901 West Franklin Street
Architect, Harvey Lindsley Page
A crib fit for the Ciggy King!
Richmonders need no introduction to Major Lewis Ginter whose genius in packaging and marketing cigarettes earned him a fortune.
Acknowledged during this time as the wealthiest man in Richmond and possibly in the state, Ginter spared little expense in erecting, appointing, and furnishing his new residence on Franklin Street, which was completed by 1892.
While estimates vary concerning Ginter’s actual cash outlay–one listing it as $250,000–it seems that this house was the most expensive private residence that had ever been built in Richmond. It has two faces: the Shafer Street side has overtones of the Richardsonian principles of Romanesque Revival with its characteristic low and sweeping arched-entry and a two-story round bay with stone parapet and a curved foundation base of rough ashlar.
On the Franklin Street side the building is far more formal and Queen Anne: its asymmetrical face is wide, smooth, and somber, and is anchored on one end by a three-story corner tower and fronted by a strong and masculine stone porch. Harvey Lindsley Page, who at the time was practicing in Washington, D. C., was the architect chosen by Ginter.
After Ginter’s death in 1897 the property was owned for a number of years by his niece, Grace Arents. In 1924, it was purchased by the city for its first public library and in 1930 became the second addition to the future Virginia Commonwealth University complex. The Ginter House now serves as an administration building for the university. [RFD]
And it still serves the Greater Good of VCU today — as much of an iconic structure for the Monroe Park campus as the Egyptian Building is for the MCV campus.
While his popularization of ciggys may be of questionable value for humanity, Ginter’s exquisite taste is not. His $250,000 ($6,229,248.28 in 2018 dollars) bought a MacDaddy house of enormous scale and must have been an influence for the mammoth houses along Monument Avenue, such as the Branch House.
(Ginter House is part of the Atlas RVA Project)
- [RFD] Richmond’s Fan District. Drew St. J. Carneal. 1996.
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