Must-See RVA! — Elijah Baker House

Must-See RVA! — Elijah Baker House

A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.

March 2015

2239-41 Venable Street
Built, 1850

Let us now sing the praises of the Union Hill medicine man. He’s got the goods for what ails you.


Contemporary with [Hord House] is the brick house of Elijah Baker. Though it was built in 1850, it resembles the double houses erected before the depression of 1819.2 Baker’s house has an arrangement of porch and entrance that we have not encountered elsewhere in Richmond. The two-story portico instead of being in the rear, is on the west end of the house, and just below it is the rather elaborately carved entrance door. This unusual arrangement is probably due to the fact that Baker carried on his business at his home. As late as 1885 he was making “Baker’s Bitters,” one of the many patent medicines extensively advertised in old Richmond newspapers. [HOR]

(Antique Bottle Pickers)

Seems there was good money in the patent medicine game.

In 1865 he claimed that his estate was worth twenty thousand dollars and before the emancipation proclamation he was the owner of fifteen slaves.

(Antique Bottle Pickers)

In March of 1862 the Confederate President Jefferson Davis declared martial law in Richmond. General John Winder was put in charge of the city. The first order was to forbid the sale of liquor in the city. Shortly after Elijah Baker’s Premium Bitters was seized. Shortly after the end of the civil war Elijah would start manufacturing and selling his bitters medicine again.

(Peachridge Glass)

Elijah Baker would receive a presidential pardon from President Andrew Johnson in July 29 1865. He filed a petition for amnesty on July 18 1865 and ten days later it was granted. The reason for amnesty was because he was accused of taking part in the late rebellion against the government of the United States. (Antique Bottle Pickers)

March 2015

Elijah Baker was the son-in-law of Mrs. Nancy Mettert. Like the Metterts, Howards, Cullingworths, Matthews and Brauers, he developed other property near his home. As we have seen, a few of the dwellings of these Venable Street families are still standing: the others have been replaced by nondescript rows of modern houses, or by warehouses or stores.

The men who built up this road were tanners, butchers, coachmakers, painters, carpenters—good solid citizens who owned their homes and developed rental property near enough for them to keep an eye on it and choose their own neighbors. [HOR]


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