The Corner

An excerpt from The Corner


When Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in the last few years of his life, he established much more than just a school. Jefferson’s college, removed and separate from nearby Charlottesville, became a village until itself known as University, Virginia. An entire community grew up within and around the precincts of the institution. The commercial hub of that community—the downtown of University, Virginia— has always been the area known as “the Corner.”

Once literally just a corner where the main road to Charlottesville met the entrance to the University, this district has become five city blocks of around-the-clock activity. It is the home of bookstores, restaurants, convenience stores, gift shops, clothing stores, private residences, and more.

The Corner: A History of Student Life at the University of Virginia is the story of this community. It is a look at the students, merchants, professors, and townspeople who have lived and worked together in this area for almost two centuries. This book approaches the history of Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia with the belief that the story of the school and of student life is integral to the story of the community. In many ways, the story of the Corner is the story of UVa.

The common thread that unites this work is a sense of place offered by the book’s main character: the Corner itself— the very heart of Jefferson’s University community. By focusing on the changing and unchanging dynamics of one venue through time, we are afforded a distinct portrait of nearly two hundred years of American life— literally, a history of Main Street, USA.

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