To celebrate its addition to the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places, the Ivy Creek Foundation held a celebration of River View Farm on Sunday.
The farm was the home of Hugh Carr, who was born enslaved and bought 58 acres of what would become River View Farm in 1870, shortly after emancipation. Carr would be come one of the largest African American landowners in Albemarle County when he died in 1914.
The existing house was built in approximately 1880 and was home to Carr, his wife, Texie M. Hawkins, and their seven children.
The farm and its historic buildings, including a house and a barn, were added to the state Register of Historic Places in September 2020 and the National Register of Historic Places in December 2020. The celebration, held with Ed Brooks of the B.F. Yancey School Community Center, was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“River View Farm is a rare surviving example of the Union Ridge and Hydraulic Mills community of African American farmers, pastors, craftspeople and businessmen and women that flourished in the region and beginning in the final quarter of the nineteenth century,” said Sue Erhardt, executive director of the Ivy Creek Foundation.
Teresa Leslie, a great-great-granddaughter of Hugh Carr and Texie M. Hawkins, said it meant a lot to her to have the property added to the registers.
“It’s almost like a spiritual base for me, to be able to come back and to connect with a history that a lot of people can’t connect with,” she said. “I think that they’ve done a really good job over the years, and in trying to preserve a lot of these buildings. If these buildings didn’t exist, I would have never known the story.”
Virginia Carr left home at a young age and moved to Plainfield, New Jersey, Leslie said, and married Maxwell Brown. They had one son, Kenneth Brown.
One of Carr’s and Hawkins’ other daughters, Mary Carr Greer, became a teacher and principal for 20 years at the Albemarle Training School, the only post-elementary school available to African American students in the county during segregation. The training school was replaced in 1951 when Burley High School opened.
Her husband, Conley Greer, was Albemarle’s first African American agricultural extension agent, serving from 1918 to 1953. Conley Greer built the large barn on the River View Farm property in 1937 using U.S. Department of Agriculture plans.
The property is now more than 200 acres and operates as a public park jointly owned by Albemarle County and Charlottesville, and managed by the nonprofit Ivy Creek Foundation.
For the first time, community members were able to see the inside of the house Sunday, which the foundation has stabilized ahead of doing a more thorough analysis of the building.
“We need this report to be done to decide, with the descendants, what we want to do with the house,” Erhardt said. “Do we want to make it a museum, an education space, a research space, and have community involvement with that?”
The original house was built circa 1880 as a Virginia I-House, with two rooms over two rooms and a central hall on each floor. In 1915, after Mary Carr Greer and Conley Greer inherited the house, they added a wing to the back of the house.
Jody Lahendro, a historic preservation architect and Ivy Creek Foundation board member, gave tours of the house. He said the stabilization work put a “Band-Aid on it” to keep it whole so they have time to do research. He’s currently working on measure drawings of the house.
“We’ll be doing the condition analysis of the building after that,” he said. “We’ll be then doing forensics — looking to do probes to try and figure out the exact changes that happened to the building over time. And then we’ll come up with a rehabilitation plan for how to reuse the building and do all the repair work.”
The foundation will soon be adding descendants of the family to its board of directors, Erhardt said, and is working to plan a reunion with the descendants, which would be the first since 2005.
Leslie said she keeps getting drawn back to the property because there’s an important story.
“It’s an honor to come out and to see this and these incredible people, what they accomplished in their lifetimes, in that first generation out of slavery,” she said. “There’s so much to be learned about how we rebuild as we move forward.”