A brief inspection of articles from the Richmond Daily Dispatch archives reveal a facet of Second Street far removed from the “Two Street” recognized today: it was largely residential. The bulk of the fifty-one clippings yielded from my search related to slave owners who provided their addresses for the return of their runaway slaves, and many others listed homes that would soon serve as funeral homes for the deceased residents of these buildings. Second Street is historically significant for being a center of African-American culture, particularly post-Civil War when Maggie L. Walker, the first black woman to ever head her own bank, lived in the area. Antebellum Second Street, however, had a different feel to it. Reports from the Daily Dispatch tell of the many slave owners who made their home here and the war soldiers who were escorted to General Hospital No. 1 at the northern end of the street.
It also became clear to me from reading the Daily Dispatch that the neighborhood was not home to the extremely wealthy. A particular article that caught my eye featured the fining of a woman who had been accused of running a house on Second Street that was “used as a place of resort by lewd characters”. The house seemed to be prominent, as it was described as large in size and a shade of yellow, and the resident was prone to being outwardly vulgar and, at times, drunken. Surely a neighborhood of fine repute would not house a home like this. There was also a report of a burglary of a store owned by a “negro man”, which I assume would not have found good business in a prominently high-class neighborhood. As I continue my research, I am extremely interested in examining further the way by which the Second Street area transformed into the home of a notable African-American community.
The Daily Dispatch: April 19, 1862.
Jane Jones, is a white person, and proprietor of an ill-governed and disorderly house. Jane lives on Second street, between Duval and Jackson streets, in the big yellow house called “Noah’s Ark.” The Commonwealth succeeded in establishing the fact that Jane was given to drunkenness, the use of vulgar language in the street “in a loud voice, ” and that her tenement was used as a place of resort by lewd characters. Security in $150 for her good behavior was required of her.
–Richmond Daily Dispatch