CHARLOTTESVILLE DOWNTOWN MALL
By Uriah J. Fields
After living for a quarter of a century in Alabama and a longer period in California before residing in Charlottesville, VA., a city with a population of approximately 50,000, and more than a few attractions in the city and vicinity that include the University of Virginia, Monticello, the homes of Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe, that remain appealing tourist sites, I want to focus on a place, much smaller than the 5,000 acres owned by Jefferson, called the Charlottesville Downtown Mall which nourishes me more than any of the aforementioned attractions.
The Downtown Mall is seven blocks of old Main Street. It is a pedestrian mall brick streets blocked off and made a unique walking mall. On this mall you will not find a Walmart, J. C. Penny, Sears Roebuck, Target or any of the other large commercial stores. But you will find more than 120 shops and 30 restaurants in historic buildings on and around old Main Street. You will also find theaters and outside you will encounter vendors, musicians, artists and want-to-be artists performing. Outside eating is available at many of the restaurants when weather permits. Vendors conduct their businesses from tables or stands setup in the middle of the mall during daylight hours.
From time-to-time this writer marches up and down the mall carrying a picket sign protesting against such things as the Iraq War and the killing of seventeen-year old unarmed Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, or protesting for Health Care for all, what some people call
"Obamacare." (Let me add, Obama cares a lot.) Usually while protesting I sing and give my voice to the cause I am protesting. At other times I play the harmonica and/or sing to entertain or lift the spirits of people who often give me thumbs up.
There are three theaters on the Downtown Mall. They are: The Paramount theater (215 East Main St.) that features some of the world's top entertainers; the Jefferson theater (110 East Main St.) that features movies at a discount, making it possible for some people to see movies who otherwise would not see them; and the Regal Downtown Mall 6 (200 West Main St.) that features simultaneously a variety and the latest movies.
Also on the east end of the mall is the Pavilion open air theater (amphitheatre). During the Spring and Summer the City of Charlottesville sponsors free concerts on Friday evenings. Featured are local musicians who play rock, jazz, bluegrass, blues, and other genre and forms of music. The Pavilion also hosts some major headliners. Among those who have appeared at the Pavilion are the late James Brown, B.B. King and Willie Nelson.
Immediately before approaching the Pavilion is the Charlottesvile City Hall (605 East Main St. or the opposite entrance 605 Market St.).
Located in front of the City Hall is a two-sided wall of Buckingham slate, approximately 54 ft. long by 7.5 ft. high on which members of the public may express their views in chalk, on any subject they choose. Permanently inscribed on one side of the wall is the text of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. On the immediate opposite side is this statement by the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall: Above all else the Frist Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content. ... our people are guaranteed the right to express any thought, free of government censorship." Messages written on the wall by the public are erased once a week.
At the west end of the Mall is the Omni Hotel which has 208 guest rooms and suites. Immediately before advancing to the hotel is the public ice skating Main Street Ice Skating Rink (230 West Main St.).
The University of Virginia is 14 blocks from the Downtown Mall. The University Transit Service provides a free Trolley from the University to the Downtown Mall that stops along the route every 15 minutes on Monday through Saturday and every 30 minutes on Sunday.
What I appreciate most about the Downtown Mall is its uniqueness, free expression, diversity, spirit of freedom and goodwill that is exemplified by people frequenting the mall of different races, economic levels, including homeless people who may have signs asking for help or people performing music in the hope that listeners will drop money into their hat or box. Interestingly enough and to the credit of the people walking on the mall they do not look upon these less fortunate people with disfavor or as if they are less than human beings. This collective attitude can, in part, be attributed to the climate that exists on the mall.
The "Washington Post" and "New York Times" and numerous magazines rate Charlottesville as one of the "Top 10 places" for you and your family to visit. Let me end my descriptive analysis of the Charlottesville Downtown Mall with: "When you visit Charlottesville, exploring, roaming and enjoying the Downtown Mall are a 'must visit.'"
Copyright 2012 by Uriah J. Fields