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Photographs of old Fulton

I read Selden Richardson’s Built by Blacks in late 2006. This sent me off to find out if his descriptions of Evergreen Cemetery were accurate, to see it for myself: Evergreen is everything that he described and more. This medieval cemetery was my takeaway, but another recent read has sent me back to Richardson’s amazing book and the chapter on the urban renewal that has all but erased the original Fulton from the map of Richmond.

My first exposure to the tale of the demolition of Fulton didn’t really stick. At the time it was more difficult for me to imagine that the city and federal governments, through neglect and demolition, would conspire to take apart an entire community. The lack of almost all visual references hides that the area has any history at all, and the story of old Fulton didn’t really sink in.

A recent tip led me to pick up Scott Davis’ The World of Patience Gromes: Making and Unmaking a Black Community (1988), and this book and it’s people made that Fulton real to me. I was surprised to find in a recent re-read of Richardson’s book that he references Patience Gromes repeatedly; I don’t know how I didn’t follow this up at the time. After reading Patience Gromes, I really wanted to be able to see this Fulton that was being described.

From the cover of Patience Gromes

Richmond Then and Now’s archive of Times-Dispatch articles about Fulton show some of the story of the demolition of Fulton, but don’t really show the community before.

Denny Street (1975)(via Richmond Then and Now)

A 1935 print by Charles W. Smith, Fulton from Church Hill, tantilizingly shows a dense urban neighborhood, on a regular street grid, with rows of houses and a large central church.

Fulton from Church Hill (Charles Smith 1935)(Valentine)

With limited resources available online, I paid a visit to the Valentine Richmond History Center for a look in their archives. I was hoping to find photos of Fulton that would let me see it in the context of Richmond’s neighborhoods that still survive, to maybe see in Union Hill, Oregon Hill or the Fan echoes of the streets of Fulton that are so different now. I found a few resources at the Valentine, and was able to get a few scanned to share out.

All of the images below credited to “Valentine” are from the Cook Collection, Valentine Richmond History Center. All rights to the images are reserved by Valentine Richmond History Center. The photos are arranged oldest to newest as best I can tell. Click to view a larger version if available.

Fulton from Chimborazo (1890s)(Valentine)

The amazing aerial photo puts authentic detail to the church and row houses of Smith’s 1935 print. The baseball game underway in the center and the horse & carriage in the bottom left corner hint at the life in the community. Looking at the larger version, I feel like if I look long enough, more people will start moving across the photo. Of the images of Fulton that I’ve found, it is one of the few (see also) from before the urban renewal period — almost every other photo was taken later to illustrate decrepitness and decay.

Erin and Nicholson (1961)(Valentine)

This 1961 photo of the corner of Erin and Nicholson is from a later Richmond Times-Dispatch article. It was used to illustrate “the dilapidated homes” in the area.

Fulton Street (1969)(Valentine)

These boarded-up Fulton Street storefronts are immediately reminiscent of Main Street in Shockoe Bottom or Hull Street in Manchester.

Fulton Street (1969)(Valentine)

From Chimborazo (1971)(Valentine)

Hazel Deese (1971)(Valentine)

Nicholson Street (1971)(Valentine)

This could be Venable Street between 21st and Mosby today.

Houses (1971)(Valentine)

Fulton (1952)(via Adolph B. Rice Studio Collection at Library of VA)

Government Road crosses left-to-right across the top of the photo, the train tracks are at the far right. The former trolley barn, still existent, can be seen just off center at the top.

Fulton (undated)(via Adolph B. Rice Studio Collection at LVA)

The 2nd of the two aerial photos above shows the houses just about right up on the James River. Some of this part of the street grid is the same, though the bulk of the neighborhood (and Gillies Creek) has been redrawn as you can see in the 2 maps below.

Fulton street grid 1962

Fulton street grid 2010

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Paving Streets Uniting Fulton

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katzenjaammer
katzenjaammer
10 years ago

Thank you for posting these. I’ve only been in RIC for 4 years so this was before my time. It always feels a little strange to drive through Fulton knowing a whole village existed there isn’t, anymore.

I guess the good news is, this didn’t happen to Church Hill.

Melinda
Melinda
10 years ago

A similar fate was planned for the Fan District, which had seen a terrible decline in the 1950s. The “wisdom” of tearing down instead of fixing up will never die as long as our legislators are brainwashed by developers who promise everything and deliver… not so much…

BlackRVA
BlackRVA
8 years ago

Wow!! I am going to be up all night reading these posts! I want to know more about Evergreen Cemetary!

Trish
Trish
8 years ago

These are fantastic photographs, thanks for sharing!

Sundagger
Sundagger
8 years ago

And a small bit of credit goes to Margaret Freund for what she has done to save and constructively reuse the Fulton School.

Andrew Moore
Andrew Moore
8 years ago

Thanks for posting – illuminating and sad.

Brett
Brett
8 years ago

How are they getting away with building those plastic suburb style houses to this day? The neighborhood over by Gillies is horrible looking. If anything needs to be demolished it’s that. There is no sense of community to it. They had a chance to create something great even after screwing it up and they screwed it up even worse. Unbelievable.

Right on Broad
Right on Broad
8 years ago

There is a terrible irony that the town of Fulton has been replaced with the failed architecture of suburbia and the dying car culture. Whoever the planner was for this exercise should be embarrassed and ashamed.

Karl
Karl
8 years ago

The destruction of Fulton is one the most dastardly action of the City of Richmond. It almost happened to Church Hill. Thank God they finally woke up.

Federal Branch
Federal Branch
7 years ago

Thanks for the photos…so many wonderful memories growing up in Fulton. Those pictures of storefronts arent on Fulton though…Either Williamsburg Ave. or Lousiana St..im very sure of it.. I lived on Fulton Street back in the late 60’s

Federal Branch
Federal Branch
7 years ago

Does anyone have any pictures of the the old Webster Davis Elementary School? thats the school that the blacks in Fulton bottom attended before Nixon desegregated the schools

Bob Harrison
Bob Harrison
7 years ago

I have several drawings of the old Fulton that I did in the 60’s and early 70s (when it was being torn down)… I lived on Fulton Hill during those days and spent a lot of time down the hill as Fulton was being wiped out… If you are interested in the copies of my drawings, let me know…

Francine Robinson/Harris
Francine Robinson/Harris
6 years ago

I once lived in Fulton before i moved to Washington DC. I wish that I could find some of the people that lived there. Such people as Barbara Ann Woodson, Bobby Pearson and his brother Melvin. In addition to his mom Irene Pearson. I can also remember Ray Hockayday . I never forgot these people. I,m sure they don’t feel the same way. I also can remember our 5th and 6th grade teacher Mr Kemp that was our elementary school teacher at Webster Davis School. I can remember the day when President Kennedy was killed. We were in the trailer… Read more »

Francine Robinson/Harris
Francine Robinson/Harris
6 years ago

I would also like to find my best friend named Thelma johnson that lived in Fulton at the time.

spacecat
spacecat
6 years ago

Ms. Francine,
You might have luck finding your old friends if you stopped by the Neighborhood Resource Center http://www.nrccafe.org/ They are very involved in the community and might know some of your friends, if your friends are still in the area. Also, the Powhatan Community Center might know of them, and of course the local churches in Fulton also.

melvin pearson
melvin pearson
6 years ago

Hey Francine..how are you..missed you so much..are you on facebook??? whats your email addy??? of course we remeber you,,i hope you come back here soon so we can talk.. look for me on facebook at melvin t pearson.. love you my dear sister//

Gene McCabe
Gene McCabe
6 years ago

Mr. Harrison, My mfamily came from Fulton, thaeir last names were McCabe and Slater..The McCabes resided on Louisana St, and the Slaters on Fulton St.My GF was a McCabe and my GM was a Slater. Anyway I’m very interested in your drawings. Please contact me at the e-mail address at the top. Thank You

crd
crd
6 years ago

Gene McCabe #24, it appears that your email address did not make it into your posting. When you post here, your email is not published. If you really want it published, then you will have to put it in the body of your posting.

al peterson jr
al peterson jr
6 years ago

my grand mother came from fulton, i visited state st cousins.. sweets/hendersons i will look them up

Horace Jeffries
Horace Jeffries
6 years ago

I WAS RAISED IN Fulton Bottom. 1006 Lewis Street. The Street does not exist. Thanks to the RRHA. I GRADUATED Armstrong High Class of 1957. Attended College and went on to CUNYCITY COLLEGE OF NEW YORK. VERY BITTER MEMORIES OF FULTON. EVEN THE COACHES AT ARMSTRONG HIGH WOULDNOT GIVE FULTON ATHLETIC RECOMMENDATIONS, EVEN THOUGH WE WERE STARTERS. MY RECOMMENATION CAMES FROM FRIENDS I KNEW AT MAGGIE L. WALKER HIGH SCHOOL. WEBSTER DAVIS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DOES NOT EXIST, NEITHER DOES J. AN DREW BOWLER. ARMSTRONG HAS M OVED OVER TO COOL LANE THE OLD JOHN F.KENNEDY HIGH SCHOOL. MY MENTORS WERE… Read more »

Dennis Mallory
Dennis Mallory
6 years ago

Mr. Jeffries, althoug I was born one year before you graduated from Armstrong, I feel your pain. I grew up in Creighton Court. In the early ’60’s, I use to visit Fulton with a family (The Merrittes) who had relatives living there. I heard those stories of how Maxie Robinson didn’t give the guys from “the projects” (Creighton, Fairfield, Mosby) and Fulton a chance as he did with the guys from Southside…eventhough we had the better ball players in quarterbacks and running backs. However, I disagree with your position as to “your hometown” being in New York, but that’s your… Read more »

Emily Booker-Moody
Emily Booker-Moody
5 years ago

My mother was born and raised in Old Fulton (Inez). She always looked so sad when late in her life there was no trace of her community to show us. I appreciate these pictures and information on this site. I am going to share this with my family.

Emma Ellis
Emma Ellis
5 years ago

This is very interesting. Before I found your article and photos I read an article to my friend (who is legally blind) who grew up in Fulton during the 50’s. She was appalled with the inaccurate manner the information was depicted. Your view is in line with what she remembered. I wish you could speak to her and others that lived in a Black neighborhood that was self sufficient.

crd
crd
5 years ago

@31 Emma, I’ve got a friend who was a social worker for the city, she’s now retired at age 72, but she used to tell me how self-sufficient Fulton was back in the day. I don’t know if anyone is doing any oral history of the area, but perhaps John Murden, who moderates this blog, might consider it. Or maybe he could find someone else who used to live there to help with an oral or written history project….in looking back at these posts it seems that every so often, someone comes in and says they used to live there.

Keith Beverly
Keith Beverly
5 years ago

My family has lived in Fulton since at least 1910, my mother , who is 92 today ( 4/24/15 ), and well aware of the atrocities committed by the white politicians and the absolute neglect of the slum lords, who served on City Council as well. The destruction of my beloved and nurturing community is the great pain of my life. I will never forgive the city for the racist acts then, and the lack of accepting responsibility to this day. Is it so hard to say, we as a community of Richmonders, screwed up and got it wrong from… Read more »

spacecat
spacecat
5 years ago

Mr. Beverly, you might be interested in the Fulton Oral History Project, as told by some of Fulton’s residents:

https://chpn.net/news/2015/04/15/vcu-now-streaming-historic-fulton-oral-history-project_41748/

E.B. Green(e)
E.B. Green(e)
5 years ago

My family also has history, if not roots, that are “beloved of the Fulton District of Richmond, Virginia”. My daddy was born in North Carolina, of Ethiopian heritage, before my grandparents and family members relocated to Fulton. My “momma” was born on a Native American reservation in Charles City, County before she was later relocated along with other family members to the the Fulton District. Momma was over 100 years old when she passed. Much of what I learned about family heritage as a child growing up in Fulton came from word of mouth, what was written in an 2… Read more »

Carlton Ayles
Carlton Ayles
5 years ago

I also grew up in Fulton and agree with all you have said.

Christina Tulisiak
Christina Tulisiak
4 years ago

I went to a party this weekend and actually met someone that had attended Robert Fulton. I could not believe it. So rare to actually met someone who knows anything about Robert Fulton and the history of the school. I began in kindergarten. Mrs. Gennings (spelling may be wrong) was my teacher. I had her for the 1st grade too. My experience there was so very positive. I remember walking up the steps and students would look down at the ones coming up. The boys were terrible at spitting at the girls as they walked up the steps. There was… Read more »

C. E. Randolph
C. E. Randolph
4 years ago

I grew up in Fulton on State Street in the 700 block. One of my fondest memories is of the Bethlehem Center. I learned about wood working form Mr. Christian. He also coached football, baseball and basketball there. I remember making a squirrel lamps in the carpenters shop in the center. I also remember a Mr, Faris (the spelling of his name may not be correct), Ms. Bears (SP) and a Ms. Myers. The building was an aluminium simi-circle building in the 10 hundred block of State St. I attended Webster Davis and my uncle was the custodian there. The… Read more »

James Patterson
James Patterson
4 years ago

Fulton gave me the foundation for my having a career on the ” “Broadway”stage. I first wanted to dance in the first grade at Webster Davis elementary school, not many schools offered dance during that time but mine did. I did not get to dance as a kid but sing I did do. Thank you Fulton!

Dan Chapman
Dan Chapman
4 years ago

I lived on Garber Street and walked to Robert Fulton (’56 to 61)passed the crossing guard and remember in my dreams the pagents, paper drives, classical music in cafeteria, busing to Richmond Symphony, Mrs. Garthwright’s resource classes and Mayday in front of the great columns in front. We sledded down Powhatan Hill and shopped in Fulton bottom until they bussed us to Chandler and John Marshall. That was and will always be community to me.

LaVerna and Shanor Tanner
LaVerna and Shanor Tanner
3 years ago

I grew up in Fulton and lived there from 1946 to 1958. I attended Webster Davis Elementary School and went to Madison Temple Church. Mr. Kemp, Mrs Webstray, Mrs. Braxton, Miss Hubbard were a few of my teachers.

Cynthia
Cynthia
3 years ago

It is a shame what happened to Fulton and the surrounding area. My grandmother’s house on Government Road near the railroad tracks was torn down, as well as the other houses in the area. Thank goodness my grandparents had passed on before this happened. All in the name of so-called progress. All those homes needed was a little TLC. It would cost a small fortune to build them now. I remember passing Evergreen Cemetery on the way to Oakwood, and Mama said it was the black cemetery and we thought it was awful it was allowed to go to pieces.… Read more »

Brenda Harlow Goodrich
Brenda Harlow Goodrich
3 years ago

I was born in 49 and we lived on Louisiana St along with many kin in the same block. Harlow’s, Profitt’s, Butler’s and Johnson’s?. There was a store on the corner with the road beside it going up the hill to the front of Robert Fulton. I could go across the street to grannies next door to the store and look up the hill to the school and think I would be go someday. In 54 I went to live with my Aunt and Uncle on Farrand and did go to Fulton till we moved later moved to Varina in… Read more »

Gene McCabe
Gene McCabe
2 years ago

A lot of fine people lived in Fulton, and one of them was the McCabes. My grandmother live at 703 Louisanna until her death in the late 1930’s. Her name was Grace McCabe. It’s a shame to have seen this place go, and now at present they are rebuilding!I wonder if the closeness will return or will it just be people living there! If anyone cares to reply do so at GMcCabe38@aol.com

Rob Pate
Rob Pate
2 years ago

Hey Ms. Francine #13- Ray Hockaday lives at the corner of n. 27th and E. Leigh st.! Great guy!

Randy Guill
Randy Guill
2 years ago

I grew up on Church Hill and remember going past the spring at Chimborazo Park and down Government Road to a road that ran to the left. If you went a ways the road actually went thru a creek – that we called Washcar Creek. Does anyone else remember this or have more details?

Bliz
Bliz
1 year ago

My grandparents, great grandparents, 2nd grandparents, 3rd gr grandparents, and 4th gr grandparents lived in Fulton bottom beginning in the early 1800s. All of them are buried at Oakwood. My 2nd gr grandfather was a preacher at Fulton Baptist Church. The congregation was eventually moved to Montrose Heights Baptist Church, now Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church. My grandfather worked and retired from Oakwood Cemetery. My 3 gr grandmother married a man who became the Henrico County Constable. My 4th gr grandfather owned the land where the former woodcroft village is located. I grew up on Williamsburg Rd by the post office.… Read more »

Gene W. McCabe
Gene W. McCabe
10 months ago

My Father’s family came from Fulton! They were they McCabe’s and lived on Louisana Street! My grandfather was Harvey McCabe and grandmother was Gracie!!My father’s name was Clyde who had brothers named Gilbert, Melvin, Clyde, and Edmund!!! Also one girl named Katy! My father was Clyde!!

Melvin Pearson
Melvin Pearson
7 months ago

Hey everyone , I am glad to see folks still come here in 2019. I run a group on Facebook called Fulton Family News . It is the place of FB for everything Fulton , we have over 400 memeber and 2,000 photos of Fulton Faces and History. If you like to join drop me a message about how you are connected to Fulton. Melvin T Pearson on facebook..

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