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RVA Legends — Mrs. Jane King Ice, Coal, and Wood Co.

A look into the history of Richmond places and people that have disappeared from our landscape.

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1811 East Cary Street
Built, 1856
Demolished, unknown

A chilling sequel to Richmond’s commercial ice story.

(Civil War Richmond) — 1867 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Map of Richmond — showing location of ice house

Mrs. Jane King’s wholesale and retail ice, coal and wood establishment, at 1811 East Cary Street, has been a notable one of Richmond since 1873. It is in its thirty-sixth year. The house was founded in 1856 by her husband, David King, who was succeeded by John M. McGowan. [RVCJ93]

(Find A Grave) — Mrs. Jane King, AKA “The Ice Queen”

David died in 1873, and the following summer, Jane’s brother, who had started up the ice business again after the war, died suddenly at the peak of the summer season. John McGowan was buried on Sunday July 12, 1874, and that Monday, with her children and worldly belongings barely off the train, from Ohio, Jane opened the icehouse for business. When a schooner tied up that morning with a cargo of ice, it was met by the resolute 44 year old Scots-Irish widow, in billowing black and a stair step row of boys at her side. Schooner captains who said they’d be damned if they’d talk business to a woman, found that they wouldn’t be paid if they didn’t.

(LOC) — Beers Illustrated Atlas of the Cities of Richmond & Manchester, 1877 — Plate L — showing location of Ice House

Despite a nationwide depression and a large mortgage her brother had taken to expand the business, she pushed the business back into the black. After managing the ice house for five years, in 1879 she bought the business back from her late brother’s estate. The office and icehouse at 1811 East Cary Street ran a city block to Dock Street. She earned a reputation as an able and straight dealing merchant, in an era when women were not accepted out of the parlor, much less on the docks giving orders to seafaring men, longshoremen, and wagon drivers, as well as the 30 men with their 21 ice and coal wagons on her payroll.

(Maine Memory) — schooner loading ice cakes harvested from the Kennebec River, Maine — 1906

The crew of one schooner, rebelling at the embarrassment of unloading cargo under the orders of a woman, maliciously dumped varnish over her ice. The quiet lady in black was not intimidated, and simply deducted the cost of 20 tons of ice from the captain’s payment, and left him to discipline his crew. She earned the grudging esteem of her male business associates, against an almost inconceivable zealous opposition to allowing a woman to participate in business. In a world of mule-drawn horse cars, she embraced modernization. With retailing mastered she built up a railroad wholesale ice distribution business across Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina.

(Chronicling America) — Richmond Dispatch — Tuesday, May 8, 1894

When an experimental message service was introduced, called the telephone, she had one installed despite her experienced bookkeeper warning her not to waste her money on such gimmickry. She was the first woman in Richmond to have a telephone in her own name, and the only woman listed in the city’s first phone directory. She sent her sons Henry and James to open icehouse branches in Petersburg, Virginia in 1881 and later in Winston-Salem NC. In her fifties, she decided to diversify and used her trading contacts to build a coal and wood yard, to fill in the winter slump in ice sales. She turned a liability into an asset when in newspaper advertising she encouraged prospective customers to buy from “the only lady engaged in the Ice, Coal, and Wood business in the United States.”

(Chronicling America) — The Jewish South — May 28, 1897 — showing the “ice fatory” (sic)

In the 1880’s she was a pioneer in direct mail advertising when she developed mailers with discount coupons and offered extended payment plans as a sales promotion to increase her market share. She innovated by developing and building an ice pond in the suburbs of Richmond (at King’s Hill) to try to produce low cost local ice. When a mechanical refrigeration ice plant opened in 1892 that would supply Richmond with ice cheaper than the natural ice from Maine, she recognized the end of the era of schooners and handling northern ice. Rather than quit, however, she contracted for the plant’s entire output. (Find A Grave)

(VDHR) — original Hygeia Ice Company building — 1128 Hermitage Road

Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James was almost as effusive.

She has taken entire control of the output of one of the largest ice plants in the city (the Hygeia Ice Company’s), feeling convinced that the superiority of its product cannot but recommend it to all desiring pure and healthful ice, for this Hygeia ice is made from pure distilled spring water. The Hygeia’s plant is situated on the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, and shipments can be made from it to all parts of Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, without rehandling, and at short notice.

(ProQuest® Sanborn Maps Geo Edition™) — Sanborn Insurance Maps of Richmond (1886) — Plate 20

Mrs. King has associated with her in business her two sons, John M. and James N., who personally look after all the details of the business. Her success in the past is to be attributed to the promptness and care taken in all transactions with both city and country patrons.

(ProQuest® Sanborn Maps Geo Edition™) — Sanborn Insurance Maps of Richmond (1895) — Plate 28 — showing expanded ice house facility

Mrs. King is the only lady in the United States who carries on so extensive a business in ice, coal and wood . Another notable feature of her business is, that Mrs. King’s house is the only one of its kind in Richmond that has not changed in name and management since 1875. [RVCJ93]

(ProQuest® Sanborn Maps Geo Edition™) — Sanborn Insurance Maps of Richmond (1952) — Plate 201 — showing a much-reduced state replete with junk yard

In 1895, at age 65, Mrs. King called it quits. She sold the ice business to her competitors (likely Richmond Ice Company, just a couple of blocks away), and turned the coal and wood business over to her sons. (Find A Grave) The building at 1811 East Cary became gradually more reduced until it no longer bore any resemblance to the original structure.

June 2018

Today, all traces of the former ice house and its related industries are gone, vanished with the advent of the Flood Wall, and the development of the former factory buildings along Cary Street into residential space. Considering the substantial drop in elevation from Cary Street to Dock Street, the original building must have been immense, a circumstance not reflected by the available 2D maps.

Despite this, Mrs. King’s legacy still lives on, her former domicile, the Pace-King House, prominently visible at 205 North Nineteenth Street, just a few blocks away from her place of business.

(Sunday Guardian) — Frank Capra

If there are any aspiring filmmakers out there in the audience, you could do a lot worse than this story. Just imagine the dramatic confrontations at the docks, the neverending fights for respect, the eventual grudging admiration, all neatly wrapped in a Gilded Age feminist narrative. You might discover that Mrs. King trained with a Chinese master of Kung Fu, who aided her in her quest to stuff the ice business down the throats of her male counterparts, and where might that lead you? If you’re interested, Rocket Werks is more than happy to sign on as a technical advisor, although he can’t swear to the Kung Fu stuff.

(Mrs. Jane King Ice, Coal, and Wood Co. is part of the Atlas RVA Project)


Sources

  • [CDRVA] Chataigne’s Directory of Richmond, Va. J. H. Chataigne. 1881.
  • [RVCJ93] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1893.

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RVA Illuminates and Holiday Lights on the Riverfront Throw the Switch on Friday

It’s about to get a lot brighter downtown.

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In the past when downtown lit up for the holidays it was a big event downtown. Due to Covid-19 that big event is not happening. The main event RVA Illuminates is going virtual and can be seen on ABC 8 News this Friday with performances and music.

Venture Richmond is hosting its own event, Holiday Lights on the Riverfront on Brown’s Island and along the Canal Walk to Brown’s Island from 6-8 PM on Friday.

​When downtown RVA lights up for the holiday season, Brown’s Island and the Turning Basin on the Canal Walk will join in the cheer and help the City of Richmond kick off the season with Holiday Lights on the Riverfront, a display of decorative lights that is open and FREE to the public! Enjoy vendors Espresso-A-Go-Go and Curbside Creations and family entertainer Jonathan the Juggler on Brown’s Island or take a festive stroll along the Canal Walk to the Turning Basin. Presented by Venture Richmond. Please practice safe social distancing. Parking is available at the American Civil War Museum ($), Belle Isle parking lot, and on-street parking along 2nd and 5th Streets.

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Virginia Opera Cancels Main Stage Performances for the 2020-2021 Season

VO General Director and CEO Peggy Kriha Dye: “Taking into consideration the serious circumstances surrounding the pandemic, we regrettably acknowledge the impossibility of producing our 2020-2021 Season.”

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Today, Virginia Opera, The Official Opera Company of the Commonwealth of Virginia, announces cancellation of all scheduled 2020–2021 Season productions due to the public safety concerns caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The determination follows a complete VO staff and Board review affecting statewide presentations in the Hampton Roads, Central Virginia, and Northern Virginia markets scheduled to begin February 2021.

VO General Director and CEO Peggy Kriha Dye: “Taking into consideration the serious circumstances surrounding the pandemic, we regrettably acknowledge the impossibility of producing our 2020-2021 Season. Our dedication to following the necessary guidelines to ensure the safety of our patrons and artists overwhelms our immense desire to perform. In the coming months we will chart our path for the 2021-2022 Season and beyond, while doing all we can to stay connected to the communities we serve; digitally in the schools, virtually for everyone, and in safe environments.“

Virginia Opera Artistic Director, Adam Turner: “The performing arts have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. In the short-term we have compensated those artists affected by the season cancellation to the best of our ability. We now turn to providing new opportunities for much-needed work in our industry. This includes building on the success of our fall artist “Stayin’ Alive” residency, with a second initiative geared towards providing more outdoor performances and digital content beginning in spring 2021. We were able to reach a whole new audience this fall by taking opera out of the Opera House and to the streets, opening a door to this incredible art form for so many new faces, and we look forward to serving our communities again as soon as possible.”

Season ticketholders are already being contacted to address the disposition of their tickets with options that include early renewal for the 2021-2022 Season, the conversion of the fair value of the tickets to a donation in support of the VO, and a full-value refund of Season ticket purchases.

“Stayin’ Alive” – Virginia Opera’s Alternate Fall artist residency included multiple digital performance and artist-driven content to be shared by the VO throughout the coming winter months. Additional online programs will also be forthcoming and information and schedules on all will be updated at Virginia Opera’s website – vaopera.org, as well as on the company’s Social Media channels.

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New report says legal state marijuana sales could overtake illegal trade by year four

Virginia’s commercial marijuana market could yield between $30 million to $60 million in tax revenue in the first year, according to a new report by the state’s legislative watchdog agency.

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By Sam Fowler

Virginia’s commercial marijuana market could yield between $30 million to $60 million in tax revenue in the first year, according to a new report by the state’s legislative watchdog agency.

The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission released a report this month that explores how the commonwealth could legalize marijuana. The agency, however, did not give its take on legalization. Shortly after the report was released Gov. Ralph Northam announced that “it’s time to legalize marijuana in Virginia.”

The state’s tax revenue could grow to between $150 million to more than $300 million by the fifth year of sales, according to JLARC. The revenue depends on the tax and demand of marijuana products.

 Most states with commercial marijuana markets tax the product between 20%-30% percent of the retail sales value, JLARC said. Colorado, one of the most mature and successful U.S. marijuana markets, currently has a tax rate close to 30%, showing that while the tax may be high, the market could still be successful, said Justin Brown, senior associate director at JLARC.

“But in reality, there’s no magic rate that you have to use, and I think that’s one thing that the other states’ experience shows,” Brown said.

Virginia decriminalized marijuana possession earlier this year. The substance is still not legal, but possessing up to an ounce results in a $25 civil penalty and no jail time. In the past, possessing up to half an ounce could lead to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

If the Old Dominion makes marijuana legal, it will follow in the footsteps of 15 states.

The legal marijuana market should overtake the illegal market in marijuana sales by the fourth year of legalization, JLARC said. The legal market could likely have two-thirds of sales by the fifth year of legalization. JLARC looked at the reported use rates compared to the use rates of other states to determine this figure, Brown said.

“In the first year the minority of sales will be through the legal commercial market,” Brown said. “But then over time, particularly if supply and demand works out, you’ll capture at least the majority of the full market through the legal market.”

JLARC said that if the General Assembly legalizes marijuana, the total sales tax would come out to around 25%-30%. This figure also came from the analysis of other states and how they taxed marijuana.

The industry also could create over several years between 11,000 to more than 18,000 jobs, JLARC said. Most positions would pay below Virginia’s median wage.

The revenue would cover the cost of establishing a market by year three, according to JLARC.

Northam said in a press release last week that his administration is working with lawmakers to finalize related legislation in preparation for the upcoming Virginia General Assembly session, which starts Jan. 13.

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