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RVA Legends — James Dunlop House

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

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[HOR]

101 North Fifth Street
Built, 1844
Demolished, 1928

The house that turned into a hotel.

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1895) — Plate 14

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1895) — Plate 14

On January 20, 1844 James Dunlop bought the half-acre lot, number 568, the price of $8000 proving how popular Fifth Street was at that time. This site had the further attraction of being considered the highest elevation in the city, Thomas P. Watkins, the surveyor, having built himself a small frame house there when he ascertained its unique advantage. That house was immediately demolished by Mr. Dunlop, and the mansion was built within the year.

(Find A Grave) — James Dunlop

(Find A Grave) — James Dunlop

James Dunlop (who was born in Richmond in 1801) spent the rest of his life in the house he had built. He had married Ann Dent McRae, daughter of Alexander McRae and it was in this house that the widow of Alexander McRae died. Dunlop was a partner in the ante-bellum firm of Dunlop, Moncure & Co., auctioneers and commission merchants, which was located at the northwest corner of Cary and Eleventh Streets.

(Virginia Places) — showing Dunlop & McCance’s Mills in Manchester

(Virginia Places) — showing Dunlop & McCance’s Mills in Manchester

After the War this firm became Dunlop & McCance and devoted itself exclusively to milling. One of the founders of St. Paul’s Church, Mr. Dunlop was a member of the vestry from 1844 until his death in 1875, at which time he was treasurer. Passing resolutions on his loss, the members of the vestry described him as “the gentle, genial, generous friend.”

(Encyclopedia Virginia) — Reverend John D. Blair, AKA Parson Blair

(Encyclopedia Virginia) — Reverend John D. Blair, AKA Parson Blair

Mrs. Dunlop continued to live there until her death, following which it was the home for about five years of James Alfred Jones. W. Brydon Tennant owned it for a similar period, and in 1899 it was sold to Walter Blair, a grandson of Parson Blair. Mr. Blair lived there until his death, and his daughter, Miss Ellen Blair, continued to make it her home.

(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — Hotel John Marshall

(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — Hotel John Marshall

She sold it in 1928, and it was demolished in that year to be the site of the John Marshall Hotel.

The Dunlop house, built at the same time as the Barret house and in the main very similar to it, had several marked differences. The front porch was heavier and there were no triple windows. The chimneys were placed toward the centre of the house instead of on the outer wall, a much less awkward plan.

[HOR] — showing the portico on the garden

[HOR] — showing the portico on the garden

The chief feature of the Dunlop house was the magnificent portico in the rear, with its great columns instead of the modest square pillars of the Barret house. Although the porch had two floors, the upper one was somewhat masked so that the effect was more like the Van Lew and Hayes-McCance houses than like those being built in the years just before the Dunlop house.

January 2020 — looking towards former 101 North Fifth Street, now The Residences at The John Marshall

January 2020 — looking towards former 101 North Fifth Street, now The Residences at The John Marshall

The portico of the Nolting house is evidently copied from this one. The Dunlop house was beautifully kept up, to the very end, and the pearl-grey stucco and white trim, the secluded garden surrounded by its high brick wall, and the tall portico made it a place of romance and beauty. [HOR]

(James Dunlop House is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Note

  • A special shout-out goes to Ray Bonis of The Shockoe Examiner and VCU’s James Branch Cabell Library Special Collections & Archives fame. Ray hipped Rocket Werks to the fact that the Library of Congress had recently added digital copies of both the 1886 and 1895 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Richmond, in addition to their well-known 1905 edition. Not only are these maps a gold mine for the researcher, used here for the first time, they are also gorgeous to behold. If looking at antiquated municipal street maps is your thing. It’s… not for everybody. Okay, move along!

Print Sources

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

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