupation which expired on November 24, 2011.[9] The ongoing occupation prompted questions whether the city showed favoritism by allowing the group to stay in the park so long.[10] The city evicted protesters on November 30, 2011 and 18 people were arrested.[11]


The park has been the venue for many of Charlottesville's annual festivals, such as the Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival, Pride Celebration, the Chocolate Festival hosted by the First Baptist Church, the Festival of Cultures, the Tom Tom Founders Festival, special events connected with the Dogwood Festival, and the Bow-wow walk hosted by the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA.[12]

Other uses

Beginning in 1954, a live nativity was held in the park on Christmas Eve.[13]

Once a stop on the Civil War Trails, a multi-state program that connects visitors with the great campaigns and lesser-known sites of the Civil War since 1994, membership and site signage were removed from this tourism program in 2017.

History of park and statue donation

Paul Goodloe McIntire, a commodities trader and philanthropist, assembled several parcels of land, purchased and demolished existing buildings, developed the property and then deeded the land to the city as a public park in 1917.

Parking in Lee Park?

In 1948, the traffic committee of the Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Mayor Roscoe Adams suggesting that Lee Park and Jackson Park could be modified to accommodate spaces to alleviate a parking problem in downtown Charlottesville. The letter was read at Council's meeting on March 15, 1948 but Council took no action. City Attorney L.W. Waddell said the idea could present legal problems given McIntire's gift. Adams then mentioned he had heard of a possibility to construct parking spaces below the parks.[14]

The underground parking idea was still a concept in 1951 and subject of a Daily Progress editorial.[15]

Controversy about moving statue

At the 2012 Virginia Festival of the Book, City Councilor Kristin Szakos raised questions over whether the Robert E. Lee statue in the park should be removed out of a concern it celebrates the state's Confederate past.[16] The proposal was met with considerable backlash from the community, who view the statue as an important part of history.[17][18] More recently, in March 2016 the issue of moving Confederate statues was revived.[19][20]

"Unite the Right" rally at the park

On August 12, 2017, clashes broke out between white nationalists and counter-protesters. At one point in the afternoon, a vehicle drove into a crowd of counter-protesters marching through the downtown area before speeding away, resulting in one death and leaving more than a dozen others injured. State police later reported the crash of a helicopter that was monitoring the events in Charlottesville, killing two troopers. President Trump addressed the violence in televised remarks from New Jersey, condemning an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” and calling for the “swift restoration of law and order.” Among his critics was Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. “What happened in Charlottesville is domestic terrorism,” Wyden tweeted. “The President’s words only serve to offer cover for heinous acts.” [21]

On April 25, 2019, the first words Joe Biden spoke as he announced his 2020 presidential campaign were “Charlottesville, Virginia.” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he knew he had to run for president after hearing President Donald Trump say “there were very fine people on both sides” after the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. [22]

Reconsideration of the new name (2018)

Local resident Mary Carey expressed displeasure with the name, as it did not reflect the community's input and continued to center slavery. Carey felt that "Emancipation Park" was a blunt reminder of slavery, and bitterly ironic, considering "Emancipation" Park had been created for the specific purpose of housing a statue of someone who fought against emancipating the enslaved. She submitted a petition asking Council to reconsider it. They chose to do so on February 20, 2018.[4][23]

Local Voices, Local History

VIDEO CREDITS: Narrated by Preston Coiner;
Graphic design: Jen Fleischer; Project Manager: Kristin Rourke.


  1. Web. Emancipation Park, Library of Congress, retrieved 29 October 2023.
  2. National Register of Historic Places id #64500682, Four Monumental Figurative Outdoor Sculptures in Charlottesville
  4. 4.0 4.1 Web. Charlottesville City Council to revisit downtown park monikers, Chris Suarez, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, February 20, 2018, retrieved February 21, 2018.
  5. Web. Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan, Chapter 10, City of Charlottesville, Charlottesville, Virginia, retrieved October 19, 2010.
  6. Web. HISTORIC AMERICAN LANDSCAPES SURVEY, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior
  7. Web. City Manager Addresses Unhoused Community Crisis in Market Street Park, City of Charlottesville, September 21, 2023, retrieved October 11, 2023.
  8. Web., NBC29, Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 12:48 PM EDT, retrieved October 11, 2023.
  9. Web. Occupiers face balancing act with some who've joined in, Graham Moomaw, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, November 5, 2011, retrieved November 7, 2011.
  10. Web. Jefferson Area Tea Party chair suspicious of Councilor Brown comment, Brendan Fitzgerald, C-VILLE Weekly, Portico Publications, October 18, 2011, retrieved November 7, 2011.
  11. Web. Officials hear 'death knell' of Occupy Charlottesville, Graham Moomaw, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, December 1, 2011, retrieved December 5, 2011.
  12. Park events
  13. Web. Gentry To Head Lee Park Board, Staff Reports, Daily Progress Digitized Microfilm, Lindsay family, March 15, 1962, retrieved June 10, 2017 from University of Virginia Library. Print. March 15, 1962 page 21.
  14. Web. Study Of Park Use For Auto Parking Urged On Council, Staff Reports, Daily Progress Digitized Microfilm, Lindsay family, March 16, 1948, retrieved December 12, 2016 from University of Virginia Library. Print. March 16, 1948 page 3.
  15. Web. The Lee Park Parking Proposal, Staff Reports, Daily Progress Digitized Microfilm, Lindsay family, retrieved December 9, 2016 from University of Virginia Library. Print. May 23, 1951 page 4.
  16. Web. Historian talks Civil War as councilor wonders if statues should be torn down, Ted Strong, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, March 22, 2012, retrieved March 29, 2012.
  17. Web. Szakos decries response to statue comments, Graham Moomaw, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, retrieved August 22, 2012.
  18. Web. City's Civil War statues remind us of our past, Daily Progress, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, March 27, 2012, retrieved August 22, 2012.
  19. Web. Debate over role of Charlottesville's Confederate statues reignites, Bryan McKenzie, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, retrieved March 22, 2016.
  20. Web. Movement afoot to remove Lee statue in Charlottesville, Chris Suarez, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, March 22, 2016, retrieved March 29, 2012.
  22. Web. Biden: Charlottesville Was the ‘Moment I Knew I Had to Run', NBCUniversal Media, LLC., retrieved October 11, 2023.
  23. Web. City Council holds public hearing on renaming of Emancipation, Justice Parks, Jake Gold, News Article, Cavalier Daily, February 21, 2018, retrieved February 21, 2018.

See also

List of statues, monuments, and war memorials

External links