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Proffit Historic District Online Resource Archive

The Proffit Historic District Online Resource Archive is designed to provide easy access to a variety of research tools for teachers, researchers, and community members interested in learning about the town of Proffit and its history.  The site was designed for easy access and navigability.  Within each of the five major areas of the site you will find primary and secondary resources, as well as some information about how the data was collected and where more resources can be found.

The Resource Archive was created by the Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia.  The project was funded by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the Virginia Tourism Corporation as part of the African American Heritage Trail project.  Because of the magnitude and richness of data available about the history of Proffit, the site is currently in its preliminary stages and will be continually developed and enhanced with more material being made available as it is obtained.

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Introduction to the Proffit Historic District

Listed in the Virginia Landmark Register (1998) and the National Register of Historic Places (1999), Proffit is described as “a rare survivor of the black communities established in Albemarle County after the Civil War, but which have largely disappeared or been rebuilt.”

African Americans who had worked as slaves on the plantations of Albemarle County sought economic independence and self-sufficiency through property ownership after emancipation. An exchange of land for labor between former slaveholder W. G. Carr and former slaves Benjamin Brown and John Coles marked the beginning of the Proffit settlement sometime around 1870. Other freedmen and women followed suit, purchasing small lots and buildings one- and two-story frame houses on what were once plantation lands.

The opening of the Proffit station rail depot and post office in 1881 brought white settlers and new commercial establishments to the area. The village grew and thrived economically between 1880 and 1930. Farmers and merchants used the rail line to ship and receive goods; the Ohio Sulphur Mining Company, which excavated a local mine in the 1920s, built a refining mill and installed a spur road to the Proffit depot.

In 1929, a University of Virginia researcher described Proffit as a fairly prosperous African-American settlement: “There are about fifteen or twenty colored families in the town. These people do not own farms, but they have little truck gardens which supply their own needs. They do not altogether depend upon this for a living, however; they work in Charlottesville and go back and forth to their homes.” Economic activity tied to the railroad depot waned in the decades that followed. “As train traffic through the village declined and the automobile made Charlottesville more accessible, Proffit gradually lost its position as a commercial crossroads.” The opening of the U.S. Route 29 in the early 1930s and the closing of the Proffit Station depot by the late 1940s transformed the once-bustling village into the quiet residential community that it is today.

Despite its easy accessibility to motorists—the village center is located just 2.5 miles east of US Route 29, on a scenic secondary road leading directly to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport—the Proffit Historic District is little known outside of local historical and genealogical circles. The Evergreen Baptist Church, built by the local African-American congregation in 1881 is still a locus of community activity today. Other historical structures include the Proffit Station Master’s House, built in the 1890s; the stone wall of the first Proffit Post Office, circa 1900; the one-lane, wood-decked Proffit Road bridge, rebuilt to resemble the nineteenth-century original; and several abandoned houses, built in the 1880s by African-American families whose descendents still own land and live in Proffit today.

Created by Mieka Brand for the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, University of Virginia, 2000