801 East Leigh Street
Built, about 1816
Both the date and the original appearance of the Hayes-McCance house are uncertain. Like the Adams-Van Lew house, it is a composite, but no insurance policy can be found to show how much of it was the work of Dr. John Hayes.
Dr. Hayes was the son of James Hayes, publisher of the Virginia Gazette, who had died in 1804. Three years later his son advertised his professional services to “the citizens of Richmond and its vicinage.” He and his mother, who had been Ann Dent, lived in a wooden house in the middle of what is now Leigh Street, on a large tract which James Hayes had bought in 1798.
By 1816 Dr. Hayes had started building a substantial and highly finished brick dwelling on the southeast corner of Leigh and Eighth streets. On January 31, 1817 he offered it for sale, but apparently did not get the price he wished, since it was not sold till long after. In September of that year Mrs. Hayes deeded him the property, which her husband had left to her. The fact that there is no mention of the house in this document and that it was not fully taxed until 1822 does not alter the probability that it was completed in 1817.
Dr. Hayes died in 1834. Family tradition makes of him an accomplished violinist and reports that he died of cholera contracted while caring for his patients. Though his death occurred two years after Richmond’s great cholera epidemic, this legend is possibly correct, as an article published the day after his death mentions that there were thirty-six cases of the disease in Richmond, with fourteen deaths.
Two years before, John Hayes had sold his property, with land running back to Clay Street, to Thomas Green for only $5030. At that time the improvements were valued at $2750, which was increased in 1833 to $6000, and in 1834 to $15,000. Such a change as this could hardly be accounted for by the carriage house and other outbuildings which we know Green added, nor by the elaborate arrangement of the grounds.
It was Green who first insured the house in 1833, and thus it is only as he altered it that it is known to us today. Thomas Green was a speculator in Land Warrants. He had mortgaged his house and, becoming insolvent, sold it and moved to Washington. It was bought in 1842 from the mortgage-holder by Thomas W. McCance, who paid $15,000 for the property.
The McCances owned the house for over forty years and were living there as late as 1888, when the mortgage-holders sold it for $9000 to Mann S. Valentine II. Thomas W. McCance died the following year, “at his residence, 712 E. Marshall St.” Born in 1813, he had started in business working for his uncle, James Dunlop, and was associated all his life with the firm that later became Dunlop, McCance. Before the War, Dunlop, Moncure & Co. were importers and commission merchants, located at the northwest corner of Cary and Eleventh Streets.
After the War this firm was succeeded by Dunlop, McCance, which conducted a milling business exclusively. Thomas W. McCance was president of the Dunlop and McCance Milling and Manufacturing Co. which succeeded Dunlop, McCance. They occupied the magnificent building still called the Dunlop Mills at the south end of the present Fourteenth Street Bridge and were counted among the leading millers of the country.
Unlike the Adams-Van Lew mansion, the Hayes-McCance house was less a composite than a pure Greek Revival mansion, of the most magnificent sort. It really should be placed in the line of architectural succession beginning with the second Brockenbrough house and continuing through the Westmoreland Club, the Barret house, and the Nolting house. It is hard to know whether the proportions, the beautiful cornice, truly Greek, or the magnificent portico in the rear is more to be admired. Its demolition, in 1893, is a calamity only exceeded by the loss of the Van Lew house. Each was perfect in its way, both had lovely settings, both were essential links in the study of early Richmond’s architectural evolution.
Today, of course, this former architectural marvel has been replaced with a parking lot that serves the John Marshall Courthouse and other municipal offices.
(Hayes-McCance House is part of the Atlas RVA Project)
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