The Broad Street Commercial Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The district was extended in 2006. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination documents. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2007, The Gombach Group.
The Broad Street Commercial Historic District is located in the central business district of the City of Richmond. It was originally listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The district encompasses what was the hub of the Richmond's late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century retail development. The original nomination states, "The portion of Broad Street included in the historic district is the most architecturally cohesive and is representative of the commercial areas on Broad Street." The district originally encompassed 10 blocks bounded by Belvidere Street on the west and 4th Street on the east. The northern and southern boundary lines for the Broad Street Commercial Historic District have been the center line of the alley between Broad and Marshall Streets and the alley between Broad and Grace Streets, even in places where the alleys have been built over and provide no physical separation. A boundary increase in 2004 added a non-contiguous area to the district located to the west of Belvidere Street and included the 700 to 900 blocks of West Broad Street and portions of North Laurel and Gilmer Streets.
This boundary increase area includes two half-blocks north of the alley between Broad and Marshall Streets and is bounded on the north by Marshall Street, on the west by First Street, and on the east by Second Street. This boundary increase area contains eight contributing buildings and one non-contributing building. The contributing buildings within the boundary increase are architecturally similar to the buildings facing Broad Street and historically served similar commercial functions. The resources are primarily two-story brick buildings in Late-19th-and 20th-century Revival or vernacular commercial styles. Many of the buildings have storefronts with decorative treatments above the storefronts and several buildings also feature decorative cornices.
The majority of the buildings in the boundary increase area are two-story brick commercial buildings, with the exception of the one-story brick building at 115 E. Marshall Street and the two-story house at 313 North 2nd Street that has a one-story commercial addition at the front. While some of the buildings have been altered, they have retained their historic integrity and in many cases have been well preserved. The dominant style of buildings in the Broad Street Commercial Historic District is Italianate, with Romanesque Revival, Classical Revival and other commercial vernacular styles making appearances. The buildings in the boundary increase area are Late-19th- and 20th-Century Revival and vernacular commercial styles.
The buildings in the Broad Street Commercial Historic District date from 1852 to 1970 but a majority of the structures were erected between 1880 and 1930. The same is true for the proposed boundary increase which contains a collection of early-twentieth century retail buildings and lone surviving late-nineteenth century dwelling. The building at 313 North 2nd Street, built between 1895 and 1905, is one of the few dwellings that were present at the beginning of the 20th century to survive, albeit a storefront addition to the facade. The area reflects the migration of retail and commercial uses into what had previously been a residential neighborhood with only a few shops. The 1895 and 1905 Sanborn maps and the 1916 City of Richmond Directory reveal a primarily residential neighborhood with a few scattered businesses that catered to the needs of the surrounding community. Two boarding houses, an employment agency, and the Monroe Social and Pleasure Club were located on North 2nd Street. According to the 1919 Sanborn Map and the 1921 directory, businesses had begun to replace some of the homes. A shoe repair shop, a furniture store and two tailors had moved into the area; and the Carnegie Steel Corporation shared office space with the Virginia Business Exchange. During the 1920s the area experienced a dramatic growth in commercial enterprises and according to the 1924 Sanborn Map the transition of the area south of Marshall Street from residential to commercial was complete. Among the businesses that operated in the 1920s were a bicycle repair shop, an auto repair garage, two billiard parlors, a restaurant, a manufacturing facility, the Richmond Meat market, and a number of specialty stores. Because the area was not on the main shopping street, the shops were somewhat less stylish than those along Broad and Grace Streets to the south.
One of the more significant buildings that once stood in the boundary increase area was the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank that was located on the southeast corner of Marshall and First Streets. The St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, established in 1903, was an outgrowth of the Independent Order of St. Luke, an African-American fraternal business organization. The bank was established during Maggie Lena Walker's thirty-five year association with the organization. The Classical Revival bank building was designed by Charles Thaddeus Russell, a native of Richmond, who was one of Virginia's first black architects. Russell graduated from Hampton Institute in 1899 and worked as an architect at Tuskegee Institute. Returning to Richmond in 1907, he became a professor of Industrial Work and Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds at Virginia Union University.
Other architects who designed buildings in the boundary increase area include Marcellus E. Wright, Luther T. Bengston, Henry T. Barnham and Davis Brothers. Marcellus E. Wright designed a store for H. F. Grimmell in 1913 which stood next to the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank on the east side of First Street. The now demolished store is said to have been a four-story brick commercial building with limestone and granite accents on the facade and copper cornices at the first and fourth stories. There were prism glass transoms on the first story store front windows. Marcellus Eugene Wright was a native of Hanover County and received his architectural training at the Virginia Mechanics Institute, the School of Applied Art in Philadelphia, and the University of Pennsylvania. He returned to Richmond in 1908 where he was employed in the office of Charles M. Robinson and established his own firm in 1912. The prolific firm has continued to operate; Wright died in 1962. Henry Thomas Barnham designed two stores in the proposed expansion area. The C. W. Vaughn Hardware Store (315 N. 1st Street) and the S.T. Beveridge Store (315 N. 2nd Street) are linked by a public garage building that occupies the center of the block. The garage was designed by L. T. Bengston in 1924. The first stories on both of Barnham's commercial buildings have been altered, but at one time both incorporated garage openings. The second stories have similar tripartite arrangements with decorative metal cornices set below articulated parapets. Barnham, an engineer, was educated at Newark Technical Institute and Columbia University. He practiced architecture in Richmond from 1914 until his death in 1937. Little is known of Luther (Ludwig) T. Bengston and his architectural practice. For much of his career he was associated with the North Carolina firm of Benton and Benton. The Richmond office which he headed was known as Benton and Bengston in 1922. He was also a partner in the West Virginia firm of Wysong, Bengston and Jones in the 1930s.
1895, 1905, 1919, 1924 Sanborn Maps
Belsches, Elvatrice Parker. Black American Series: Richmond, Virginia, (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2003)
Kraus, Nancy W., Broad Street Commercial Historic District Nomination (Boundary Increase) (127- 0375), (Virginia Department of Historic Resources, December 2003)
Ward, Harry M., Richmond: An Illustrated History, (Northridge: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1985)
Wells, John E. and Robert E. Dalton, The Virginia Architects 1835-1955: A Biographical Dictionary,
(Richmond: New South Architectural Press, 1997)
Winthrop, Robert P., Broad Street Commercial Historic District Nomination (127-0375), (Virginia Department of Historic Resources, 9 April 1987)
Winthrop, Robert P., Architecture in Downtown Richmond, (Richmond: Whittet & Shepperson Printers, 1982)
[†] Broad Street Commercial Historic District, nomination document, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.