Connect with us

Downtown

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.

Capital News Service

Published

on

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.”

Comments

comments

The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Community

Friday Cheers May Update

Venture Richmond Events staff is working to reschedule Friday Cheers’ early June artist performances, and remain cautiously optimistic about performances later in June.

Avatar

Published

on

Friday Cheers fans are devoted and unwavering, but in these times we must all be mindful that the COVID-19 virus has dramatically changed our daily social interactions and we must all follow the directives of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home executive order through June 10.

The governor’s order prohibits all public and private in-person gatherings of more than 10 individuals.

With these guidelines, and for the safety of both our patrons and staff, we have made the following changes to the May Friday Cheers schedule:

  • Jade Bird with Sweet Potatoes that was previously scheduled for Friday, May 1, 2020 is cancelled.
  • Billy Strings with Andrew Alli and Josh Small is rescheduled for Wednesday, August 26, 2020.
  • RVA Music Night – Palm Palm is rescheduled for Friday, May 21, 2021.
  • Jay Som with Angelica Garcia – We are working to reschedule this show for Friday Cheers 2021 and will provide details when finalized.

Venture Richmond Events staff is working to reschedule Friday Cheers’ early June artist performances, and remain cautiously optimistic about performances later in June.

2020 Friday Cheers Season Pass holders can still use their pass for the remaining June Friday Cheers events and for the rescheduled Billy Strings event on August 26, 2020.

In addition, as a thank you for your understanding during this difficult time, 2020 Season Pass holders will receive a 50% discount off a 2021 Friday Cheers Season Pass! TicketsToBuy.com will email current Season Pass holders with information about the discount which can be used when purchasing a 2021 Season Pass.

Those who have purchased a ticket online for any one of these May events may request a refund by emailing [email protected]com beginning Friday, April 3, 2020.

Venture Richmond Events, LLC and its staff work to produce an excellent experience for you on Brown’s Island, but we take the safety and health of our guests, staff, and community very seriously, and appreciate your continued support moving forward.

At this time, all other events produced by Venture Richmond Events, LLC, including the June Friday Cheers events, remain scheduled as planned, but are subject to change. Again, thank you for your continued support of Friday Cheers.

Presented by: Pacifico
Sponsored by: CoStar, Dominion Green Power,  Delta Hotels by MarriottDrive Shack103.7 PlayRichmond.comStyle Weekly NBC12CW Richmond and Easley Made Catering.

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Downtown

Governor Ralph Northam issues statewide “Stay at Home” order

Governor Ralph Northam today issued a statewide Stay at Home order to protect the health and safety of Virginians and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. The order takes effect immediately and will remain in place until June 10, 2020, unless amended or rescinded by a further executive order.

RVAHub Staff

Published

on

Governor Ralph Northam today issued a statewide Stay at Home order to protect the health and safety of Virginians and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. The order takes effect immediately and will remain in place until June 10, 2020, unless amended or rescinded by a further executive order.

The order directs all Virginians to stay home except in extremely limited circumstances. Individuals may leave their residence for allowable travel, including to seek medical attention, work, care for family or household members, obtain goods and services like groceries, prescriptions, and others as outlined in Executive Order Fifty-Three, and engage in outdoor activity with strict social distancing requirements.

The executive order also directs all Virginia institutions of higher education to stop in-person classes and instruction. Private campgrounds must close for short-term stays, and beaches will be closed statewide except for fishing and exercise.

“We are in a public health crisis, and we need everyone to take this seriously and act responsibly,” said Governor Northam. “Our message to Virginians is clear: stay home. We know this virus spreads primarily through human-to-human contact, and that’s why it’s so important that people follow this order and practice social distancing. I’m deeply grateful to everyone for their cooperation during this unprecedented and difficult time.”

The full text of Executive Order Fifty-Five can be found here.

There is no enforcement clause; the largest tangible change from last week’s directive to stay at home is the closure of beaches and bodies of water to swimming. Fishing is permissible.

Last week, Governor Northam issued Executive Order Fifty-Three closing certain non-essential businesses, prohibiting public gatherings of more than 10 people, and directing all K-12 schools to remain closed for the rest of the academic year. A Frequently Asked Questions guide about Executive Order Fifty-Three can be found here.

For the latest information about the COVID-19 outbreak, visit virginia.gov/coronavirus or CDC.gov/coronavirus.

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Community

RVA Legends — Architectural Iron Works

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

Avatar

Published

on

[IOR] — looking toward the northwest corner of Eleventh & Cary Streets
  • 1008-1012 East Cary Street

One of the “constellation of firms” associated with iron man Asa Snyder. [CAW]

(Coal Chutes of Richmond) — showing manufacture by Asa Snyder & Co.

(Coal Chutes of Richmond) — showing manufacture by Asa Snyder & Co.

Asa Snyder & Co. Proprietors. Thirty-five years ago this establishment was founded by the late Asa Snyder in a very moderate way, but it gave genuine evidence of enterprise from the start, and in a few years it became a noted landmark of business industry. War, fire, and financial strife, have battered at its doors, but it still stands a monument to the enterprise of its founder.

[AAA] — advertisement for Snyder & Irby’s architectural ironworks

[AAA] — advertisement for Snyder & Irby’s architectural ironworks

Its contributions to the trade reflect the greatest credit on the mechanical skill of those employed in its several constructive departments. They find a large and steady demand from Virginia and West Virginia, North and South Carolina, for their beautiful and reliable goods of architectural designs. They employ sixty hands, and have a cupola capacity for making five tons of castings per hour.

(Glassian) — a Hyatt Patent Area Light

(Glassian) — a Hyatt Patent Area Light

Their specialties are all kinds of galvanized, cast and wrought iron used in building, which embraces vault doors, elevators,. fence and balcony railings, verandas, skylights, cornices, window hoods, steeples, &c. They are also manufacturers of Hayes’ Patent Skylight, Hyatt’s Patent Area Light, for which they control Virginia.

(Chronicling America) — advertisement for Asa Snyder & Co. — The Jewish South — Friday January 13, 1899

(Chronicling America) — advertisement for Asa Snyder & Co. — The Jewish South — Friday January 13, 1899

Messrs. Asa K. Snyder and Benj. J. Atkins comprise the present firm of Asa Snyder & Co. They were both members of the firm at the time of the death of Mr. Asa Snyder, in 1884, and have continued under the same firm name.

(Virginia Memory) — letterhead for Architectural Iron Works, Asa Snyder & Co.

(Virginia Memory) — letterhead for Architectural Iron Works, Asa Snyder & Co.

Mr. Asa K. Snyder was born and raised here, and was brought up in the iron trade. He is also in the pig iron and foundry supply brokerage business.

Mr. Atkins resides in Manchester. He has been connected with this house for twenty years, and has been a partner in the concern since 1877. [IOR]

[IOR] — Tanner and Delaney Engine Company which became Richmond Locomotive & Machine Works after a hostile takeover in 1887

[IOR] — Tanner and Delaney Engine Company which became Richmond Locomotive & Machine Works after a hostile takeover in 1887

Snyder may have been well-known, but he was not the biggest game in town.

Mention has been made of the three great iron works here, the Tredegar, the Old Dominion and the Richmond Locomotive Works, employing probably 2,500 hands between them. Of this class, there are, besides, two big stove works, the Richmond Spike Works and the Johnson forge, for car axles, in Manchester; electric light, and electrical construction companies and establishments, and half a dozen carriage and wagon and agricultural implement works, of more than local note and business, not to mention the minor shops and smithies that are here in scores. [RVCJ93]

Despite this, Snyder’s work was arguably longer-lived and more visible than any of the big three.

March 2020 — Asa Snyder ironfronts on the J. P. Winston Building, which as originally 101-107 South Fourteenth Street, no matter Kaplan Voekler Cunningham & Frank PLC’s current address

March 2020 — Asa Snyder ironfronts on the J. P. Winston Building, which as originally 101-107 South Fourteenth Street, no matter Kaplan Voekler Cunningham & Frank PLC’s current address

A number of partial facades were provided by Richmonder Asa Snyder. Snyder, along with the constellation of firms associated with his name, seems to have had several standard designs. Several buildings used a squared-off, classical colonnade with capitals made up of what looks like slightly over-ripe fruit. Others used a more geometrically precise rectangular ornament. Snyder provided a full range of architectural ornaments for his buildings which also possess cast iron window caps and cornices.

March 2020 — Asa Snyder ironfronts at Sam Miller’s — 1210 East Cary Street

March 2020 — Asa Snyder ironfronts at Sam Miller’s — 1210 East Cary Street

Snyder also provided the ironwork for the 1871 Columbian Building, now Sam Miller’s Exchange Cafe. The building possesses galvanized cornices and cast iron window caps. The most impressive use of iron in the building is the attenuated Corinthian columns used to support the roof of the third floor Exchange Room. The Columbian Building was Richmond’s corn and grain exchange and the Exchange Room is one of the most important early commercial spaces remaining in the city.

March 2020 — Asa Snyder ironfronts at Baldwin & Jenkins — 1321 ½ East Main Street, the skinniest building in Richmond

March 2020 — Asa Snyder ironfronts at Baldwin & Jenkins — 1321 ½ East Main Street, the skinniest building in Richmond

The most curious of the fronts is a minuscule building inserted in a 7 ½ foot space on Main Street. While painted to match the adjacent Southern Railroad Supply Building, this structure is completely different and distinct. It was made by Architectural Ironworks of Richmond, one of Snyder’s firms. [CAW]

March 2020 — Baldwin & Jenkins ironfront detail

March 2020 — Baldwin & Jenkins ironfront detail

The man got around. Or rather men. As noted above, Asa Snyder died in 1884, leaving the business to his son, Asa K. Snyder. The son himself would die in 1892 at the tender age of 32, and despite a Richmond Times advertisement from 1894, the end of the company was nigh.

March 2020 — looking towards 1008-1012 East Cary Street

March 2020 — looking towards 1008-1012 East Cary Street

The block where the foundry stood would be substantially altered with the construction of the First & Merchants National Bank Building in 1973, which eliminated the portion of Eleventh Street that used to run through it. The image above is an approximation of where Eleventh Street would have been (right), putting Architectural Iron Works somewhere in the center.

Snyder also made contributions to Old City Hall. The Shockoe Examiner has an excellent article on old spiral staircases, which includes the iron staircase in the clock tower. Good reading!

(Architectural Iron Works is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [AAA] Allison & Addison’s Handbook of the Garden, Seed Catalog, and Almanac for 1868.
  • [CAW] Cast and Wrought. Robert P. Withrop. 1980.
  • [IOR] Industries of Richmond. James P. Wood. 1886.
  • [RVCJ93] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1893.

rocket_werks

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Richmond Weather

Events Calendar