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Must-See RVA! — W. W. Browne House

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




AKA, True Transformers Bank
105 West Jackson Street
Built, 1845

Maggie Walker made her mark in banking, but Reverend Browne got there first.

(Encyclopedia Virginia) — Reverend William Washington Browne

William Washington Browne was a slave, a Union solder during the American Civil War (1861–1865), a teacher, a Methodist minister, and the founder of Richmond’s Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers, an African American fraternal organization. (Encyclopedia Virginia)

(Encyclopedia Virginia) — collage of the Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers

Born in Georgia in 1849, he escaped from slavery as a boy, fought for the Union Army during the Civil War, and eventually ended up in Richmond in 1881. It is here that he joined the True Transformers, a temperance organization, and was instrumental in turning the group into a viable fraternal and business entity. (National Park Planner)

(NewAfrican77) — W. W. Browne House, 1889

As leader of the True Reformers, Browne strived to help members live productive lives without depending upon the white community. By establishing insurance that provided members with sick and death benefits and by encouraging members to purchase land and engage in practices of temperance and thrift, Browne believed that blacks in the post–Civil War South could thrive.

November 2017 — detail of cornice

Browne’s enterprising mind helped lead the True Reformers in creating and organizing a bank which became the nation’s first chartered black financial institution and a model that others, such as Maggie Lena Walker, would follow. (Encyclopedia Virginia)

The bank opened for business in Brown’s home in 1889. (National Park Planner)

November 2017

The house sits on the quiet west end of Jackson Ward, near the triangular intersection where Jackson Street bangs into Brook Road. The building and lot are well-preserved, but an unfortunate billboard mars the view.

(W. W. Browne House is part of the Atlas RVA Project)


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