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RVA Legends — J. T. Montgomery

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

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1509 East Franklin Street
11, 15, 18, 20, 22 South Fifteenth Street
Built, unknown
Demolished, 1901 (1509 East Franklin); 18-22 South Fifteenth Street, unknown

A merchant of many locations.

(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 2 — showing the Fifteenth Street and Franklin Street locations

J. T. Montgomery, wholesale dealer in fish, fruits and produce, at 1509 East Franklin street and No. 15 Fifteenth street, is a planter and shipper of the celebrated York-River oysters, and is an extensive dealer in fruits also from the West Indies and the Mediterranean.

April 2019 — looking toward 11-15 South Fifteenth Street today

He has about 40 hands employed here, and more on his oyster plantations on James and York rivers. He is a shipper to all parts of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio.

(Chronicling America) — Richmond Times advertisement — Friday, March 17, 1893

Mr. Montgomery is a native of York county, Va., but has been a resident here for twenty two years. He was a mariner before he went into his present line of business, and had seen the greater part of the world while on the sea.

April 2019 — looking toward 18-22 South Fifteenth Street today

He has been successful here, and, besides being interested in shipping, is the owner of considerable real estate. His sons, John S. and Joseph Stephen, assist him in the management of the business. [RVCJ93]

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — composite view of Plates 17 & 18

According to advertisements of the day, James Thomas Montgomery was quite the entrepreneur, hawking fish, seed potatoes, beans, and other commodities. This variety of his enterprises drove his need for multiple shops on South Fifteenth Street, and what appears to be a warehouse on East Franklin.

April 2019 — looking towards the former 1509 East Franklin Street location, now under the Main Street Station train shed

Unfortunately, both he and his business died young in 1901 at the age of 49, which is why he is mentioned in the 1893 edition of Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James, but not the 1903 edition. The same can be said of his East Franklin operation, which also had to make way for the new train station built by the Seaboard & C&O railroads in the same year.

That said, Mr. Montgomery seems to have been innovator, using pre-printed postcards as a means to deliver his bills for payments.

(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — postcard bill from J. T. Montgomery to Mr. J. B. Norris, September 8, 1892 — postmarked September 9

When the U.S. Post Office first issued postal cards in 1873 they were simple plain white cards, as shown in the images above. It wasn’t until 1893 that the U.S.P.O would allow the first picture postcards to be mailed, and another 14 years before postcards as we know them now came into their own. [AOV] Getting on the bandwagon shows a spark of imagination on Montgomery’s part.

As for the traces of his business, all that appears to remain are the 11-15 South Fifteenth Street buildings. City of Richmond says they were built in 1900, but that’s wrong because they are extant on the 1889 Baist map. All the rest have gone the way of the dodo.

(J. T. Montgomery is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [AOV] Art of the View. Virginia Cavalcade, Volume 40, Number 2. Kelly Henderson. Autumn,1990.
  • [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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