R. F. Harris

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Richard F. Harris (1827-1893), a prominent West Main Street merchant and mayor in the late 1800's. As the town's at-large (town-wide) elected mayor, he served as the presiding officer at the town council meetings.

He was first elected mayor in 1875, served until 1881, and was returned to office again in 1883.[1]

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Harris and his wife, Eliza Wayland were born in Charles City, VA. They moved from Richmond to Charlottesville and later open Charlottesville's first foundry in 1858. The Charlottesville Agriculture & Iron Works, once located on both sides of the 400 block of West Main Street, was later operated as R. F. Harris and Son. His son, Charles F. Harris, and four of his daughters operated the company under the name of R. F. Harris & Co. after the death of their mother ca. 1902.

R. F. Harris's final term as mayor ended in 1888. (The mayor-city council form of town government had continued until 1888, when Charlottesville was incorporated as a City.) Harris died in 1893 and was buried in the family section of Maplewood Cemetery.

Fireworks controversey

In 1886, Harris ordered an end to the practice of detonating fireworks at Christmas time. In retaliation, someone exploded dynamite at the foundry, resulting in a large crater.


  1. Web. Yesteryears: For Charlottesville's first mayor, Christmas season 1886 ended with a bang, David Maurer, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, retrieved December 8, 2013.