114-122 South Seventeenth Street
Another piece of the Davenport empire.
Davenport & Morris, wholesale grocers, importers and commission merchants, at Seventeenth and Dock streets, lead all others here of their line, in capital and resources, variety and amount of stock carried and grand aggregate of sales. In 1891 their trade was upwards of $1,500,000. They cover all the States of the South east of the Mississippi river, and have ten men on the road in that field.
They occupy here six large warehouses, their own property, adjacent to the docks and with Richmond and Danville side-track, in which they usually have on hand a $200,000 stock. They have 30 employes here.
They make a specialty of the trade in tobacco manufacturers’ supplies and of the importation direct of coffee and liquors. They are, in fact, the largest importers here.
Four partners hold interests in this house: Isaac Davenport, Jr., who, however, after a a long and busy life as merchant and banker, has practically retired; Junius A. Morris, virtually the head of the house, as senior now in its management; Isaac Davenport and Frank A. Davenport, sons of the late G. B. Davenport, formerly a partner in the house.
Mr. Isaac Davenport, Jr., is also of Davenport & Co., bankers and insurance men, and agents for the Liverpool and London and Globe Company. He is one of the wealthiest residents of the city, and is interested in many of the most important enterprises here.
Mr. Morris is president of the Union Brokerage Company, a director of the First National Bank, the Albemarle Paper Company, manufacturers of blotting paper here, and the Southern Manufacturing Company, coffee roasters and spice grinders and manufacturers of baking powders. Mr. Frank A. Davenport is also a director of the Southern Manufacturing Company, and the Albemarle Paper Company, and is vice-president of the former.
The house is the oldest of any note here. It was established in 1815 by Davenport & Allen. The Davenport of that firm was grandfather to the junior members of to-day. It has membership in the Chamber of Commerce, and Mr. Morris is one of its Committee on Banking and Currency, a selection indicative, surely, of a considerable degree of attain. [RVCJ93]
The real question, of course, is whether or not the buildings that stand there today are part of the original warehouse structure. Without a lot more substantial evidence, the answer is no.
Of course, City of Richmond says that this structure was built in 1905, and that means it could be older because you know CoR property searches don’t always yield an accurate construction date.
But that’s an easy notion to dispense with. Compare what’s there today, the two-story Canal Club that extends from Dock to Cary, with the top photo with the ship at the dock. The building in that engraving is four stories and has a clearly marked entrance on the Seventeenth Street side. The current building bears no scars of an entrance that has been sealed up, as you see on many other old buildings in Shockoe Bottom.
Of course, the building might have been remodeled and lost a couple of floors. But if it did, it was completely retooled, and anything incorporated from the original structures was lost. Close inspection of the Sanborn, Beers, and Baist maps above clearly show that the warehouse buildings covered a little over half of the Seventeenth Street frontage, making room for an alley and a factory building to squeeze in. The Canal Club, on the other hand, consumes the entire eastern portion of the block.
Ultimately, however, Davenport & Morris was only one cog in the respective business interests of these two men, so the demise of the grocery business by 1905 meant little. As mentioned above, they also speculated on tobacco, Davenport ran an investment firm (now the oldest in the city), and Morris would eventually branch out into ice cream and confections.
(Davenport & Morris is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
- [IOR] Industries of Richmond. James P. Wood. 1886.
- [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.
Must-See RVA! — Scott-Clarke House
A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.
9 South Fifth Street
Home to an entertaining talker.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
- [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.
Must-See RVA! is a regular series
appearing on rocket werks – check it out!
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.
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.
Navy Hill: From thriving black community to hotly-debated redevelopment
Before it was the name of a $1.5 billion downtown redevelopment project, Navy Hill was a neighborhood many Richmonders later displaced by the construction of Interstates 64 and 95 called home. Now, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has big plans for the neighborhood, though many city residents and council members oppose the project.
By Jimmy O’Keefe
Before it was the name of a downtown development plan, Navy Hill was the neighborhood Faithe Norrell called home.
“I just remember it as a really warm community, where everyone wanted to know your accomplishments,” said Norrell, a retired educator who worked with Richmond Public Schools for 28 years. “A very nurturing community.”
Situated north of Broad Street between Third and 13th streets, Navy Hill got its name after plans were made to erect a memorial in the area for those who fought in the War of 1812, which was primarily a naval war. At first, Navy Hill was largely populated by German immigrants, but by the turn of the 20th century, it was one of Richmond’s most prominent black neighborhoods, along with nearby Jackson Ward and Carver.
Norrell remembers Navy Hill as a neighborhood with a strong sense of community and equality. She recalls going for walks every morning with her “auntie” and stopping by to see friends.
“There were professional people living there and people that were housekeepers, like my sisters … it was a financially diverse group of people, but everybody was treated equally,” Norrell continued. “You were as respectful to a custodian as you were to the doctor. You were raised to do that.”
An interstate runs through it
Many of those who owned businesses in Jackson Ward would return home to Navy Hill at night. In fact, Navy Hill was significant in that many leaders of Richmond’s black community made their homes in the neighborhood. Maggie Walker, the first black woman to charter a bank in the U.S., lived in Navy Hill before she relocated to Jackson Ward. In the era of Jim Crow, Walker helped to foster entrepreneurship in Richmond’s black community. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, famous for tap dancing alongside Shirley Temple in four 1930s films, had a home in Navy Hill. A Bojangles statue perches at a busy intersection in nearby Jackson Ward where he is credited with putting up the funds to install a stoplight.
Norrell’s grandfather, Albert V. Norrell, was a longtime resident of Navy Hill. His Navy Hill home was located at 1015 N. Seventh St., where her aunts also lived.
Originally born enslaved, Albert V. Norrell taught in Richmond for 66 years, including at Navy Hill School, which for many years was the only school in Richmond with black faculty. A school in Richmond’s Northside was renamed Albert V. Norrell School.
“One of his direct descendants taught in Richmond Public Schools until I retired in 2017,” Faithe Norrell said. “For 133 years, he had a direct descendant teaching or administrating in Richmond … we say it was our family business.”
Though Faithe Norrell left Navy Hill in 1951, her connections to the neighborhood were strong throughout the 1950s and 1960s. She would visit with her aunts, who babysat her.
“I just remembered the joy of being there,” Faithe Norrell said. “My family actually owned about four houses on that street, so we would just go from house to house.”
A walk through Navy Hill today reveals a different neighborhood than the one Norrell remembers. In the remaining part of Navy Hill where homes, churches and an elementary school once stood, Virginia Commonwealth University’s Medical Center and Reynolds Community College campuses now dominate the landscape. The Richmond Coliseum — which was closed in 2018 — and the historic Blues Armory stand unused. 1015 N. Seventh St. has been replaced with a small parking lot.
“Individual citizens must be inconvenienced for the good of the community.”
Construction of Interstates 64 and 95 destroyed Navy Hill in the 1950s and 1960s. An article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch from Aug. 2, 1955, details how the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike — now a portion of I-95 — would help people outside of Richmond make it into the city faster, and those living in the city would benefit from reduced traffic. But the story also noted that those living in the path of the road would be displaced.
“Unfortunately, the demolition of scores of dwellings and business places will create difficult problems for some of the persons involved,” the article read. “This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, when individual citizens must be inconvenienced for the good of the community.”
Another RT-D article later that month reported that 726 buildings, 526 of which were homes, were to be torn down to make way for the interstate.
Then on Oct. 29 of the same year, a RT-D report noted that about 1,000 families in the Navy Hill area would be displaced by the construction of the interstate.
Navy Hill School was demolished in the 1960s.
“Because of gradual disappearance of residences in the section, what with the highway construction, there appears to be no other reason for the erection of another school,” an article appearing in the Sept. 14, 1965, edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. The next week, another story in the RT-D noted that Navy Hill School would be demolished “to make way for an interchange of Interstate Rt. 64.”
In 1966, Norrell’s family was displaced from Navy Hill. She said her family was so rooted in the community that many of them died within a year or two after being forced to move to another part of the city.
“You can’t kill a whole segment of people’s culture,” she said. “I’m sure when you’re planning things you can find a different route or a different way to build without having to destroy a neighborhood.”
Development on the horizon
In November 2018, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney proposed a $1.5 billion project to redevelop the Navy Hill neighborhood. A new hotel, a GRTC transit center, and a $325 million, 17,500-seat arena to replace the Coliseum are all part of the Navy Hill Development Project. According to the Navy Hill website, no taxes will be raised to fund the project. Private investors will pay for the development.
The city will borrow money to pay for an arena to replace the Coliseum, and tax increment financing, called a TIF, will be used to pay back the loans. The city has created an 80-block TIF district where incoming tax revenue would be frozen at current levels and any additional tax revenue go toward paying back the arena loan.
Jim Nolan, press secretary to Stoney, said in a statement to Capital News Service that the Navy Hill Development Project will “rejuvenate” the downtown neighborhood while also bringing in a projected $1 billion in surplus revenue that will go toward funding schools, housing, and infrastructure.
“We believe the project will greatly benefit the city because it will create thousands of jobs, build hundreds of units of affordable housing and a new transit center, include a goal of $300 million in minority business participation, and produce a new publicly-owned arena to replace the 1970s era Richmond Coliseum, once a public asset, now a public liability,” Nolan stated.
Plans to redevelop Navy Hill have been controversial. Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder wrote on Facebook last month: “when I now read of the ‘rehabilitation of Navy Hill,’ I ask how can you rehabilitate that which has been destroyed?”
Justin Griffin, an attorney in Richmond with a background in accounting and economics, said he started the website called NoColiseum.com to bring attention to problems he sees with the proposed development.
“It’s pretty obvious from reading these financial projections — they’re just absurd and overstated,” Griffin said.
“If we were having an honest conversation … I think we would have a vast majority say, ‘No, you can’t afford that right now, we should put our focus and our money into schools and roads and the other city services that need to be caught up on here in Richmond.’”
At least two members of the Richmond City Council — Kim Gray, 2nd District, and Reva Trammell, 8th District — have voiced clear opposition to the project. Councilmember Stephanie Lynch, who won a special election in November to replace Parker Agelasto in the 5th District, said previously that she doesn’t support the project in its current form.
Griffin said the new arena and the Navy Hill Development Project are technically two separate projects, but are inextricably linked.
“They will not consider anything without an arena … it’s the arena which taxpayers are going to pay for, that is going to drive people and dollars into the private developments,” Griffin said. “The people are going to own the thing that is most likely a liability.”
Griffin said that projects like this do not typically work, citing the Kansas City Power and Light District in Kansas City, Missouri.
“If you actually look into the Power and Light District, it might appear successful,” Griffin said, noting that people do visit the district. “But from a standpoint that it actually makes a profit for the city and has benefited the people of Kansas City, it has not.”
City financial advisors Davenport and Company state that TIFs have been used across Virginia, including for development of Short Pump Town Center in Henrico County and Stone Bridge in Chesterfield County, a new development in the former Cloverleaf Mall. They say the funding approach has been used several thousand times, which “underscores the relative success of this structure.”
As part of the arrangement with the city, NH District Corp. developers said the project will include 480 affordable housing units, with projected rents ranging from $1,001 for a studio apartment to $1,717 for a two-bedroom apartment in 2023.
Stoney has called the project “the largest economic empowerment project in our history.”
Meanwhile, Norrell said she would like to see Navy Hill become a neighborhood again. She also said she’d like to see any revenue that comes from a redeveloped Navy Hill be earmarked to improve public schools.
“So many people are being displaced in Jackson Ward because of gentrification … it’d be very rewarding for me to be able to see people move back into Navy Hill and make it a community again, because that’s what it was — a community of friends and neighbors.”