Carver Residential Historic District
The Carver Residential Historic District (700-1500 blks. W. Leigh, 700-1400 blks. W. Catherine, Clay, & Marshall) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†]
The Carver Residential Historic District is located to the northwest of Richmond, Virginia's central business district. The area remained largely undeveloped until the 1840s and 1850s when modest brick dwellings for small shop owners and tradesmen were constructed. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in a second phase of development, detached frame dwellings, brick row houses, double houses, and a few tenements were constructed. The dwellings are placed close together with small front and side yards on narrow parcels running from the street front to a rear alley. There are examples of Greek Revival, Italianate, and Queen Anne styles of architecture. The majority of the buildings could be classified as vernacular because of the persistent use of traditional building forms and the restrained application of ornamentation. Bounded by Munford, West Marshall, Bowe and West Leigh streets, the Carver Residential Historic District contains 311 contributing buildings, one contributing site, nine (9) non-contributing buildings and forty-three (43) buildings that are also listed as part of the Jackson Ward National Historic Landmark District.
Early National Period (1789-1830)
The creation of the Richmond Turnpike (Broad Street) in 1804 opened the western suburbs of Richmond for development. Prior to this, a single family, the Buchanans, held the property that today represents the Carver district. Buchanan's Spring cut a deep gully through the heart of the area (between Hancock and Harrison streets) as it flowed toward Bacon Quarter Branch. A second stream cut diagonally from Cove Spring, near Moore and Bowe streets, on the west. Numerous other lesser gullies and streams bisected the district creating a rather uneven terrain. The northern sector, closest to Bacon Quarter Branch, was very steep and rugged and unsuitable for residential development.
Prior to 1800, Parson John Buchanan built a house, called "Gielston," near today's 1000 block of West Broad Street. An 1818 Mutual Assurance Policy depicts a rectangular, two-story frame house with brick foundations and porches on the north and south elevations. To the north was a wooden barn, and to the east a smoke house and kitchen. The house disappeared in the later part of the nineteenth century when Broad Street began to be developed as a commercial thoroughfare. The name, however, survived into the late 1880s, when it was used on the Baist Atlas map to identify the area. By 1868, Edward J. Euker was the proprietor of Buchanan's Spring. The spring was a source of water for his nearby Eagle Brewery (1200 block of West Clay Street) which became the Home Brewing Company, the makers of Richbrau beer, in 1897.
In 1810, Buchanan began to subdivide and sell his five-hundred-acre estate. In that year, he sold a seven-acre tract directly west of his house to Michael Hancock. Hancock, Broad, Harrison and Clay streets bound this parcel. It was here between 1815 and 1817 that Hancock erected a substantial, two-story brick house. The house later became the home of Judge Dabney Carr who named the property Elba, a name that would be associated with the Carver community for many decades to come. Prior to the Civil War, Elba became the home of John Minor Bott. The house served as a Confederate prison and a mission for the Second Presbyterian Church. It was demolished in 1872 when West Marshall Street was extended to the west. The Elba land to the north of West Marshall Street was known as Spring Park Garden prior to 1876. Spring Park Garden or Blenner's Park, was a beer garden associated with the Euker or Eagle Brewery. Two other early dwellings in the area, long since demolished, were a pair of houses built on the southwest corner of Marshall and Munford streets in 1819 by Curtis Carter, a bricklayer, who resided in the Crozet house. The Carter double house was a 2 1/2-story, three-bay-wide brick dwelling set on a raised basement with a shallow gable roof and paired dormers.
A curious early survivor in Carver is the house at 807 Norton Street. Located in the block between Clay and Catherine streets the house is oriented towards Clay Street rather than facing Norton Street like its neighbors. It is a two-story, three-bay brick house set on a raised basement with a low-pitched gable roof. The third bay to the east is of frame construction and to the north is a two-story brick addition with a shed roof that slopes into the gable roof. The origins of this dwelling are unknown. But an undated manuscript, written by a member of Dabney Carr's family, entitled The Garden, refers to a brick house at the northwest corner of the Elba garden that was home to Sam Poser and Sam Smith. Sam Smith was "the boss of the place and had charge of the fruit trees, the vine yard, the berries and vegetables." The location of 807 Norton is near what would have been the northwest corner of the Elba garden and it appears to date from the early nineteenth century. This possible connection deserves further research.
Antebellum Period (1830-1860)
Smith's 1853 Map of Henrico County shows Clay extending to Lombardy Street. West Marshall Street stopped at Hancock and West Leigh Street terminated at Gilmer. The north-south streets of Munford, Gilmer, Goshen and Hancock ran from Marshall to Leigh streets. In 1810, the eastern portion of Buchanan's property was sold to John Graham who in turn sold smaller lots to other speculators. As the result of the depression of 1818, very little was constructed in the area during the 1820s end 1830s, but the 1840s saw a renewed fever of speculative development.
Several houses from this era are still standing in Carver, the majority of which are located in the 700 and 800 blocks of Clay and Catherine Streets. Those that once stood in the 700 and 800 blocks of West Marshall have recently been demolished. Brick houses are concentrated on West Clay Street with predominately frame houses on Catherine Street The Hardin Davis House, built in 1842 at 808 West Clay Street, is typical of the antebellum brick houses found in Carver. It is a two-story, two-bay brick dwelling with an entry portico, a molded brick cornice and a low gable roof. Like several of its contemporaries, the Davis House has an irregular Flemish bond brick pattern — random numbers of rows of stretcher bond brickwork separates rows of Flemish bond. The Amanda Ragland House built in 1843 at 720 West Clay Street is likewise a two-story brick house but it is three bays wide and has a delicate modillion cornice. To the west at 724 West Clay Street is a modest brick dwelling, similar to the Davis House, that was built in 1844 by Glenn, Davis and Company, brick makers and layers. Inserted between these two houses is an extremely narrow two-bay brick dwelling. An early double house is the one built by Jesse Franklin in 1843 at 706-708 West Clay Street. The two-story, two-bay-wide brick houses are set on a raised basement with a stepped-gable roof and a massive shared chimney. Other surviving examples are the Robert J. Clarke House and the J. K. Ople House at 718 and 710 West Clay Street, respectively; both of which were constructed in 1845. The J. N. King House, 815 West Clay Street, built in 1859, is a two-story brick dwelling with a shallow stepped-gable roof. The wood porch and house both have heavy wooden cornices with dentils and modillion blocks. The Harry M. Evans House built in 1860 at 729 West Catherine Street has been heavily altered including the demolition of its other half at 731.
Peter Crew built the earliest surviving, frame house in 1844 at 700 West Clay Street. Like its brick contemporaries, it is a two-story, three-bay dwelling with a raised foundation and a shallow-pitched gable roof. In 1849, Mathew Lacy built two houses at 707 and 709 Catherine Street. With the exception of its very tall chimney the house at 707 is a typical two-story frame dwelling of this era. The house at 709, on the other hand, is a rather unique one-story frame cottage with a front gable roof and a shed-roofed wing to the east. A veranda extends the full width of the facade. The Eliza Mosby House was built in 1853 at 709 West Catherine Street. This two-story frame dwelling has a delicate iron veranda. The Reuben Lacy House, built in 1859 at 713 West Clay Street is a two-story frame house with a shallow gabled roof. It has a small portico with square posts. The scalloped cornice noted in Mary Wingfield Scott's files has been removed.
Reconstruction and Growth (1865-1917)
After the area was annexed into the city in 1867, plats for its development were quickly filed. The proposed development reflected the City's established street grid and required that streets be extended, gullies filled and some elevations leveled. The Beers and Baist atlases document the opening of streets across Buchanan's Spring - West Marshall by 1876 and Catherine and West Leigh streets by 1889. The continued industrial growth of the City, especially at the western edge of Carver, resulted in a demand for housing for tradesmen and factory workers. The typical dwellings built in Carver during this period are detached and attached, frame two-story, three-bay, side-hall plan houses with shed roofs. Most have heavily bracketed cornices with decorative vents and full facade porches with turned posts, sawn balusters and brackets. Examples of these houses can be found in the 1300 block of West Clay Street, the 1200 block West Leigh, the 1000 block of West Marshall Street as well as in the 600 block of Hancock, and the 800 and 900 blocks of Kinney.
Row houses were a very popular building type during this era. A particularly fine brick example is the ltalianate row at 919-929 West Clay, built ca. 1870. Each of the six, two-story, three-bay dwellings has a stretcher bond pressed brick facade. The openings are flat arched with smooth stone lintels and sills. The hip-roofed porch spans the entire facade with cast iron posts and a chamfered balustrade. The porch posts are decorated with scrolls, finials, rosettes and other cast-iron ornamentation. The continuous cornice with dentils and decorative vents in the frieze appears to be cast iron, too. The nine-unit row, built ca. 1880, at 1203-1211 West Leigh Street is a representative frame example. These two-story, two-bay, frame dwellings have full facade porches with turned posts, spindle work, sawn brackets and a sawn balustrade. There are transoms over the entry doors and a bracketed cornice with decorative vents on the facade.
The majority of the houses built in Carver during this period are very traditional in form with decorative porches and cornices. However, there are a few examples of fully expressed Queen Anne architecture. The double house at 916-918 West Clay, built ca. 1880, is an exceptional example. This brick, two-story, six-bay, double house has a projecting center block with a front-gable roof. The first story of the projecting center block has two entrances with double-leaf, paneled, wood doors with transoms and decorative lintels. Centered in the projecting block on the second story are two, one-over-four, double-hung, windows separated by a brick pier. A continuous brick arch with a molded metal hood and rosettes at the ends unites the windows. At the second story, the sides of the projecting bay are chamfered and it is topped with a front-gabled roof. The gable is in-filled with a terra cotta, four-petal floral design and a centered half-circle louver. A terra cotta band of alternating square and bulls' eye patterns with wood trim above and below forms the base of the gable and continues across the recessed portions of the facade just below the cornice. Recessed two-bay sections flank the projecting center section. There are two, one-over-one, floor-to-ceiling windows on the first story and two, one-over-one windows with decorative lintels on the second story. The second-story openings have shouldered terra cotta lintels with faces on the keystones and a floral motif on the shoulders. The hip-roofed porch projects at the center bay. The metal cornice consists of an alternating circle and square band topped by a dogtooth band and metal cresting. The ends of the cornice have heavy metal brackets with decorative panels and urns on top.
The largest house in the district, the Rueben T. Hill House, built in 1900 at 1401 West Leigh Street, could easily be called a Queen Anne mansion. The Hill House is a 2 1/2-story dwelling over a raised basement with a brick water table. There is an engaged tower and a two-story bay with a pedimented gable dormer. The windows have granite lintels and sills. The windows on the first story have transoms. There are ornamental terra cotta panels between the first and second stories of the turret. There is a rusticated block retaining wall to the east along Kinney Street that connects the main house to the carriage house. The three-bay, carriage house is constructed of brick laid in a six-course American bond pattern. It has a shed roof, three engaged chimneys and opens onto Kinney Street.
As early as 1819, industrial development began to take place in Carver with the establishment of several brickyards along West Leigh Street near Gilmer. Later larger scale industrial development was clustered in the southwest corner of the district near the Richmond. Fredericksburg and Potomac Railway. One of the few industrial buildings located within the Residential Historic District is Joseph Hepperts Planing Mill, at 901 Catherine Street. Hepperts, built prior to 1880, is a one- and two-story, brick manufacturing facility with its primary entrance on Goshen Street (#512) and a long wing incorporating a loading dock facing Catherine Street. The Goshen Street entrance is composed of a large arched opening with a recessed door in the center. The western end of the earliest portion of the building has a stepped gable. Additions were made ca. 1900 and ca. 1940, most of which utilized concrete block and obscured the northern elevation of the early building.
The years following the Civil War also saw the construction of institutional buildings within the district. Two schools were built in Carver during this era. The Elba School, built in 1880, was demolished in 1955. George Washington Carver Elementary School, at 1110 West Leigh Street, was built in 1887 in the Italianate style. Carver is a two- story, five-bay, brick school building with a raised basement. There is a projecting entry bay with paired doors and windows, segmental arched windows, and a molded wood cornice. The bays are symmetrically arranged and recessed between brick piers with decorative brickwork at the top of each bay.
While a number of churches were established in the Carver community after the Civil War only one, the Moore Street Baptist Church, is still located in the neighborhood. In 1909, the congregation replaced an earlier building with the current sanctuary. The 2 1/2-story, six-bay, brick Gothic Revival-style church has an asymmetrical facade with a bell tower and entrance to the east, a central front gable, and a projecting gabled vestibule to the west. The tower has a crenellated parapet with pinnacles at the corners. The corner buttresses have molded concrete weatherings. There is an arched projecting header course at the entrance. The casement windows have flat rusticated granite lintels and smooth granite sills. There is a pair of louvers with arched four-light transoms. A third large, central, arched window with smaller flanking arched windows is united by a projecting header course. The four basement windows have flat rusticated lintels. The first story has three larger windows with smooth sills and rusticated lintels and a smaller window to the east. The east and west sides have dropped rectangular windows with flat rusticated lintels and smooth sills. A centered granite tablet has the inscription "Moore Street Missionary Baptist Church organized 1875." An adjacent Social Hall was constructed in 1957.
World War I to World War II (1917-1945)
The Carver Residential district was largely developed by 1917 and saw limited new construction during the next thirty years. Residential development for the most part came in the form of apartment buildings constructed on the cross streets. All of these buildings are brick and, with the exception of corbelled brick cornices, are devoid of any strong stylistic influences. Built ca. 1920, 806-810 Norton Street is a two-story, fifteen-bay apartment building with a pressed brick facade. The building is divided into three five-bay sections; each delineated with a firewall. The flat arched window lintels are of rusticated granite. The three porches were originally centered on the entries. Also built in the 1920s, 811-825 Bowe Street is a two-story, twenty-bay, apartment building with a raised foundation. The brickwork is six-course American Bond. There are three two-story, two-bay porches with square posts, horizontal rails, metal steps, boxed cornices and brick piers. The windows have brick jack arches and there are corbeled brick cornices with brick brackets at every two units. Other examples can be seen at 809-819 Harrison Street and 708-714 Kinney Street.
The only other major construction in the district during this period is the Baughman Stationary Building (Biggs Antique Company) built in 1924 at 900 West Marshall Street. This Classical Revival manufacturing facility has a two-story, three-bay by seven-bay office block at the eastern end and a one-story, seven-bay factory wing to the west. The factory wing rises to two stories in height north of the one-story section. Vertical concrete pilasters express the bays. They are set on a concrete base and terminate at another concrete band above which is a cast stone cornice. All of the bays are in-filled with multi-light, steel industrial sash windows except on the first story of the office block where they are in-filled with brick. On the office block there are large molded brackets at the tops of the pilasters, a centered ramped pediment on the parapet, and the entry has a frontispiece of square pilasters and a box cornice. The roof has a boxed cornice just below a ramped parapet. There is a water tower mounted on the two-story portion of the manufacturing plant.
The Carver Residential Historic District in Richmond, Virginia has had many names since the early 1800s, among them Gielston and Sheep Hill. It was not called Carver until the 1940s when the neighborhood school was renamed to honor the African American inventor, George Washington Carver. The area, now known as Carver, originated as part of the extensive holdings of the Byrd family, founders of the City of Richmond. After Byrd's lottery in 1768, the land was controlled for the next forty years by a single family and remained largely undeveloped until the 1840s and 1850s. Carver experienced another building boom in the 1880s and 1900s, in response to the industrialization of the land at the southwestern corner of the district. This wave of construction also saw the building of schools and churches in the community and the slow transition from a racially mixed working class neighborhood to a predominately African American community with strong social institutions and ties to the flourishing Jackson Ward. The later half of the twentieth century did not bode well for the neighborhood. Road construction and commercial and industrial development physically isolated the neighborhood, which was allowed to decay and deteriorate. Since 1980, the neighborhood has been experiencing a renewal resulting from the clearance of blighted areas, the construction of new houses and the renovation of many of the community's historic buildings. Carver is significant because it contains a unique collection of early-nineteenth- and twentieth-century vernacular buildings that were built to house the city's working class.
Colony to Nation (1750-1789)
The town of Richmond, incorporated in 1742, had a population of 250 and occupied 32 blocks that extended east from 17th Street to 25th Street and north from the James River to Broad Street. The powerful Byrd family controlled the land surrounding the town. William Byrd I arrived in Virginia around 1670 and laid claim to 7,351 acres at the mouth of Shockoe Creek. At the time of his death in 1704, his son William II inherited 26,231 acres at the falls of the James. It was William Byrd II who laid out the town of Richmond in 1737 and offered lots for sale. In 1767, faced with surmounting debts from poor business practices and excessive gambling, William Byrd III offered his family's vast holdings in the Richmond area for sale. When nothing came of the offering Byrd and his trustees conceived of a bold plan to sell his holdings in a huge lottery. "There were 10,000 tickets at £5 each, and the prizes included seventeen improved town lots, 10,000 acres laid off in hundred acre lots, ten islands, plus twenty-year leases on mills, fisheries, tobacco warehouses and Patrick Coutts' ferry. The nearly 30,000 acres had a value of £56,796. The drawing was held in Williamsburg in 1768 and disposed of many of Byrd's holdings.
It might be said that the development of Carver began with Byrd's Lottery. One of the winners or "fortunate adventurers" as they were called was James Buchanan who won two of the hundred-acre lots, numbers 795 and 796. Buchanan's new land was located in the western suburbs, on the north side of the Westham Road (Park Avenue), west of Brook Road and south of Bacon Quarter Branch, a western leg of Shockoe Creek. James Buchanan, a civic leader and successful businessmen, had immigrated to Richmond from Scotland in 1757 at the age of twenty. When James Buchanan died in 1787, his brother, Parson John Buchanan, inherited over 500 acres that now spread from Brook to Hermitage Roads and from the Westham Road to Bacon Quarter Branch (encompassing the Carver community). John Buchanan, first immigrated to Richmond with his brother, but he found the mercantile trade unappealing and returned to Scotland to prepare for the ministry. He returned to America by 1775 and to Richmond in 1784 where he served as the rector of St. John's Church until his death in 1822.
Early National Period (1789-1830)
The first two decades of the nineteenth century were marked by the rapid industrialization of the city and the related demand for housing. Between 1790 and 1817, the city's population grew from 3,761 to 14,328 and its boundary extended to the west as far as Belvidere Street. With minor downturns, building and real estate speculation proceeded unchecked until the depression of 1819, the impact of which would be felt well into the 1830s.
The development of Carver parallels the development of the city as a whole. Prior to 1810, the land was still controlled by the Buchanan family and largely undeveloped but the pressures of growth and escalating land values would change that. Buchanan's Spring, a cool and clear running spring, set amid a grove of large trees, served as a gathering place for some of Richmond's most illustrious citizens. It might be regarded as the first "country club" of Richmond. "Here John Marshall and his friends played quoits, and here for many years, the Richmond Light Infantry Blues held their annual outing, always drinking a toast to the long-dead Parson." It was near the spring that Parson Buchanan built his house, "Gielston," at the close of the eighteenth century.
The Richmond Turnpike (Broad Street) was created in 1804 to link the city to the Deep Run coal pits in Goochland County. In addition to easing the transport of goods, the turnpike opened the lands to the west for development and ushered in an era of feverish land speculation. For investors, the most desirable tract was the land held by Parson Buchanan. The Reverend resisted the pressure to sell and ignored the escalating prices for suburban land until 1810 when he began to subdivide his property. The largest single sale, within the present boundaries of Carver, was to John Graham who purchased 150 acres on both sides of the turnpike. Graham in turned divided the land and found buyers for smaller lots. Parson Buchanan also sold a seven-acre tract just west of Gielston to Michael Hancock who built a substantial brick house on the property between 1815 and 1817. The house was later named Elba, a name that would be associated with the Carver community for years to come.
Antebellum Period (1830-1860)
Richmond's economy was jump-started in 1836 with the arrival of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad. Industrial construction led the way followed by the building of modest dwellings for factory workers and small tradesmen on the outskirts of the city. By 1850, there were 30,280 people living in the city and an equal number in the immediate suburbs. Rapid industrial expansion continued throughout the 1850s and 1860s with tobacco, flour and iron in the lead. By 1860, Richmond, the third most affluent city in the nation, had a population of 37,910.
The RF&P railroad cut across the southwestern corner of Carver as it entered the City of Richmond. The impact of its location would be evidenced in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Smith's Map of Henrico County, 1853, shows Broad and Clay streets extending as far west as Lombardy Street. Munford, Gilmer, Goshen, and Hancock ran north and south between Broad and Leigh streets. Elba stopped the westward extension of Marshall at Hancock and brickyards terminated Leigh Street at Gilmer. The northeast corner of the district proved unattractive for residential development because of the rugged terrain and the ravine formed by Bacon Quarter Branch. However, the alluvial lands were most attractive to a growing number of brickyards that were responding to the demand for building materials in the expanding city and its suburbs. Pemberton Lipscomb was operating a brickyard on Bacon Quarter Branch as early as 1819. By 1845, four brickyards were in operation around the corner of Leigh and Gilmer streets - Davis and Sons, William Davis and Sons, W. Ragland, and Carter and Bowles.
During the 1840s and 1850s, "Buchanan's Old Field" was subdivided and the 600, 700 and 800 blocks of Marshall, Clay and Catherine streets were developed with small but attractive brick houses. Perhaps the earliest surviving dwelling in the district is the Hardin Davis house, 808 West Clay Street, built in 1842. Typical of these early buildings, the Davis House is an unpretentious, but rather picturesque two-story brick house with a shallow pitched roof. The brick makers, Glenn and Davis, built several dwellings in the community, including the modest, two-story brick house at 724 West Clay Street. Tradesmen and small business owners occupied these houses, many of which were owned by the same families into the early twentieth century.
Reconstruction and Growth (1865-1917)
As in the rest of the City, little changed in Carver during the war years, 1861 to 1865. However, during the period of Reconstruction and Growth Carver underwent a major transformation. Carver was annexed into the city in 1867, as part of the massive Coutt's Addition, which more than doubled Richmond's land area. Two new wards were created by this annexation and Carver was part of the newly formed Clay Ward. Blacks and immigrants were almost evenly distributed throughout the city's five wards. However, there were predominantly black and white sections within each ward. Clay Ward was 57% white and 43% black in 1870. "In 1866, the Mills & Starke city directory identified eleven 'colored' residents in the 700 and 800 blocks of West Leigh and West Marshall Streets and in the 300 block of Gilmer street." The majority of Carver's black population resided north of Leigh Street towards Bacon Quarter Branch. Well into the first decade of the twentieth century, Clay Street was predominately white, West Marshall Street and the cross streets below Clay were mixed and Leigh and Catherine were principally African American. "The fairly even distribution of blacks throughout the city would change radically after 1870 when many of them were gerrymandered into a single ward." While the newly created Jackson Ward cost black Richmonders much of the political power they had held during Reconstruction, it lead to an increased racial and community consciousness. This in turn lead to the founding of black owned and operated institutions and a growing middle class. Leigh Street was not only the dividing line between Jackson and the other wards but it also became the street where many middle-class African Americans built their homes. One such house was the home of Reuben T. Hill at 1401 West Leigh Street. Mr. Hill was the cashier, the modern equivalent of a Chief Financial Officer, for the Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers. Founded in Richmond in 1881, the True Reformers "grew to become a pint stock company with one hundred thousand members, a bank, department store, a newspaper and an insurance firm." Hill along with John Mitchell, Jr. and Edward A. Randolph began publishing the Richmond Planet in 1883 and he was a member of the Acme Literary Association. Hill's 2 1/2-story, brick and stone. Queen Anne-style house is the largest and grandest house in Carver. It is speculated that the house was designed by John Anderson Lankford, the first African-American to have a professional architectural office in the United States. There is no direct evidence that Lankford designed this house for Reuben Hill but the circumstantial evidence is strong. Lankford is known to have designed three other houses in Richmond for W. L. Taylor, Josiah C. Robertson and D. Webster Davis, all of whom were closely linked to the True Reformers. Taylor was President, Robertson was General Counsel and Davis became its biographer. The Hill House also bears a strong resemblance to a photograph of a "model residence" published by Lankford. Reuben Hill resided in this house until 1915, when he disappeared after embezzling a large sum of money from the True Reformers, a blow from which they never recovered.
The demographic division of the community and its transition from a white to a black neighborhood is reflected in the institutions established there between 1865 and 1917. Two public schools and a private school were built in Carver in the 1880s. The first, Elba School, 1000 West Clay Street, was built as a public school for white students in 1880. The building opened with a student population of 588. Enrollment had diminished to 77 by June 1927. In 1927, the remaining students were transferred to Stonewall Jackson School. Elba School reopened in the fall of 1927 with 340 African American students. In 1955, students in the upper grades were transferred to the new Carver School and only the primary grades remained until the school was abandoned in 1955 and torn down shortly thereafter. Ethel Thompson Overby was the principal at Elba from 1936 to 1950. Ms. Overby implemented many innovative programs during her tenure. She motivated her students to become involved in community affairs and politics and she encouraged them to register to vote. She also managed to feed the student body on a limited budget by having meals prepared at the nearby Maggie Walker High School.
The Moore School or Moore Street School, 1113 West Moore Street, opened in 1887 as a public school for African-American students. The building was enlarged in 1914 to accommodate the growing school population. Enrollment grew from 947 students in 1887 to 1,390 in 1921. A second addition was constructed in 1949. When this new building, facing Leigh Street, was opened in 1949 the school was renamed for George Washington Carver. Another addition was made in 1990 and the school continues to serve the community. It is also believed that it is from the naming of the school that the community also took its name.
Members of a mission organization of the Second Baptist Church established the Moore Street Industrial School, a private institution, in 1878. It was operating as an incorporated institution by 1887. "Among its trustees and instructors were the most prominent blacks in the city, including John Oliver and Robert C. Hobson, who had been leaders during Reconstruction. By 1891 the school had sixty-two enrolled students: the boys learned carpentry and printing, the girls learned to use sewing machines to make clothing for women and children."
In the 1870s, three churches stood in the Carver neighborhood - one for blacks and two for whites. The two white churches, Elba Park M.E. and Clay Street Baptist Church have long since disappeared. By 1876, Elba Park Methodist Episcopal Church, located in the 900 block West Marshall Street, was known as the Marshall Street Christian Church. In the 1950s, the Marshall Street Church merged with Hanover Avenue Christian Church and the building was tom down. Clay Street Baptist Church, 900 West Clay Street, founded prior to 1876 was gone by 1905. The oldest continuing congregation in the community is Moore Street Baptist Church. Members of Second Baptist Church organized Moore Street Baptist Church in March 1875 as Moore Street Missionary Baptist Church. The congregation purchased an old soap factory consisting of three buildings on a lot facing Moore Street between Gilmer and Goshen. The center brick building was used as the church. In 1878 they made improvements to the structure adding galleries and a baptismal pool. In 1901, they tore down a building in front of the church and made more improvements. In 1908, the noise from the Seaboard Airline Railway and the Richmond-Ashland Railway Company caused the congregation to move to their present site. In 1909, they built the current Gothic Revival building at 1408 West Leigh Street. Deacon Robert Jones and the Reverend William Troy were instrumental in organizing this church. Reverend Troy, a student at Virginia Union Theological Seminary, served as pastor from 1875 to 1881.
The 1870s and 1880s also witnessed the industrialization of the southwestern section of the neighborhood. Three events, an 1875 ordinance banning the operation of steam locomotives on Broad Street, RF&P constructing a freight depot in the 1100 block of West Marshall Street in 1879, and a devastating riverfront fire in 1882, all converged to make the Carver vicinity an attractive location for industrial development. The majority of the industries clustered at the southwestern corner outside of the residential area. With the exception of the Williams brickyard on the northside of West Leigh Street in the 800 block all of the other brickyards had disappeared by 1889 and the land was developed for housing. The only other industry to locate within the residential district during this era was Joseph Hepperts Saw and Planing Mill, built prior to 1889 in the 900 block of West Catherine Street. It is believed that Heppert may have provided barrels for the nearby Home Brewery. The original one- and two-story brick building has been encased in concrete block additions over the years.
During the period of Reconstruction and Growth, Carver experienced a major building boom. The majority of the houses still standing in the neighborhood were built between 1865 and 1917. "The Carver area, then referred to as 'Sheep Hill,' was to become one of the most densely populated sections of the city. Plats reflecting Richmond's established grid street patterns were quickly filed for land development. Two of these plans subdivided the area between Broad and Leigh streets, the Graham Plan from Munford to Hancock streets and the Gallstone Plan between Hancock and Bowe streets. By 1846 Graham's Plan had been further subdivided into the Bosher and Harvie subdivision plans. To the north between West Leigh and Moore streets, the large Glazebrook Plan extended between Oak and Bowe streets. This plan was further subdivided by 1889 into the Hazelbrook Tract to the east and the West End Land Company Plan to the west." This development included brick row houses along West Marshall and West Clay Streets and more modest, detached frame dwellings in the rest of the district. Corners were punctuated with brick buildings, many of which were stores.
World War I to World War II (1917-1945)
With the exception of some apartment buildings along Harrison, Kinney, Norton, and Bowe streets, very few residential buildings were constructed. In 1924, Baughman Company - Stationers, built a large manufacturing facility at the corner of West Marshall and Goshen streets. In 1947, they moved their operations to 1418 West Marshall Street and the Biggs Antique Company moved from its showroom and plant on Church Hill to West Marshall Street. The Biggs Antique Company, known as one of the largest users of solid mahogany, had a distinguished reputation as the manufacturers and importers of fine colonial reproduction furniture. Mt. Hermon Baptist Church, now Bethany Baptist Church, was built at the corner of Goshen and Catherine in 1934. Mt. Hermon is a small brick vernacular church with a front gable roof and gothic-arch windows on the sides.
Between the years of 1930 and 1960, the Carver community was identified as a "Negro Neighborhood," one in which African Americans were permitted to live. In 1934, in the early years of City planning, Carver was found to be one of the most densely populated older central city neighborhoods. Very little new construction took place in Carver and the existing housing stock was deteriorating because residents were not able to secure home repair loans and landlords were indifferent to the condition of their properties. Further the City of Richmond's 1943 zoning map encouraged the continued industrialization of the area and discouraged residential development. The 1946 City Master Plan recommended extensive redevelopment in the neighborhood. Despite the dismal picture, a strong community base organized to influence public policy. It has been this tradition of community activism that has helped Carver rebound. In the 1980s the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority worked with residents to create a conservation and redevelopment plan. The plan was approved by City Council in 1986. In 1998, Carver and Virginia Commonwealth University formed a partnership and received a two-year grant from HUD for the purpose of developing a Community Outreach Partnership Center. In 1999, Carver was identified as one of the Neighborhood in Bloom communities, a City program that concentrates federal Community Development Block Grant funds and other monies in areas to achieve the highest impact. It was through this initiative that the historic designation of Carver was undertaken as yet another tool to encourage ongoing revitalization efforts.
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[†]Carver Residential Historic District, nomination form prepared by Chen, Kimberly Merkel, Kimberly M. Chen & Assoc.; 2002, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Street Names: Bowe Street, Catherine Street West, Clay Street West, Gilmer Street, Goshen Street, Hancock Street North, Harrison Street North, Kinney Street, Leigh Street West, Marshall Street West, Mumford Street, Norton Street