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Must-See RVA! — Monroe Park

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

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August 2019

AKA Western Square, Old Fairgrounds
620 West Main Street
Created, 1851
VDHR 127-0383

Now hear this: Monroe Park is beautiful.

Monroe Park is situated on land acquired in 1851 by the City of Richmond. Planned to serve as a park for the stylish western suburbs. It was first used for the site of an agricultural exposition and later as a camp site for Confederate troops before being developed for recreational use in the 1870s.

August 2019 — looking towards Grace & Holy Trinity Church & Altria Theatre, formerly known as the Mosque

August 2019 — looking towards Grace & Holy Trinity Church & Altria Theatre, formerly known as the Mosque

With the rapid growth of the western suburbs of Richmond at the turn of the 20th century, the park provided an ideal setting for the monumental Gothic Grace and Holy Trinity Church, the Italian Renaissance Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, and the Moorish Mosque Auditorium.

August 2019 — looking towards Johnson Hall, formerly Monroe Terrace Apartments

August 2019 — looking towards Johnson Hall, formerly Monroe Terrace Apartments

These buildings, along with several late 19th-century townhouses which recall the earlier residential character of the park, and two impressive apartment houses of the 1920s, create an architectural ensemble which is unique in Virginia for its monumental character and stylistic diversity.

(JSTOR) — Charles H. Dimmock — November 5, 1863

(JSTOR) — Charles H. Dimmock — November 5, 1863

In 1850 the only public park in Richmond was Capitol Square. With a population of 30,280 at that time, this single open space was no longer sufficient for the growing city’s needs, and in. 1851, city councilman Charles Dimmock proposed that parks be acquired near future major residential areas. In 1851-52, seven and one-half acres of land were purchased to become Western Square. This square would later become Monroe Park.

(Virginia Memory) — drawing from Richmond Progress article, 1882 — Old Fairgrounds Now Monroe Park

(Virginia Memory) — drawing from Richmond Progress article, 1882 — Old Fairgrounds Now Monroe Park

The site being beyond the city limits and to the west of developed residential areas, the park was not developed for two decades. In 1854 the property was used by the Virginia State Agricultural Society for a fair. The fair was vis±ed by President John Tyler and General Winfield Scott and was celebrated as a major civic event in the antebellum period.

August 2019 — looking towards Sacred Heart Cathedral

August 2019 — looking towards Sacred Heart Cathedral

By the late 1870s residential development had expanded to the west, and the park was indicated on maps of the period with an arrangement of curved paths, similar to those in Capitol Square. By 1889, this original scheme had been replaced by the present configuration of straight walks. The central feature of this design was a tall, granite, rustic pyramid from the apex of which water gushed. The pyramid was similar to the memorial erected to Confederate dead in Hollywood Cemetery in 1869.

August 2019 — looking toward Checkers House

August 2019 — looking toward Checkers House

The Monroe Park feature was surmounted by a metal pipe structure supporting an electric light. Adjacent to this odd pyramid was a wooden bandstand. In the first decade of the 20th century the pyramid was replaced with a four-tier, castiron fountain cast by J.W. Fiske. In 1971, the fountain was recast by the Robinson Company. The bandstand was replaced by the Checkers House in 1939.

August 2019 — looking toward VCU’s Lindsay House designed by Marion J. Dimmock

August 2019 — looking toward VCU’s Lindsay House designed by Marion J. Dimmock

Serving as a residential square from the later 19th century into. the first part of the 20th century, the park by 1930 was surrounded by high rise apartments and major public buildings and churches. As the area aged it became less stylish as a residential neighborhood and the Richmond Professional Institute, the forerunner of Virginia Commonwealth University, expanded into the older houses of the area.

(Library of Virginia) — aerial view, Monroe Park — February 6, 1951 — Adolph B. Rice Studio

(Library of Virginia) — aerial view, Monroe Park — February 6, 1951 — Adolph B. Rice Studio

By the later 1950s the residential character of the district was lost, and several proposals were made to destroy the park by extending streets through it, converting it to parking space, or erecting a medical center on the site. These proposals were all rejected and the park remains a major public amenity today.

(Library of Congress) — Wickham Statue — photo taken between 1905-1920

(Library of Congress) — Wickham Statue — photo taken between 1905-1920

As was typical of 19th-century practice, the park became a site for monumental sculpture. The foundation for a huge rotunda dedicated to Jefferson Davis was laid in the park in the 1890s, but this impressive scheme was abandoned in favor of a more modest monument erected on Monument Avenue.

August 2019 — World War II memorial

August 2019 — World War II memorial

A bronze statue of General William c. Wickham was dedicated in 1891, and in 1911 a monument to Joseph Bryan was unveiled. Smaller monuments to Fitzhugh Lee and the dead of World War II were erected in the later 20th century. Only the Wickham Statue was related to the park’s axial plan. (VDHR)

August 2019 — looking towards the Prestwould

August 2019 — looking towards the Prestwould

By the early 2010s, the park was showing its age needed more than just TLC. It was closed to the public in 2017 and underwent a 22-month, 6 million dollar restoration that improved security, added a bioretention wall to make it self-sustaining, 132 new trees, 13,000 new shrubs and plants, and wi-fi (WTVR). A project of that size and duration will always have fault-finders, but on the whole, the Monroe Park Conservancy and the city did good.

(Monroe Park is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


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RVA Legends — Jaquelin Taylor Row

A look into the history of Richmond places that are no longer a part of our landscape.

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[HOR] — looking towards 1108-1112 Capitol Street — note Old City Hall at left

1108-1112 Capitol Street
Built, 1845
Demolished, 1938

Fie upon the modern indelicacies of attending to business!

[HOR] — detail of 1112 Capitol Street

[HOR] — detail of 1112 Capitol Street

This row of three houses was built in 1844-45 by Jaquelin P. Taylor on the site of the modest frame dwelling of Jacob Cohen. Mr. Taylor had come to Richmond as a young man from Orange County, and as a large importer of dry-goods he had built up a considerable fortune. In his obituary notice he is said to have been one of the oldest and most respected citizens of Richmond, whose name was synonymous with the word probity. Executor of William Barret, he was in process of winding up his friend’s affairs when he died suddenly in January, 1872, just after celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday.

(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 5 — showing the occupation of Jacquelin Taylor Row by the T. R. Price Estate and the Richardsons

(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 5 — showing the occupation of Jacquelin Taylor Row by the T. R. Price Estate and the Richardsons

The two easternmost houses in the row remained the property of Mr. Taylor’s heirs as late as 1910. He left no children, but his wife’s family, the Richardsons, who during Mr. and Mrs. Taylor’s lifetime had occupied the middle house, later moved into the one at Twelfth and Capitol, which had been the Taylors’ own home. The Misses Jane and Harriet Richardson and their two brothers are remembered as “characters” by all those who knew them. One brother, who was very tall, was often seen in the Capitol Square, feeding the squirrels, with whom he was so gentle that they ate out of his hand without fear.

(Find A Grave) — Judge Beverley Tucker Crump

(Find A Grave) — Judge Beverley Tucker Crump

The Misses Richardson were unadjusted to such modern indelicacies as ladies attending to business, so Judge Beverley Crump, who had charge of their affairs, had to bring them what money they needed in cash every month: going to a bank would have been quite out of the question for them. Mr. Jaquelin P. Taylor II, a great-nephew and namesake of the builder of these houses, recalls that when he came to Richmond as a youth he had to pay regular Sunday visits to the Richardsons and that he put up with the inevitable attendance at church for the sake of the excellent dinner that always followed.

(Chronicling America) — advertisement, Richmond Times — Sunday, May 12, 1895

(Chronicling America) — advertisement, Richmond Times — Sunday, May 12, 1895

The westernmost house was sold in 1851 to Thomas R. Price, a leading citizen of his day. In 1833 he had founded the well known dry-goods store of Thos. R. Price and Company, of which he was head at the time of his death in 1868. Under various names, Fourqurean and Price, Fourqurean, Price and Temple, etc. this concern survived well into the twentieth century. Mr. Price’s son Edward is remembered by Mr. Munford (and by this writer) as an usher at St. Paul’s over a long period of years. “A man of patrician appearance and of courtly manner, Mr. Price gave distinction to the old Church he so faithfully attended and served.”

(Lee’s Lieutenants, Army of Northern Virginia, Inc) — Johann August Henrich Heros von Borcke

(Lee’s Lieutenants, Army of Northern Virginia, Inc) — Johann August Henrich Heros von Borcke

Major von Borcke, the German officer on Jeb Stuart’s staff, tells in his memoirs of a visit to the Prices in this house in 1884. He had cared for Channing Price, when the latter was mortally wounded at his side, and ever since the Civil War the family had cherished von Borcke’s sword, which had barely escaped destruction when Mr. Price’s store was burned.

(Fandom) — Ford’s Hotel in the 19th century

(Fandom) — Ford’s Hotel in the 19th century

The Price family owned No. 1108 up to 1903, when it was bought by Gilbert K. Pollack, a member of the City Council who built himself an office on Broad Street. In 1911 and 1912 all three houses were sold to the City. During the next twenty-five years a game of battledore and shuttlecock went on between City and State for possession of the site, known (from Ford’s Hotel which had stood to the west of the Taylor houses) as the Ford Lot.

January 2020 — the former eastern extent of Capitol Street

January 2020 — the former eastern extent of Capitol Street

Meanwhile the houses were occupied by various worthy organizations, notably by the Juvenile Court (which had its beginnings there), the Tuberculosis Association, and the Academy of Arts, the last two organizations remaining, respectively, in 1112 and 1108-10 until the buildings were about to be demolished over their heads. It was finally decided that the projected State Library was to occupy the site, and in 1938 they were pulled down.

January 2020 — former Leigh Street Baptist Church

January 2020 — former Leigh Street Baptist Church

Together with Linden Row, the Jaquelin Taylor houses were the finest example of the rows of houses built during the ’forties and ’fifties. In some respects these were superior to Linden Row. The porches, with their delicate Corinthian columns, and the fences with pineapple posts like those of the contemporary Norman Stewart and Barret houses were particularly beautiful. Mr. Taylor’s own home, 1112 Capitol, was further adorned with an exquisite iron balcony on the Capitol Street side.

[HOR] | January 2020 — comparison of the fencing at Jaquelin Taylor Row and the former Leigh Street Baptist Church

[HOR] | January 2020 — comparison of the fencing at Jaquelin Taylor Row and the former Leigh Street Baptist Church

During the demolition, the corner house was found to have a curious and interesting dome above the well of the stair, which was a continuous spiral from the bottom to the top of the house. When the houses were demolished the fence was given to Leigh Street Baptist Church, where it is now installed, and the balcony and front entrances to the Valentine Museum. The balcony is now in the garden of the Museum. [HOR]

January 2020 — looking towards 1108-1112 Capitol Street

January 2020 — looking towards 1108-1112 Capitol Street

As Ms. Scott relates, this block of Capitol Street would change radically in the wake of the new State Library that replaced both Ford’s Hotel and the Jacquelin Taylor Row in 1938. That it is a handsome art deco building in its own right compensates somewhat for the loss of the older houses. Auld lang syne.

Things were changed again in 1997 when the library relocated to its third location at 800 East Broad Street. The old location transformed into the Patrick Henry Executive Office Building, and this end of Capitol Street was filled in to make a driveway for the Commonwealth’s fleet of gubernatorial SUVs.

(Jaquelin Taylor Row is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

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

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Downtown

Must-See RVA! — Scott-Clarke House

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

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January 2020

9 South Fifth Street
Built, 1841
January 2020

Home to an entertaining talker.

[HOR]

[HOR]

The dwelling generally called the Clarke house was built in 1841 by James Scott. The executors of John Allan’s estate had sold Scott the quarter-square that had once been part of the garden of “Moldavia,” and James Scott sold the corner at Cary Street to William Barret and built his own home just south of the Allan house. Scott was one of the tobacconists who gravitated to Fifth Street in the ’forties. Born in Scotland in 1773, he had emigrated to Virginia in 1798, first settling in Manchester, where he was in the tobacco export business. He married the daughter of Archibald Freeland.

[HOR]

[HOR]

For about twenty years he lived in Freeland’s house on what is now Bainbridge Street. Mr. Scott died in 1861. His wife continued until her death in 1876 to live in their Fifth Street house with her daughter Ellen, who had married Captain Maxwell T. Clarke.

January 2020

January 2020

Apparently Captain Clarke was a great favorite, and his name is that most identified with the house in the minds of older Richmonders. He had served in both the army and the navy of the Confederacy and for many years was in the leaf tobacco business with his brother-in-law James A. Scott, under the firm name of Scott and Clarke.

[RVCJ03] — R. L. Christian & Co. at 816 East Main Street, circa 1903

[RVCJ03] — R. L. Christian & Co. at 816 East Main Street, circa 1903

In later years he was assistant cashier of R. L. Christian and Co. Mr. Munford describes Captain Clarke as “erect, of patrician appearance, and a most entertaining talker.” An elder of the nearby Second Presbyterian Church, he was buried from there when he died at eighty-one in 1911.

January 2020

January 2020

The house had been sold in 1897 and has since passed through many hands. In appearance it is a curious compromise between the problem “to stucco or not to stucco,” which every builder in the ’forties must have faced. The Clarke house was not stuccoed, but was painted a light color, now partly worn off and not unattractive. It has a belt-course as well as window sills and a porch of granite. The rear porch has square pillars, the entrance porch Doric columns.

January 2020

January 2020

Inside, the arrangement is similar to that of the Bransford house—a square entrance hall, the stair to the left, and two rooms across the back. The trim is much less elaborate, and the mantels are for the most part of wood.

January 2020

January 2020

Today, the old house is leased as office space, a nice retirement gig for a 179-year-old house. Currently, it’s the home of Canal Capital Management.

(Scott-Clarke House is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [HOR] Houses of Old Richmond. Mary Wingfield Scott. 1941.
  • [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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GRTC Pulse riders can now experience Richmond history by scanning QR codes at bus stations

Pulse riders are one scan away from experiencing Richmond history thanks to a partnership between the Valentine, GRTC, and VCU. 

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Thanks to an innovative partnership between the Valentine, GRTC and Virginia Commonwealth University, riders will be able to use QR codes at each of the 14 Pulse stops across the city to access easily-digestible Richmond stories.

Each QR code links riders to a webpage showcasing nearby sites of interest, upcoming events and a brief history of the area, complete with archival photos.

“We’re so happy to be working with two such distinguished Richmond institutions,” GRTC Chief Executive Officer Julie Timm said. “GRTC is dedicated to serving the community, and this is another opportunity to help Richmonders navigate their city.”

The QR codes can be found on the glass map illustrations of each Pulse platform. The Valentine provided research support for the project, developing relevant, accessible content for each stop in a way that riders can easily interact with.

Explore the Past on the Pulse is about engaging riders and providing opportunities for Richmonders to learn more about the spaces and the neighborhoods they frequent,” said Valentine Director Bill Martin. “This project makes Richmond history more accessible because you don’t have to go track this information down. Instead, the information comes to you, wherever you are.”

Dr. John Kneebone, VCU professor emeritus, was instrumental in developing Explore the Past on the Pulse and worked with graduate students to develop an early iteration of the project.

“This project appealed to me as a teacher because my History graduate students could apply their skills and abilities to coursework with an obvious real-world application,” Dr. Kneebone said. “I tested the project the summer before class and it was very feasible. As a class project, too, it enabled the students to both collaborate and work individually. At semester’s end, the students presented their work to the Valentine and GRTC. Today when I ride the Pulse, I find myself engaged historically with my whereabouts, and now other riders can, too.”

As part of their ongoing class project, VCU students also provided technical and content feedback on Explore the Past on the Pulse.

You too can Explore the Past on the Pulse at any of the 14 Pulse Stops across the city by using your phone to scan the QR codes available at each Pulse station or directly through the GRTC website.

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