Church Hill North
The Church Hill North Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. Text, below, was adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2007, The Gombach Group.
The area in Richmond known as Church Hill North is an example of a remarkably intact mostly nineteenth-century middle-class neighborhood. Bounded on the north and northwest by M Street and Jefferson Avenue, on the east by Twenty-ninth Street, and on the south by the adjacent St. John's Church Historic District, this area includes more than twenty-five blocks of residential, commercial, and institutional buildings, of which more than ninety percent existed before the turn of the century. The area boasts twelve houses built in the Federal style oldest commercial building in the city of Richmond. The scale and materials used throughout Church Hill North are consistent, while the styles vary enough that no one style of architecture dominates. Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Stick, Queen Anne, Classical Revival, Colonial Revival, and Art Deco styles exist side by side in a compatible manner. The similarity of setback and landscaping gives a natural and harmonious rhythm to the neighborhood.
The district contains a total of twelve Federal-style structures that were constructed between 1810 and 1839. These houses are concentrated along 27th Street: 316, 401, 405, 407, 407 1/2, 501, 509, 512-514, 612, 701 North 27th Street, 510 North 29th Street and 2606 East Marshall Street. Typically, these houses are of brick laid in Flemish bond and two-and-a-half stories tall with steep gable roofs, with side-hall plans and three-bay facades.
The oldest structure in the district is the Wills House located at 407 North 27th Street. Built prior to 1812, stylistically it is atypical of the Federal Style as practiced in the city of Richmond. The Wills House is a two-and-a-half story, three-bay, frame house with a high central unit and lower flanking wings. The Wills store, built in 1813, at 401 North 27th Street is typical of Federal Style commercial buildings, a two-story, two-bay, brick building with a steep gable-end roof. The Samuel G. Adams house, built prior to 1814 at 316 North 27th Street, is a two-and-half-story, three-bay, brick house over an English basement with dentil molding at the porch cornice. Two later houses were built respectively by John Parkinson, a clerk at Rocketts, and his brother-in-law, Bartholomew Graves. The Parkinson House at 501 North 27th Street, built before 1819, and the Graves House at 509 North Street of the same period, are typical examples of the Federal style as expressed in Church Hill architecture. Their decorative cornices and front porticoes are delicate in detailing and proportion. The house at 2606 East Marshall Street, built in 1814, is a three-bay, two-and-half story brick house with a single dormer, making this dwelling unique to the Church Hill North district. The Moore House at 612 North 27th Street, built before 1825, is a two-story three-bay frame dwelling with central hall and a raised brick foundation. One house built in the vernacular interpretation of the Federal Style is the Slater House (1834) at 405 North 27th Street, built by John F. Alvey. This two-and-a-half story, two-bay, brick house has delicate detail with triple windows and daisy chain carving on the cornice.
The Greek Revival style clearly was the most popular choice in Church Hill North with many fine examples existing today. Church Hill North contains 200 structures built during the period from 1840 to 1865 and all reflect the influence of Greek Revival Style architecture. These houses are largely frame, two-story side-hall plan structures with steep gable roofs, detailed cornices, massive temple-form front porches, and are built on raised brick foundations.
The twin Richardson Houses at 618 and 620 North 27th Street, built in 1843 and 1847, are the exception. These two houses are built of brick and are excellent examples of the more rectilinear, central-hall-plan Greek Revival house. The Juliet Hundley house (1854) at 502 North 26th Street, the Susannah Walker House (1860) at 503 North 28th Street, and the Charles B. Walker house (1860) at 505 North 28th Street, are frame Greek Revival style houses suggestive in scale and roof line of the Richardson houses built in the mid-1840s.
Another variation of the Greek Revival style house was built on Church Hill North during the years preceding the Civil War. The Sutton House at 411 North 27th Reuben Ford House at 419 North 27th Street, and J. W. Ferguson house at 500 North 26th Street, all built before 1860, exhibit more advanced forms of construction, with shallow hipped roofs and continuous cornices on all four sides. The Temple Form Greek Revival Style was rarely used in the city of Richmond for houses; it was reserved primarily for use in public buildings. The most significant use of the Temple Form Greek Revival Style is the Leigh Street Baptist Church at 523 North 25th Street. The church was designed and built in 1853 by Samuel Sloan, a Philadelphia architect. It must be noted that Leigh Street Baptist was listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Landmarks on individual merit in 1972.
The only temple-form house is the James H. Peay (1860), at 500 North 29th Street. The house is a square, two story, five bay, frame building with a flat roof and a massive central front porch with fluted columns similar to a Greek temple.
Several Greek Revival style double houses located in the district have side-hall plans with stylistic period elements incorporated into roof lines, porches, and cornices. They are two-and-a-half-stories high with gable roofs, a central chimney to serve both halves of the house, and a simple Federal or Greek Revival portico. The Andrew Gentry house at 2605-2607 East Leigh Street (1847), is an example of the several modest pairs of two and three-bay dwellings designed to share a central chimney. The Hiram Oliver house (1846) at 2811-2813 M Street, shares double central chimneys, and has a steep gable roof with a one-bay facade. This house is one of eight Hiram Oliver houses that still exist in Church Hill North.
The J. C. Hudson houses at 2614-2616 and 2618-2620 East Clay Street, built in 1859 and 1855, are two-and-a-half story, three-bay side-hall plan houses with central chimneys and massive Greek Revival porches. Several other fine examples of the double Greek Revival houses are at 2502-2504 East Leigh Street built in 1849, 515-517 North 28th Street built in 1840, and 2712-2714 East Clay Street built in 1855.
The district has an interesting collection of buildings that are transitional in style, as well as examples of Italianate architecture at its simplest. A typical transitional house is the Lewis Doughty House (1860) at 300 North 29th Street. The Doughty House combines elements of both Italianate and Greek Revival styles. The two-and-a-half-story frame structure has a full front veranda ornamented with classical columns and brackets.
The Payne House and the Fuqua House are excellent examples of Italianate at its simplest. Both houses were built in the 1890's, one of wood and the other of brick, and both exhibit characteristics typical of Italianate dwellings found in Church Hill; low roof lines, bracketed eaves, porches that extend the full width of the house decorated with turned posts and brackets, windows that extend from floor to ceiling, and double front doors that open onto a generous side stair hall.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the double house still retained its side-hall plan, but was two stories in height and carried all the decorative elements of the Italianate style. These dwellings are built of frame with two-and three-bay facades, heavy bracketed cornices and ornate porches with decorative elements. The porches have turned or chamfered posts with brackets, elaborate friezes, and turned balustrades.
One other Italianate house at 521-523 North 29th Street shares a two-and-one-half-story central square tower topped by a pyramid hipped roof. Constructed in 1860, this speculative house was among the last dwellings constructed in the area before the Civil War.
Second Empire and Stick Styles
Second Empire style buildings are found throughout the district. The 2300 block of East Marshall Street illustrates the simple use of slate mansard roofs, a characteristic feature of the Second Empire style, without any additional stylistic embellishments.
Four excellent examples of Stick-style architecture are the Billups houses at 601-603 North 27th and 2708-2710 East Leigh Street . All four structures were built by the Billups family as rental property between 1888 and 1890. Typical of the style, they are of frame construction with projecting two-story bays and simply ornamented recessed porches.
The Colonial Revival style houses found in the 2800 block of East Leigh Street are typical and notable. The Masonic Lodge on the southwest corner of Leigh and Twenty-fifth Streets, and the Deliverance Tabernacle on the northwest corner of Marshall and Twenty-fifth Streets, are good examples of the Classic Revival style as expressed in commercial architecture in North Church Hill. The Masonic Lodge, an austere example is reminiscent of the Greek Revival temple-form and reflects the composition and symmetry stressed in the teachings of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The Deliverance Tabernacle, complete with a curved entrance, flanking columns and a cartouche above the front door, is an excellent example of the Classic Revival style at its simplest.
Vernacular houses are scattered throughout the Church Hill North area. Most of these houses have low roof lines, shed roofs, bracketed cornices, floor-to-ceiling windows on the ground level and porches embellished with eaves, turned posts, and spindle friezes extending across the full front of the house. They are primarily built of wood with a few brick exceptions.
The gradual slope of East Marshall was developed with a row of five attached Queen Anne houses located in the 2200 block. The row-houses are frame with German-siding and two-story bays. The one-over-one sash suggests the era and time of construction due to newer techniques. The 2300 and 2800 blocks of East Marshall contain good examples of Second Empire style houses built in attached rows. All have false mansard roofs two-story, three-bay turret bay windows, and have Eastlake porches.
Several examples of the Classic Revival style are the Deliverance Tabernacle Church at 400 North Twenty-Fifth Street, the Masonic Temple at 418 North Twenty-Fifth Street, and the brick and stone Classic Revival style Billups Funeral Home at 2500 East Marshall Street.
The only example of the Art Deco-style is the theater at 418 North Twenty-Fifth Street.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Church Hill North began its slow development as a neighborhood of middle-class merchants and tradesmen, many of whom either were involved in the tobacco trade, or were associated with businesses in the vicinity of Rocketts, the nearby port of Richmond. The dwellings these residents built reflected their station in Richmond society. Solid but modest citizens, their homes often expressed the vernacular and transitional flavor of various nineteenth-century architectural styles.
With the end of the Civil War and the annexation of Church Hill North by the city of Richmond, the land surrounding much of the older homes, was filled in with rowhouses built in the latest styles. For that reason, examples of Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival styles exist in close proximity with each other. By the turn of the century, the area was largely developed and with the potential for further growth at an end, Church Hill North reached its zenith of stability. While it remained a viable community into the next century, Richmond's expansion to the west helped to trigger its eventual decline. It is perhaps this westward expansion of Richmond that allowed Church Hill North to survive the twentieth century largely unscathed by intrusive modem construction.
The intact and substantial amount of historic architectural fabric supports nomination of the district under criterion C.
North of Richmond's St. John's Church Historic District is the adjacent neighborhood known today as Church Hill North. The area is distinctly different in building material construction from the portion of Church Hill that surrounds Richmond's oldest and most historic church. It is, nevertheless, one of Richmond's most interesting neighborhoods. Both Mary Wingfield Scott and Paul S. Dulaney, two noted historians of Richmond architecture, explained that as a neighborhood, Church Hill extended far north of Broad Street. In his book, The Architecture of Historic Richmond, Dulaney included a man of historic neighborhoods which depicts M Street as the northern boundary of Church Hill. Michael W. Gold, the former managing director of the Historic Richmond Foundation, after much research into the population patterns and architecture of the area, suggested the following about the boundaries for Church Hill:
Twenty-first Street and Jefferson Avenue, M Street to the alley between Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eighth and South to Leigh Street to Thirty-first Street, then south to Libby Hill.
Thus, with the exception of the four blocks lying north along Leigh Street, which both Scott and Gold place in a separate neighborhood commonly known as Shed Town, Church Hill North accounts for the remainder of that portion of historic Church Hill not located in the St. John's Church Historic District, which is adjacent to and directly south of this area.
Historically, both sections of Church Hill shared a similar beginning. In 1737, when Major William Mayo laid out Richmond's original grid system of 32 squares, St. John's Church occupied the northeastern portion of that grid, while "to the north and east, large tracts of land were reserved for suburban 'villa' establishments." In 1769, the year in which the western part of Richmond was annexed, Isaac Coles, the only inhabitant of Church Hill, sold his holdings in the area, along with large parcels of land northeast of Church Hill, to Col. Richard Adams. Sometime around 1787, Adams divided his land, called Spring Garden, into several lots and shortly thereafter, when Virginia's capital was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond, Adams lobbied the governor, Thomas Jefferson, in an attempt to secure the location of the new capitol on his property. Adams was unsuccessful in his bid, and "up to 1809 Church Hill was still largely an Adams settlement." Still, Adams continued to believe that Richmond would expand to the east. In order to promote the development of his property, he maintained the grid street system that Mayo had begun.
After Adams's death, his heirs began selling off his vacant property for construction. By 1812, the earliest house remaining in Church Hill North was built at 407 North 27th Street by Charles Wills. A ship's captain, Wills owned the entire block upon which he constructed numerous outbuildings. None survive except the grocery store he built on the edge of his property at 401 North 27th Street. Constructed no later than 1815, this structure is believed to be Richmond's oldest commercial building.
It was during this early period that the differences in socio-economic status and dwelling types between the two neighborhoods in Church Hill began to develop. Contemporary with the Wills House in Church Hill North was the Adams-Van Lew House, which stood at 2311 East Grace Street in St. John's Church Historic District. Although demolished in 1911, the Adams-Van Lew House was an impressive residence built in 1801 by John Adams, a mayor of Richmond and the son of Richard Adams. In the 1830's the Federal-style structure was enlarged and embellished by John Van Lew until it became possibly the finest house in Church Hill, rivaling many of Richmond's best homes in its elegance. During the nineteenth century, many houses built throughout Church Hill were roughly equivalent in style and importance, but it is this early absence of the truly imposing residential buildings that underscores the differences in the two neighborhoods. Church Hill North would never claim citizens as wealthy as John Van Lew, and it would never boast houses as magnificent as the Adams-Van Lew House, or its rivals in Richmond's Court End. Instead, it would remain a neighborhood of "small tradesmen, most of whom owned their homes." As the century progressed, these middle-class residents introduced another distinction that separated the two neighborhoods; the choice of wood rather than brick as the preferred building material would emphasize the social and economic differences that separated the two neighborhoods.
Following the lead of Charles Wills, building continued at a steady pace over the next five years, and a total of twelve structures remain today that were constructed before the Panic of 1819. Typically, these houses are of brick laid in Flemish bond, and are two-and-a-half stories tall with steep gable roofs. They have side-hall plans and three-bay-wide facades. Two of these earliest houses, 501 and 509 North 27th Street, were built respectively by John Parkinson, a clerk at Rocketts, and his brother-in law, Bartholomew Graves.
By 1819, the city directory reveals that 26 citizens lived in this portion of Church Hill, and a tavern, kept by Archer Meanly, was listed between Leigh and M Streets on 30th Street. Unfortunately, no trace of this early public building exists today.
Although the building trade virtually collapsed in the years immediately following the Panic of 1819, Mary Wingfield Scott suggests that Richmond's eastern suburb, where land was cheap and taxes were lower than in the city, continued to see an occasional new building. At least one house, the Moore House at 612 North 27th Street, appears to have been built before 1825, while another house, the Slater House at 405 North 27th Street, was built in 1835 by local builder John F. Alvey. These were two of the few houses in Richmond constructed during those lean years. Both dwellings were built in a vernacular Federal style.
By the beginning of the 1840's, Richmond was well on the road to economic recovery. The coming of the railroad and the related expansion of the iron industry brought new citizens to Church Hill North. As the area became more crowded, builders filled in surrounding space with more houses. A good example is the Greek Revival-style house at 2706 East Clay, which was built essentially in the back of the Parkinson House at 501 North 27th for Mr. Parkinson's daughter. The attached houses at 2605 and 2607 East Leigh Street, built around 1847, are a good example of the several modest pairs of two- and three-bay dwellings designed to share a central chimney. Buildings of this sort indicate the extent to which speculative housing construction had become the norm in antebellum Church Hill North. By the late 1850's, at least one large-scale builder, Hiram Oliver, was active in the neighborhood. Listed in various Richmond directories as the manager of T.C. Williams, a tobacco manufacturer, and the first treasurer of the neighborhood Masonic lodge, Oliver continued to build speculative houses in Church Hill North. In her book, Old Richmond Neighborhoods, Mary Wingfield Scott pays tribute to the quality of Oliver's work in Church Hill and gives reference to his attached houses at 2813 and 2815 M Street, built in 1846. It is believed that eight of Hiram Oliver's houses still exist in Church Hill North.
In addition to attached houses dating from the 1840's, Church Hill North has a good number of detached single-family houses that were not built as speculative properties. A number of them are all the more remarkable for the length of residency of the original owners. J. W. Ferguson, who built the frame two-story Greek Revival-style house at 500 North 26th Street in 1854, lived at this address for over thirty years. The Richardson family, who built the virtually identical Greek Revival-style houses at 618 and 620 North 27th Street in 1843 and 1847, respectively, retained ownership of the house at 618 until 1913. H. A. Atkinson, who built 625 North 26th Street in 1856, remained at this address until the mid-1880's. Interestingly, both Ferguson and Atkinson seemed to be conscious of the name of the neighborhood in which they lived, for they added to their addresses in the 1855 edition of Butler's Directory the two words "Church Hill." At that time, their part of Church Hill was still located in Henrico County.
The taste for Greek Revival-style homes seems to have been very pervasive in northern Church Hill through the last decade before the Civil War. Mary Wingfield Scott suggests that in the suburbs east and north of the city, houses continued to be built on older models. The Susannah Walker House at 503 North 28th Street, a frame Greek Revival-style house built in 1860, is more suggestive in its scale and its gable roof line of the Richardson houses built in the mid-1840's. A few houses such as the Sutton House at 411 North 27th, the Reuben Ford House at 419 North 27th Street, and the Peay House at 500 North 29th Street, all exhibit shallow hipped roofs with continuous cornices on all four sides of the structure. The only other late antebellum house in northern Church Hill that was built in any style other than Greek Revival is the Italianate-style rowhouse built to resemble a villa at 521 and 523 North 29th Street. Constructed in 1860, this speculative house is among the last dwellings constructed before the Civil War. The simplicity of design of these speculative houses suggests a lack of sophistication on the part of the builder, and at least one writer implies that most of the residents of the area at this time were simple country folk.
At least one resident of the area, Reuben Ford, was progressive enough to be associated with the finest example of Greek Revival architecture in Church Hill North. He was the first rector of the nearby Leigh Street Baptist Church, which was built in 1853 at the corner of Leigh and 25th Streets. Designed by Samuel Sloan of Philadelphia, this building is individually listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to being the most remarkable structure in Church Hill, this building boasts the most extensive use of decorative ironwork in the neighborhood as well. The iron stair rail is credited to Asa Snyder while a portion of the iron fence was moved in 1938 from the Jaquelin Taylor Row at Capitol Square to where it now stands in front of the wing that was added to the church in 1911.
On the eve of the American Civil War, Church Hill was one of Richmond's largest middle-class neighborhoods, an area which one Richmond newspaper described as combining the advantages of town and country. Church Hill North was still a part of neighboring Henrico County at that time. Although no other reference can be found to substantiate his claim, Samuel Mordecai suggests that this was not for want of trying on the part of Richmond. At this time, Church Hill North was greatly isolated from much of Richmond, a fact often overlooked today. Antebellum writers such as Mordecai describe the irregularity of Church Hill terrain. and suggest that the only dependable access to Church Hill was up to 25th Street. Mary Wingfield Scott relates that even this route was not without its hazards.
Neighboring Union Hill was not connected to Church Hill North by numerous thoroughfares as it is today, and the most cursory examination of the Michie Map of 1867 reveals that streets such as Clay and Leigh actually terminated on both sides of the neighborhood. To the north and east of Church Hill North, much of what is today the city of Richmond was uninhabited farm land. Only the neighboring portion of Church Hill to the south was more developed. Of this antebellum neighborhood, an estimated 90 structures remain today in Church Hill North. Regrettably, much is gone, including the two communities of free blacks which existed at that time. The community in the 2100 block of East Marshall Street disappeared before the end of the last century, while the second, located in the northeast corner of this neighborhood, was replaced by the George Mason Urban Renewal Area in the 1970's. It is important to note that references, such as Mary Wingfield Scott, suggest that apparently no prejudices existed at that time against a black resident living wherever he could afford to build or rent.
During the Civil War, the residents of northern Church Hill North focused on needs more pressing than expansion and growth. For this reason, the Michie Map of 1867 is probably a true representation of what antebellum Church Hill resembled, as far as the numbers and location of structures might indicate. However, in his text, Richmond After the War, 1865-1890, Michael B. Chesson states that Church Hill had five times as many stores in 1867 as before the war. After the war came annexation in February 1867, Richmond's first in over half a century, and a few years later Broad Street hill was finally paved as a second entrance into the neighborhood. With the rebuilding of Richmond came continued growth from within for established areas such as Church Hill North. A comparison of the F. W. Beers map of 1876 and the earlier Michie Map reveals a flurry of new construction during the 1870's, and Mary Wingfield Scott explains that the tendency was to fill up the big yards of the much older dwellings. Chesson suggests that annexation not only brought much needed money into the city's coffers, but was also done to relieve the crowded housing conditions in the older sections of Richmond, many of which had been burned at the end of the Civil War. 
Several new names appeared upon the scene at that time — Edwin Cannon, Armistead Neal, Lafayette Billups, E. C. Pleasants — all builders after the war. Other names continued to remain associated with speculation in the area, such as Hiram Oliver and the Richardson family. These developers, and numerous private individuals built the bulk of what can be found in Church Hill North today; an estimated 75 percent of all buildings in Church Hill North were constructed between 1862 and 1900. Most of these houses have low roof lines, bracketed eaves, floor-to-ceiling windows on the ground level, and porches embellished with turned posts, and spindle friezes.
They are abundant throughout north Church Hill North, and with a few exceptions, were built of wood, a contrast to the many brick houses that were built in neighboring St. John's Church Historic District at that time.
Despite the depression of the mid-1870's, Richmond continued to revive as a commercial and manufacturing center, with over 7,000 employed in the burgeoning tobacco industry alone. During that time, an extensive tunnel under Church Hill was built by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway to connect with its port terminus at nearby Rocketts Landing. A decade later, the ravine separating Church Hill and Union Hill was filled and graded, and Church Hill Avenue, now Jefferson Avenue, was constructed. Originally designed as a wide, fashionable boulevard for larger homes, the potential of this street was never realized, having been completely eclipsed by its contemporary, Monument Avenue.
Still, housing continued to be built, with rowhouses becoming popular in the 1880's and 90's. In 1884 the gradual slope of East Marshall Street was developed with a row of five attached Queen Anne-Style houses located in the 2200 block. During the 1880's and 90's the last large tracts of available land were subdivided into lots for homes. In 1894 the occupants of the Adams-Picket Cemetery located in the 2300 block of East Marshall Street were disinterred and moved to a more fitting resting place in Hollywood Cemetery. A row of nine Second Empire-style houses was built in its place. It was also during this time that the last house occupying a half city block, the home of Cornelius Lipscomb, was demolished and replaced by a row of houses in the 2800 block of East Marshall Street, also built in the Second Empire style. Also, the vacant land belonging to Mrs. F. H. Baptist and Edwin Cannon in the 3000 block of East Marshall Street gradually began filling up with rowhouses built in a similar style. Apparently, it also became popular to remodel older frame structures employing the latest styles, but actually concealing their antebellum origins.
Recently, a study of entries in the Hill Directory was conducted on 50 houses located in the neighborhood. The houses selected were typical restored homes of varying ages and styles. The insight into late-nineteenth-century and turn-of-the-century Church Hill North was immense; all of the 50 houses were in place by 1895. While some families such as the Parkinsons, Fergusons, Moores, Richardsons, Olivers, and Atkinsons were still in the neighborhood in the 1880's, only the Richardsons, and thereafter newcomers such as W. A. O. Coles and the Billupses, were still in place by 1900. The Fergusons had become affluent enough to move to a better part of Church Hill, while the Atkinsons had moved to the city's prestigious Gamble Hill neighborhood. Resident servants, black or otherwise, while common in the 1880's disappear from the entries by 1900. Also by 1900, the number of black residents began to decline, while at the same time ethnic surnames, such as Comoli, occasionally occur in the entries. Interestingly, what is known about the population of Church Hill North in the 1890s confirms that six percent of the adult male population were foreign born, and 28 percent were black. The remaining adult males were white and native born.
As stated earlier, more than 90 percent of all structures existing today in Church Hill North were in place by 1900. With the exception of a few multi-unit apartment complexes built after 1950, most early- to mid-twentieth-century construction was either commercial or institutional in nature, and the bulk of it can be found on either East Marshall Street or North 25th Street. Examples include the Classical Revival-style American Bank, now Deliverance Tabernacle, at 400 North 25th Street; the Masonic Temple at 418 North 25th Street; the Art Deco-style Patrick Henry Theater at 418 North 25th Street; and the brick and stone Colonial Revival-style Billups Funeral Home at 2500 East Marshall Street. Of these buildings, only the funeral home and the Masonic Temple still serve the function for which they were originally built. Other interesting structures dating from this century include the instructional wing that was added to the Leigh Street Baptist Church in 1911, the Chimborazo Middle School in the 3000 block of East Marshall street, built in the early 1960's, and the Asbury United Methodist Church at 324 North 29th street, constructed in 1968 to replace the original St. James Methodist Episcopal Church that was built in 1887.
Writers of twentieth-century Richmond describe this period as one of decline for Church Hill. The antebellum neighborhood, which 50 years earlier had been described as middle class, was electing citizens of humbler station to public office at the turn of the century. The study of the Hill reveals that many of the larger houses in Church Hill North had been subdivided into apartments by 1930. By 1950, the time of the publication of Mary Wingfield Scott's book, Old Richmond Neighborhoods, the author refers to Church Hill as having "sunk to near slum condition." Church Hill, having been so close to the center of Richmond, suffered when Richmond's center moved west. Perhaps, it was this shifting of interest that also saved Church Hill from massive demolition and reconstruction in the twentieth century.
Just as the history of Church Hill North did not end at the turn of the century when growth had reached its peak, it also did not end in the 1950's. In the 1960's and 1970's, urban renewal introduced the concept of demolition and infill housing that removed all traces of most of neighboring Shed Town, including the houses of free blacks that had existed there as early as the 1830's. At that time, the population began leaving Church Hill North as well. The associated census tract dropped from 4,613 in 1960 to 1,996 by 1980. In the 1980's an attempt to stabilize the neighborhood was undertaken by Historic Richmond Foundation. That organization, which had been so successful in launching a restoration pilot block in the St. John's Church Historic District, purchased more than 30 houses in Church Hill North with the intention of reselling them for restoration to resident home owners.
In order to inspire proper restoration, the deed to each house carried with it design controls governing the restoration of the structure, as well as mutual covenants binding both the owner and the Historic Richmond Foundation to support the creation of historic districts in the area on the state, federal and local levels. Due to Historic Richmond Foundation's initial activity, more than 200 properties have been restored in Church Hill North since 1983, mostly by white and black first-time homeowners who have decided to look to the past in making their homes.
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† Collett, David, and Smith, Isabel M., Church Hill North Historic District, nomination document, 1996, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.