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Must-See RVA! — Adam Craig House

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

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October 2013

1812 East Grace Street
Built, 1784-1787

One of the oldest buildings in RVA.

Although the date of the Craig house is undetermined, it was probably built between 1784 and 1787 by Adam Craig. The deed for the western end of the square between Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Grace, and Broad Streets was not actually signed until 1790, but in the Land Books Craig is called the owner as early as 1784, and the loose description of property-lines makes it probable that this first part of the block that he acquired ran east of the present alley and included the site of the house.

Our first knowledge of what the buildings included comes from Craig’s insuring all his property in 1796. On the four lots were, first, a one-story “Dutch roof” cottage, the “Office of County Court,” at the northeast corner of Eighteenth and Grace. East of that was the present house, which on the plat looks just as it does today, with its ell, two stories, and three porches. Behind it was a one-story wooden kitchen, replaced before 1815 by the present brick kitchen, which doubtless utilized from the earlier building the chimney with its big fireplaces and iron cranes. East of these, facing on Nineteenth Street, was a one-story wooden house, used as a lodging-house, with a wooden kitchen back of it, on Nineteenth also. These last were on a lot which Craig had purchased from Joseph Simpson in 1791, the north line of which, if we may trust this policy, ran between these two Nineteenth Street buildings and Craig’s own house.

(Library of Congress) — Richmond from the hill above the waterworks engraving by W. J. Bennett from a Painting by G. Cooke — 1834

(Library of Congress) — Richmond from the hill above the waterworks engraving by W. J. Bennett from a Painting by G. Cooke — 1834

Adam Craig had come to Richmond from Williamsburg about 1782. His marriage in 1787 to “Polly” Mallory of York County would seem a probable moment for him to have built or acquired this house. During the succeeding years, until his death in 1808 at the age of forty-eight, he was clerk of the Richmond Hustings Court, the Henrico County Court, and the General Court, so that innumerable legal documents of that day are signed with his name.

(Find A Grave) — Jane Stith Craig

(Find A Grave) — Jane Stith Craig Stanard

The best-known of his six children was Jane Stith Craig, who was born in 1793, probably in this house. She certainly lived there until her marriage to Judge Robert Stanard. At the time Poe addressed to her his immortal lines, “To Helen,” she was living in the Hay- Stanard house on Ninth Street, hence there is no reason to think Poe ever actually visited the Craig house.

[HOR]

[HOR]

After Adam Craig’s death his widow continued to live in the house, at least as late as 1817. In 1822 it was purchased by Sterling J. Crump (who lived nearby on Nineteenth Street) and Thomas Cowles, and was rented out to various people until, in 1844, it was bought by Wilson Williams. Williams had a grocery business at Eighteenth and Main Streets and lived in the Craig house until his death. It must have been he who modernized the two front rooms and front hall on the first floor, the only part of the interior that has been changed since Adam Craig’s day. Probably he also pulled down the two wooden buildings on Nineteenth and extended the garden to its present size.

(Library of Congress) — Beers Illustrated Atlas of the Cities of Richmond & Manchester, 1877 — Plate G — showing ownership by J. W. Shields

(Library of Congress) — Beers Illustrated Atlas of the Cities of Richmond & Manchester, 1877 — Plate G — showing ownership by J. W. Shields

In 1872 his sons sold the place to James W. Shields, who made his home there for the rest of his life. Living there during part of those years was his little granddaughter, afterward Mrs. John L. Newcomb. Her recollection of the old gentleman, with his “black satin stock with a turn over white collar, long black coat, and always all embroidered waistcoat … long white hair,” going to the nearby Seventeenth Street Market, with his basket on his arm, is no less vivid than her recollections of the garden.

[HOR]

[HOR]

In 1911 Mr. Shields’s executrix sold the house. In the following year, it was purchased by the Richmond Methodist Mission Association, the beautiful garden was destroyed, the mighty oak cut down, and a large brick building, the Methodist Institute, erected on the corner of Nineteenth. By 1935 this building had ceased to be useful to its owners, while the Craig house, stripped of all its trees save one magnolia, looked ready to collapse. Led by the enterprising young pastor of Trinity Institutional Church, a small group set to work to save the house. From this effort sprang the William Byrd Branch of the A.P.V.A., formed to save the Craig house and then every interesting old house in Richmond! The first part of this program was more successful than the second. The whole property was bought in 1935-36, the Methodist Institute torn down in 1937, and the house, kitchen, and garden gradually restored.

[HOR]

[HOR]

The Craig house, which Mordecai described as “the pleasant and rural-looking residence of Adam Craig … with its line trees and hedges of box” is unique in Richmond in that it sits kittycornered to the street. It is an unpretentious house, of white beaded weatherboard, with very plain trim around the windows. While the three porches date back to 1796, it seems possible that the columns on the front porch are more recent. Perhaps it originally had square pillars like those on the east porch.

April 2020

April 2020

The chimneys are rather tall and thin, not an uncommon trait in early Richmond houses. Inside, the most striking feature is the graceful stairway, with slim balusters and mahogany rail. Except for the front rooms downstairs, the trim and the six-paneled doors are what one would expect in a late eighteenth-century house. The mantels are mostly dark marble, plain, and certainly later than the house. The floors are of random width pine and remarkably well-preserved, considering that the house had been used to store damaged furniture for over twenty years. An interesting detail is the tiny closets on each side of the chimney in the big room downstairs in the ell. [HOR]

October 2013

October 2013

This house is truly amazing, hiding out quietly in the middle of Shockoe Bottom. There are eight structures built before 1800 (see below), and the Adam Craig House is numero three. Surprisingly, it is NOT on the Virginia Department of Historic Resources historic registry for the City of Richmond. It’s a shame because it ought to be, although it does rate its own historical marker.

Edwin Slipek of Architecture Richmond wrote an excellent summary of this house with more details and pictures. A worthy read.

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


Print Sources

  • [HOR] Architecture in Downtown Richmond. Robert Winthrop. 1982.

Pre-1800 Richmond Buildings

  • 1741 St. John’s Church
  • 1754 Old Stone House
  • 1784 Adam Craig House
  • 1785 Masonic Hall
  • 1788 John Marshall House
  • 1792 Virginia State Capitol
  • 1796 Daniel Call House
  • 1799 Woodward House

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Stoney: City to “cautiously move” into Phase 1 of reopening plan on Friday, May 29th

On Thursday, Mayor Stoney announced that the City of Richmond will cautiously move into Phase 1 of Forward Virginia, the state’s reopening plan. Masks will be required in all indoor spaces and restaurants will be asked to voluntarily connect patrons’ information for contact tracing purposes.

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On Thursday, Mayor Stoney announced that the City of Richmond will cautiously move into Phase 1 of Forward Virginia, the state’s reopening plan.

“When I look at the picture in totality, given the added tools at our disposal, the current trends in our local data and my faith in Richmonders to look out for one another, I believe that Richmond can cautiously move into Phase 1 on Friday, May 29,” said Mayor Stoney at Thursday’s press conference.

During the first delay that the City of Richmond requested, the Stoney administration and Richmond City Health District expanded testing efforts, implemented a contact tracing effort, ensured every COVID-19 positive Richmonder will be able to isolate safely and securely with supported isolation, and advocated for a statewide mask requirement.

The city initially requested a modified Phase 1 reopening that maintained restrictions on places of worship and personal care and grooming services, as mass gatherings and close personal contact for extended periods of time both significantly increase chance of community spread.

Because the governor denied the city’s modified plan for reopening, Richmond will move into Phase 1 of Forward Virginia, the state’s reopening plan, with strong recommendations reflecting the mayor’s proposed modifications. Local guidance and helpful links to state guidance are available here. The state has yet to provide guidance on what Phases 2 and 3 will include.

The mayor detailed a number of best practices for residents and business owners to ensure that the city moves into Phase 1 cautiously. The best practices emerged from conversations between the Stoney administration and members of the business community, faith leadership, and health professionals.

  1. All residents who are medically able to should wear a face-covering that covers the mouth and nose when in public spaces. The wearing of a face covering does not negate the need for 6-foot social distancing.
  2. Faith communities should continue to meet virtually if possible. If in-person meetings are absolutely necessary, the mayor strongly recommends faith groups meet outside while practicing strict social distancing and enforcing the face-covering requirement.
  3. Food and drink establishments that choose to offer outdoor service at half capacity are asked to request a name and contact information of patrons who dine in for contact tracing purposes. This practice is voluntary for both patrons and restaurants. However, collecting this small amount of information for each dine-in party will go far in assisting the Richmond City Health District in tracing and containing outbreaks. Guidance on this practice is available here.

The mayor made two requests of the state: to continue to assist the city in further expanding testing capacity and in providing adequate face-coverings and hand sanitizer throughout the capital city.

“Quite frankly, we’re going to need more support from the state for our residents and our businesses to reopen safely and sustainably,” the mayor noted in his appeal. “I make these recommendations and requests of the state because, as has been my mantra this entire pandemic. Reopening should be slow and steady.”

“When public health is on the line, blindly pushing forward is not an option. Decisions must be thoughtful, and they must be based in our collective knowledge of and love for our city.”

See more reopening guidance for local businesses here: www.rvastrong.org/reopeningguidance.

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Governor Northam announces face covering requirement, denies Richmond’s request to modify phase one reopening

Governor Ralph Northam on Tuesday signed Executive Order Sixty-Three, requiring Virginians to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. At the same time, the governor denied a request by Mayor Levar Stoney to place restrictions on places of worship and personal grooming businesses when Richmond enters phase one of reopening Friday.

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Governor Ralph Northam on Tuesday signed Executive Order Sixty-Three, requiring Virginians to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Governor also directed the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19.

The governor also signed an amended Executive Order Fifty-One, extending Virginia’s state of emergency declaration.

The new executive order supports previous actions the Governor has taken to respond to COVID-19 in Virginia, and ensures workers and consumers are protected as the Commonwealth gradually eases public health restrictions. The Governor’s statewide requirement for wearing face coverings is grounded in science and data, including recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that individuals should wear face coverings in public settings. Face coverings do not take the place of public health guidelines to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitation, and wash hands regularly.

“We are making progress to contain the spread of COVID-19 and now is not the time for Virginians to get complacent,” said Governor Northam. “Science shows that face coverings are an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, but wearing them is also a sign of respect. This is about doing the right thing to protect the people around us and keep everyone safe, especially as we continue to slowly lift public health restrictions in our Commonwealth.”

A face covering includes anything that covers your nose and mouth, such as a mask, scarf, or bandana. Medical-grade masks and personal protective equipment should be reserved for health care professionals. Under the Governor’s executive order, any person age ten and older must wear a mask or face covering at all times while entering, exiting, traveling through, and spending time in the following public settings:

  • Personal care and grooming businesses
  • Essential and non-essential brick and mortar retail including grocery stores and pharmacies
  • Food and beverage establishments
  • Entertainment or public amusement establishments when permitted to open
  • Train stations, bus stations, and on intrastate public transportation, including in waiting or congregating areas
  • State and local government buildings and areas where the public accesses services
  • Any indoor space shared by groups of people who may congregate within six feet of one another or who are in close proximity to each other for more than ten minutes

Exemptions to these guidelines include while eating and drinking at a food and beverage establishment; individuals who are exercising; children under the age of two; a person seeking to communicate with a hearing-impaired person, for which the mouth needs to be visible; and anyone with a health condition that keeps them from wearing a face covering. Children over the age of two are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering to the extent possible.

At the same time, Northam denied a request by the Stoney administration that sought to modify the City of Richmond’s move into phase one by placing additional restrictions on places of worship and salons, spas, and other personal grooming businesses.

The governor responded saying that Richmond should adhere to the same phase one regulations as other cities and counties in the Commonwealth beginning this Friday, May 29th.

The full text of Executive Order Sixty-Three and Order of Public Health Emergency Five is available here. The text of amended Executive Order Fifty-One is available here.

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Underground Kitchen’s New Food Relief Nonprofit Surpasses 10K Meals Distributed

The food relief operation currently has nine chefs and two bakers working in church kitchens to produce homemade soup and bread, soon to include family-style pot pies, pastas, and casserole dishes to help sustain families for several days.

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Great news from the folks at Underground Kitchen.

In less than two months, the UGK Community First Project – officially registered as 501(c)(3) nonprofit in early May – has provided more than 10,000 nourishing meals to people throughout metro Richmond, primarily to those who are food insecure or whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure during the COVID-19 crisis. The Community First Project was formed by Michael Sparks and Kate Houck, the CEO and COO respectively of Underground Kitchen, an acclaimed Richmond, Va.-based experiential, roving dinner series that’s now on hold until it is safe to resume operation.

The UGK Community First Project initially launched on March 16, 2020, right after Underground Kitchen paused its dinner series in response to the COVID-19 crisis. “We saw an immediate need in our community created by the crisis – both for healthy meals to be delivered to those in need, as well as for those in the food industry to have access to work in a safe environment to support their families,” says Houck.

The first 175 meals were delivered to individuals impacted by the crisis and front-line health workers in the community the week of March 23, 2020. By May 11, 2020 that number had increased to 2,000 meals for the week, distributed to food insecure communities, those who are home-bound or quarantined, front-line health workers, first responders, families and care-givers and others throughout Richmond.

UGK Community First has scaled up its response to help through the generous support of Episcopal Diocese of Virginia member churches in metro Richmond. The food relief operation currently has nine chefs and two bakers working in church kitchens to produce homemade soup and bread, soon to include family-style pot pies, pastas, and casserole dishes to help sustain families for several days.

“We are conscious of the continued impact of COVD-19 and are committed to doing what we can to address the need for meals in the community for the duration of its influence,” says Houck.

“However, we have also seen that, regardless of the agencies that already exist in the region, there continues to be a deep need for healthy, unprocessed, consistently delivered meals even in the best of times. Therefore, we see UGK Community First continuing long after this crisis passes, with a focus on distributing meals to families and children who live in a constant food insecure environment, as well as supplementing other programs who are doing the same,” she adds.

In addition to the Episcopal churches, over the past several weeks, Underground Kitchen has worked with a coalition of community partners, donors, and volunteers including: Better2gether RVA, CARITAS, GoochlandCares, La Casa de la Salud RVA, the Armstrong Renaissance community, Virginia Supportive Housing, and CultureWorks Richmond (through the COVID-19 Arts and Culture Relief Fund).

UGK Community First has also supplied meals to: St. Mary’s Hospital, Memorial Regional Medical Center, Richmond Community Hospital (all part of Bon Secours), McGuire VA Medical Center, Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Richmond, Richmond Ambulance Authority, and The Doorways.

For more information about the UGK Community First Project food relief operation, please visit theundergroundkitchen.org.

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