In 1989, Bill Chapman was a senior at Hampden-Sydney College and Hawes Spencer, a former student, was working in the communications office. Chapman had just completed a summer internship at Richmond’s Style Weekly, and “It seemed like Charlottesville needed a smarter, less reverent paper than The Daily Progress,” he says.
The two founded C-VILLE Review that fall, a bi-monthly publication with Chapman as editor and Spencer as publisher. In the vein of other alt-weeklies at the time, it was nose-thumbing and often goofy, with an inaugural issue that featured a garrulous history of Foxfield by the man who’d designed it, and an ode to a 1964 toaster. Another early issue, in 1991, featured a farcical story on Patricia Kluge following her divorce from her second husband (then the richest man in America) with a cover headlined “Going Back to Work: One Woman’s Story.”
While the paper, which went weekly in 1994, has changed with every editor, its motivating force—to provide an alternative voice on local news and culture-—is as relevant as ever. In a special insert in the paper this week. you’ll find every cover from C-VILLE’s 30-year history—more than 1,400 in all, from this Foxfield illustration to last week’s photo of jazz legend Roland Wiggins (who, incidentally, moved to Charlottesville in September 1989). The highlights are below.
Taken together, the covers chart the ups and downs of Charlottesville’s transition from Southern college town to emerging small city—and every local uproar in between.
The very first issue of what was then called C-VILLE Review hit stands on September 18, 1989.
2.20.90 In the early years of what was then called C-VILLE Review, we asked readers to weigh in on everything from “Solving Route 29” to identifying the ugliest building in town. In this issue, readers were encouraged to write “a creative paragraph or two...or send a picture or poem (haiku will be accepted).” The “winning” building, which graced the cover two issues later, was Lewis and Clark Square.
Um, yes. This was the first of what would be 10 covers featuring the band.
This issue previewed the arrival of “Stu-comm,” a nonprofit station that would later launch WNRN. In the piece, local commercial radio veterans pooh-poohed the chances of the new station making it. Ardent supporters responded by dumping hundreds of copies of the paper up and down Emmet Street during a rainstorm. Around the same time, C-VILLE moved from bi-monthly to every week, changing its name from C-VILLE Review to C-VILLE Weekly.
One of many covers in which the answer is: No. 1995 also brought two issues heralding the arrival of the internet, and the first appearance of a McIntire statue on a cover. (Oddly, it’s not one of our Confederates, but explorer George Rogers Clark, now under fire for his attacks on Native Americans, and the piece argues that Clark is a hero insufficiently recognized in Charlottesville.)
A major snowstorm closed the C-VILLE office (and the town) for a bit and, short on content, we created our own “white issue.”
After the first Best of C-VILLE in 1989, which was entirely editors’ picks, we inaugurated our now-annual readers’ poll in 1996. By this issue, the following year, “Best of C-Ville” had lost the ironic quote marks on the cover, but still featured a staff pick alongside every readers’ pick (and categories like best gadfly and best local villain).
In 1997, the Meadowcreek Parkway, first proposed in the 1960s, was a source of raging debate—though it was still almost two decades from completion (it finally opened, as the John Warner Parkway, in 2015). Critics, like then-councilman and later mayor Maurice Cox, lost the battle to invest in mass transit instead of new roads (this issue includes a consideration of light rail along Route 29). But they succeeded in mitigating the Parkway’s impact with design restrictions, reducing the four proposed lanes to two and keeping the intersection with the U.S. 250 Bypass relatively compact.
C-VILLE had a weird obsession with toast in the early years, including this feature about a Northwest couple looking to open a museum in Belmont to display their collection of more than 600 vintage toasters.
Ten years in, C-VILLE adopted a new, lowercase logo (and has stuck with it ever since).
The biggest news story in years was the coal tower murder of Katherine Johnson, 16, and Marcus Griffin, 23, by a 20-year-old Craig Nordenson. After the shootings, Nordenson was thought to have holed up in the tower, and a police standoff ensued. (Nordenson eventually surrendered, after fleeing to Belmont and hiding in a shed). In 2012, the coal tower was on our cover again, the subject of a comprehensive “biography” by Toby Beard. And this week, the tower is back in the paper, as news reporter Matt Weyrich looks into the progress (or lack thereof) on the tower’s next act.
The “C-VILLE 20,” a sort of precursor to the our current Power Issue, highlighted 20 of the most influential people in the city. Though few names from the 2002 list are still in the limelight, one exception is Lloyd Snook, then head of the Charlottesville Democratic Party, and now one of the Democratic nominees for City Council. Mudhouse founders Lynelle and John Lawrence, who started out with a coffee cart on the Downtown Mall in 1992, are also still going strong, with a new location opened recently on 10th Street.
In his quest to remake the Downtown Mall, developer Lee Danielson (responsible for Regal Cinemas, the ice rink, and opening the Second Street mall crossing to car traffic) frequently clashed with the Planning Commission, at one point demanding the resignation of then-commissioner Satyendra Huja. Naturally, he appeared on our cover several times. In 2003, the honeymoon was over between Danielson his financial partner Colin Rolph. The ice park and other projects were losing money, so they worked out their differences in court and in the Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots ring.
By this point, Dave Matthews Band manager Coran Capshaw had multiple businesses in town and seemed to be everywhere. Capshaw took exception to this caricature though, button-holing C-VILLE’s editor on the mall to point out that he was healthier now. (And he hasn’t given us an interview since.)
Superintendent Scottie Griffin was hired in 2004 with goals that included improving SOL scores and closing the racial achievement gap. But she quickly became a lightning rod for controversy, leading to late-night board meetings and budget squabbles. In the end, Griffin left her position after less than a year, and the report she commissioned on racial inequities in city schools was largely overlooked until recently, when a scathing story by ProPublica and The New York Times focused new attention on the district’s longstanding disparities.
Well, this cover hasn’t aged well. At the time, it got us kicked out of grocery stores.
Seeking a creative way to illustrate yet another sex issue, we approached a mall regular who made balloon animals, and asked if he’d make a creation out of condoms to grace our cover. The answer was an enthusiastic yes.
Redinger’s gossipy website “cvillain.com” was the talk of the (down)town and had some wags predicting the end of newspapers. Here, the bad boy uses a flaming copy of C-VILLE Weekly to light his cigar.
In 2009, as C-VILLE Weekly rolled into its third decade with a celebration of hits and misses, C’ville the city followed a national trend and instituted a smoking ban in all restaurants. One month in, we checked in on how it was going, including a lament for smoke-drink “pairings we’ll miss,” like a hot toddy with a clove cigarette at Escafé, or Glenfiddich with a cigar at Aberdeen Barn.
Our advertising sales team had worked for months to get a meeting with Dominion Power’s marketing department. When the day finally came, word of that week’s ill-timed critical Dominion story (accusing the energy giant of “greenwashing” its reliance on coal by acquiring a few small solar companies) had already made it to Richmond. It was a short meeting.
The shocking murder of UVA women’s lacrosse player Yeardley Love by her ex-boyfriend George Huguely was a major story—and often still appears among our most-read stories online.
In 2013, we reported on a recent Consolidated Plan on housing that found Charlottesville was one of the least affordable municipalities in Virginia, “and that there are no easy ways to change that.” Six years later, the problem has only gotten worse.
In 2014, news editor Graelyn Brashear wrote about UVA Health System’s escalating practice of suing patients who couldn’t pay their bills. The same issue came to light again recently, in a damning story in the Washington Post, and led to an announcement just days later that the health system would revise its financial aid guidelines and sue fewer patients, while also lobbying to change the Virginia law that says state agencies must be aggressive in collecting debts.
A couple months after the disappearance of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, with the community still reeling from the news of her murder, a graphic Rolling Stone story about an alleged gang rape at a UVA frat house put Charlottesville in the national headlines again. The 9,000-word story prompted an emotional examination of sexual assault and fraternity culture at the university. Soon after publication, however, the story fell apart, with a local police investigation finding that the rape, as described, never occurred. In April, the magazine retracted the piece in its entirety.
The coywolf, a “coyote-wolf hybrid,” is apparently an object of fascination for many. After one was spotted in Albemarle County, we published this cover story, which proved to be enduringly popular—it still appears regularly on the our most-read stories list online.
Though a white supremacist riot was still in our future, 2016, which saw the massacre of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub, the election of Donald Trump, and the death of both Prince and Leonard Cohen, was a pretty terrible year for many of us. A giant middle finger felt right for the mood, but some readers took offense, calling the cover “obscene” and “repulsive.”
Our August 9 issue, with Jason Kessler’s face on the cover under the tagline “Voices of Hate,” was criticized for “platforming” the neo-Nazis and other alt-righters coming to town, but offered a look at the very real threat about to descend. The next two issues, including the one above, were devoted to the aftermath and the community’s response, making this the first time in C-VILLE’s history that a single event dominated three covers in a row.
News editor Lisa Provence and reporter Samantha Baars worked together to provide comprehensive coverage of the trial of James Fields, charged with killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others in the Fourth Street car attack on August 12. When he was found guilty on all counts, a spontaneous celebration, captured in this photo by Eze Amos, erupted outside the courthouse.
A year earlier, we ran a “We’re No. 1!” basketball cover in happy anticipation of the first round of the NCAA tournament, in which UVA was the overall number one seed. That was the cover that was on stands when the team lost to the number 16 seed, for the first time in tournament history. Needless to say, this year we waited till after Virginia won.