706 East Leigh Street
Built, circa 1796
Wait, a second. Isn’t this the “Pin Money” Pickles factory? Yes, in fact, it is! Sometimes a location has more than one story to tell about it.
It seems probably that Mordecai was correct in saying that this house was built by Joseph Jackson. Jackson bought the square on January 3, 1795 from the administrators of Patrick Coutts, and while the deed mentions “all Houses, buildings … ” the price, 36 pounds, could hardly have included a two-story brick dwelling. As the value of the property was increased the following year it would seem that Jackson built the house almost immediately. He soon put a mortgage on the property, and in May. 1798 it was purchased at auction by Thomas Rutherfoord. The greatly increased price, 1075 pounds, again confirms the hypothesis that Jackson built the house.
In his unpublished memoir, Rutherfoord gives a curious sidelight on this transaction. Jackson had come to his assistance when Mr. Rutherfoord broke his leg while crossing what is now the square between Main, Franklin. Sixth, and Seventh Streets on a dark night. He returned Jackson’s kindness by buying this house and the land later called Jackson’s Addition but was eventually disillusioned about the young man and tried to save something from the wreck of his affairs for his children. Rutherfoord held the house only two years. In April, 1802 it was first insured, the owner at that time being Bartlett Still, who sold it the following year to Patrick Gibson.
Mordecai describes Patrick Gibson “as respectable merchant, connected in business with a nephew of Mr. Jefferson.” This seems unflattering for the ancestor of some of Virginia’s most distinguished citizens, until one remembers that the word “respectable’’ was purely laudatory in connotation until long after Mordecai’s book was written. In the Theatre Fire of 1811 not only Gibson’s first wife but a girl who lived with the Gibsons, Nancy Green, whose parents were actors, perished.
Gibson, who had just returned from a trip abroad, escaped the fire and lived to marry again and have a number of children by his second wife.
In 1823, when Gibson’s affairs were embarrassed, the house had been bought by his second wife’s aunt, Mrs. Martha Jones. That Mrs. Jones was revered as the good angel of the household is evidenced by the fact that two of the Gibson children were named for her two successive husbands! After Patrick Gibson’s death she sold the property, in 1828, to Nicholas Mills.
Immediately after his death the whole block from Seventh to Eighth was sold to William Allen of Surry County for $76,244 (Confederate). During the ’seventies the house was occupied by J. W. Cringan and later by the St. Paul’s Church Home for aged women. In 1882 William J. Johnson, who had meantime bought a part of the property, including the house, sold it to Everard B. Meade. During Mr. and Mrs. Meade’s occupancy, which lasted until 1898, the old house had another renascence as the centre for a lively group of young people, who called themselves Mrs. Meade’s “chickens.” The gay foolishness centering around the house at that time has recently been recalled in a pamphlet written by one of those who enjoyed it.
In 1898 the house was sold to Mrs. Ellen G. Kidd. In a building in the rear Mrs. Kidd began her experiments in cookery which resulted in the famous “Mrs. Kidd’s Pin-Money Pickles.” She owned the house up to 1922, though the pickle-factory had long since moved to larger quarters. After that the property was very run down and was rented to a low class of Negroes. In 1931 the house was demolished.
The many outbuildings which had belonged to the place in Gibson’s day had long since disappeared, the block being closely built up. The house itself was probably very little changed. It had a wing which was added sometime before 1811 and a charming two story porch, unique in Richmond, of which the date is unknown, since it is not shown on the insurance policies. The interior woodwork, which was bought by the Richmond Art Company, was beautiful, especially the mantels and an arch across the hall. [HOR]
Mary Wingfield Scott: a woman of opinions.
As an architectural historian, her two volumes on Richmond houses are priceless, but some of the racist things she says in them are truly cringe-worthy. When she says that it was rented to a low class of Negros, she really means that it was used as the Jackson Ward YMCA. Her comment added nothing to the narrative, and yet she had to say it. Makes you shake your head.
(Patrick Gibson House is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
- [HOR] Houses of Old Richmond. Mary Wingfield Scott. 1941.
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