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Must-See RVA! — Crenshaw House

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

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January 2017

AKA, Younger House, Clay House
919 West Franklin Street
Built, 1891
Renovated, 1904
Architects, Noland and Baskervill (1904)
VDHR 127-0228-0029

The Crenshaw House, built in 1891, is a representative example of the late 19th century fashionable Richmond homes of West Franklin Street. From the time of its construction until 1941, the residence had been associated with three main families: the Youngers, Clays, and Crenshaws.

January 2017 — Cornice detail

January 2017 — Cornice detail

Its individual significance, however, lies in its association with seminal events in women’s history in Virginia. At two meetings in November 1909, a group of women met at the home of Anne Clay and S. Dabney Crenshaw to form what would become the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia (ESL), an influential body that dedicated itself to obtaining the vote for women, but also encouraged women to expand their traditional roles into politics and progressive reform.

(Find A Grave) — Anne Clay Crenshaw

(Find A Grave) — Anne Clay Crenshaw

The meetings’ attendants included some of Richmond’s most socially influential women, Mrs. Anne Clay Crenshaw among them.

(VDHR) — Front hall

(VDHR) — Front hall

The spacious entry hall is dominated by beautiful woodwork with a dark stained finish. A fireplace featuring a typical decorative wooden mantel with columns supporting console brackets and a molded mantel shelf, elaborate blue and brown tile work, and an intricate cast iron fireback is located in the foyer. The tiles on this fireplace, along with those in the library and the two front bedrooms, are from the American Encaustic Tiling Co., Limited. The main stair exhibits massive square carved newel posts and turned balusters.

(VDHR) — Dining room closed arch

(VDHR) — Dining room closed arch

The dining room itself was altered extensively by Noland and Baskervill and features the most elaborate woodwork in the house with Classical inspired moldings; it is fully paneled with raised paneling and fluted pilasters. Gouge work decorates the cornice and crown molding. A flattened arch with a keystone decorates the hall end of the room and originally framed the large window found on the exterior wall of the hall. Unfortunately, this arch has been closed with drywall, essentially re-creating the side hall plan, and creating a narrow dark hall in which it is impossible to appreciate, or even fully view, the large window.

(VDHR) — Smoking room skylight

(VDHR) — Smoking room skylight

The only addition to the house that Noland and Baskerville made in 1904 was the small smoking room off of the dining room. Like the dining room, the smoking room is fully paneled. Two elaborate windows light the space. A four-part leaded window with transom takes up most of the rear wall of the room. A stunning leaded skylight with a stained glass crest in the center lights the room from above. (VDHR)

Today, the house is part of VCU’s Monroe Campus, providing academic offices for the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. Quite a bit of the original interior has been remodeled to suit this purpose, but the overall character of the building is retained.

(Crenshaw House is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


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Downtown

Wayback RVA — Main Office of the Negro Development and Exposition Co. U. S. A.

A Then & Now photo essay of Richmond places from around the area.

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Main Office of the Negro Development
and Exposition Co. U. S. A.
also Clothing and Gents Furnishings
Mr. I. J. Miller, Proprietor
528 East Broad Street

Just down the street from Richmond Dyeing, Scouring and Carpet Cleaning Works!

Giles Beecher Jackson was the first black attorney certified to practice law before the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. With Daniel Webster Davis he co-authored a book entitled The Industrial History of the Negro Race of the United States, where he mentions I. J. Miller gent’s furnishing store, with a stock of $10,000.

He also created the Negro Development and Exposition Company, which secured $150,000 to produce the Negro Building, exhibitions by and about blacks, for the 1907 Jamestown Tercentennial. That he was unsuccessful in converting this into a National Museum for Colored People, it was nevertheless one of the earliest attempts for a dedicated museum of this kind. An amazing story you can read here.


(Main Office of the Negro Development and Exposition Co. U. S. A. is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


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Downtown

Area museums will join forces May 24th to offer socially distant digital scavenger hunts

Local museums are collaborating on a unique scavenger hunt experience for people across the Richmond region. The program, dubbed the #RVAHistoryHunt, will launch on National Scavenger Hunt Day on May 24 and is tailored to fit the unique challenges of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Local museums are collaborating on a unique scavenger hunt experience for people across the Richmond region. The program, dubbed the #RVAHistoryHunt, will launch on National Scavenger Hunt Day on May 24 and is tailored to fit the unique challenges of the coronavirus outbreak.

“It’s so important to foster community connection,” said Jamie Bosket, President and CEO of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture (VMHC). “These scavenger hunts are designed for families and friends to immerse themselves in Richmond’s culture in a new and safe way.”

“We’re thrilled to be working on this project with so many important Richmond institutions,” said Valentine Director Bill Martin. “Everyone deserves to feel that they can still engage with history and culture even with the limitations of social distancing.”

There will be two available hunts – one in which participants will physically hunt down items and one that can be completed entirely online with prizes available for each. Information on both versions of the scavenger hunt can be found here.

For the physically distanced scavenger hunt, Richmonders are invited to download the #RVAHistoryHunt PDF card from the website. Walking or driving, hunters will then use the PDF to locate specific items displayed externally at each museum. Hunters should then snap a photo of the object. Participants are encouraged to tag the location and include #RVAHistoryHunt in their posts on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Anyone who publicly tags a participating location and uses the hashtag #RVAHistoryHunt will be entered in the prize drawing.

To participate in the digital scavenger hunt, users will scour the websites of participating museums looking for specific images, facts, or other content. Participants can submit their answers for the digital hunt here.

Everyone who competes in one or both of the scavenger hunts will be entered into a drawing to win one of a variety of prizes from participating museum stores. The #RVAHistoryHunt will run from May 24 through August 23.

Participating sites include Historic St. John’s Church, the Executive Mansion of Virginia, the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, the Cole Digges House, the John Marshall House, Richmond National Battlefield Park-Tredegar, Maymont, Agecroft Hall & Gardens, the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design, the Poe Museum, the American Civil War Museum, Children’s Museum, Virginia Museum of History & Culture, Virginia House, The Library of Virginia, the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia, The Valentine, and the Science Museum of Virginia.

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Downtown

Must-See RVA! — Brinser Building

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

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May 2020
  • 208 East Grace Street
  • Built, 1930
  • Architect, H. Carl Messerschmidt

An overlooked Art Deco gem on Grace

May 2020

May 2020

For O. P. Brinser, Carl Messerschmidt created a jewel of architectural ornamentation. No other small building in the city has such a lavish display of sculpted decoration.

May 2020 — showing early Christian design ornamentation

May 2020 — showing early Christian design ornamentation

The style of the building was assertively modern with vertical pylons and an unusual central entrance. The ornamentation is related peculiarly to early Christian design motifs.

(Getty Images) — Deer, peacocks and grapevines, mosaic in the early Christian basilica in the city of Heraclea Lyncestis

(Getty Images) — Deer, peacocks and grapevines, mosaic in the early Christian basilica in the city of Heraclea Lyncestis

Traditionally, the grapes and vine were symbolic of either holy communion or drinking and revelry. The second interpretation was unlikely in Prohibition era Richmond. The first is inappropriate for a commercial building.

May 2020

May 2020

Art Deco ornamentation is concerned rarely with meaning or symbolism. It has been enjoyed for its decorative properties alone. This is clearly the case here.

[ADR] — building in 1981 downtown survey

[ADR] — building in 1981 downtown survey

The signage on the building is an almost perfect example of what a sign should not be and where it should not be located.

May 2020 — composite showing scarring from previous signage

May 2020 — composite showing scarring from previous signage

Moreover, numerous holes in the superb decoration indicated that this is not the first bad sign. Poor signs defacing fine buildings are a recurrent theme in American downtowns. [ADR]

May 2020

May 2020

Grace Street is littered with cool little buildings like this one — small commercial spaces constructed with actual time spent considering the aesthetics of the thing. Foster Studios or the Cokesbury Building just two blocks away are other examples.

(Brinser Building is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [ADR] Architecture in Downtown Richmond. Robert P. Winthrop. 1982.

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