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Must-See RVA! — Gretter House

A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.

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209 North Twenty-Seventh Street
Built, circa 1894
VDHR 127-0192

Home of a talented artist, who faded from fame.

(Library of Congress) — Beers Illustrated Atlas of the Cities of Richmond & Manchester, 1877 — Plate H — showing the Andrew Ellett property comprised of lots 117 & 125

Among the few houses dating from the late ’twenties is the Andrew Ellett house, built in 1829 by William C. Allen. By early March, 1830 it was occupied by Fleming James, a prominent business man who nearly twenty years later was to build the eastern half of Linden Row. In 1835 Allen sold the property, which at that time ran back to Broad Street, to Orren Williams. From that time until 1937 it remained in the hands of the same family: Williams left it in 1841 to Cornelia Hull, who, three years later, became the wife of Andrew E. Ellett.

[HOR] — Andrew Ellett House, 2702 East Grace Street

There is no more charming old house of moderate size left in Richmond than the Ellett house. The Greek Revival had hardly begun to influence Richmond architecture when it was built: the little porch with two small columns and a tiny pediment are the only signs of it here. The house is fairly well preserved. The front is painted a light grey, with white trim, and it is shadowed by a big tree. Even to those who are not versed in Richmond’s past, this is a house that makes them say, “I wish I could live there!”

The Ellett family continued to make this their home until the death of Caroline H. Ellett, Andrew Ellett’s daughter, in June, 1929. [HOR]

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 43 — showing 209-211 North Twenty-Seventh Street

However, at some point in the mid-1880′s, the Ellett family decided to divest some of their property holdings and subdivided lots 117 and 125 into eight smaller parcels. They retained the largest one for the house at 2702 East Grace but created four lots on Broad Street, two on Twenty-Seventh Street, and one next door on the East Grace Street corner.

New neighbors quickly appeared. 207 North Twenty-Seventh was built in 1888, 2700 East Grace Street and 2701, 2703, 2705, 2709 East Broad Street were all constructed in 1890. The last entry was a double-house in 1894, 209-211 North Twenty-Seventh, on the smallest lot that stood on the alley that now ran completely between Twenty-Seventh and Twenty-Eighth Streets.

(Find A Grave) — marker of Frederick Pleasants Gretter at Shockoe Hill Cemetery

That same year, 209 North Twenty-Seventh was occupied by the Gretter family: Frederick, his wife Mary, and daughter Florence. Combined they constitute its longest occupancy by a single family. Frederick is listed as the head of the household on the 1920 census and died in 1922 at the age of 80. Mary replaced him on the 1930 census, dying in 1936 at the age of 84, and was followed by Florence on the 1940 census.

Interestingly, although they are the family most closely associated with the house, the Gretters were renters, not owners, during their long stay. This may explain why both Mary and Florence had to take in boarders following Frederick’s death.

(Chronicling America) — Richmond Dispatch advertisement — Thursday, January 29, 1891

The Gretter’s status as renters may have had much to do with Frederick’s occupation as a clerk in the dry goods store Levy & Davis, which seems to have paid the bills but did not afford him the opportunity to own his own home. This was further complicated by the death of Abraham Levy in 1894, and the closing of the business. It is unknown where Frederick landed in the aftermath, but he lived another 28 years and continued living in the same place, so it’s safe to assume that he found another gig. Dry goods stores were everywhere on Broad Street in those days. There was Temple, Pemberton, Cordes & Co., which eventually became J. B. Mosby & Co., plus there was Miller, Rhoads, & Gerhart which became Miller & Rhoads, and this other company called Thalhimers.

Due to the volatility of the dry goods business, Frederick may have played things conservatively when it came to living arrangements. He did not skimp on his daughter, however.

(Chronicling America) — Richmond Times illustration of Florence Gretter — Sunday, February 11, 1900

Between 1897 and 1900 there were occasional pieces in both the Richmond Times and the Richmond Dispatch about Florence and her emerging talents as an artist.

Talented Young Artist Who is Gaining Fame
Miss Florence E. Gretter, one of Richmond’s attractive young women, is establishing for herself quite a reputation as an artist at the Cooper Institute, New York. About three years ago it was discovered that Miss Gretter possessed great talent in this direction and she decided to cultivate that talent at the above-mentioned institute. She has received the highest praise from her instructors, and although Miss Gretter will not be graduated from the Institute until spring, her name is already known, and even as far as England have her praises been sung. Miss Gretter’s especial favorite is miniature painting on ivory, and an excellent picture of Fitzhugh Lee is now on exhibition at the Woman’s Exchange. (Chronicling America)

Here’s where the mystery of Florence Gretter takes hold.

(Cooper Union) — Foundation Hall at Cooper Union

Her father, a former Confederate Private living in Lost Cause/Jim Crow Virginia, sent his southern belle daughter north to an art school in the East Village of New York City for training as an artist. The more you think about it, the more it makes you scratch your head.

Cooper Union (then also called the Cooper Institute) was then and remains today a prestigious art school. The fact that she went there raises many questions. How did they know to send her to a specific school in a northern state? Who in Richmond would have recommended it to them? What prompted her parents to conclude that she was sufficiently talented to spend the money for her to live in New York City during her studies? Where did she stay? Did life in the East Village and the Big Apple affect her outlook?

Intriguing questions, but in many cases, there are no answers, save one. Cooper Union originally offered free courses to students until a formal four-year degree program was created in 1902, and then switched to granting those students full scholarships. Aside from rail fare, room, and board, Florence’s education in New York was as cost-effective as a dry goods clerk could hope for.

(University of Richmond Museums) — Untitled [Female Model] — charcoal on paper — artist, Florence Gretter, circa 1899

One thing, however, is crystal clear — the woman had talent. In 1990, the University of Richmond was the beneficiary of a surprise donation of seven charcoal sketches made by Florence during her studies at Cooper Union. Each is signed with her name and numbered, indicating that they formed part of a portfolio submitted for a grade.

This figure study represents an idealized female form at the turn of the nineteenth century. The model’s body is rendered smooth, even porcelain-like, and her hair, pinned loosely on top of her head, suggests the Gibson girl hairstyle which was popular at the time. Although this image, created by a female artist, does not suggest any sort of sexualized content, the hairstyle and the sensitively rendered female form reveal pressures upon women at the time to aim towards perfection in their appearance. (University of Richmond Museums)

(Find A Grave) — Major Norman Vincent Randolph

The truly sad thing is that these sketches are Florence’s only known pieces.

From newspaper articles, we know that she had commissions for miniatures at various times. The 1900 Richmond Times article above references commissions from England and for a portrait of Fitzhugh Lee. A Richmond Times-Dispatch from Sunday, June 28, 1903 states

A beautifully executed miniature of the late Major Norman V. Randolph has been painted by Miss Florence Gretter of North Twenty-seventh Street.

The miniature was shown at R. E. Lee Camp to Major Randolph’s comrades who greatly admired it. It represents the Major in his Confederate uniform with his hat on and with the animated expression his face wore when in health. The coloring of the miniature is exceedingly fine. (Chronicling America)

Outside of these mentions and the charcoal sketches at UR, there is no public record of this artist’s work.

(Virginia Museum of History & Culture) — from a glass plate negative of Florence Gretter — Foster Studios — early 20th century

Miniatures are a subset of portraiture with a devoted following — witness The Miniature Artists of America. You would think that someone, somewhere would have some mention of what she produced. However, Dr. Carol Aiken, a portrait miniature conservator and scholar, maintains a database of miniature artists and has never heard of Florence Gretter.

This is all the more intriguing because it appears that Florence continued working on her artistic chops, even after she no longer attended Cooper Union. An article in the Sunday, October 28, 1906, Richmond Times-Dispatch mentions her plan to show her miniatures at the Jamestown Exhibition that year. It goes on to say that she had recently traveled to Boston to spend some time perfecting her work in oil painting.

Why Boston? With whom did she study? How long was she there, and what, if anything, did she produce from this encounter?

(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — The Virginia Club, AKA Adams-Van Lew House

Sadly, however, it seems that the excursion to Boston was Florence’s last public foray in the pursuit of excellence. The Richmond newspapers continue to reference her activities, but except for Boston, they are focused primarily on her Church Hill neighborhood.

At the time, Church Hill was still a leader in social Richmond activity. The westward expansion of the city was full-bore by 1900, but as the oldest area of the city, Church Hill still had gravitas.

A Richmond Times article on June 16, 1900, describes a Banquet at-the Virginia Club where a Handsome Reception Tendered the Ladies Last Night and stating that the Affair was a Great Success. Miss Florence Gretter was among the named attendees.

(Virginia Museum of History & Culture) — from a glass plate negative of Mrs. Mary V. Gretter — Foster Studios — early 20th century

Aside from these mentions, she participated in the Star Club (Richmond Dispatch, Sunday, November 16, 1902), where she played the role of the Hostess of the Inn; assisted in closing exercises of the higher department of Miss Robinson’s School (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sunday, June 12, 1904); participated in the Delightful Musicales of Miss Effio Aylett Cofer, singing The Norse Maiden’s Lament with six other ladies (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sunday, June 17, 1906); and for hosting the Fortnightly Flinch Club (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sunday January 8, 1904), so named for a card game based on stockpiling.

However, beyond this, her focus on art is either lost or no longer covered by the Richmond newspaper society columns. By 1922 her father had died, leaving her mother Mary little choice but to take in boarders in order for them to continue paying rent.

(Newspapers.com) — Richmond Times-Dispatch — Sunday, October 27, 1929

Even so, Florence appears to have kept her hand in the game. Aside from her obituary in 1957, the last mention of Florence in the Richmond newspapers was in 1929, just three days after Black Tuesday ushered in the Great Depression when she was 53. It doesn’t say much, but the photograph shows her at work in her studio still painting portrait miniatures. It goes on to mention a recent miniature of Major Norman V. Randolph.

This in itself is telling. She first painted Major Randolph’s portrait in 1903 (above). By 1929, she is still painting it, which suggests that she might have had a regular clientele for leaders from the Lost Cause.

April 2019 — Protestant Episcopal Church Home, 206 North Thompson Street, known today as The Windsor

Towards the end of her life, Florence contended with her own boarders until they, and the 18 stairs to the second floor where she slept, became too much.

Prior to moving to the Protestant Episcopal Church Home, she reached for a life-line in neighbor Eugene Markham. Florence had hoarded the sketches from Cooper Union as trophies, clinging to a time of creativity in which she still held pride, and gave them to him to keep them from the dust bin. Her plan succeeded. On Eugene’s death, his daughter discovered them in his attic, rolled up in wallpaper sheets, and nearly threw them away until she realized what she’d found. There is probably a Princess Leia-Death Star Plans analogy to be made here, but let’s not.

Not every college hoopster goes to the NBA or even the G-League. Not every artist, no matter how talented, finds a patron, or an art community in which to thrive. Florence Gretter did not transform into Georgia O’Keefe in the steel canyons of New York City; she had game but never found (or at least there is no record to show that she found) a larger audience than the Richmond neighbors that she’d grown up with. A pity; she was quite skilled. One wonders what she’d have achieved in a different environment.

(Gretter House is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Notes

  • Rocket Werks gives a big shoutout to Page Hayes of House of Hayes. Scans of old newspaper photographs and articles tend toward extreme graininess. Page was able to take the 1900 sketch of Florence Gretter from the Richmond Times and turn it into a thing of beauty. Outstanding.
  • A shoutout of equal voice is given to Mrs. Jean Heath. Mrs. Heath is the daughter of Eugene Markham, and it was she who discovered the hidden charcoal drawings that are Florence Gretter’s legacy and bequeathed them to UR.
    As a ten-year-old Mrs. Heath knew Florence when she was still dressing up in Colonial costume at St. John’s Church, making Sunday dinner rolls for her neighbors, and cheese sandwiches for the boarders for whom she cared — a witness to the perigee of Florence Gretter’s life. Without her, much of Florence’s legacy would be lost to history.

Print Sources

  • [HOR] Houses of Old Richmond. Mary Wingfield Scott. 1941.

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Local Asian American Society of Central Virginia to host author and artist of new book

Author Joe Kutchera and artist Alfonso Pérez Acosta teamed up on the new coffee table art book, which features the portraits and stories of 22 immigrants who have come to Richmond from around the world to become our neighbors.

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The Asian American Society of Central Virginia (AASoCV) will host a local author and artist this weekend to present their new book, Portraits of Immigrant Voices, at its 24th annual Asian America Celebration tomorrow.

Author Joe Kutchera and artist Alfonso Pérez Acosta teamed up on the new coffee table art book, which features the portraits and stories of 22 immigrants who have come to Richmond from around the world to become our neighbors.

Alfonso Pérez Acosta painted the original portraits while Joe Kutchera wrote the personal histories. The author’s proceeds will benefit Afghan and Asian refugees who have settled in Virginia in a fund set up and managed by The Asian American Society of Central Virginia, a non-profit charitable 501(c)(3) organization.

The event is free and open to the general public. The pair will present the book on stage at 2pm and immediately following, AASoCV will host a book signing at 2:30pm. The book will be on sale for $40 at the event.

The 24th Annual Asian American Celebration features cultural performances, food, hands-on activities, exhibition booths, and merchandise from the Asian American communities in Central Virginia. This year’s theme is “weddings and our heritage.” The Celebration will take place at the Greater Richmond Convention Center at 403 North Third Street, Richmond VA 23219 from 11am to 7pm.

Learn more here.

The introduction to the book follows below:

Stories of Gratitude, Progress, and Manifesting Dreams

By Joe Kutchera

During the fall of 2020, following the George Floyd protests along Richmond’s Monument Avenue, I saw an African American woman wearing a t-shirt with this message in bold letters.

I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.

As a (white) writer, I was stunned at how one sentence could leave me speechless and make me feel such a wide range of emotions. At first, I felt infinitesimally small, humbled by the brutal African American history behind that sentence, reflecting the violence and intimidation that Black Americans experienced during slavery and Jim Crow, which kept them from America’s prosperity. And seconds later, the sentence made me feel incredibly hopeful as it communicated that great progress and change is indeed possible, measured through a multi-generational lens, taking into account the sacrifice and suffering of previous generations. The formerly wild dream of freedom and opportunity is now, we hope, finally possible for African Americans today, though we still have a long way to go to ensure equitable outcomes for all Americans.

Many Americans may know Richmond, Virginia (RVA) for its history as the capital of the Confederacy with its Civil War Museum and the now-removed statues of Robert E. Lee and Confederate generals along Monument Avenue. The ugly history of slavery and the myth of the ‘Lost Cause’ permeate so much of the city, but a more complex and hopeful picture of its citizens is emerging.

In decades past, a majority of RVA’s population has been Black, with Whites representing most of the remainder of its population. Yet, a more multicultural, and even international population, is growing out of RVA’s Black and White history. The 2020 Census shows that RVA’s African American population fell below 50%, while its White population increased as a result of gentrification. Blacks appear to have left Richmond City for the suburbs (Henrico and Chesterfield Counties), where the Black population increased. Yet, the Asian and Hispanic/Latino population grew by double digits in Richmond City, Henrico and Chesterfield Counties, and the people who selected “some other race” and “two or more races” grew by triple digits. This reflects an increase in children of interracial couples, immigrants from Africa (distinct from African Americans), as well as ‘mestizos,’ or people of mixed races, from Latin America. However small those populations might be now, the growth rates indicate that RVA, like the rest of the country, is becoming much more diverse.

With this in mind, I am grateful to be working with the Asian American Society of Central Virginia in sponsoring the publication of this book. AASoCV represents 18 diverse Asian communities that have stood up against racism and xenophobia, as described by AASoCV’s chair, Julie Laghi, in the foreword. AASoCV provides a perfect example of how people from vastly different language groups can come together to build community and cultural bridges, thereby promoting tolerance and diversity.

AASoCV has enabled me and the team involved behind this book to take this project to the next level, furthering our mission to share immigrant stories and reflect on how they embody the American dream. Tida Tep, the daughter of Pim Bhut, featured on page 70, joins us to visually bring these stories into the printed medium.

Our project initially began in an organic way. In August 2020, around the time that I saw the “I am my ancestors’ wildest dream” t-shirt, I received a call from Karla Almendarez-Ramos, who manages the City of Richmond’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Engagement (OIRE). She asked me if I would be interested in and available to write profiles of immigrants as a celebration for National Immigrants’ Day on October 28, 2020. Richmond-based Colombian artist, teacher and muralist, Alfonso Pérez Acosta, had pitched the idea to Karla after crafting his initial computer-drawn portraits.

I immediately told her yes, that I would love to work on the project. I have written about and reflected on the subject of immigrants’ journeys previously, both interviewing recent immigrants and researching my own ancestors immigrating from Eastern Europe to the United States. My wife, Lulu, migrated from Mexico, to join me in Richmond in 2013. And previously, I had migrated to Mexico and the Czech Republic for work, during different chapters of my life. As a result, I also understand the immense challenges that immigrants face when moving to a new country.

National Immigrants’ Day has been celebrated since 1986, but mostly in places like New York City. We wanted to bring this celebration to Richmond, Virginia to highlight the diversity of its community and the variety of languages spoken (in addition to English). With the support of a grant from Virginia Humanities, we unveiled the portraits on October 28th, National Immigrants Day, on RVAStrong.org/portraits and published updates regularly through Thanksgiving, to honor our subject’s themes of gratitude. The exhibit’s social media campaign ran through December 18th, which the United Nations has named International Migrants Day as a testament to humanity’s “will to overcome adversity and live a better life.”

Many of the people we featured came as migrants initially, moving to the U.S. temporarily for work or educational opportunities. While others came as refugees, fleeing war and violence. And still others came here simply because they fell in love with an American! Yet, they all became immigrants when they decided to settle down permanently in the United States.

Each portrait features the subject’s name, country of origin, and language, written in both English and their respective language. To create the color behind each portrait, Alfonso blended all the colors from each subject’s flag of their home country to formulate that single, albeit blended color. For example, the red and white in the Swiss flag become pink behind Dominik Meier’s portrait (on page 62). I wrote personal histories to accompany each portrait to shed light on the challenges of migration and displacement, as well as explore the commonalities of learning to speak English and integrating into American culture. Their stories showcase the incredible creativity and ingenuity of these immigrants in overcoming numerous obstacles in their journey, some of whom have gone on to start companies and obtain graduate degrees.

In speaking with everyone we featured in this book, they have taught me how Richmond is a far more diverse and dynamic city than I ever realized. They truly appreciate America’s freedom, democracy, and the way that their neighbors have accepted them. As a result, I see Richmond and the United States through their eyes. In listening to their stories, I get the sense that they, too, have accomplished their dreams, and in some cases, even their ancestors’ wildest dreams.

“Virginia is for lovers. … But we need to keep that slogan alive,” says Mahmud Chowdhury, originally from Bangladesh (#19 in the series), referring to the state motto of Virginia. “Let’s continue to love each other, be our brother’s keeper and have each other’s back,” says Hannah Adesina, from Nigeria (#17 in the series). Immigrants are here “to demonstrate the best of ourselves, manifest our hopes and dreams,” says Brenda Aroche, from Guatemala (#13 in the series). And Ping Chu from China (#12 in the series) encourages us all in saying, “We need to build up a united country. This is the United States, right?”

The United States has an individualistic culture with an “I” oriented English language. Even though that is the case, the immigrants featured in this book have taught me that when we work together and support one another, WE can become our ancestors’ wildest dreams.

When Chinese New Year celebrations took place on February 1, 2022, the same day that Black History Month began, I learned that 2022 was the year of the tiger. I realized that 2022 couldn’t be a more perfect year for us to launch this book with a symbol of bravery, courage, and strength on our side.

Joe Kutchera is the author of four books and the founder of Latino Link Advisors where he develops digital marketing and content strategies, with an emphasis in reaching the U.S. Hispanic market.

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Suspension Bridge to Belle Isle Closed Today

The bridge should be completed by the weekend.

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The suspension pedestrian bridge to Belle Isle is temporarily closed due to concrete falling from Lee Bridge.

The closure took place Wednesday after city officials received reports of concrete pieces being found on the pedestrian bridge.

“It was concluded that the concrete pieces fell from an open joint of the Lee Bridge. Consequently, the pedestrian bridge located directly under the open joint had to be closed in an effort to protect the public,” a release said.

While the engineers say there is no serious danger they’re putting in a scaffolding protection system along some stretches of the bridge. The installation is taking place today (Thursday) and is expected to be done Friday.

Dominion RiverRock is this weekend and temperatures are in expected in the upper 90’s so usage of the bridge and Belle Isle will be at a season-high.

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Virginia lawmakers dodge questions on whether budget might include new policy on skill games

“Let’s keep ’em guessing,” House Appropriations Chairman Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, said Tuesday when asked for a response to the claim the budget could include a revised policy on skill games, either to tighten the existing ban or to lift it.

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By Graham Moomaw

Budget leaders in the Virginia General Assembly won’t say if they’re considering changing the state’s contested ban on slots-like skill machines through the budget, despite that possibility already convincing a judge to order a lengthy delay in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban.

Last month, lawyers challenging the ban as unconstitutional pointed to the legislature’s ongoing special session and unfinished budget to argue the case should be delayed until all sides know what the state’s official policy on skill games will be. But the General Assembly’s budget negotiators won’t even say whether skill-games are part of their discussions.

“Let’s keep ’em guessing,” House Appropriations Chairman Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, said Tuesday when asked for a response to the claim the budget could include a revised policy on skill games, either to tighten the existing ban or to lift it.

Knight insisted the budget will get done and said “fine-tuning” is underway.

“In negotiations, I don’t comment on anything,” Knight said. “That’s how I work a negotiation.”

Asked about potential skill games changes Tuesday after a meeting in Richmond, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, one of the 14 legislators working on the state budget, deferred to Senate Finance Chairwoman Janet Howell, D-Fairfax. Howell did not attend Tuesday morning’s Senate Finance Committee meeting, and she did not respond to an emailed request for comment Monday. In an email, a Senate budget staffer said “budget negotiations are ongoing.”

As Virginia recently relaxed laws to allow more types of state-sanctioned gambling, skill games have become a perennial point of contention. Usually found in convenience stores, sports bars and truck stops, they function similarly to chance-based slot machines but involve a small element of skill that allows backers to argue they’re more akin to traditional arcade games. Most machines involve slots-like reels and spins, but players have to slightly adjust the squares up or down in order to create a winning row of symbols.

Proponents insist the games are legal and give small Virginia business owners a piece of an industry dominated by big casino interests. In 2019, the chief prosecutor in Charlottesville concluded that they amount to illegal gambling devices, and critics have accused the industry of exploiting loopholes to set up a lucrative gaming enterprise that rapidly grew with minimal regulatory oversight.

After a one-year period of regulation and taxation to raise money for a COVID-19 pandemic relief fund, the critics won out in the General Assembly, with a ban on the machines taking effect in July 2021. But a Southside business owner who filed a lawsuit with the assistance of Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, successfully won a court injunction late last year barring enforcement of that law until his legal challenge is resolved. After Stanley wrote a letter pointing to the special session and unfinished budget talks as a reason to delay a hearing scheduled for May 18, the judge overseeing the case postponed the hearing until Nov. 2. The order also prohibited the state from enforcing the ban against thousands of previously regulated skill machines until November. The order doesn’t apply to machines that weren’t fully legal before the ban took effect, a distinction sowing confusion for local officials trying to sort out what’s allowed and what’s not.

In recent social media posts, the plaintiff challenging the ban, truck stop owner and former NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler, said the delay was requested because “legislators are threatening to now try to ban or legislate skill games through the budget.”

“So we need to know what we are fighting against,” Sadler said in a message posted to Twitter last week in response to a Virginia Mercury article about the delay.

Skill-game supporters have claimed the ban was driven by other gambling interests who want to clear out smaller competitors to make more money for themselves. As the gambling turf wars continue in Richmond, some local governments are frustrated by the lack of clarity on whether the state is or isn’t banning the machines.

“It’s created chaos,” said Franklin City Manager Amanda Jarratt.

Jarratt said her city has been dealing with crime and other disturbances associated with the machines, but has gotten little help because there’s no regulatory agency in charge of them. Virginia ABC had temporary oversight of the machines starting in 2020, but that ended when the ban took effect last year and ABC no longer had legal responsibility over gaming machines in ABC-licensed businesses.

“It continuing to drag on over months is only making the situation worse and leaving localities in a difficult position,” she said, adding her city simply doesn’t have the staffing power to try to figure out which machines are operating legally and which are illegal. “You want to be fair to the business owners, but you also need to look out for the best interest of the locality as a whole.”

Jarratt said she’d like clearer direction on whether the state is going to allow the machines or not.

If a new skill-game provision is put into the state budget, it would still need to win approval from the full General Assembly. But with the clock ticking to pass a budget before the fiscal year ends June 30, it’s unclear how open party leaders would be to changes to whatever deal budget negotiators present as the final product of months of work.

Knight offered little clarity on whether skill games are even a live issue. He also seemed to caution against putting too much stock into what people say they’re hearing about the budget.

“I heard that we were going to do the budget today. I heard we were going to do it on the 24th. I heard we were going to do it on the 27th. I’ve heard June the first. I’ve heard a lot of things,” Knight said. “But as far as I know, the only people that know are maybe a few budget conferees. And we’re not talking. Because we’re working to get things right.”

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Robert Zullo for questions: [email protected] Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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