The New (South) Broad Street

Zac Brown

With only three remaining tenants, modern day Broad Street in-between 5th and 6th streets has completed a physical transformation that began in the 1880’s. At the turn of the 19th century Broad Street meant business. Clients converged from all parts of the city via the new streetcar line to purchase anything from tea to jewelry and shoes to groceries.  Even though the civil war had ended almost thirty years earlier, and reconstruction was officially over, from 1891 to 1908 Broad Street between 5th and 6th transformed both physically and racially.  The small section of Broad Street had 28 addresses in 1891; by 1908 that number had gone down to 20 starting the progression towards today, in which a Marriott Hotel overshadows the newly refurbished Miller and Rhoads condominiums and Hyatt Garden Inn on the south side of the street[i]. The businesses that made up those addresses ranged from millineries to dry good stores, while most of their tenants where white, there was an African American presence on Broad Street[ii]. Amidst increased racial tension throughout Richmond, the number of African American businesses and residents on Broad street dropped greatly from 1891 to 1908. From 1891 to 1908 Broad Street between 5th and 6th streets simplified both physically and racially through a decrease in tenants and African Americans.

After the Knights of Labor hosted the largest mixed racial political party convention in Richmond in 1886, the city became an increasingly segregated community for the next 30 years and Broad Street followed suit[iii]. In 1891 there were eight African Americans on Broad between fifth and sixth streets, with two owning their own buildings. William H Tatum rented the area above his grocery store to two African Americans and Cornelius D Kenny housed three African Americans over his tea and coffee shop[iv].  Society changed greatly over the next 20 years and by 1908 there were only two African Americans living on the street on top of the black owned Negro Development Corporation[v]. The Richmond Planet, Richmond’s largest African American newspaper, only mentioned the Negro Development Corporation one time from 1883-1938 on August 18, 1906 because they attended a conference about creating a Negro memorial in Jamestown[vi]. Proving the lack of importance the organization had on the Black community. Having only one address in which African Americans resided on the block in 1908 exemplifies the increasing segregation that occurred throughout Richmond at the turn of the century.

Richmond transformed into a city entrenched in segregation at the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1890’s defining neighborhoods based on race was near impossible as laborers and artisans would often work together and cross paths[vii]. Yet as African American political standing grew after emancipation, black hysteria became ramped throughout the white community, reminding blacks of their political inferiority. The banning of political meetings in black churches limited African Americans ability to organize and the implementation of poll taxes and other voting measures disenfranchised many African American voters[viii]. The African American community did not just sit idly by through the increased racialization, staging massive emancipation day parades and protests as a statement to Confederates who mourn that day as the loss of the confederacy and the burning of Richmond.

African Americans march down Broad Street on Emancipation Day in 1905. Courtesy VCU Library

Many of the parades, including one of the biggest put on by the Knights of Pythias in 1903, went from Black neighborhood to black neighborhood crossing through white neighborhoods and heading right down Broad Street[ix].  The parades were intentionally staged going right through the areas white people needed to buy things from because it would make the greatest impact. While members of the African American community celebrated emancipation day as a holiday of freedom, many Richmonders viewed it as the day the city was burned and the confederacy lost the war. The increased racial tension brought with it a great deal of segregation resulting in many African Americans leaving Broad Street and white landowners no longer renting to them. While the racial makeup of Broad Street changed from 1891-1908, the infrastructure and physical makeup of the block transformed at a similarly staggering rate.

With the influx of big business, many small businesses were pushed off of Broad Street, Richmond’s main retail hub of Richmond in the early 20th century. In 1891 there were 28 addresses between 5th and 6th streets on Broad, but as time passed the businesses of Broad Street became more established and were able to expand, limiting the amount of tenants to 25 in 1898 and 20 in 1908. Tenants would come from all over the city and even Baltimore, Maryland to open up shop on Broad Street and by 1908 none of the tenants lived in their businesses[x]. White tenants made the commute from the newly built suburbs in response to growing black hysteria, but it was only possible because of America’s first electric streetcar line, built in 1888[xi].  This new form of transportation allowed wealthy businessmen to live in what they believed to be safer suburbs, away from African Americans, while keeping their business in the heart of thriving downtown Richmond. One of those big businesses opened its doors in 1885 and changed the landscape of Richmond forever.

The original Miller & Rhoads building in 1885. Courtesy

When Linton Miller, Webster Rhoads and Simon Gerhart invested in a small plot on Broad Street in 1885 and opened Miller, Rhoads and Gerhart, a dry goods store at 509 E Broad Street, they began the consolidation of businesses on Broad Street that remains evident today. By 1898 the store took up three addresses from 509 to 513 and with Simon Gerhart’s move to Lynchburg the business was renamed Miller & Rhoads, a name that would resonate with Richmonders for decades to come. In 1909 the business took up most of the block and by 1920 the store had expanded to Grace Street to the South, absorbing almost a whole city block. Miller & Rhoads not only transformed the geography of Broad Street, but the shopping experience for Richmonders. By instating a “one price” system they removed bartering from shopping and allowed customers to walk freely without fearing being pressured or haggled[xii]. Throughout its history, Miller & Rhoads also became involved in the Richmond community, they supported the arts through their large contributions to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and cultural events like the Tobacco Festival and Jamestown 350th anniversary celebration[xiii]. The store’s legacy continued throughout the 20th century, opening suburban branches to aid whites who fled the city in the 1920’s and expanded as far south as North Carolina, until it finally shut its doors in 1990.  When three businessmen opened a seemingly irrelevant dry goods store on Broad street in 1885 they not only marked the beginning of an empire, but a transformation of the block and neighborhood in which it was apart of.

At the turn of the 20th century Broad Street redefined itself racially and economically alongside the rest of greater Richmond. The city emerged as a stronghold for racism and segregation once again after an era in which many African Americans had political power in the late 1800’s. Broad Street between 5th and 6th Streets emerged as a center for white commerce through the changing practices of business like Cornelius D Kenny’s tea and coffee shop and the practical disappearance of African Americans on the street. And it 1885 when three men opened a dry goods store, the economic identity of Broad Street would never be the same again. The Miller & Rhoads dry goods store represents the disappearance of small businesses that began upon their arrival in 1885 and remains evident today with only three remaining buildings on the street. Through the electric streetcar line and increasing economic stability for white business owners Broad Street became a hub for big business allowing residents of the new suburbs to come into the city either as workers or shoppers to enjoy a day in the city before retreating to the white suburbs. Broad Street between 5th and 6th transformed into the hub of big business and represents a microcosm for the increased racialization that occurred throughout Richmond, Virginia at the turn of the 20th century.

[i] Richmond City Directory 1891,1898, 1908,

[ii] Richmond City Directory 1891

[iii] Miner, Claudia, “The 1886 Convention of the Knights of Labor,” Phylon. 44. 2 (1983): 149, accessed March 21, 2011

[iv] Richmond City Directory 1891

[v] Richmond City Directory 1908

[vi]“The Jamestown Exposition”. Richmond Planet, August 18, 1906, accessed March 19, 2011;words=Development+Negro

[vii] Elsa Barkley Brown and Gregg D. Kimball, “Mapping the Terrain of Black Richmond,” Journal of Urban History 21 (1995): 325-326, accessed March 19, 2011

[viii] Brown and Kimball, “Mapping the Terrain of Black Richmond,” 313

[ix] Brown and Kimball, “Mapping the Terrain of Black Richmond,” 313

[x] Richmond City Directory 1891, 1898, 1908

[xi] “Miller and Rhoads’ Consumer Community,”

[xii] Rhoads, Webster, Jr. Miller & Rhoads: Seventy-five Years of Growth. New York: Newcomen Society, 1960

[xiii] Earle Dunford and George Bryson, Under the Clock: The Story of Miller & Rhoads (Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2008) 78-80

Posted in Uncategorized

Marshall Street: We Mean Business

Marshall Street completely changed its identity in the mid-twentieth century.  Up to this point, the street was almost exclusively residential, but from the 1920’s and onward the street changed considerably.  Marshall Street acted as home to business development, including the construction of education and government buildings and the opening of parking decks, as the three pictures from the Valentine Richmond History Center show.  The expansion of Richmond’s business district to Marshall Street profoundly impacted the street’s architectural structures, as well as the way people used the area.

The Broad Street Commercial Historic District was first listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.  The boundaries for the Historic District extended to Marshall Street on the North, and include the portion of Broad Street from Belvidere Street to 4th Street. Unlike the rest of Broad Street, this district was initially heavily residential.  Sanborn maps and Richmond city directories in the early twentieth century reveal just a few businesses in the area.[1]

Over time, however, The Historic District’s role in Richmond changed dramatically.  Whereas the 1905 Sanborn map shows a residential neighborhood, the 1924 map displays a completely commercial space.  Houses were replaced by shops, restaurants, and specialty stores.  Entrepreneurs nationwide enjoyed success through this model, but the dramatic decrease in housing availability created a shortage.[2]  Displaced city dwellers needed a place to go, and an attractive option emerged.  As part of this new center of commercial activity,[3] Marshall Street could not help but undergo business development.

The concept of suburbia was played up by popular culture, industry, and government alike.  This promotion began during World War II, when advertisements in women’s magazines detailed the possibility for a dream house to share with their returning loved ones that would allow life to resume again, as normal.[4]  The American Dream was altered to include the acquisition of a suburban house and a car.  When the economy boomed after the war’s end, Americans could afford this lifestyle.  Since people were content, businesses faced no pressures to halt expansion, and as a result business districts continued to grow.[5]

Since the Broad Street Historic District, and more specifically Marshall Street, was now a commercial area, workers needed to drive to work, and a place to park when they reached the city.  Richmond adjusted to fix this problem just as the rest of America did; new construction.  By the early 1960s, more than fifty percent of some urban business districts were devoted to streets and parking spaces, a statistic that does not take into account the gas stations, car dealerships, or auto supply stores that littered the streets.[6]  In 1965, a large parking deck was opened on Marshall Street, between 6th and 7th Streets.[7]  Open-air, concrete garages identical to the deck on Marshall Street became commonplace nationwide, as the convenience of a self-park area dawned on city developers.[8]  The garage on Marshall Street was just two blocks from the boundary of the Broad Street Commercial Historic District, which acted as the center of Richmond’s commercial activity.  This was an easy walk for suburbanites who worked in the city.

Business districts traditionally focused on retail endeavors, but in the 1950s more commercial enterprises and office spaces were constructed.[9]  In 1961, the Medical College of Virginia began construction on its new School of Medicine, which opened at the corner of 12th and Marshall Streets in 1963.[10]  The school housed headquarters for faculty, offices for departments and administrators, and laboratories.[11]  There are many reasons why an urban university improves its city.  Public service programs connect the university to the community, neighborhood amenities are developed, richer people move to the area, the local economy is improved due to resident employee programs, and the school’s presence motivates urban youth to succeed in the classroom.[12] Additionally, the expenses of staff and students in the community provide a great influx of money.[13]  There were no universities on Marshall Street when it was a residential area; its new role as a center for economic activity persuaded the Medical College of Virginia to construct a school in the area.

Construction for a new city hall in Richmond began in the late 1960s.[14]  The decision to move from the beloved Old City Hall was made to modernize the government building, both in structure and in location.[15]  The official address for the current city hall is 900 Broad Street, but its back door, an official entrance to the building, opens up to Marshall Street.  When the building was considered too outdated for an official government building, city planners aimed to move it downtown.  It is very common to have to house government offices in or near business districts, and in moving to Broad Street between 9th and 10th Streets, this was achieved.

One block from Broad Street, two blocks from the Old City Hall; Marshall Street appeared to be the perfect place for business to expand.  The street stayed residential for a long time, but eventually entrepreneurs seized the chance to develop on Marshall.  Photographs from the Valentine Richmond History Center show the construction of a parking garage, a building of the Medical College of Virginia, and a new city hall on the street, all within a couple of years.  Marshall Street responded to the needs of Richmonders in the twentieth century, and as a result it underwent great economic development.

[1] Gombach, Julia. “Broad Street Commercial Historic District, Richmond City, Independent Cities, Richmond VA 23220.” Residential Neighborhoods, Subdivisions and Historic Districts. 2010. Accessed April 17, 2011.

[2] Kenney, Kim. “Suburbanization in the 1950s: Glamorizing Suburbia in Popular Culture.” Online Magazine and Writers’ Network. December 18, 2008. Accessed April 17, 2011.

[3]  “Richmond: A Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary.” U.S. National Park Service – Experience Your America. Accessed April 17, 2011.

[4] Kenney, Kim. “Suburbanization in the 1950s: Glamorizing Suburbia in Popular Culture.” Online Magazine and Writers’ Network. December 18, 2008. Accessed April 17, 2011.

[5] Rosenberg, Matt. “CBD – An Overview of the CBD or Central Business District.” Geography Home Page – Geography at 2011. Accessed April 17, 2011.

[6] Melosi, Martin V. “Automobile and the Environment in American History: The Automobile’s Imprint on the Landscape.” Automobile in American Life and Society. 2010. Accessed April 17, 2011.

[7] V.66.10.201. November 21, 1965. Richmond Times-Dispatch Collection, Valentine Richmond History Center, Richmond.

[8] Swope, Christopher. “The Fascinating History of Parking.” GOVERNING: State Government News on Politics, Management & Finance. December 2009. Accessed April 17, 2011.

[9] Rosenberg, Matt. “CBD – An Overview of the CBD or Central Business District.” Geography Home Page – Geography at 2011. Accessed April 17, 2011.

[10] V.62.109.79. November 9, 1961. Richmond Times-Dispatch Collection, Valentine Richmond History Center, Richmond.

[11] The First 125 Years of the Medical College of Virginia. Richmond, VA: Medical College of Virginia, 1963.

[12] Hampton, George, and David Higham. “The Impact of an Urban University on Community Development.” June 1999. Accessed April 17, 2011.

[13] Steinacker, Annette. “The Economic Effect of Urban Colleges on Their Surrounding Communities.” September 2004. Accessed April 17, 2011.–%20university%20impact.pdf.

[14] FIC.033222. April 25, 1968. Richmond Times-Dispatch Collection, Valentine Richmond History Center, Richmond.

[15] Rice, Tonya. “Richmond’s Old City Hall – The Story Behind the Construction – Richmond Landmarks & Historic Districts |” Washington DC News, Washington DC Information, Washington DC Events – | September 22, 2010. Accessed April 17, 2011.

Posted in Assignment #4

Marshall in the “New” South

Many wealthy, white Richmonders lived on Marshall Street.  Just a block away from the excitement of Broad Street, people considered Marshall Street a convenient place to live.  The Civil War and ensuing emancipation caused many neighboring streets to undergo change, particularly the streets to the northeast.[1]  Yet forty years after the war, remarkably little had changed in terms of racial integration on Marshall.  Even into the twentieth century, Marshall Street remained racially segregated, and showed no sign of infrastructural improvement.  This lack of change highlighted the racial tensions that existed in Richmond, even as the city tried to put its past behind.

People had high hopes for the prospects of the New South, but on Marshall Street in Richmond, racism still ran rampant.  In fact, new kinds of racial tensions formed.  Before the Civil War, whites and blacks were accustomed to living together; blacks as slaves, and whites as slaveholders.  Yet after emancipation, this did not happen.  Segregation felt unusual for both races, and its prevalence on New South Marshall Street increased problems between the two cultures.  Even after the turn of the century, forty years after the end of the war, Marshall Street remained remarkably homogeneous.  In 1884, there were no more than a handful of “colored” people on any block all of the way down Marshall Street[2].  In 1911, almost twenty years later, the street was no more diverse.

Rather than integrate the white neighborhood, blacks did not move onto Marshall Street after the Civil War.  Centuries of bondage made it impossible for racial tensions to disappear.  The ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 declared that “separate but equal” facilities for blacks and whites were legal[3]. Such establishments evolved unofficially before this ruling, but the decision removed the necessity for integration.  Blacks would supposedly have equal facilities, and desegregation could result in violence that would make the reward smaller than the inherent risk.  Thus Marshall Street was occupied almost exclusively by whites into the twentieth century.

Not only did racial integration remain on Marshall Street, but the infrastructure barely changed, as well.  In the eighteenth century, wealthy Richmonders created “plantations-in-town,” which were city blocks or squares that housed a family’s living quarters, gardens, and other possessions.[4]  Ownership of such a space conveyed prestige, and such estates helped Marshall Street establish a reputation of elegance.  The block between Adams Street and 1st Street provides an accurate snapshot for the rest of the street.  The Sanborn map of this block from 1886 shows just one house facing the back alley that provides a boundary for the houses on Marshall Street[5].  The properties likely stretched all of the way back to the alley, with sheds and other small structures.  These “plantations-in-town” were still commanding Marshall Street, and the same rich citizens owned them.

The 1905 map of the block shows a very similar area.  The city directories tell that the block was populated by the same of whites as it was in 1884[6].  In terms of infrastructure, the block remained the same as well.  A lumber yard changed ownership from the Foster family to P.H. Bruner, but the structures at the yard remained the same.  The dwellings maintained the same size and shape, and no additional housing was built on the other side of the block.  Without the knowledge that the maps were twenty years apart, there would be no way of knowing that the pictures showed anything different.

Marshall Street in the New South was not very new at all.  Existing racial boundaries remained, as the street maintained its reputation for housing wealthy white Richmonders.  Infrastructure did not change either, as the old “plantations-in-town” still existed just as they did in the eighteenth century.  As the South changed throughout Reconstruction and beyond, Marshall Street remained backwards, lagging behind in the development of a new nation.

[1] Speech, Mapping American History: Presentations, VA, Richmond, April 25, 2011.

[2] Hill’s Richmond City Directory (Chesterfield and Henrico Counties, VA.).  John Maddox. 1884.

[3] Lisa Cozzens, “After the Civil War: Plessy v. Ferguson,”, September 1999, 17, accessed March 2011,

[4] “The House’s History–John Marshall House,” Home — Preservation Virginia, accessed March 2011,

[5] “Digital Sanborn Maps, 1886. Virginia,” map (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Bell & Howell Information and Learning, 2001).

[6] Hill’s Richmond City Directory (Chesterfield and Henrico Counties, VA.).  John Maddox.

Posted in Assignment #3

Marshall Street: Richmond’s Home

Zack Francis

Home is more than just a physical location; it gives identity to the people who inhabit the space.  People live in a community is because it provides a sense of belonging which can only be attained through a strong sentiment of this idea of home.  A home is expected to remain constant; no matter how much one changes over a certain period of time, he or she is expected to be able to come home and feel restored to his or her roots.  During the Civil War in Richmond, however, people did not have the ability to feel the unfailing sentiment of home.  From individual houses being sold or converted into other establishments, neighborhoods changing their appearance and the people living in them changing their principles; the Civil War changed Richmond in a way that nothing else could.  Marshall Street is just one street in the city that underwent change, but it is an example of an area whose changes coincided with those of other locations both city- and nationwide.

Marshall Street was a largely residential street in nineteenth-century Richmond.  Its convenient location, just one block from Broad Street, made the street a very pleasant place to live.  As the war went on, Marshall Street saw some change; a military recruitment office was built, and a masonic lodge was used regularly.  There was a school that struggled to stay open during the war years.  However, its foremost responsibility remained to house prominent Richmonders.  During the five years of the war, many wealthy citizens used their power to purchase substitute soldiers, a maneuver which would allow the rich to avoid the hardships of war.  Marshall Street served as a meeting place for many different militia units whose members likely lived in the area.  The street was also the location of many funerals, as soldiers and civilians alike would be sent away from their original places of residence.[1]

There was a large spike in the discussion of military recruitment in Richmond between February and April of 1862.  This trend is also evident in data compiled about Marshall Street; this three-month period includes more mentions about the military than any other quarter-year during the war.  Many of the advertisements referencing Marshall Street were for new recruits.[2]  This makes sense when compared with a timeline of the Civil War.  On January 27th, 1862, President Lincoln issued a war order to launch a powerful attack against Richmond, in order to capture the capital of Richmond[3].  The largest number of mentions of military involvement on Marshall Street occurred in the month of April, 1862: fourteen.  This is compared to four in the previous two months combined and just one reference at any point in the following eight months[4].  The Peninsula Campaign likely caused the increase in discussion of military involvement.  President Lincoln designed the battle plan specifically to capture Richmond, a realization that mobilized the citizens of the city.  Beginning on the seventh day of the month, the Dispatch ran articles twelve of the next thirteen days calling “Patriots” to assemble at Marshall Street in order to enlist, knowing that Richmond men were too proud not to defend their hometown.[5]

Another example that shows the meaning of “home” is found in the data of runaway slaves.  In April of 1861, there were fourteen mentions of runaways on Marshall Street in the Richmond Daily Dispatch.  The next highest total in any single month is five mentions in February 1865, so clearly the topic was unusually popular at that time[6].  This excitement coincided with the events of the Civil War that were happening simultaneously.  In April 1861, Virginia seceded from the Union[7].  When slaves heard the news, they began to dream of a new home, concurrently losing their connection to their owners and the city of Richmond as a whole.  References to slave runaways on Marshall Street essentially ceased to exist during the months of the war, appearing in the newspaper in just four of the forty-five months between April 1861 and February 1865[8].  This can be explained through a strong sense of home; the slaves who were miserable had fled Marshall Street after Virginia seceded, and those who were content or had missed the opportunity did not have a good chance to run away during the war, when Richmond lay firmly under rebel hands.  This sentiment carried into 1865, when Union soldiers approached Richmond.  This allowed slaves another chance to consider their futures.  The Emancipation Proclamation had officially made them free, but the data tells us that very few slaves on Marshall Street took advantage of that fact and fled their masters[9].

In the early months of 1865, the war was clearly going the Union’s way, and their army rested just miles from Richmond at Petersburg[10].  As Union victory became more certain, the slaves realized that they must begin to plan for their future freedom.  They allowed themselves the chance to start this exciting journey a couple of months early.  Another reason the slaves fled at this time was an order from General Grant.  In an effort to ensure that the Confederate army did not have enough resources to continue the war effort, the Union general ordered his troops to seize “all the Negro men before the enemy can put them in their ranks”[11].  Slaves on Marshall St. presumably heard of this order and knew that if they could escape the short distance to Petersburg, they would be free; this was a golden opportunity to leave their old home and begin their journey as freedmen.

This was not the first time that Richmonders began to feel detached from their home.  Spirits for the war were high at its outset, but as the fighting dragged on resources were increasingly used for the war effort at the expense of the civilian population.  Coupled with inflation and a Union blockade on Southern ports, Confederate citizens faced tough times[12].  Faced with such hardships, sentiments of home began to disappear on Marshall Street, as people were forced to look out for their own interests over the welfare of the nation.  Starting in December of 1863, mentions of crime on Marshall Street in the Richmond Daily Dispatch increased tremendously[13].  An article describing four different crimes in the December 19th, 1863 volume of the Daily Dispatch writes that “Burglars seem to be operating with great success at this particular time”[14].  High arrest totals on Marshall Street continued well into 1864, and the people of Marshall Street added fear of crime to a long list of concerns at the time; they could not feel at home when their safety was constantly in jeopardy[15].

People looking for a home did not come to Marshall Street in Richmond during the Civil War.  Real estate sales on Marshall Street, in particular, fluctuated greatly over the five years of the war.  In November of 1860, there were 30 articles about the subject; in every month of the war combined, there were just 39 mentions of real estate possibilities on Marshall Street, and very few at the end of the war[16].  At the beginning of the war, Richmond was a small city with a lot happening; it was a great place to start a family.  Just five years later, the city lay in ruins, the economy was destroyed, and the morale of the people was devastated.  Richmond, and Marshall Street in particular, changed from being home to being a place from which people escaped.

Marshall Street was home to many Richmonders during the Civil War.  At many points from 1861 to 1865, the street could not satisfy its residents’ desire for a stable atmosphere; an increase in slave runaways, increase in crime, and a dramatic decrease in real estate sales display the fear that Marshall Street was not a safe environment into which to move.  The very common mention of military recruitment/action shows that people may have been proud of their home, but overall the street followed the trends that the city, as well as the nation followed; when the war started, people everywhere were eager to defend their homes, but as the years dragged on it became tough to remain loyal to home over watching out for one’s own individual interests.

[1] “Search Results- Marshall St*.” Richmond Daily Dispatch. Accessed February 13, 2011.*.

[2] “Search Results- Marshall St*.” Richmond Daily Dispatch. Accessed February 13, 2011.*.

[3] Freeman, Joanne. “Time Line of The Civil War, 1862.” Library of Congress. Accessed February

10, 2011.

[4] “Search Results- Marshall St*.” Richmond Daily Dispatch. Accessed February 13, 2011.*.

[5] “Search Results- Marshall St*.” Richmond Daily Dispatch. Accessed February 13, 2011.*.

[6] “Search Results- Marshall St*.” Richmond Daily Dispatch. Accessed February 13, 2011.*.

[7] Freeman, Joanne. “Time Line of The Civil War, 1862.” Library of Congress. Accessed February

10, 2011.

[8] “Search Results- Marshall St*.” Richmond Daily Dispatch. Accessed February 13, 2011.*.

[9] “Search Results- Marshall St*.” Richmond Daily Dispatch. Accessed February 13, 2011.*.

[10] Freeman, Joanne. “Time Line of The Civil War, 1862.” Library of Congress. Accessed February

10, 2011.

[11] Kelley, Michael. “On Black Confederates.” 37th Texas Cavalry (Terrell’s), CSA. 1996-2007. Accessed February 13, 2011.

[12] “Bread Riot in Richmond, 1863.” EyeWitness to History – History through the Eyes of Those Who Lived It. Accessed February 13, 2011.

[13] “Search Results- Marshall St*.” Richmond Daily Dispatch. Accessed February 13, 2011.*.

[14] “House-breaking.” Richmond Daily Dispatch. Accessed February 13, 2011.;cc=ddr;type=simple;rgn=div3;q1=marshall st*;view=text;subview=detail;sort=occur;idno=ddr0971.0025.143;node=ddr0971.0025.143%3A5.1.3.

[15] “Search Results- Marshall St*.” Richmond Daily Dispatch. Accessed February 13, 2011.*.

[16] “Search Results- Marshall St*.” Richmond Daily Dispatch. Accessed February 13, 2011.*.

Posted in Uncategorized

Clay Street: Hymns and Hospitals

Shaye Ellis


Richmond’s position as a dividing line between the North and the South significantly influenced the culture and population of the city. The city’s industry reflected Northern counterparts, while its social interactions and values were quintessentially Southern. Religious values were fundamental in the region and Richmond’s devout dedication to faith was evident in the “antebellum skyline [that] bristled with steeples and domes of its many denominations.”[1] The presence of religion remained and expanded as the city evolved into the capital of a new nation in the midst of war. By the eve of the American Civil War, Richmond “boasted thirty-three churches from every major denomination”[2] several of which resided on Clay Street, merely blocks from the Capitol, the center of the secular and political realm of the city. As the war progressed and faith transformed into a unique identity for the nation to justify the actions of the Confederacy, the functions of the Clay Street buildings adjusted accordingly.

Churches served not only as the foundation of religion and morality, but also a base for social interaction. Clay Street bustled on Sunday mornings as Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists entered their respective buildings to hear the word of God preached from the pulpit; however, the services provided more than time for pious reflection. As the war loomed and tensions increased, the objective of the weekly meetings shifted from prayers and sharing idle gossip to conveying pertinent information regarding the Union and subsequently, war reports. In fact, “throughout the war, news circulated most completely on Sundays within and between the city’s churches.”[3] News of recent events and mounting tensions between the Union and the Confederacy spread through extensive networks of communication. Despite the sharing and comparing of stories that followed Sunday services, Clay Street reverends likely followed the lead of well known religious leaders in the community and attempted to keep politics and scripture separate and distinct.

In April 1861, the war began and changes swept through Richmond, inducing preachers to modify their perspective on the role religion would play in the infant nation. Within the churches “the boundaries between politics and piety were hurriedly being redrawn”[4] as the Confederacy turned to religion as a driving factor and source of motivation for the war ahead, and Clay Street was no exception. On the Sunday following the attack on Fort Sumter, there was a drastic shift in the tenor of the sermons. Up and down Clay Street, reverends “were equally enthusiastic and unwaveringly certain about the morality of their course” and created the image of the Southern states united as a “chosen nation fighting a righteous crusade.”[5] The religious community not only justified the actions and motivations of the Confederate States, it summoned support and unified the congregations in a concerted effort, including converting numerous churches into hospitals to care for wounded soldiers. For a month in September 1861, the Clay Street Chapel, on the “corner [of] Brook Avenue and Clay Street”[6] tended to 70 patients.[7] Shortly thereafter, a new hospital opened between 5th and 6th Streets to address the rising need for medical treatment.[8] The vibrant exchange of news after Sunday service gave way to the tidal wave of change that followed secession, the start of the war, and the active role of the Church in the conflict.

Religious leaders made repeated appeals on Sundays when “most of the hearers of the sermons delivered in churches were female,” which explains the “powerful source of women’s involvement in the war and their growing sense of political involvement in the struggle.”[9] By the end of April 1861, women’s organizations from the Clay Street Baptist and Methodist Episcopal Churches were engrossed in volunteer efforts for the government. As a strong representation of moral standards and values, women worked under the guidance of their churches and reverends to “prepare lint, bandages and uniforms for our soldiers”[10] and collect materials to “make up uniforms for the volunteers.”[11] Churches became the center for information exchanges and volunteer efforts. Rather than staying isolated from secular matters and wartime actions, churches actually became a hub for them.

Religion in Richmond thrived in the wartime environment, motivating and spurring the South towards imminent battles and potential victories. The new Confederate States of America founded their national identity on strong religious principles and ideals. Southern religious leaders viewed the secession and creation of the Confederacy as a “liberating event” and one that “pointed to a glorious future and announced the birth of a unique Christian nation.”[12] This pious image of the Confederacy provided all denominations with a fresh, larger platform from which to preach, and Clay Street’s growth and development exemplified the escalation of religion that resulted from the Civil War. Ground broke on a new Episcopal Church in early 1861. This church, designed to seat six to eight hundred would “not only be a handsome one, but quite an ornament to the portion of the city in which it is located.”[13] Importantly, church buildings were not simply a religious meeting place; they were also a physical representation of the pride felt for the religion practiced within. Richmonders found it essential to portray the style and significance of the urban religious life to travelers visiting the city.[14] The Baptists of Richmond collected funds to construct another place of worship on Clay Street “so that soon we may hope to see a nice church in every community.” [15] Reverend Thomas A. Ware capitalized on the current religious zeal by organizing a revival that produced fifteen new members for his Clay Street Methodist Church, at the corner of Clay and Adams Streets, confirming, “in these exciting times the subject of religion is not lost sight of.”[16]

Notably, the separation of church and state, a concept widely discussed and debated in American history, was inapplicable in the Confederate States of America. Records from the secular and religious presses from the start of the war in April 1861, until the final surrender four years later, demonstrate frequent and substantial overlap between the two sectors. Religion justified political action and the government supported and encouraged a devout and faithful culture. This close relationship was undeniable when “preachers could now politicize from the pulpit, [and] magistrates could preach from the podium.”[17] Further, it brought a cohesive message to the Confederate population. One Clay Street reverend, E.J. Willis, even served heroically as captain in Company A of the 15th Virginia and “encouraged men by every possible means”[18] on the battlefield as he did from the pulpit of the Baptist church. Both secular and religious organizations relied on the printed press to spread the word to a larger audience. Several denominations formed their own publications, including the Central Presbyterian, The Religious Herald, and The Southern Churchman, “to report both religious and secular news.”[19] At the same time, the traditional publications expressed great interest in the religious community and “the Dispatch and the Enquirer had regularly printed advance notices of special religious lectures, summaries of local religious meetings, and synopses or even sometimes the minutes of regional church conferences.”[20]  A union, not separation, of church and state was the unquestionable reality of the region and the time.

Clay Street, Richmond is merely one small area that encompassed a broad and deeply ingrained religious culture in the city. Yet, its abundant houses of worship contributed to the landscape that allowed Richmond to identify itself as “the City of Churches.”[21] The four years of Civil War initiated a surge of religion that greatly defined not only Clay Street and its worshippers, but the city of Richmond, and the Confederacy as well. The expansion of religious foundations on Clay Street served many vital purposes, adapting to the shifting needs of its members and the community at large. Though the prominent steeples of Clay Street are no longer visible on the horizon, the dominance of religion remains an important factor in the history and identity of Richmond.

[1] Gregg D. Kimball, “American City in a Southern Place,” in American City, Southern Place: a Cultural History of Antebellum Richmond (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000), 49.

[2] Harry S. Stout and Christopher Grasso, “Civil War, Religion, and Communications: The Case of Richmond,” in Religion and the American Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 316,

[3] Stout and Grasso, Religion and the American Civil War, 316.

[4] ibid, 317.

[5] ibid, 318.

[6] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “Attention, company B, second Class Militia,” June 18, 1863, Military Notices sec.

[7] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “Ladies’ Hospitals in Richmond for the Sick Soldiers,” October 2, 1861, Local Matters sec.,

[8] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “New Hospital,” October 28, 1861, Local Matters sec.,

[9] Stout and Grasso, Religion and the American Civil War, 323.

[10] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “Tender of Service,” April 25, 1861, Local Matters sec.

[11] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “Aiding the Volunteers,” April 30, 1861, Local Matters sec.

[12] Stout and Grasso, Religion and the American Civil War, 322.

[13] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “New Church Edifice,” January 3, 1861, Local Matters sec.

[14] Kimball, “American City, Southern Place,” 49.

[15]  Richmond Daily Dispatch, “Church Extension,” April 5, 1861, Local Matters sec.

[16] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “Revival,” October 23, 1861, Local Matters sec.

[17] Stout and Grasso, Religion and the American Civil War, 322.

[18] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “Loss of Richmond Soldiers,” October 4, 1862, Local Matters sec.

[19] Stout and Grasso, Religion and the American Civil War, 327.

[20] ibid, 330.

[21] ibid, 316.

Posted in Assignment #2

Protests through Public Space

Khanh (Miki) Doan

Throughout the twentieth century, Richmonders turned public spaces into an expression of their political views and concerns. Capitol Square, the symbol of the Virginia government and legislation, witnessed many protests taking place on Bank Street, ranging from marches to walk-a-thons. African Americans and whites used the space for similar purposes of dramatizing to the government problems and inequalities from which members of the community suffered. In return, the government took an advantage of the convenient location of  the Capitol Square to communicate with its citizens.

By marching through Bank Street to the Capitol Square, people established the power of unification and subtly rebelled against the government. Despite its narrowness, Bank Street, on which the Capitol Square stretched from one end to another end, was an ideal space for different groups to  protest. In the middle of the twentieth century, Richmond was a center of national attention, famous for the legal struggle over civil rights for blacks.[1] Pictures and articles about the marches on the Capitol further affected the public image of the state government; therefore, officials strived to reduce the number of protest that threatened the development of the state. Drawing on this weakness, people managed to gather on Bank Street to make the government aware of their rights as citizens with equal opportunities, as students with adequate access to education, workers hoping for better wages and a safe work environment, and minorities in a white male-dominated society.

Black and white photograph of a gathering at the Virginia State Capitol during the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.; image taken from above, shows the steps leading to the Capitol portico; a group of Catholic school girls stands on the steps to the right; a band and choir stands on the steps to the left; a man stands in the middle of the steps in front of two microphones; various men and women stand on the portico; a large crowd of nicely-dressed (hats and coats) people stand in front of the steps listening to the speaker.

In the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement was reaching its height when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Following his death, the black community nationwide launched riots which terrified the white community. On April 8, 1968, nearly 3000 people gathered at the State Capitol for Tributes to King when the Mayor, Morrill Martin Crowe, spoke to the ground, in hopes of ending the violence and vandalism. Crowe told the crowd that “let freedom ring through nonviolence, through black and white together that we shall overcome.”[2] The picture captured at the Virginia State Capitol following the assassination of King illustrates the distinctive use of space from the perspective of African Americans and that of white Americans. While some African Americans lost belief in nonviolent resistance and started riots, the others expressed their lost and sorrow through marching towards the capitol. Wearing nice clothes, these folks presented themselves in a way that kept King’s legacy, of cooperating with white men, alive. On the other hand, the government dedicated the sacred space of the Capitol in honor of King to express their condolence and suggest a peaceful solution for this outbreak.

Black and white photograph of African American college students marching along Bank Street past the Virginia State Capitol; the students wear coats and hats and carry posters; two uniformed police officers stand at attention at the top of steps to the Capitol grounds and observe.

Marching was one of the effective nonviolent protests for students to voice their opinion against the school’s administration. When the Virginia State School of Agriculture merged with the Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, students at Virginia State College feared that the institution’s status would be reduced into a community college. They also demanded that  the school’s president and the dean of the college resign because both had lost the confidence of a majority of faculty members and failed to lead the school.[3] On December 18, 1969, 2200 students took a 25 mile-bus drive from Petersburg to the Capitol to march, sing, and chant in support of the predominantly Negro institution. Choosing the Capitol as a place to protest, the students put pressure on their school administration by relying on the state power. These young minds decided to demonstrate calmly, through Bank Street without creating any chaos, and it reflects on their use of public space to achieve their cause. The Times Dispatch reported that the demonstration caused only momentary traffic delays.[4] Due to a conflict in scheduling, Linwood Holton, the newly elected governor, could not arrange an appointment with the students but he permitted the march for that day.  Both the officials and the students managed to use the Capitol to find a compromise that worked for each party.

Black and white photograph of people gathered outside (Capitol Square) for an Equal Rights Amendment rally; at right, Virginia State Senator L. Douglas Wilder stands at microphone and speaks to group; Channel 12 newsperson uses video recorder to tape the rally; sign in foreground reads "Give My Life / Something Extra // Equality."

Richmonders also shaped Bank Street for a good cause. In 1972, the Equal Right Amendment (ERA) was passed in Congress but failed to gain ratification; Virginia did not ratify this until February 2011.[5]  Therefore, the 70’s mark an era in which women organized protests around Richmond to endorse the amendment. On August 26, 1977, about 45 people walked briskly from the Capitol for a 12-mile hike in order to raise money, which would be used to support efforts to win the passage of ERA in the state legislature.[6]  The sponsor of the walk-a thon, the National Organization for Women (NOW) estimated that the rally would generate about $1000.[7] By choosing the Capitol as their destination, the marchers not only fundraised for ERA, but also brought the issue of the inequality to the public’s attention and indirectly to the governmental agencies. For example, Mrs. J. Marshall Coleman, wife of the Republican nominee for attorney general, came to Capitol Square before the walk-a-thon to support the ERA.[8] Such endorsement from a wife of a political figure suggests that the movement was transforming.

Black and white photograph of striking mine workers (United Mine Workers of America) waiting on the sidewalk along 9th Street outside the Virginia State Capitol; the miners were told by Capitol Police that they could not assemble on the Capitol Square grounds without a permit; image shows a long row of miners, dressed in camouflage clothing, resting against the wrought iron fence of the capitol.

Union movements took a more aggressive use of Bank Street than most other protests. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the oil prices escalated and fueled the recession. As a result, the number of workers joining the union declined due to the rise of unemployment and their fear of losing their jobs. Richard Louis Trumka, President of the United Mine Workers, believed that in this type of economy, it would be rewarding to “carry the union movement to the state capital, which he called a stronghold of anti-union sentiment.”[9] With the rise of capitalism, cooperation tried to maximize profit by cutting down cost, such as lower wage rate, reduced medical benefits or rigid work rules. The union thus played a critical role of representing and protecting the workers’ benefits. These mine workers knew that once the firm succeeded in ousting the union, the employer would try to pressure workers to accept their current working condition. Rusty Franklin, a United Mine Worker member, organized the demonstration and diverted at Capitol Police Officer’s attention so strikers could set up a tent on the grass. Doug Kelbaugh argues that “this spatial politics allows marginalized groups to create “spaces of representation” through which they can represent themselves to the wider public and insert themselves in the discourses of the bourgeois public sphere.”[10] Therefore, the resistance to dominant public space, which in this case was the grass at the Capitol, required these workers to use a more assertive method in order to claim the space to rally for their benefits.

A focus on spatial practices of different groups helps to describe the relationship between a common space and people who used it to express their perspectives. With its most recognized symbol-the Capitol Square-Bank Street became a critical location for protests in the city of Richmond. Regardless of how the protests ended, all these groups have succeeded in turning the public space into a tool that serves their purpose.

[1] Marie Tyler-McGraw, At the Falls: Richmond, Virginia and Its People. Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 185.

[2] Scribner Balboni, 3000 Hear Tributes at Capitol, Richmond Times Dispatch, April 8, 1968.

[3] Huge Moore, 2200 VSC Students Protest, Richmond Times Dispatch, December 18, 1969.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Equal Right Amendment. Last modified April 17, 2011,

[6] Estelle Jackson, $1000 is Raised for ERA, Richmond Times Dispatch, August 28, 1977

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Bill McKelway, 22Union Chiefs Arrested in Sit-in, Richmond Times Dispatch, August 24, 1989.

[10] Doug Kelbaugh, Repairing the American Metropolis: Common Place Revisited (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002), 6.

Posted in Assignment #4

White Supremacy and the Story of African American Barbers on the Verge of the Twentieth Century

Khanh (Miki) Doan

The fire insurance Sanborn maps and the city directories illustrated Bank Street from 1865 to 1920 with two major changes: the expansion of the government and the emergence of one particular African American business, the barber service. The race relation between whites and African Americans during this time period tells two stories about each race. For white men, as they tried to segregate the system and prevent African Americans from exercising their freedom, they realized that the traditional form of controlling blacks suppressed the social and economic development of the region. Whites cooperated with African Americans as a rational solution to promote the expansion of the region whereas African Americans submitted to the white supremacy with a motive to advance themselves as well as their community up the economic ladder. African American barbers took roles as pioneers to develop the connection with the white community and bring back benefits to their people.

Bank Street, once the headquarters of the Confederacy during the Civil War, again acted as the center of governmental bureaus after Emancipation.  In 1886, the United States Customs and Post Offices were located at a small building on the block between 10th and 11th Street. Post offices expanded gradually until the entire block became the Customs and Post Offices in 1950. The expansion of the government in Richmond maintained white supremacy within the capital of Virginia. Although black men were free citizens, whites still considered African Americans inferior with subordinate status. Eventually, whites realized that black men strived for equality in public areas and they feared the black men’s power.

Eventually, whites traded some control over black’s freedom in return for a flourishing economy. By 1880, Richmond represented the industrialized South with tobacco factories, flour mills, iron and steel foundries. The city was also the terminus of six railroads that connected Richmond to principle markets throughout the country.[1] As blacks joined the labor force, the supply for labor exceeded the demand for workers, which lowered wages. By giving freedmen a lower wage than immigrants, firms were able to cut back the cost and push forward the production. Foreign-born immigrants migrated to the North for a better working condition and higher wages. Richmond was among the few cities whose percentage of immigrant population plummeted, which was due to this migration.[2] In 1860, Richmond’s blacks constituted 38 percent of the city’s population; in ten years, they made up 45 percent of the residents.[3] When the foreign-born immigrants left Richmond, more African Americans moved to Richmond and took the immigrants’ places in the work force.

A considerable portion of the African American work force was composed of unskilled males; however, there was a small, urban black professional and business class. Within the professional community, black barbers made a significant impact on the local culture. An article from Richmond Planet in 1906 states that as white barbers began to unionize and raise the price of a shave from 10 to 15 cents, one white gentleman decided to have his shave done by black barbers instead.[4] Even though their first customers were black, African American barbers slowly attracted white customers from their white competitors. Not only did the black barbers stand out due to their cheaper prices and refined skills, but they also had an advantage over white barbers because of their more convenient locations and nicer establishments.[5] They reached out to white customers by purchasing or leasing buildings in the downtown commercial district or establishing black outposts in an exclusively white retail area.[6] Barbers in the nineteenth century were known more for their shaving rather than haircutting. While writing about black barbers in this era, Bristol calls it “the story of the black man’s razor at the white man’s throat.”[7] However, a white man did not see a black barber in that light, but rather a black man doing Negro work.

The city directory in 1893 showed that John Wilder, an African American man, owned a barbershop right in front of the Capitol, amidst all the administrative offices. Not only were white men patrons a part of his business, they also shared close relationships with the barber through conversation and business partnerships, established to attain real-estate. In one special notice in the Richmond Planet, Charles Preston mentioned about a rare business opportunity for a colored barber with little capital.[8] This example illustrates that African American barbers valued their white clientele. Due to potential connections that they would make with the affluent white men, African American barbers could borrow money from these white men and then invested in real estate. Real estate became the main income of black barbers. During the 1870s, the number of prosperous barbers dropped because many barbers moved from the personal service industry to other business endeavors.[9] White men received benefits from this transaction just as much as African American barbers. With this connection, white men were able to buy land in the black area. In this time period, the black barber became the middleman and purchased land for their white clienteles. This mutual relationship explained why Wilder was the only black man who operated a business on Bank Street in 1893 without being forced to leave by political figures around the Capitol.

By the end of nineteenth century, black barbers started to receive criticism from both the black and white communities. To draw whites to their barbershop, black barbers had to operate segregated business and sometimes refused to serve their black fellows. Originally, the black barbers submitted to white supremacy in order to provide the black community means with better economic status in society. Racial tension escalated to the point where the white mobs attacked the black barbers. The African American barbers then decided to turn back and serve their growing community. Bristol states that, by using white society to advance themselves economically and socially, black barbers stepped out of the passive role of racial ideology and took advantage of the white prejudice for their own benefits.[10] In 1911, there was no longer a Wilder barbershop on Bank Street.  According to the United States Federal Census in 1910, John Wilder owned a house on North 3rd Street, implying he no longer lived on Bank Street. So Wilder, the black barber among the sea of white business and offices, decided that he had gained enough from Bank Street to move back and establish a business in his neighborhood.

The transformation of the infrastructure on Bank Street and the story of John Wilder, a black barber, reveal how whites used public space to manipulate black men’s freedom. The changes on Bank Street challenged the freedom that the government claimed to have given to slaves. Without help from the government, African Americans, such as John Wilder, were left to fight for the freedom to enjoy the same prerogatives and opportunities as those of white men.

[1] Charles Crowe, ed. The Age of Civil War and Reconstruction. 1830-1900. A Book of Interpretative Essays (Homewood: Dorsey P., 1975), 61

[2] D. W. Meinig, The Shaping of America: a Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 278.

[3] Ibid., 56.

[4] Race and Place Newspaper. “Richmond Planet on January 13, 1906: Will Patronize Colored Barbers.” Accessed March 21st 2011.

[5] Douglas Bristol, From Outposts to Enclaves: A Social History of Black Barbers from 1750 to 1915, Enterprise &Society 5 (2004), 596.

[6]  Ibid., 598.

[7] Bristol, From Outposts to Enclave, 596.

[8] Richmond Planet. “Richmond Planet on March 07, 1903: Vol. XX no.13.” Accessed April 28, 2011.

[9] Loren Schweninger, Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990), 217.

[10] Bristol, From Outposts to Enclaves, 606.

Posted in Assignment #3, Uncategorized

The Connection between the Home Front and the Battlefront

Khanh (Miki) Doan

Although Thomas Jefferson moved Virginia’s capital to Bank Street in 1792, this street was not a hub for the government agencies until the Civil War. The Confederacy established more than twelve offices of war on 0.3-mile Bank Street to establish a military network around the Capitol. In American City, Southern Place, Gregg Kimball argues, “Richmond was a point of connection for a myriad of far-flung cultural, economic, and social relationships.”[1] Bank Street, which linked the society and the local government during peacetime, served an even larger responsibility linking the battlefront to the home front during the Civil War.

As the war started, Confederate authorities gradually prepared for the new government in Richmond. Before secession, when one turned left from Ninth Street to Bank Street, he would see on his right Mechanics Hall, which provided the entertainment from musical performances to lectures for Richmonders. On February 12, 1861, the Confederacy held the first Virginia Convention in Mechanics Hall, but the caucus did not decide to break away from the Union until April 17. Consequently, the slow transformation allowed the building to continue with its usual activities; shows such as the “Broken Sword” or Sanderson’s panorama of the Russian War and Crimean scenery still took place there.[2] After secession was made official, the Confederacy used the building for only military purposes. In less than six months, the building where a blind Negro pianist had performed his musical talent to the Richmond community became the War Department. In June 1861, President Jefferson Davis’ arrival in Richmond further accelerated the governmental machinery in the new capital. The Mechanics Hall was “cutting up into offices, with deafening clatter, day and night,” getting ready for a new chapter of its city.[3]

At the corner of Eleventh Street and Bank Street, not far away from Mechanics Hall was Goddin’s Hall. This building, which the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) used for their daily union prayer, illustrated the religious aspect of Bank Street before.[4] Yet the change in political conditions led to the adjustment in the city planning. On June 22, 1861, the Confederate Government asked the YMCA for their permission to turn this sacred room into the War Department, which soon became one of the most important buildings in the administrative agency consisting of both the Post Office Department and the Patent Office. After acquiring the building, the government put the building into use and planned the first military operation in Virginia at this hall in June 1861.[5]

From May of 1861, the War Department began to recruit men who would be transferred to the front line to fight against the Union. Recruitment advertisements were common in the Richmond Daily Dispatch:

Recruiting — Sound and able-bodied men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five years, for the Army of the Confederate States.

For further information, inquire at my office, on Bank Street, in the old Madison House, next door to the Custom-House.[6]

According to “Mining the Dispatch Project,” around the same time the Confederacy set up the War Department, military recruitment reached the second highest peak.[7] With the newspaper covering recruitment almost every day, local people started to feel the thrust of the war and the urge to become involved in the war. With a strong economy and strong citizen support for the army, the Richmond government could employ over seventy thousand civilians, a majority of whom worked for government-related jobs.[8]

As recruitment took place in Richmond, the Union and the Confederacy began their attack on each other at the First Battle of the Bull Run at Manassas, a hundred miles away. As analyzed by the Richmond Dispatch, the Confederacy won the battle due to the map “which had been drawn up by order of the War Department from the coast survey records, showing the topography of the country from Washington to Manassas.”[9] Based on the topography, the War Department settled on a strategy which changed the situation of the battlefield and defeated the Union. The battle was a great success because it helped the government form a collaboration with its citizens. The day after the battle, many people responded to the call of the Mayor to gather at the Capitol Square to make arrangements for care of the wounded.[10] Widespread confidence throughout the South led to more volunteers in Richmond, and the need to recruit men was not as crucial as before the battle at Manassas. Therefore, military recruitment advertisements decreased until early 1862.[11]

Optimism did not last long when Southerners began to struggle for food and daily necessities. With men headed to war and the price of slaves rising, most agricultural land was left insufficiently farmed. The South could not manage to feed both the civilian and military populations; hence, food was scarce throughout the war. Government continuously called for support from their fellows to contribute to the war:

Those patriotic citizens who desire to and in the noble work of administering to the wants and relieving the sufferings of the many sick soldiers now collected in and about the city can do so by leaving their contributions by 4 o’clock P. M., at the depot of the Army Committee Y. M. C. A. on Bank street, just above the Treasury Department.

Cooked food is especially needed, though there is nothing in the way of medicines, home-made wines, clothing, provisions, wood, crockery, old linen, &c., &c. that will not be of very great service, and prove most acceptable.[12]

The government failed to address these issues of hunger and entice soldiers to stay. With the high cost for all the necessaries of life, soldiers realized the pay was not sufficient enough to cover their basic needs. When men realized their families were starving to death, they left the army to help them. The hunger and privation that Bank Street experienced signaled the challenges that the Confederacy had to face.

The War Department soon realized that the Confederacy needed a stronger army in order to defeat the Union and drafted more southern men into the army. In the midst of the crisis, on April 16, 1862, the Confederate Congress gave permission for national conscription of men between eighteen and thirty five years of age for three years’ service.[13] Even though recruitment in Richmond hit its highest peak in March of 1862 and rapidly sloped downward, the rate of conscription after the draft increased.[14] To manipulate young men’s decision, the Recruiting Office of the Battalion on Bank Street proclaimed itself able to “give the most positive assurance that no man enlisting in [the] company [remained] liable either to the present call of the Governor, or to any future draft upon the militia.”[15]

The Confederate government did not want the Union to know about their hardship so they hid the event from local news. On April 2, 1863, around 500 women from Richmond marched around the Capitol Square and broke into stores to steal bread.[16] Inflation brought frustration not only to soldiers, but also local people, who depended greatly on the government and war industries for employment. However, the Richmond Daily Dispatch gave a very hopeful take with the current economy on a business article on August 20. Based on the statement of the Secretary of the Treasury, the newspaper believed that with the new taxes, money would be scarcer, prices would go down, and people would be more content because the Confederacy held plenty resources which it could utilize for the expenditure of the war and the relief for the civilians.[17] Amidst continuous Union losses, in September 1863, the Confederate Army had its first victory after five months at Chickamauga Creek at Tennessee. With the manipulation of the press, the Confederacy was able to give confidence to its soldiers as well as giving a false lead for the Union.

Nevertheless, all the efforts were inadequate to help the Confederacy because the crisis at the home front was so critical that it challenged the strength of the battlefront. Without strong finances to back up the expenses of the war, the Confederacy was on the verge of falling apart. Soldiers deserted their posts while civilians committed crimes, such as stealing and homicide. In one case, Cornelius Collins, a soldier from the 20th Virginia Artillery battalion was caught stealing a ham of bacon weighing30 pounds on Bank Street.[18] As the government realized that the Union was going to march to Richmond at any moment, they packed up and abandoned the city. On April 3, in order that their contents might not fall into Union’s hands, General Ewell ordered  soldiers to burn the large tobacco warehouses. The fire engulfed most of the Administrative Offices on Bank Street and destroyed the heart of the Confederacy.

As Emory Thomas notes in his book, “from the time of her selection as the Rebel capital, the city had been metamorphosed by the Confederate experience, and the conditions within Richmond had greatly influenced the Confederacy.” Indeed, within four years of the Civil War, the Confederacy transformed Bank Street into a less local and more cosmopolitan street for the local people. This street acted as the main home front for the Confederacy after secession, connected the city with the war beyond its border, and finally brought the end of the war back to its home front, the Capitol.

[1] Gregg D. Kimball, American City, Southern Place: a Cultural History of Antebellum Richmond (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000), xv.

[2]Richmond Daily Dispatch. “The Daily Dispatch on April 9th, 1861: Amusement.” Accessed February 14, 2011.

[3] Leon T. C. De, Four Years in Rebel Capitals: an inside View of Life in the Southern Confederacy, from Birth to Death, from Original Notes, Collated in the Years 1861 to 1865 (Spartanburg, SC: Reprint, 1975), 87.

[4]Richmond Daily Dispatch. “The Daily Dispatch on November 16, 1860: Religious Notice” Accessed February 13, 2011.

[5] Samuel J. T. Moore, Moore’s Complete Civil War Guide to Richmond  (Richmond: Moore, 1978), 12.

[6]Richmond Daily Dispatch. “The Daily Dispatch on May 9, 1861: Ready for Duty.” Accessed April 27, 2011.

[7] Mining the Dispatch. “Military Recruitment” Accessed February 19, 2011.

[8] Paul P. Van Riper and Harry N. Schreiber, “The Confederate Civil Service,” Journal of Southern History 25 (November, 1959): 450-451

[9]Richmond Daily Dispatch. “The Daily Dispatch on July 27th, 1861: The Battle of Manassas.” Accessed February 19,2011.

[10] Emory M. Thomas, The Confederate State of Richmond: a Biography of the Capital. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998), 55.

[11] Mining the Dispatch. “Military Recruitment” Accessed February 19, 2011.

[12]Richmond Daily Dispatch. “The Daily Dispatch on May 6, 1862: Business Notices.”Accessed February 20, 2011.

[13]Thomas, The Confederate State of Richmond: a Biography of the Capital, 90.

[14] Mining the Dispatch. “Military Recruitment-Military Conscription.” Accessed February 20, 2011.

[15]Richmond Daily Dispatch. “The Daily Dispatch on March 17, 1862: Attention – Bogg’s Battalion Flying Artillery.”Accessed February 20, 2011.

[16]Moore, Moore’s Complete Civil War Guide to Richmond. 90.

[17]Richmond Daily Dispatch. “The Daily Dispatch on August 20, 1863: Confederate finances.”Accessed February 20, 2011.

[18]Richmond Daily Dispatch. “The Daily Dispatch on April 19, 1864: Big Ham.”Accessed February 20, 2011.

Posted in Assignment #2

The Diversity of Broad Street

Many defining changes took place in Richmond in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  With emancipation came a transformation of the south, especially within the city of Richmond, as it had once been the capitol of the Confederacy.  After the war, the population shifted, with many people moving both within their native cities, and throughout the couth in general.  With the passing of the Civil War, Richmond acquired the ability to reinvent itself, creating new businesses that appeared to be sprouting up on numerous streets.  Businesses prospered by adapting which frequently meant changing locations.  Commerce was key at this time and businesses moved to follow the consumer.  As the city of Richmond evolved, its ethnic and racial structure changed.  Additionally, the actual infrastructure and organization of the city was altered and success meant embracing these changes.  The make up of each city block was affected by these changes.  Broad Street is an area of commerce with relatively little housing, and was this way, it would seem, from its beginning.  During the Civil War, businesses, although affected by the inevitable hardships, still ran.  After the Civil War, the businesses could start anew and move to a place where they could increase business.  As the times and tastes of the civilians of Richmond matured, the businesses and physical construction changed on Broad Street.  Depending on the business and the land available, the infrastructure would change over time.  Many workers in Richmond were ethnic and even foreign and, as a result, they often ran small businesses open on Broad Street between 9th and 12th streets.  The infrastructure that existed changed as the businesses adapted which culminated in changes to the owners themselves.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Broad Street housed many shops, hotels, and churches between 9th and 12th streets.  Both the First Baptist Church and the Broad Street Methodist Church resided on Broad Street.  Churches played a large part in the everyday lives of many Richmonders.  Because the churches played such an integral part of life in Richmond, they endured on Broad Street and seem to have set up an almost permanent residence there.  From 1886 to about 1952 although many buildings were changing ownership and being converted to accommodate varying commercial needs, the churches with seemingly only one minor structural difference: the First Baptist Church added an annex in 1924.

Broad Street also accommodated many hotels.  The hotel business relied heavily on changeable variables, such as the popularity of the location.  Because of this, the success of a hotel depended, on large part, to its adaptability.  The result of changes in a location’s popularity forces some hotels to move and others to close altogether.  Because Broad Street was known as being a center for commerce, many hotels took this cue and put up residences there so that visitors could stay in the middle of the action of the commercial part of the city.  Over time the name and size of these hotels changed, until by 1911 they had all disappeared from the section entirely.  One hotel located between 11th and 12th streets was called the Ford’s Hotel that seems to have taken up the entire block.  Another hotel between 9th and 10th was called the Valentine Hotel and took up about half the block.  These hotels appear to both have changed owners or management some time between 1886 and 1911, with Ford’s Hotel changing to the Powhatan in 1905 and the Valentine changing to the Park Hotel in 1911.  The hotel business was far more transient than the churches in Richmond.

Storeowners built many shops on Broad Street.  Broad Street was also home to City Hall, and corporate offices, including a like insurance company, thus making it a true city hub.  The street’s diversity did not end there, as it also housed a theatre, the fire department headquarters and a stable.  As time went on, many of the businesses housed on Broad Street changed, as did the physical structure of the buildings themselves, as some businesses expanded or left.  With the advent of the car and the ability to commute people began to move out of the cities.  As a result, lots opened up and service stations and parking began to dominate Broad Street.  Several parking lots opened as well as filling stations and stores for repair, parts, greasing, service, and sales, thus changing the landscape of the street.

Richmond has more ethnic and racial diversity than one might think.  This was especially true during the turn of the 20th century, but Broad Street, and specifically between 9th and 12th, was a center for commerce, so the racial make up was determined the ethnicity of the local merchants rather than by housing.  Foreigners and free blacks who stayed in the area ran shops and small businesses located on Broad Street.  Many of the names of the owners of the stores appear to be ethnic, such as Roupas, Ciucci, Delpapa, and Arakel Mugridrichian.  They ran stores such as a bootblack shop, a tailor’s, a cleaning and pressing shop, and a barbershop.  Segregation was in full fledge and the feelings between races were bitter.  White people wanted to separate themselves from their perceived inferiors and created a firm role for blacks and people of other races by confining them to certain jobs.  The advent of the car allowed white people to move out of the city, but the lower classes (made up primarily by minorities) could not afford this luxury.  This restriction, among others, forced them to work jobs that were both menial and blue-collar.  As business changed on Broad Street, so did the owners of each physical building.  Because the shops there were mostly beneath the ambitions of white people, this area of Broad Street was relatively ethnic and stayed that way for many years.

Richmond experienced two different kinds of diversity, one racial the other structural.  The nature of the city and the times allowed for racial diversity.  The structural diversity, especially found on Broad Street, was a result of the constant adaptation of the city and its need to acclimate to the changing times.  White people restricted ethnic people to certain jobs that they felt were beneath them.  Many of these racially diverse people set up shop on Broad Street because it was not only a commercial center but a social one as well.  The influx of workers, coupled with the need for them to work at the luxury hotels meant that there were outlets for an ever-changing population, which in turn affected the street itself.  It went through much metamorphosis as it established itself as the center of an evolving community.  Broad Street was home to shops, religious institutions, theatres, hotels, and places of business.  The Street successfully adapted to the changing needs of society, thus ensuring itself a place in history as the heart of Richmond.

Hill’s Richmond City Directory (Chesterfield and Henrico Counties, VA).  John Maddox: Richmond VA, 1911. Print.

Digital Sanborn Maps, 1867-1970, Virginia.  Bell & Howell Information and Learning, 2001.  Digital Resource.

Posted in Assignment #3

7th Street in the Civil War

7thStreet in the Civil War


            During the Civil War, Seventh Street certainly came to play an integral role in the city of Richmond. This street, occupied mostly by residential places and factory space, the majority of the factory space seems to be relatively small in terms of physical space, and there are continuous advertisements for rental of such space, as well as for rental of living space. The residential space on 7th Street was evidently of an expensive nature, suggesting that the upper class lived on this road, as one housed advertised as being for sale was described as ‘a most valuable location for a first class dwelling’[1]. The Marshall Theatre, which has doors on 7th Street as well as the main entrance on Broad Street, is rebuilt in just 12 months after it burned to the ground around Christmas time in 1861. I would motion that 7th Street was one of the most important, if not, the most important street in Richmond during the Civil War of the 1860s.

One of the most intriguing factors about this street is the fact it housed the substantial Laboratory of the Confederate States (C.S. Lab). Many controversial and captivating occurrences took place at this laboratory, which seems, from looking at five different newspapers (The Richmond Daily Dispatch, The Richmond Enquirer, The Richmond Whig, The Richmond Sentinel and the Richmond Examiner), to have been the central plot on 7th Street. Do not be mislead though, this was no ordinary laboratory, it was an arsenal where shells and ammunition were produced and developed. This was the center of all military happenings for areas in the vicinity of Richmond, which only goes to emphasize the importance of 7th street for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

This Laboratory of the Confederate States was actually located on Brown’s Island (pictured), at the foot of 7th Street, where the street terminates. Today there is a bridge crossing the River James, which passes directly over Brown’s Island (it is the second closest bridge if you are looking back to the city from Hollywood Cemetery). The Laboratory of the Confederate States enjoyed a really basic set up, consisting of

What seems like five or six gigantic warehouses in which different operations took place, such as loading ammunition into guns or the manufacturing of chemicals. To get a real feel for how big the site was, one could be helped with the idea that over one hundred Yankees were imprisoned at the Laboratory of the Confederate States after being captured by a General. One interesting feature is the fact that it was actually in such a central position in the city, at the foot of the valley. Being an arsenal comes the obvious risks of fires and explosions; so placing it at such a location with the centre of the city in close vicinity poses a huge risk. This placement of the laboratory eventually became a talking point in a few newspapers.

The first mention of the Laboratory of the Confederate States, coming from the Richmond Dispatch in early July 1961, is that of an explosion due to the mismanagement of detonating powder intended for use of the Confederate Army.  [2] As well as killing two people, one a respected and almost-famous chemist, the explosions had destroyed the interior of the building, implying the need for major reconstruction. This is followed the next day by the first (recorded) instance that actually criticizes the logistics of the laboratory; an associate for the Dispatch is quoted to have said “Don’t be astonished to hear of that part of the town blowed to the devil”[3]. He looks to point out that he had spotted the obvious danger when he had made a trip to the Arsenal a fortnight beforehand.

Fires at the armory on 7th Street were extremely recurrent, and too most, not entirely unexpected. There are frequent reports of gunpowder explosive material lying carelessly around. This type of incident led to the fire on the 27th September of 1961. Although nothing major was damaged[4], simply a fence, yet another of these instances led to more talk about the practicality and the true safety issues of having the factory situated at the foot of Richmond. Additionally, the idea of the fact that both women and children are working in such a hazardous place is highlighted. Nonetheless, nothing is done about the hazardous environment.

Talk of the C  .S. Lab resurfaces again in February of 1863, we learn that on 7th Street, all the broken or over-used or enemy weaponry is brought to the sidewalk directly outside the Laboratory and simply left there for collection and then inspection. Surprisingly, there are no reports of any crimes involving stealing of weaponry from the streets.

The biggest documented explosion occurred in March 1963 at the Laboratory, which ended up killing sixty-four people in total, both men and women[5]. The warehouse where the condemned cartridges were broken up and disposed of was shattered, leaving only the wooden frames of the building standing and everything that was inside it lying in the near vicinity, destroyed.[6] Luckily, somehow the few other surrounding buildings were untouched and could carry on with their functions with no interruption. The destroyed building was replaced in quick time, being up by the 4th of April of the same year.

As well as being at the centre of everything guns, 7th Street and its Laboratory of the Confederate States seemed also to be where the commandments of all things military came from as General Glazebrook also directed operations of his F Company. It is also possible to tell from the fact that 7th Street was key to operations in Richmond as it was a border for one of the divided areas in which different Generals resided over, took care of, and were responsible for. The ‘international’ members of the military were also involved heavily at 7th Street, where both the French and Italian soldiers were ordered to convene there daily from March 1963. Here they would pick up their weapons for the day’s work and then be directed on what they were to be doing.[7]

The laboratory is not just physically cut off from the city, it seems as though it is quite isolated in that there is much bad feeling about it from the Richmond community. In a number of newspapers, the attitude and simple tone of the articles seem to be very distant and disrespecting. Commentators are very quick to condemn the laboratory, especially when there are explosions when they point to the hazardous nature of the laboratory.

It certainly seems the case that the Laboratory of the Confederate States was integral to the South’s part in the Civil War, thus making 7th Street central to anything war-related for the South. Even superficially, anything to do with the military had to go through 7th Street so we can safely say that it was used frequently.

Additionally, on the corner of 7th Street and Cary Street was the Confederate States Armory, where weapons that actually belonged to the Confederacy were returned after tours or fighting. For example 25,000 muskets and other weapons were dropped off at the C.S. Armory after being collected at the Seven Days’ battlefields[8].

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