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RVA Legends — The Grasbergers

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

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[RVCJ93] — showing B. A. Grasberger shop on West Broad Street

B. A. Grasberger

  • 1011-1013 West Broad Street
  • Built, after 1889

J. A. Grasberger Carriage Works

  • AKA, Grasberger Vehicle Company
  • 16-18 North Twentieth Street
  • Built, before 1877
  • Demolished, unknown
  • AKA, General Hospital #14 (Second Georgia), Castle Thunder Hospital
  • 20-24 North Twentieth Street
  • Built, 1849

A tale of two carriage makers.

(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 10 — showing the theoretical location of B. A. Grasberger’s shop

(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 10 — showing the theoretical location of B. A. Grasberger’s shop

B. A. Grasberger, carriage and wagon manufacturer, of 1011 and 1013 West Broad Street, has been established about two years. He pays special attention to the making of light work to order, like buggies, carriages and delivery wagons, and he has a first-rate trade and is prospering.

May 2019 — looking towards 1011-1013 West Broad Street from Hancock Street

May 2019 — looking towards 1011-1013 West Broad Street from Hancock Street

Mr. Grasberger is a Pennsylvanian by birth, but has lived here nearly all his life. He learned his trade here, and was considered one of the most expert mechanics in it in this city before he started on his own account. He makes superior work a specialty. His factory is equipped with all the necessary appliances for the expeditious turning out of his productions. [RVCJ93]

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 60

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 60

Grasberger’s location at 1011-1013 West Broad Street, while technically within the city limits at the time, was like having a shop at the edge of the known universe. It wasn’t a location that sported regular business traffic, and the 1889 Baist map shows nothing at the location. The 1905 Sanborn map calls both of these addresses as sheds, so the operation must have been small.

This might explain the new business established by his older brother.

[RVCJ03] — 16-18 North Twentieth Street

[RVCJ03] — 16-18 North Twentieth Street

Curiously enough, at the time of the 1893 edition of Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James Boniface A. Grasberger’s brother, Julius A. Grasberger was working for a competitor, James McDonough & Co., a carriage manufacturer, whose shop stood at 5-17 North Eighteenth Street. However, by the time of the 1903 edition, there is no mention of B. A Grasberger, and instead, J. A. Grasberger Carriage Works down in Shockoe Bottom took his place. [RVCJ93]

May 2019 — looking toward 16-18 North Twentieth Street

May 2019 — looking toward 16-18 North Twentieth Street

What happened to Boniface? Did he join his brother and together form a new business, and it just didn’t have his name? There is nothing that states so, but he would have only been 38 in 1903, and he lived until 1945. Unless he suffered something catastrophic that made him stop working, it makes sense that he would continue to be a carriage maker, just like the days of old. Going into business with his brother doesn’t seem like a stretch, but we don’t know.

 

(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 3 — showing both of 16-18 North Twentieth Street shop

(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 3 — showing both of 16-18 North Twentieth Street shop

Julius set up shop in a pair of two-story industrial buildings that at the least, pre-date the 1877 Beers maps, and which may have been at least as old as the building that directly faced it from across the alley.

(Newspapers.com) — advertisement in Richmond Times-Dispatch — Sunday, February, 14 1909

(Newspapers.com) — advertisement in Richmond Times-Dispatch — Sunday, February, 14 1909

However, unlike Samuel Cottrell, Julius A. Grasberger could see the future. By the early twentieth century seems to have gravitated away from carriage and wagon business, and made the transition to selling automobiles.

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 45 — showing both 16-18 North Twentieth (bottom) and 20-24 North Twentieth (top)

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 45 — showing both 16-18 North Twentieth (bottom) and 20-24 North Twentieth (top)

His place of business was across Rose Alley in what at one time was General Hospital #14, Castle Thunder Hospital. Not to be confused with Castle Thunder military prison, which was close by, but a four-story brick tobacco factory that was built in 1845.

May 2019 — looking toward 20-24 North Twentieth Street

May 2019 — looking toward 20-24 North Twentieth Street

It was managed under the auspices of the Georgia Hospital Association and became the second of four hospitals established for sick and wounded Georgians (the first was General Hosptial #16, the third was #19, and the fourth was #17). It was older and smaller than similar buildings but the capacity was still listed as 150. There were three wards and each bed was numbered in paint on the footboard. A “very insufficient privy” was located in the small yard behind the building.

It remained a Confederate hospital from October 1861 to March 1863. [RWH]

(Newspapers.com) — advertisement in Richmond Times-Dispatch — Sunday, September 1, 1912

(Newspapers.com) — advertisement in Richmond Times-Dispatch — Sunday, September 1, 1912

Eventually, Julius expanded his business all the way to Franklin Street, which if he still used the other two properties, gave him command of most of the west side of Twentieth Street. No clues when the original factory buildings were pulled down, but a likely candidate would be when that portion of Twentieth from Rose Alley to Main Street was converted to a parking lot for the Poe Museum.

(B. A. Grasberger & J. A. Grasberger Carriage Works are part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [RVCJ03] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1903.
  • [RVCJ93] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1893.
  • [RWH] Richmond’s Wartime Hospitals. Rebecca Barbour Calcutt. 2005.

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Suspect Sought in Theft from Broad Street Building

It’s not stated by RPD but based on Tweets earlier this week we believe this is Mayor Stoney’s re-election headquarters.

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From RPD:

Richmond Police detectives are asking for the public’s help to identify the individual in the attached photos who is suspected of stealing from a building on West Broad Street on Monday.

During the early morning hours on Monday, October 12, the suspect entered the building in the 2600 block of W. Broad Street and stole a large television from the common area. The suspect was last seen heading west on Broad Street with the TV.

Anyone with information about the identity of this suspect is asked to call Fourth Precinct Detective K.L.  Robinson at (804) 646-6820 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com.  The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used.  All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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Daily Planet Health Services holding supply drive through end of October

A full list of in-demand items is available on the nonprofit’s website, but among other things, the needs include generic freezer bags (quart and gallon in size); new men’s and women’s underwear, new or gently used t-shirts and socks; prepaid phone cards and prepackaged snacks.

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In advance of colder temperatures and the winter months, Daily Planet Health Services (DPHS) will hold a supply drive throughout the month of October. Supplies collected will be distributed directly to those experiencing homelessness and patients of the nonprofit’s Medical Respite and Safe Haven programs, which offer patients a place to recuperate, re-establish and reconnect – including homeless and veteran populations.

A full list of in-demand items is available on the nonprofit’s website, but among other things, the needs include generic freezer bags (quart and gallon in size); new men’s and women’s underwear, new or gently used t-shirts and socks; prepaid phone cards and prepackaged snacks.

“Traditionally, the summer and winter months are the most difficult for those experiencing homelessness to navigate, and this time of year will be further complicated because many of the resources traditionally utilized by this population have been affected by COVID-19,” said Taylor Garrett, outreach coordinator for Daily Planet Health Services. “Many of the creature comforts that we take for granted on a day-to-day basis are inaccessible for those experiencing homelessness, and these donations will make an impact right away.”

Donated items can be brought to the nonprofits 517 W Grace St Health Center M-F from Oct. 12-30 between the hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m. In an effort to promote social distancing within the facility, those participating are encouraged to call 804-783-2505 to notify DPHS of the delivery, and a member of the team will come out to collect the items.

“In July and August, we were absolutely heartened by the generosity and support shown by the Richmond community, who turned out and supported our work to keep the homeless population nourished and hydrated during the hottest months of the year,” said Anita Bennett, acting CEO of Daily Planet Health Services. “We truly would not be able to succeed without the support of the Richmond community, and our hope is that those around the city will come together with the common goal of continuing to assist those in need.”

Individuals and families also are encouraged to take part in service projects, and a full list of opportunities is available on the nonprofit’s website. The projects were designed to help educate and engage those who want to help in a hands-on way, but have been prevented from doing so due to the pandemic. A range of options are available, which can be completed individuals, families or groups of students, church groups or offices.

If individuals would like to assist the DPHS in this effort, but are uncomfortable with purchasing items in-store and dropping them off at the health center, fiscal donations can be tagged with “Supply Drive” in the additional comments section of the online donation form under “Donate” at dailyplanetva.org, which will be used by the nonprofit to purchase resources off of the supply list.

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Black Lives Matter renews interest in Richmond’s Black culture and history

The Black Lives Matter movement has helped renew interest in Richmond’s African American culture and history, according to community leaders.

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By Cierra Parks

The Black Lives Matter movement has helped renew interest in Richmond’s African American culture and history, according to community leaders.

BLK RVA is an initiative launched in August 2019 between Richmond Region Tourism and 20 community leaders to highlight historic African American tourist attractions and engage visitors in events that support Richmond’s Black community. The group continues to promote Black-centered tourism in light of recent events. BLK RVA was recently awarded the Richmond Region Tourism Chairman’s Award in recognition of its contributions over the past year.

Tameka Jefferson, the community relations manager for Richmond Region Tourism and BLK RVA, said the Black Lives Matter movement has generated more interest in African American tourism, which she said is “long overdue.” Although Black Lives Matter began in 2013, the movement gained more support this year.

“Now is the time that we do need to come together as a community to support our businesses, to support our city and our region,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson also said that in the months following the death of George Floyd in police custody, she has seen more people visit the area around the Robert E. Lee statue. The area has been transformed into space used by the community for art, protest and memorial — and even basketball.

She said people are migrating to this area now that there has been a “staple of just coming together and a staple of community and uprising.”

BLK RVA’s mission is to illustrate that the Richmond region has evolved and is now a multicultural hub that specializes in four pillars: arts and entertainment, food and drink, community and history. She said the state capital is often seen through its outdated history–an outlook that needs to change.

In addition to African American-centered events and fundraisers, BLK RVA promotes the patronizing of what they call “rooted and rising” businesses; ones that have been around a while and others that are up and coming.

One established business is the Elegba Folklore Society, which was established 30 years ago. The Society hosts the annual Down Home Family Reunion and Juneteenth Freedom celebrations in addition to guided heritage tours along the Trail of Enslaved Africans and other historic sites. The trail details the history of slave trade from Africa to Virginia, following a route through the area’s former slave markets and also highlighting African American life leading up to the Civil War.

Omilade Janine Bell, president and artistic director of the Elegba Folklore Society, said the company prides itself on educating people because Black stories are often not fully told. She has noticed a renewed interest in learning about Black history in light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement. Jefferson echoes that statement.

“His (George Floyd’s) loss-of-life story has opened the eyes of many whose eyes had been shut tightly before,” Bell said. “Now there is a heightened awareness among Black people and others about the lack of equity.”

Jaynell Pittman-Shaw owns Maple Bourbon, a restaurant serving breakfast and lunch in Richmond’s downtown area that is one of BLK RVA’s “rising” businesses. Pittman-Shaw believes there is a new spotlight on inequity in the Black community.

“That is what people are protesting about right now: systemic and institutional racism,” Pittman-Shaw said. “Black business owners do not have access to the same resources that should be available to any business owner,” but black businesses need more support to thrive.

Jefferson said BLK RVA donated money from online merchandise sales to the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience, which hosts a week-long event in the spring promoting black-owned food businesses. Over $15,000 was raised and distributed evenly among 35 Black Restaurant Week participants affected by COVID-19. Pittman- Shaw was one of the grantees. She plans to “pay it forward” by using the $500 grant she received to help another black-owned restaurant that did not participate in Black Restaurant Week.

Restaurants such as Big Herm’s Kitchen and Soul Taco used the money to help pay employees who were affected when COVID-19 restructured business.

The Richmond Black Restaurant Experience supports black, food-focused businesses, including restaurants, food trucks and catering services. They have raised nearly $50,000, surpassing their new goal of $25,000 according to the group’s GoFundMe page.

In addition to restaurants, other attractions have made adjustments since COVID-19 began. Many of them have migrated to virtual experiences. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture are offering virtual exhibits, including the All in Together collaborative project and Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality. The Elegba Folklore Society broadcast its Juneteenth celebration on Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo.

The organization also recently promoted the Black is Beautiful beer initiative, a nationwide collaboration created by Marcus J. Baskerville, head brewer and co-owner at Weathered Souls Brewing Co. in San Antonio. Over 30 Virginia craft breweries participated to support people of color and raise funds for police reform and legal defense. Richmond breweries put their spin on the traditional imperial stout recipe to raise money for the Black is Beautiful cause. The Answer, Hardywood, The Veil and Lickinghole Creek were among the Richmond-area breweries that created stouts for the initiative. Each brewery will donate the proceeds to organizations that support the Black is Beautiful cause.

BLK RVA has also highlighted events such as the RVA Black Farmers Market, the Richmond Night Market and events hosted by UnlockingRVA.

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