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Movement for Restoration of Houses in Church Hill is Gaining Momentum (1958)

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Eric Huffstutler 07/10/2017 at 1:18 PM

If anyone notice, the map only shows SOB (South of Broad). When efforts started in 1957, the interest was only the property around St. John’s Church. Property NOB (North of Broad) had become predominantly black, and the white preservationists wanted nothing to do with that side of Broad…no matter how historic the properties were. The newspapers also did not report on incidents or announce new buildings on this side either, unless it affected the white population. The Planet was about the only newspaper who handled black issues and then, was cautiously selective with wording when they did write an article.

Melinda Skinner 07/11/2017 at 8:46 AM

While motives and methods were questionable, at least some of the city’s history was saved– unlike the decimation of Fulton, which was a really nice community with many houses like those in the Fan. Those “little old ladies in tennis shoes” leaned on their husbands and their upscale friends to raise money to save and rehab houses– using historic St. John’s Church as a starting point and way to convince Richmonders proud of their history.
Those preservationists were not the villains. It was the white men from that same social milieu who increased their fortunes, by preying on economically disadvantaged, Jim Crow damaged Black citizens– renting them houses (some without proper power and plumbing) that they allowed to deteriorate. A leaky roof and rotting porch meant nothing as log as these property owners could collect rent. Despicable.

Rob Pate 07/11/2017 at 7:16 PM

Great collection of antique homes surround St. Johns Church which itself deserves its own historic district. I think its unfair to say ‘this group wanted nothing’ to do with another run-down area nearby. Imagine the headache in CREATING an historic district in the 50s. Likely one of the first. The paperwork alone makes me want to shovel dirt! They had to draw the line somewhere. I’m sure glad they did.

Rob Pate 07/11/2017 at 7:24 PM

Thirty years later I had an apartment in a renovated place South Of Broad precisely because those ladies worked their money through those historic, ghastly expensive, unpredictable renovations. Was still quite a sketchy area to be careful in.

Eric Huffstutler 07/11/2017 at 11:27 PM

@3,@4 Rob Pate, I am going to go out on a limb here, and I hope that I am reading it wrong or taking it out of context, but your comments sound like an elitist snob and only adds fuel to the fire over the long standing mudslinging battle for equality of NOB vs. SOB. At first, it was racial division. Then it was a struggle over gentrification. Now it is snobbery. Or possibly it is still a combination of all?

Are you saying that NOB was too run down and not worth a second thought by preservationists, no matter its historic significance? Keep in mind that the Adam Craig house was a piece of crap even in the 1930s and was saved from demolition by those blue-hairs. St. John’s Church was also a dump at one time – even as far back as the 1860s when it was abandoned, overgrown, and cattle roamed the graveyard destroying it. Much of Franklin Street (and others SOB) was boarded up in the 1980s, as were many blocks within Church Hill and so, SOB was not exempt from falling into slum conditions the same way NOB did. The main difference that save one over another sadly involved prejudice.

This type of indifferent thinking has caused many historic homes to be lost over the years NOB. Our house, the oldest one this side of Broad (205 years old), was nearly lost until the HRF purchased and save it from demolition. But way too many others did fall. There was a house that stood on N 25th where the Nolde’s parking lot is today, which was actually older than our house. There is a lot of history to be told NOB!

Eric Huffstutler 07/12/2017 at 12:25 AM

I don’t see a seperate thread in the CHPN archives about the Belfry Condominiums at 2511-2515 E Broad (the old Third Presbyterian Church) so will post this here since it is mentioned on the above map.

I am currently working on a short article about this church and wanted to share here a correction, which I also shared with the City Assessors and they corrected their files today.

Some people had said that the church was built in 1850. This is incorrect. In fact, there was an 1850 version, which was actually the second incarnation, but was located on the next block at the NE corner of 25th and Broad (where the Sun Trust Bank is today). There was an earlier C&O train tunnel collapse in 1873 which caused the building to be condemned and so, a temporary church was erected until the current structure was built and dedicated in December 1876 (seen different years but this one is correct). There is also a 1929 addition, which is the 2511 address section.


John M 07/12/2017 at 6:26 AM

@Eric – Not to speak for Rob, but you’re being ing something to his comment which is not there.

Rob Pate 07/12/2017 at 8:55 AM

Not sure where to begin. Not enough spare time either. Probably the way those first preservationists felt. Gotta start somewhere.

Eric Huffstutler 07/12/2017 at 8:58 AM

@7 John M…. that is what I am hoping. That I am reading something out of context. Such as… homes around St. John’s Church deserves its own historic district (what is wrong with the one already in place that includes them?), or he bought in that area but sounded like he had no interest in the “run down nearby” NOB area as did the early preservationists?

Eric Huffstutler 07/12/2017 at 9:10 AM

To be fair, I know that Rob is working on wanting to restore the old Acme Grocery – Gas Station store and old Barber Shop building (which will look fantastic when done) but he is having problems with zoning issues…which speaks volumes about his wanting to currently invest in the underdeveloped areas. I am hoping he will have interests in areas inside Church Hill North as well and not just surrounding areas like Union Hill. 😉

crd 07/12/2017 at 11:26 AM

From the 1990 amendment to the National Register “The area north of East Broad Street was excluded from the district because the architectural character of most of the dwellings in the area differ from those within the district. This area is most likely eligible as a separate and distinct historic district. Buildings to the south of the present district are mostly commercial and industrial buildings included in the Shockoe Valley and Tobacco Row Historic District which is already listed on the National Register.”

Rob has the right idea – not enough spare time to argue with Eric, who obviously has more than enough.

Eric Huffstutler 07/12/2017 at 1:26 PM

Yes crd, 60 years old and semi-retired I do have time. I don’t know what “style” has to do with qualification if there are historical structures in that district? There is a variety of styles in the St. John’s Historic District as well, which was registered in 1970. It was a different world then.


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