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.
Wayback RVA — Old Pythian Hall and Mechanics Savings Bank
A Then & Now photo essay of Richmond places from around the area.
The Old Pythian Hall and Mechanics
Savings Bank, Mr. Jno. Mitchell Jr., Pres.
- Souvenir Views Negro Enterprises and Residences, Richmond, Va. D. A. Ferguson & Co. 1907.
- Richmond Planet masthead.
- Logo, Order of the Knights of Pythias.
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 3.
- [RTD] John Mitchell Jr. Richmond Times-Dispatch. Michael Paul Williams February 21, 1996.
- 311 North Fourth Street.
John Mitchell Jr. was aptly described as “a man who would walk into the jaws of death to serve his race.” Mitchell – newspaper editor, entrepreneur, city councilman and candidate for governor – was one of the most respected black leaders of his day. [RTD]
A fascinating individual. The Shockoe Examiner has an interesting post from 2012 about Mitchell’s grave in Evergreen Cemetery. Alas for the old bank building, it’s former location now rests under the Richmond Convention Center.
(Old Pythian Hall and Mechanics Savings Bank is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
Must-See RVA! — John Marshall Courts Building
A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.
- 800 East Marshall Street
- Built, 1978
- Renovated, 1994
- Architects, C. F. Murphy & Associates; Helmut Jahn, project architect (1978). Hening-Vest-Covey (1994)
Straight out of Alphaville.
Designed by a nationally known Chicago-based architectural firm, the John Marshall Courts Building was intended to provide a neutral background to the John Marshall House. In this it succeeds. it is a slickly detailed glass box with rounded edges. The building is the best example of the “glass box” genre in Richmond.
C. F. Murphy & Associates are among the more skillful followers of Mies van der Rohe, who was the most influential architect of the 20th century. Their Richmond building has been controversial on both functional and aesthetic grounds. [ADR]
Designed to respect the Marshall House next door, the sleek, black glass box of the John Marshall Courts Building sets off the house, emphasizing its iconic, welcoming facade. This is perhaps its only success, because the court building has been plagued with criticism for its dysfunction. Recent alterations have attempted to correct traffic and security issues. (SAH Archipedia)
When your lead architect likes to wear capes as normal outerwear, and his detractors call him “Flash Gordon”, there’s a chance you might not get what you were expecting. Before you know it, you might be throwing around emotional terms like controversial and dysfunction and find yourself spending money to correct gaps in the original design.
After graduating from the Technische Hochschule in Munich in 1965, (Helmut) Jahn moved to Chicago to study at the Illinois Institute of Technology, a school long associated with the Modernist aesthetic of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his followers. On the basis of this solid design background, Jahn was hired by Chicago architectural firm C.F. Murphy Associates to work on the Miesian design for McCormick Place in Chicago.
In the late 1970s and ’80s Jahn made his mark, designing extravagant buildings that combined historical and contextual references—the central tenets of postmodern architecture—with high-tech engineering solutions. (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Jahn certainly has his admirers and adherents. He has completed over 90 building projects during his long career and has been widely recognized for his efforts, earning a Ten Most Influential Living American Architects award from the American Institute of Architects in 1991.
However, in the early days, his critics considered him “that postmodern enfant terrible who rocketed to stardom on the supercharged fireworks of the State of Illinois Building in 1985.” (Architecture Week)
A 1986 Chicago Tribune article about his MetroWest design in Naperville, Illinois called him a “flamboyant postmodernist, who adorns himself in capes and Porches.” It went on to observe that the building produced nausea in a nearby office worker, and concluded with relief that “at least nobody has dubbed it the Starship Naperville.” [CHIT]
With context like that, perhaps it’s not surprising that issues were found with the courts building. Not everyone digs the glass box thing, that’s easy to grok, but the functional issues are something else. The building opened in 1978 and just four short years Robert Winthrop was calling it controversial, so whatever problems existed must have quickly found a voice.
The precise nature of the complaints is obscure, but the building does not appear to respect the available space. Together with the John Marshall House, the courts building complex consumes the entire block, yet there is a large, empty plaza along Ninth Street.
It certainly looks nice, but by 1994 the City would find itself coughing up $2 million dollars for a renovation to create additional office space and another courtroom. [RTD1] At such cost, there probably weren’t a lot of plaza enthusiasts still hanging around.
Adding to the sense of injury, the new courts building came at the price of the beautiful old John Marshall High School. It too sat quietly behind the John Marshall House at the corner of 9th and Marshall and was considered a state-of-the-art facility when it opened in 1909, with large classrooms, elevators, and science labs, as well as modern plumbing, heating, and ventilation. [RTD2]
Alas, this sacrificial lamb was razed, and the school had to scoot to a new location in North Side.
(John Marshall Courts Building is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
- A shout-out to Ray Bonis & Harry Kollatz for their tips and input on the courts building!
- [ADR] Architecture in Downtown Richmond. Robert P. Winthrop. 1982.
- [CHIT] Chicago Tribune. Sunday, March 2, 1986.
- [RTD1] Richmond Times-Dispatch. December 8, 1994.
- [RTD2] Richmond Times-Dispatch. August 16, 1909.
Must-See RVA! is a regular series
appearing on rocket werks – check it out!
Wayback RVA — Dreyer’s Studio
A Then & Now photo essay of Richmond places from around the area.
611 E. Broad Street
June 2, 1923
Doug & Reg
Mom says we have to sit still to take the picture — I am sitting still stop poking me — I’m not touching you — Yes, you are, quit it! — Ow! — Mom, he started it!
- Rocket Werks RVA Postcards
- Advertisement from The Flat Hat, College of William & Mary — April 1, 1927 — William & Mary Digital Archive
- ProQuest® Sanborn Maps Geo Edition™
- 611 East Broad Street
(Dreyer’s Studio is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)