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A Virtual Walking Tour

The Historical Landscape of North Grounds

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A Layered Landscape

North Grounds was not always a campus of academic buildings. By the time UVA purchased this property in 1963, the tract was mainly woods. But for centuries before that, the landscape was home to a fascinating history and a long list of inhabitants, including farmers and enslaved laborers, the Albemarle County Poor House, and the Charlottesville barbecue grounds. Many of these sites are visible today from the Rivanna Trail. This video walking tour follows librarian Randi Flaherty as she the explores the history of the landscape on which the Law School now sits.

We acknowledge the original custodians of these lands, the Monacan Nation. We pay respect to their elders past, present, and emerging.

North Grounds

Video Walking Tour

Albemarle County Poor House

From 1806-1870, Albemarle’s poor, sick, and orphaned lived and labored here.

Barbecue Grounds

The Duke family hosted large barbecues for decades on a plot directly behind the Law School.

Enslaved Men, Women, and Children

The Dukes enslaved a number of men, women and children, who lived and worked at Sunnyside. Many of them, like Caesar Young, were locally renowned for their barbecue and Brunswick stew following Emancipation.


An existing Gothic-revival house was home to the Duke family for 100 years. Quarters for enslaved workers and a detached kitchen once existed alongside the house.

The Rivanna Trail

In 1999, the Rivanna Trail Foundation cleared the trail behind the Law School, making the historic landscape accessible.

Civil War Encampment

Confederate soldiers wintered in the North Grounds woods during the Civil War.

Agricultural Pursuits

After the Civil War, the Duke family co-founded the Monticello Wine Company and grew grapes for this consortium at Sunnyside.

Indigenous Land

The Monacan people, the traditional custodians of the land in and around Charlottesville, were pushed westward by disease and English colonization in the early 1700s. Their descendants continue to live in the area, particularly in Amherst County.

Breaking Ground

In 1963, the University of Virginia purchased the Duke tract to construct the Law, JAG, and Business schools.

Watch the Video