Thirty years ago this month, Bill Chapman and Hawes Spencer, fresh out of Hampden-Sydney College, rolled out the first issue of what would become C-VILLE Weekly.
It was 1989, and Charlottesville was a smaller, quieter place, where Miller’s was a beacon on a Downtown Mall otherwise deserted after dark, and West Main a no-man’s land separating the island of UVA from downtown. The Dave Matthews Band hadn’t yet been formed. The Daily Progress was delivered every afternoon, “by boys on bicycles,” as Chapman recalls.
Thirty years have brought sleek new developments and million-dollar apartments, tech companies and craft cocktails. Chapman (who is still part-owner of the paper) and Spencer (who no longer has a stake), aren’t the scrappy upstarts they once were: Chapman now owns the Oakhurst Inn, which recently expanded to include a bar and a swimming pool, and last month Spencer sold the building that houses Bizou for $4 million.
But the paper they founded is (improbably, in this age of newspaper consolidation and decline) still locally owned and going strong. And while it hasn’t always hit its mark, its driving force—to provide smart, irreverent coverage of local news and culture—is more necessary than ever.
As Charlottesville undergoes a long-overdue reckoning with its segregated past and deeply unequal present, and wrestles with how to accommodate growth without losing its soul, there’s no shortage of stories. We’re happy to be here to tell them.