RVA Legends — R. L. Christian & Co.

RVA Legends — R. L. Christian & Co.

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

[RVCJ03] — showing 816 East Main Street, circa 1903

816 East Main Street
Built, before 1877

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

(Chronicling America) — Richmond Dispatch advertisement — Sunday, January 11, 1891

R. L. Christian & Co., of 814 East Main street, are leading dealers here in fancy groceries, wines and liquors, making an exclusive specialty of high class goods. They handle, in fact, no inferior stock whatever; and they have reputation throughout all this part of the country on that account. They have customers all over the United States.

[RVCJ03] — Interior View, New Building

They have, besides their sales department, a wine cellar, and a storage cellar for meats and fish on Fifteenth street. They have, altogether (wholesale and retail), a business of perhaps $125,000 a year. Many of the jobbing houses here are their customers. They have the bulk of the local trade in fine goods.

(Chronicling America) — Richmond Dispatch advertisement — Tuesday, March 6, 1894

They are successors to Christan & White, who had for predecessors Carter & Christian, established in 1866. Mr. R. L. Christian, head of the house, has been a resident here since 1848. He was in the dry goods business here before the war, and entered upon his present line inline immediately after the restoration of peace. He directs the sales of the house and does the buying mainly for it. The junior member of the firm, Mr. J. A. Christian, is his cousin. He manages the finances and office business of the house.

(LOC) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 10

He has been in the business ever since he left school, some ten years ago. This house has a membership also in the Chamber of Commerce. [RVCJ93]

Okay, let’s get a couple of things cleared up right now.

March 2019 — showing 816 East Main Street today

First of all, this building technically still exists. The 816-818 East Main Street building is the four window side of what is today 814 East Main Street, home to Apple Hospitality REIT, Inc. According to its website, Apple Hospitality is a publicly traded real estate investment trust (REIT) that owns one of the largest portfolios of upscale, rooms-focused hotels in the United States. (Apple Hospitality)

At some point, the conjoined buildings were remodeled to becomes a single unit.

(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 1 — showing 816-818 East Main Street

The second thing is that, despite what the City of Richmond Property Search says, the building was not built in 1920. Considering that the 1903 edition of Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James has a picture of it tosses that theory out the window. Not only the Sanborn and Baist maps depict it, but so does the 1877 Beers map.

(LOC) — Beers Illustrated Atlas of the Cities of Richmond & Manchester, 1877 — Plate K — showing 816-818 East Main Street

And lastly, G. W. Englehardt was apparently fed some misinformation about R. L. Christian’s new building. The picture clearly shows 816-818 East Main, not 814. Alas.

Seeing as how this build is still standing, it was a judgment call to tag this an RVA Legend, instead of a Must-See! RVA. Yes, it’s still there, but it’s a little different than the bones of Trigg Shipyard. At least what remains of that is still bits of a shipyard. 816-818 is no longer an individual building, retooled so that you wouldn’t know it was the same thing unless you look closely. Legend it is.

(R. L. Christian & Co. is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)

Print Sources

  • [RVCJ93] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1893.
  • [RVCJ03] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1903.


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