Clay Street Methodist Church
16 West Clay Street
Spire added, 1890
Architect, Albert L. West
Another old Richmond church, shorn of its steeple, but this one wasn’t due to Henry P. Beck and the Steeple Purge of 1911.
K Street, just north of Marshall, became Clay in 1844. Not only was Henry Clay the god of a predominantly Whig city, but he was considered a local hero. He had been born near Ashland and began his professional career in Richmond, where he lived from 1792 to 1797 as secretary to Chancellor Wythe and at the same time deputy clerk of the Chancery Court.
Like Marshall Street, Clay developed in three distinct parts. The eastern section, with houses of the 1790’s and large mansions of the early 1800’s we have already considered as part of the Court End.
In the part between Seventh and Brook Avenue, the small frame houses of the early nineteenth century were replaced in the ’forties by substantial two-story brick homes, to which a great many more were added in the ugly period after the Civil War.
At the upper end, as far west as Graham Street, a large number of modest brick or frame houses were built by mechanics and small tradesmen, chiefly during the ’forties and ’fifties.
Before the War only one church was built on Clay—Clay Street Methodist, first located in a frame building erected in 1845 by James M. Taylor on his own property between Brook Avenue and Madison Street. In 1859 a brick church designed by Albert L. West was built at the corner of Clay and Adams, site of an abortive mission of the Monumental called St. Luke’s.
An imposing façade and graceful spire, both added in 1890, entirely altered the appearance of West’s building. Sold in 1918 to a Negro congregation, the church a few years later lost the spire, its most noteworthy feature. [ORN]
(Clay Street Methodist Church is part of the Atlas RVA Project)
Must-See RVA! is a regular series
appearing on rocket werks – check it out!