The Hermitage Road Historic District (3800-4200 blks of Hermitage Rd.) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. [‡]. See also: D. Wiley Anderson, Architect/Inventor (1864-1940).
The Hermitage Road Historic District is a four-block section of Hermitage Road, a north-south thoroughfare in Richmond, Virginia. Situated to the northwest of Richmond's central business district and just south of the Henrico County line, the district is roughly bound by Laburnum Avenue on the south and Westbrook Avenue on the north. It extends from the 3800 block to the 4200 block of Hermitage Road and includes 3801-4219 on the east and 3800-4204 on the west. It also includes the A. Linwood Holton Elementary School at 1600 Laburnum Avenue, as well as the house at 1630 Pope Avenue, which fronts Hermitage Road. The Hermitage Road Historic district developed between the late 1800s and early 1900s, starting out as an enclave of elegant country estates built for Richmond's wealthy and prominent families and evolving into an upper and middle-class suburban neighborhood. Residential architecture accounts for the majority of its properties and includes both high style and more modest dwellings of the Late Victorian, Revival, and American movement styles.
As the northern extension of Richmond's Boulevard, Hermitage Road runs north to Westbrook Avenue, where it crosses over Interstate 95 and continues north into Henrico County as Lakeside Avenue. Just above the district's northern boundary at Westbrook Avenue is Bryan Park, a 175-acre park that was dedicated to the city by Belle Stewart Bryan and her family in 1909. At the southern boundary of the district at Laburnum Avenue is a granite and bronze monument dedicated to General A.P. Hill in 1887. A stone archway known as the Bellevue Arch, erected in 1894, sits in the center of the district at the intersection of Bellevue and Pope Avenues. A stone monument with a bronze plaque is at the southern end of the district at the intersection of Westbrook and Hermitage, commemorating the outer ring of Civil War defense for the City of Richmond. (Note: it is one of a collection of 59 generally known as the "Freeman Markers".) In addition there are two concrete boundary markers on Bellevue Avenue marking the City of Richmond's 1914 annexation of 12.21 acres of Henrico County - one located at 4101 and the other at 4016 Hermitage Road.
Hermitage Road is a one hundred-foot wide, tree-lined boulevard, with sidewalks, early twentieth-century street lamps and dwellings that are situated on spacious lots with deep setbacks. Running down the center of the boulevard is a landscaped median, created in 1929 to replace the tracks of Richmond's Lakeside Streetcar Line. Today, the breaks along the median where the streetcar once stopped still remain. Radiating out to the east and west of the streetcar line, three planned suburbs were developed. To the west, the Rosedale neighborhood runs along Hermitage Road from just below Laburnum Avenue on the south to Westbrook Avenue on the north, and it extends west to what is now Interstate 95. To the east, the Virginia Place and Bellevue Park neighborhoods were platted between Hermitage Road on the west and Brook Road on the east. Virginia Place extends from Laburnum Avenue on the south to Bellevue Avenue on the north. Bellevue Park runs from Bellevue Avenue on the south to Westbrook Avenue on the north. Today, these two neighborhoods are collectively known as Bellevue.
The Hermitage Road portion of Rosedale was laid out in 1909 into forty-four rectilinear lots situated along Hermitage Road. Ranging in size from 100 to 200 feet wide by 300 feet deep, the lots were platted such that the width of the lots faced Hermitage Road and their depths extended to an alley behind them. The area west of Hermitage Road, Rosedale, was laid out sometime later in a curvilinear pattern, its streets characterized by curved lines as opposed to straight lines. Bellevue Park was platted in 1912, and its streets also followed topographical features, with the lots along Hermitage Road situated in the same fashion as Rosedale's. Virginia Place was laid out in 1911 in a rectilinear grid pattern with the lots along Hermitage Road platted in the same fashion as Rosedale and Bellevue Park, although the houses in the 3800 block on the east side were constructed at an angle to the street.
The lots in these three neighborhoods range in size, with the smallest lots in Virginia Place and the largest lots in Rosedale. Bellevue Park's lots are slightly smaller than Rosedale's, averaging 150 wide by 250 feet deep. Virginia Place's lots average 55 feet wide by 200 feet deep. The setbacks are 50 feet in Rosedale and Bellevue Park and 35 feet in Virginia Place. Most of the lots along Hermitage Road have spacious front yards, driveways and entry sidewalks that lead to the front doors. Horseshoe driveways are typical for the high-style dwellings.
The two primary crossroads on Hermitage Road are Laburnum Avenue and Bellevue Avenue, both of which pre-date the Rosedale, Bellevue Park and Virginia Place neighborhoods. Westbrook Avenue and several secondary roads extend out from either side of Hermitage Road providing access into the neighborhoods. Pope Avenue runs northeast from the Bellevue Park neighborhood on the south to Crestwood Road on the north.
The Hermitage Road Historic District retains a diverse collection of upper and middle-class residential architecture. The majority of the district's properties still serve as single-family residences. Four former dwellings now serve as the New Community School, and one has been converted to a commercial land office. The Thirteen Acres farmhouse at 3801 Hermitage serves as a special education public school. Of the non-residential buildings in the district, one is the St. Albans Anglican Church, which was erected in the 1960s; another is the A. Linwood Holton Elementary School, which was built on the Thirteen Acres property in 1999 in front of the Thirteen Acres house; the Scottish Rite Temple at 4204 Hermitage was built in the 1960s. These three buildings are non-contributing resources. The district represents the full range of domestic architectural styles and building forms popular during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and it illuminates the full range of expression of these styles to meet the needs of an economically diverse population. Several excellent specimens of late nineteenth century high style Late Victorian and Colonial Revival estates sit harmoniously with the more modest upper and middle-class dwellings of the early twentieth century. A variety of architectural styles are represented, but the Colonial Revival style clearly dominates, appearing on twenty-six of the district's residences. Less prevalent styles include Queen Anne, Richardsonian Romanesque, Italian Renaissance Revival, Tudor Revival, Craftsman and Prairie.
Uniting the district's architecture is the prevalence of the Colonial Revival style and the shared eclecticism and common elements of the variant architectural styles. Elaboration typically appears at the entrances, windows and cornices, yet each house has its own unique blend of stylistic detailing. Single-story, full-width entry porches with classical columns are as common as pedimented porticos and pedimented or curved door molds. There is a fairly even mix of centered and off-center entry doors. Glazed sidelights, transoms and fanlights, although less common, appear on several of the dwellings. Windows are predominantly double-hung, multi-pane sash, but vary in size, type and placement and include paired windows, three-part windows, and single windows. Wide eaves with exposed rafters or decorative brackets are as common as modillioned or dentiled cornices.
The building forms along Hermitage Road are predominantly rectangular in plan, center-passage, and double-pile dwellings of three and five bays with hipped or side-gable roofs. Ranging from one and a half to three stories high, two story dwellings are most common and account for over half of the houses on Hermitage Road. Typical of Colonial Revival architecture, side porches, side wings, and/or port cocheres are present on nearly half of the district's resources. Outbuildings such as garages, guest cottages and carriage houses are common, especially among the larger, high style estate homes. A small number of American Four Square and Bungalow plans are also present along Hermitage Road. These are found with Colonial Revival, Craftsman and Prairie School stylistic detailing. Although variant in type and style, dormers are another prevalent feature, appearing on nearly half of the district's dwellings, and chimneys appear on nearly all dwellings. A variety of cladding materials are present, but brick is the most common building material, and it appears in stretcher, common, Flemish and English bonds. Stucco is the second most common material, and it is typically found on the Italian Renaissance style buildings. A small number of dwellings are clad in weatherboard, and half-timbering with brick or stone and stucco is found on the Tudor Revivals.
Several important dwellings are located in the Hermitage Road Historic District. These are high style, architect-designed residences of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and include the work of D. Wiley Anderson. A prominent architect practicing in Richmond's Northside during this time period, Anderson frequently designed Late Victorian and Colonial Revival-style structures, but was popular for his eclectic combination of these styles. One of the purest examples of his Late Victorian architecture is Holly Lawn, a Queen Anne dwelling that dates to 1900. Located at 4015 Hermitage Road, it is a three-story structure with a compound form and an irregularly shaped roof. Its stylistic details include a buff colored brick facade with decorative detailing, fishscale slate roof shingles, polygonal towers, and roof finials. An extremely well preserved example of Anderson's work, Holly Lawn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Originally built for Andrew Bierne Blair, it was also the home of Ennion G. Williams, a prominent Richmond physician, and the property later served as the home of the Richmond Council of Garden Clubs from 1969 until 1993.
Another example of Anderson's Late Victorian architecture is Montrose, which is located at 4104 Hermitage Road and was built for the Edmund Strudwick family. Dating to 1898, it is a Richardsonian Romanesque high style dwelling. A three-story, four-bay structure, it has a mansard roof with parapeted cross-gables. The only one of its kind on Hermitage Road, it is characterized by ashlar stonework, battlements and Romanesque arches.
This structure is also significant because it was the threat of its destruction in 1988 that rallied the community to create a local historic district to protect the architecture along Hermitage Road. An excellent example of the eclectic style Anderson is known for is Rosedale, which is located at 4016 Hermitage Road and the estate for which the Rosedale neighborhood was named. Combining the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles, Anderson juxtaposed a complex Queen Anne building form and roof form against a four-bay facade that gives the impression of Colonial Revival symmetry and embellished it with Colonial Revival detailing. Designed for John Pope, a prominent Richmond businessman and real estate development partner with Lewis Ginter, it dates to 1897. Pope died before he could move in, and Rosedale's first owner was Anton Thierman, who was also one of Lewis Ginter's associates.
An example of Anderson's more pure Colonial Revival architecture is located at 4106 Hermitage Road. Known as Shadyhurst, it dates to 1899 and was originally the home of J. Clements Shafer, a private secretary to Lewis Ginter. In 1915 J. Lee Davis, a Richmond businessman and real estate developer who eventually bought and developed Bellevue Park, purchased the property. Characterized by a large wrap-around shed-roof porch supported by slender, squared columns, it has a standing seam metal roof and a modillioned cornice. The home originally had six bedrooms, two bathrooms, a three-room servant's cottage, a stable, and carriage house. A part of the carriage house was later converted to a garage to house automobiles used by the Davis family. Of the outbuildings original to the property, only the servant's cottage remains today.
In addition to Anderson's designs are four other significant estates. Two of these are very similar in style to Anderson's eclectic work. The Oaks, which dates to 1909, is located at 4010 Hermitage Road. Wrenford, which is located at 4102 Hermitage Road and dates to 1896, is the work of architect Walter R. Higham; an intact carriage house and a Sunday carriage house are included on this property. Both of these properties combine the complex building and roof forms of the Queen Anne style with the symmetry of Colonial Revival. The Oaks design uses mainly Colonial Revival detailing, whereas Wrenford employs both Queen Anne and Colonial Revival style detailing.
Located at 4211 Hermitage Road is Willowbrook, an Italian Renaissance style estate that is now home to the New Community School. A two-story compound structure with flanking one-story side-wings, overhanging eaves with decorative brackets and a Spanish tile roof, it was built in 1925 for the J. Lee Davis family. The estate also includes a barn, a garage, and a gazebo. At 4002 Hermitage Road is Edgewood, the oldest structure in the district. A simple Queen Anne style house with a carriage house, it dates to the 1870s and was purchased in 1889 by Lewis Ginter, a prominent Richmond businessman and real estate developer. Ginter used Edgewood for his land office and to house his bachelor workers. He later deeded the property as a wedding gift to C.T. Watkins, a landscape engineer for Ginter, who had lived at Edgewood while a bachelor. Interestingly, Edgewood's present use as an office for the G & A Land Company is similar to Ginter's use for the property.
The Hermitage Road Historic District embodies the archetypal characteristics of an early twentieth century residential suburban development. It is set along a wide tree-lined boulevard, and its spacious landscaped lots with deep setbacks and stately homes create a vista that conjures images of decades past. The district's diverse collection of suburban residential architecture is extremely well preserved, and it possesses a high degree of integrity from the period of significance. Most of the dwellings are in excellent condition and show little or no signs of modification. Except for some door and roof replacements, there is little evidence of any other modifications, and most of the structures are unaltered by additions. Much of the exterior cladding is original, and the slate and tile roofs are in excellent condition. Additionally, with the exception of six buildings, all of the resources are being used in their original capacity. The district has not been tarnished by commercial development, nor have the lots been further subdivided from their original plans. Finally, although twelve structures were erected between 1951 and 1965, their Minimal Traditional and Colonial Revival styling fits harmoniously with the original character of the neighborhood, and they were erected with compatible set backs and orientation on lots that were originally planned for by the early developers of these neighborhoods. The apartment complex in the 3800 block was built in the 1970s in the Colonial Revival style, and its developer also respected the deep setbacks planned for by Ginter and Pope. The most recent structure built on Hermitage Road is the A. Linwood Holton Elementary School constructed on the Thirteen Acres property in 1999 adjacent to the 1885 Thirteen Acres house (3801 Hermitage Road). Though distinctly modern in style, its size, massing, scale, materials and deep set back are compatible with the other properties in the district.
The Hermitage Road Historic District is located in Richmond, Virginia, in the city's Northside planning district. Hermitage Road is a wide boulevard, once used as a military route during the Civil War, and its path cuts through three planned suburban neighborhoods: Rosedale, Bellevue Park and Virginia Place. The district is an excellent example of Richmond's late nineteenth and early-twentieth-century streetcar suburbs. Developed from the mid 1890s through the 1930s, this district evolved from an enclave of elegant country estate homes into a thriving upper and middle class residential suburb. The Hermitage Road Historic District is significant under Criterion A in the area of Community Planning and Development. Its distinctive mix of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century suburban residential dwellings makes it significant under Criterion C, Architecture, as does its association with the prominent Richmond architect, D. Wiley Anderson, who designed four of the district's residences. Its period of significance extends from 1885, date of the first resource, until 1938, date of the last planned development.
Until the twentieth century, the land that makes up what is now Richmond's Northside was part of southern Henrico County. Henrico, one of the original eight counties of Virginia, was founded in 1634, and included the settlement of Richmond. Situated at the fall line of the James River, Richmond was chartered as a town within Henrico County in 1742. Several expansions between 1742 and 1780 increased the area of the city. In 1780 Richmond became the capitol of Virginia, and in 1782, it was incorporated as a city. Richmond's location on the river made it a hub of travel and trade, and throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the city continued to expand and prosper. Richmond became the capitol of the Confederacy in 1861, but after the war the city faced a period of devastation.
A wave of rebuilding occurred in Richmond during the era of Reconstruction. Several annexations of land from Henrico County in the late nineteenth century fostered the expansion of the city to the north and facilitated the development of Richmond as an industrial city. By 1892 further growth was hindered by topography. The James River and the Town of Manchester halted the city's growth to the south. Development to the north was hindered by a deep ravine, which was cut by Bacon's Quarter Branch, a small stream. Only one road - the Brook Turnpike - traversed this ravine from Richmond, and it connected Richmond with Ashland, Virginia, and other cities further north.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the portion of southern Henrico County directly across from the ravine had become attractive to wealthy Richmond businessmen. Economic turmoil in the county had caused many Henrico landowners to sell or auction off their properties for very low prices, and wealthy Richmond businessmen quickly purchased these tracts of land and built large estates. Many of these men looked to these homes as an escape from the confines of the city, visiting their country houses during the summer or on weekends. Speculators also became interested in the available land just north of the city. The burgeoning population of Richmond quickly filled many of the underdeveloped areas of the city, limiting the amount of open space available for new construction. The little undeveloped land that was left in the city was sold off at inflated prices. Speculators envisioned the land to the north as an area of promise - both for investors and residents of Richmond desiring a better life. These entrepreneurs were able to capitalize on concerns of the upper and middle class inhabitants of the city - concerns related to sanitation and racial issues which resulted from the growing socioeconomic problems in Richmond starting in the 1880s.
One of the largest issues the city faced in the late nineteenth century was sanitation. Richmond's fast growing population put pressure on the city's inadequate infrastructure, slowing the city's effectiveness in developing public services. The genteel residents of the city had long been bothered by piled up garbage, poorly paved and poorly lit streets, coal smoke from factories, and polluted water. They first moved westward, and with the advent of electric streetcars, many moved to the northern suburbs seeking clean air, clean water and green space for their families. Shockoe Creek, a body of water running through the middle of the city, was so contaminated with waste that Richmond's Committee on Streets commented that the city was essentially crossed by an open sewer.  Many of the residents of the city used Shockoe Creek as a source for drinking water, and its pollution led to a shortage of clean water. Small springs across the city were already fouled, so many people turned to the city reservoirs. However, prior to the use of purification in 1909, the city reservoirs were also at risk of contamination because their source, the James River, was compromised by waste discharged 146 miles upstream by the residents of the city of Lynchburg.
Besides sanitation, racial issues were also affecting the decision by many white middle class people to move out of the city in the late nineteenth century. The black population of the city grew rapidly during the latter part of the nineteenth century, and their demand for a more egalitarian lifestyle was seen as a threat by many of the community's white citizens. Jackson Ward, a gerrymandered voting district formed in 1870, developed as a stronghold of black business and culture. African-American residents of the city felt that their voting power was diluted by the creation of an all-black political ward in the city, while the white inhabitants of Richmond felt threatened by the encroachment of black political representation and culture on the white way of life. Whites also saw the black community as a health threat. While accounting for only 38% of the city's population, the black community suffered more than half of its disease-related deaths. Diminishing availability of land within the city, coupled with overcrowding, sanitation problems and racial tensions, created an environment in which many upper and middle class whites wished to move outside of Richmond.
One of the largest factors that made suburban development possible by the 1890s was Richmond's new electric streetcar system. Until 1887, Richmond had a horse-drawn rail service like many other cities across the country. The Richmond Rail Company that ran this service went bankrupt in 1887, and the city began looking for a new company to take over the system. Frank Julian Sprague, an electrician from New York, saw this as an opportunity to test his idea for an electric powered streetcar system. Sprague worked as an electrician in the U.S. Navy, and had also been employed by Thomas Edison for a number of years. By the 1880s, Frank Sprague opened his own shop to design electric motors. Previous attempts had been made to electrify railcars, but none had proven successful. Sprague felt he had devised a good plan, and with the approval of city officials, he tested his new system out in Richmond, the first in the United States.
On January 9, 1888, the first revenue-producing streetcar open to the public in Richmond began operation on the section of track known as the Church Hill line. Within a few months, there were more than thirty cars in operation all over the city. Once electric streetcars proved to be efficient and safe, many developers began to ask the city for approval to build lines into their suburbs on the edges of town. To attract people to ride them, developers built parks and attractions at the end of their streetcar lines. The picnic pavilions at Seven Pines, Forest Hill Park, and the swimming pool at Byrd Reservoir are all examples of this trend, their popularity spurring interest in streetcars and the newly developing neighborhoods surrounding the lines.
One of the first speculators to capitalize on the streetcar industry in the Northside was James Barton, who is credited with constructing the viaduct over the Bacon's Quarter Branch ravine that connected with Richmond's First Street. He then built the Barton Heights streetcar line, which ran from the city, across the viaduct and into Henrico County. Other Northside developers soon followed in Barton's footsteps, and one was Lewis Ginter, a wealthy businessman who made his money in the tobacco industry. He envisioned the Northside as a community where upper-middle class residents of Richmond owned large estates and enjoyed the beauty of the countryside. Ginter purchased large tracts of land in southern Henrico County surrounding the Brook Turnpike. By 1897 he had constructed his own streetcar line, known as the Lakeside Line, extending it north from the Barton Heights line down the center of Hermitage Road. Like other developers across the city, Ginter made an attraction at the end of the Lakeside Line, drawing people to the area. This center for amusement and recreation was known as the Lakeside Zoo and Wheel Club. Today it is the home of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and is located just over one mile west of the intersection of Hermitage Road and Bellevue Avenue.
The Lakeside Streetcar Line became one of the main arteries through the Northside area. It ran north from the Barton Heights line on Chamberlayne Avenue, turned west on Laburnum, turned north again on Hermitage Road, and terminated at the Lakeside Park and Zoo. Several large homes were built on the Hermitage Road section of the Lakeside line soon after its completion in 1897. By 1900 there were eight country estate homes along Hermitage Road. These were high-style structures situated on large, spacious lots that fit with Ginter's vision of a neighborhood for the upper middle class.
The first decade of the twentieth century saw the emergence of many more Northside neighborhoods with the upper middle and middle class in mind. Ginter Park was established in 1901 (designed by Lewis Ginter, but not completed until four years after his death), and others soon followed, including Sherwood Park, Battery Park, Bellevue Park, and Rosedale, all situated along the Lakeside Streetcar Line. These neighborhoods targeted the middle class by citing the problems of the city as reasons to move to the suburbs, while promoting the new developments' amenities. This was typical of streetcar suburbs throughout Richmond, as well as across the country at the time. Advertisements claimed the new suburbs were ideally located near the modern transportation of streetcars. All of the neighborhoods' roads were wide and tree-lined, giving the area a spacious, park-like feel. The ads also stated that all lots and homes would have electric, telephone, and sewage connections as well as an ample supply of pure water provided by the area's artesian wells. Lot sizes were relatively large but varied from neighborhood to neighborhood, and many developers placed covenants in the deeds that required substantial set back distances for the houses, as well as mandatory minimum construction costs. This kept the area aesthetically pleasing, with plenty of open space, contrasting sharply with the confines of the city. Restrictions were also made to keep blacks from purchasing land or homes in the area. The limitations that were placed within these deeds shaped the Northside neighborhoods before they even developed.
The newly developing neighborhoods in southern Henrico caught the interest of numerous white, upper-class citizens of the city, many of whom chose to make this area their home. As interest in the Northside grew, Richmond sought to expand its tax base by incorporating this land into its official boundaries. The 1914 annexation of the southern portion of Henrico County appropriated 12.21 square miles of land, the largest annexation in Richmond's history. This expansion of city territory had a profound effect on new growth in the area. In 1926 the highest number of building contracts was recorded in Richmond, marking a 295% increase over the previous year. Even though the Lakeside Streetcar line ceased operation in 1929, development along the path of the tracks still boomed for several more decades.
Richmond's Northside today is comprised of ten distinct neighborhood districts. Six of these, Barton Heights, Brookland Park, Battery Court, Ginter Park, Ginter Park Terrace, and Laburnum Park, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register as historic districts. These neighborhoods share many similarities and were all, in part, the products of the relationship between the streetcar industry and speculative development. Real estate moguls like Lewis Ginter and James Barton were savvy enough to see that streetcar lines encouraged development, offering people an inexpensive, efficient way to move in and out of the city.
While there is no direct relationship between growth around Hermitage Road and the positioning of the streetcar route, there is evidence that the streetcar tracks helped establish the neighborhood. The earliest residences of the area, constructed in the 1890s, were under construction along Hermitage Road before the Lakeside streetcar line was established in 1897. These houses, some of the most elaborate in the area, were built for wealthy businessmen like John Pope, who sought to escape the overcrowding of the city. Later, the streetcar would open up the suburbs to the workingman; the reasonable five-cent fare and convenient locations of the lines helped encourage the middle-class to move out of Richmond.
Land Use and Site Development
The Hermitage Road Historic District marks the center of three early-twentieth-century suburban streetcar neighborhoods and was the site for the earliest development in each neighborhood. The Rosedale neighborhood was platted on the west side of Hermitage Road, and Bellevue Park and Virginia Place were laid out on the east side. Typical of early twentieth century streetcar neighborhood development, the land that made up these neighborhoods was originally part of large parcels of undeveloped agricultural land in southern Henrico County. In the late 1800s, Lewis Ginter, John Pope and others began to purchase these large tracts of land for suburban development. Ginter and Pope purchased Thomas Price's 1770s Westbrook Plantation and surrounding farmland in 1883, and land along Hermitage Road and to the east and west of Brook Turnpike for residential development. On the Westbrook Plantation, Ginter built his Westbrook mansion, just north of what would become Bellevue Park. At that time two built properties existed on Hermitage Road: Thirteen Acres (3801) c.1885 and Edgewood (4002) c. 1870 or earlier.
By 1900, several estates were erected along Hermitage Road, primarily around the intersection of Bellevue Avenue. The house at 4100 Hermitage Road, the Wrenford (4102), Montrose (4104) and Shadyhurst (4106) estates were built north of Bellevue Avenue, and Rosedale (4016) was erected south of Bellevue Avenue. Lewis Ginter purchased Edgewood (4002) from T.C. Bennett in 1889, and it became Ginter's Sherwood Land Company office and was used to house bachelor workers in his employ. Ginter deeded Edgewood to Cornelius Tyree (C.T.) Watkins, a landscape engineer for Ginter, in 1897 as a wedding gift. On the east side of Hermitage Road was Holly Lawn. Located at 4015 Hermitage Road, it was built by Andrew Bierne Blair and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Lewis Ginter conceived the idea of Rosedale, but it was not developed until many years after his death in 1897. The first plat for the Hermitage Road section of Rosedale was not filed with Henrico County until 1909. Submitted by the Lewis Ginter Land and Improvement Company, formerly Ginter's Sherwood Land Company, the 1909 plat delineated the development of forty-four lots along Hermitage Road. The only cross streets that appear in the plat are Laburnum Avenue, Bellevue Avenue and Westbrook Avenue, all of which pre-date Rosedale. The lots ran from just below Laburnum Avenue on the south to Westbrook Avenue on the north. They were laid out perpendicular to Hermitage Road with the houses facing the street front and with a twenty-five foot wide alley behind them. Thirty-six lots that ranged from one hundred to two hundred feet wide by three hundred feet deep were laid out between Laburnum Avenue and Westbrook Avenue and included the six dwellings that were already built there. The Rosedale lots along Hermitage Road developed slowly for reasons unknown, and by the end of the 1930s, only five new dwellings had been erected. The remaining lots along Hermitage Road were not developed until the 1950s and 1960s.
The area of Rosedale to the west of the lots facing Hermitage Road does not appear in the 1909 plat and may have been subdivided much later. Unlike the earlier streetcar neighborhoods in the Northside, this portion of Rosedale was not developed in a grid street pattern, but rather a pattern of winding roadways. The Lewis Ginter Land and Development Company made provisions for sewer and water to be supplied to the Rosedale development, but it is unclear whether or not the company made the same provisions for electricity and telephone. Early covenants for the Rosedale lots along Hermitage Road provided for a right of way for water pipes to run along the lots, and a 1906 deed between Bellevue Park Company, Inc. and the Lewis Ginter Land and Improvement Company indicates there was a sewer already in place.
John Pope conceived the idea of Bellevue Park, but it was not developed until after his death in 1896. Pope allocated a large portion of land from the Westbrook plantation along with an additional one hundred acres for Bellevue Park. He constructed its first road, Pope Avenue, which was entered by traveling under a large stone arch heralding the entrance to Bellevue. Fifty-seven feet wide, Pope Avenue ran northeast from Bellevue Avenue, and it was built to connect Pope's Rosedale Estate at Bellevue Avenue with Lewis Ginter's Westbrook Estate. There was no further development of Bellevue Park until after John Pope's death, when the land passed to his brother George. A 1906 deed lists George Pope as the president of Bellevue Park Company, Inc. and describes Bellevue Park as a: ... large tract of land in Henrico County... known as Bellevue Park and bounded on the north by Westbrook Avenue, on the south by Bellevue Avenue, on the east by Brook Turnpike, and on the west by Hermitage Road, which said trust of land... proposes to develop and offer for sale in parcels or building lots.
It is not clear whether John or George Pope actually laid out Bellevue Park, but the first plat was not filed with Henrico County until January 29, 1913. Unlike many other early twentieth century streetcar neighborhoods, it was laid out in a winding fashion, and only three roads besides Pope Avenue were planned. Princeton Road, a forty-foot wide street ran northeast from Hermitage Road to Pope Avenue and still exists today. Fleetwood Road, which was to run northeast from Hermitage Road to the lots on Westbrook Avenue, was never built. Clinton Avenue, a fifty-seven foot wide road ran between Bellevue Avenue and Westbrook Avenue. Clinton Avenue was renamed Crestwood Road. The 1912 plat shows fifteen lots along Hermitage Road from Bellevue Avenue on the south to Westbrook Avenue on the north. These lots, laid out with all the houses facing the street front, were an average of one hundred feet wide by two hundred-fifty feet deep.
George Pope died before Bellevue Park was fully developed, but prior to his death he made provisions for sewer, electricity, telephone, and water services. In a 1906 deed between Bellevue Park Company, Inc. and the Lewis Ginter Land and Improvement Company, George Pope agreed to construct a sewer system through Bellevue Park that would connect to the Rosedale Sewer constructed by the Lewis Ginter Land Improvement Company. In separate deeds with the Virginia Railway and Power Company and the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, he made provisions for electricity and telephone and telegraph lines. Water for Bellevue Park was to be supplied by an artesian well.
Upon George Pope's death, the land passed to his sister Margaret, who sold Bellevue Park, Inc. to J. Lee Davis in February 1919. Davis built his Willowbrook (4211) estate along Hermitage on lot seventy of Bellevue Park in 1925. The remaining lots along Hermitage Road in Bellevue Park developed during the 1920s and 1930s. This was probably the result of the increasing popularity and convenience of the automobile. Prior to the second decade of the twentieth century, misconceptions and a lack of good roads had minimized the influence of the car, but inexpensive mass production soon made the car more widely available. By 1927, one out of every five people in the U.S. owned their own car, opening up the possibility of living further away from one's workplace.
The Real Estate Loan Deposit Company filed the plat for Virginia Place in 1911. Its boundaries extended along the east side of Hermitage Road from Laburnum Avenue on the south to John Skelton Williams Avenue on the north, which was planned just below Bellevue Avenue. The lots along Hermitage Road were laid out with the houses facing the street front and a fifteen-foot wide alley to the rear. Behind this alley, lots were platted in a rectilinear grid street pattern. Four east-west blocks, sixty feet wide, were laid out between Laburnum Avenue on the south and Bellevue Avenue on the north. These were Avondale Avenue, Greycourt Avenue, Claremont Avenue, and Brandon Avenue, which was renamed Nottoway Avenue. Each of these blocks was two lots deep and was separated by a fifteen-foot wide alley. A block of lots, one lot deep, was laid out above Brandon Avenue, extending to John Skelton Williams Avenue to its north. John Skelton Williams Avenue was never built, but the area between what was to have been John Skelton Williams Avenue and Bellevue Avenue may have been planned as another small development known as Chevy Chase. Two north-south roads that were fifty feet wide were laid out parallel to Hermitage Road. These were Monticello Street, which is still there today and Arlington Street, which was renamed MacArthur Avenue.
The Virginia Place and Chevy Chase lots were laid out along Hermitage Road from just above the Thirteen Acres property (3801) on the south to Bellevue Avenue on the north. These lots were between fifty and sixty feet wide by 170 to 220 feet deep. Most of these lots developed during the 1920s and 1930s, with fourteen dwellings being erected during this time frame. The covenants in the deeds for Virginia Place suggest that while water, sewer, electricity, and telephone may not have been immediately available, the developer planned for them.
Control over the development of Rosedale, Bellevue Park and Virginia Place was maintained through restrictions in the form of covenants that were part of the deeds of sale. These restrictions ensured that the neighborhoods evolved in accordance with the intent of the original developer and that property values were maintained. Each neighborhood delineated specific dwelling setbacks - fifty feet in Rosedale and Bellevue Park and thirty feet in Virginia Place. All three developments imposed a minimum construction cost for dwellings: twenty-five hundred dollars in Rosedale, five thousand dollars in Bellevue Park, and three thousand dollars in Virginia Place. All required that there be no more than one dwelling on each lot and Rosedale required that dwellings be two stories high. All three neighborhoods required that the lots be developed in accordance with the plat and that there be no further subdivision of the lots. Finally, restrictions for all three included a nuisance clause, prohibiting the sale or manufacture of alcoholic beverages on the properties, and prohibited sale of the properties to anyone not of the Caucasian race.
City Beautiful Influences
The City Beautiful Movement, which grew out of planning and landscape design concepts featured at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, became popular in cities across the United States as an aesthetically pleasing way to plan new areas and revitalize older portions of a city. The movement incorporated elements of landscape design, municipal art, and civic improvement to create sweeping vistas and public spaces. The City Beautiful Movement also affected the construction of residential suburbs. Many upper-class residential communities planned around the turn of the twentieth century were designed according to the movement's landscape principles, with roads following the curve of the land, and the topographic bends establishing the position of traffic circles.
City Beautiful influences can be seen throughout Richmond's Northside and are especially evident in the Hermitage Road Historic District. Hermitage Road itself is an expansive boulevard, one hundred feet wide, down the center of which ran the neighborhood's transportation system, the Lakeside Streetcar Line. The street is an extension of Richmond's Boulevard that terminates at Byrd Park at a statue of Christopher Columbus. The southern half of the Boulevard in particular includes all aspects of the City Beautiful Movement, including civic spaces. Sections of the Boulevard are occupied by public museums, which is referred to by Richmonders as the "Museum District."
The houses along Hermitage Road were set on spacious lots with deep setbacks. Several of these houses are some of the finest houses of the era built by some of Richmond's most influential architects. Rosedale, Bellevue Park and Virginia Place were planned developments with specifications for control through the use of deed restrictions. They were designed in park-like settings characterized by planned landscaping that included tree-lined streets of maple and elm trees, privet hedges, large set backs and cement sidewalks. Roads were well constructed and drained, and there is evidence of public utility systems for water, sewer, electricity and telephone. A large public park, Bryan Park, is situated off Hermitage Road, just above Rosedale, and the A.P. Hill Monument and Bellevue Arch mark the major intersections along Hermitage Road. Pope Avenue extends from Hermitage Road and follows a curvilinear path, connecting it to other neighborhoods, and exemplifying the Picturesque and City Beautiful principle of following the curvature of the land. Perhaps the most direct connection of the area to the City Beautiful Movement is the fact that Lewis Ginter consulted Frederick Law Olmsted - the major landscape architect for the 1893 Columbian Exposition - with regard to the landscape design of Ginter Park and other real estate speculation.
Community Planning and Development
While all three of the developments - Rosedale, Virginia Place, and Bellevue Park - had varying lot sizes and layouts, the character of each neighborhood remained similar, due in part to the covenant restrictions imposed on those buying property in the area. A 1912 advertising pamphlet for Bellevue Park outlined the requirements and limitations that each person buying into the area would need to know, while promoting the location, convenience of transportation, and the appealing elements of the neighborhood's infrastructure. The construction requirements, nuisance restrictions, and racial exclusions had a profound impact on the shaping of the Hermitage Road area. Developers promoted a new, vibrant, exclusive community, and the specifications listed in the advertisement began forming a neighborhood of white, middle and upper-middle class residents even before the lots were sold.
A few families lived next to the streetcar line on Hermitage Road, even before developers began selling off lots. These residences, built in the 1890s, were constructed on a much grander scale than anything that would come later, and therefore set the tone of the neighborhood, making it a stately, refined place to live. Rosedale (4016), Montrose (4104), and Shadyhurst (4106) were three of the larger homes built before significant development, and each housed members of Richmond's upper echelon of society. Noted Richmond architect D. Wiley Anderson designed Rosedale, Montrose and Shadyhurst, and was pleased enough with the outcome to include them in his promotional device A Few Recent Designs. J. Lee Davis, who once resided at Shadyhurst on the western side of the streetcar line, built a home on the eastern side, in Bellevue Park. He named this home Willowbrook (4211) and lived there while he was president of the Bellevue Park Incorporated Builder's Exchange. In his memoirs, Davis wrote that he wished to maintain the residence like the country estate of his boyhood home, and incorporated wide-open spaces and a spot for farm animals on the property. John R. Hutchinson, president of Model Steam Laundry, Inc., eventually purchased Shadyhurst as a residence for his family, after the Davis family moved back into the city for business reasons.
Other notables also lived along the line at Hermitage Road. In 1928, Charles A. Zincke lived at 4108 Hermitage Road, stop forty-two on the Lakeside Line. He was secretary-treasurer for Richmond Press Incorporated. Alvin B. Hutzler, a lawyer for Mutual Building, resided at Montrose (4104), an imposing stone and brick building occupying a large parcel of land. Davis, Hutchinson, Zincke, and Hutzler not only lived in some of the area's most notable houses, but also were some of the first residents in Richmond to own their own telephones. In the 1930s, the growth around the Hermitage Road area expanded to include middle-class homebuyers, but the houses close to the Bellevue Avenue intersection continued to be occupied by the upper class. May Irving, vice president of Thalhimer Bros., Incorporated and the Thalhimer Bros. Realty Company, lived at 4101 Hermitage Road. His neighbor, John Pinder, who resided at 4100, was president of the Virginia Hardware Company. These men, like many others, looked to the suburbs as a panacea to the problems of the city.
After the turn of the twentieth century, Richmond city officials began to deal with the sanitation and infrastructure concerns that had plagued the city in the 1890s, but there were still racial and overcrowding problems within the city that made streetcar suburbs more and more appealing to middle and upper-class whites. The new state constitution adopted in 1902 placed restrictions on voting, further inflaming racial tensions. By 1903 Jackson Ward had been divided and absorbed into other political wards, thereby deleting black representation on City Council, and by 1906 racial segregation on streetcars was mandatory. In 1910, the population of Richmond rose to 127,628 people, marking a 50.1% increase from the 1900 census of the city. The City expanded its boundaries on all sides of the city in 1914, which included the properties along Hermitage Road as far north as Wrenford (4102). A stone marker at the northwest corner of the Rosedale (4016) lot and another identical marker at the Pope Avenue side of the driveway of 4101 mark this annexation. After World War I, population growth in the city continued, but at a slower rate, and development along the Lakeside Line picked up, the result of the need to expand the confining boundaries of Richmond. The houses constructed along Hermitage Road occupied smaller lots than the area's earlier buildings, and also incorporated different forms and stylistic elements than the older mansions. Elements from the Colonial Revival style were especially popular in the neighborhood.
The construction along Hermitage Road was not the only thing that changed the neighborhood. As the twenties progressed, the neighborhood's population slowly shifted so that the middle class began to dominate the area. The upper-middle class remained, but the infill became occupied by a larger class of clerks, electricians, and salesmen. The significant growth during the 1920s and early 1930s around Hermitage Road is notable in that it is proof that many average, middle-class citizens were buying property and constructing their own homes along Hermitage Road, even before the National Housing Act of 1934, which provided an adequate home financing system through insurance of mortgages and stabilization of the mortgage market. In the decade prior, less than a quarter of the population of Richmond owned their own homes. The exclusivity and convenience of the developments in the Northside were not the only incentives to the middle and upper-middle classes of the city. Many might have looked upon the purchase of property as a financial investment. Real estate developers had long touted the Hermitage Road area as a safe way to speculate, like George Pope's pamphlet for Bellevue Park did in 1912. Still, the continued growth in the 1930s during a time of national Depression is unusual, even with the latest incentives from the national government. Richmond enjoyed a stable economy because of the tobacco and textile industries and was not affected immediately by the Great Depression, and the state's fiscal policy was designed to keep the state debt-free and thereby worthy of investment.
Increases in construction and a shift in class makeup were not the only changes that shaped the Hermitage Road area in the 1920s and 1930s. The advent of the automobile created a significant impact on the landscape of the area. The Hermitage Road Bus Line, one of eighteen in the city, replaced the streetcar as the preferred means of public transportation. These buses did significant damage to the road, and in 1929, the city decided to pave and widen the road. The Richmond News Leader reported that the city planned to widen the road to one hundred feet, with an eighteen-foot wide grassy median in the center of the road replacing the streetcar tracks, and fourteen-foot wide sidewalks on either side of the street. Two lanes, each twenty-seven feet wide, would be paved, and could easily support the growing traffic in the area. This project alleviated the traffic problem for the time, but resulted in the cutting down of about 135 shade trees along sides of the street, upsetting many residents in the process. While this altered the "country" character of the area, making the suburb feel more like Richmond proper, the overall City Beautiful boulevard-feel was maintained. In fact, the widening of the road opened the area up spatially, allowing the avenue to direct the attention of the viewer to the homes along the road, and toward the vistas in the distance.
High Style Architecture
The earliest structures on Hermitage Road were high style, architect-designed dwellings built between the mid 1890s and early 1920s. Designed for Richmond's upper class, the first residents to migrate to Hermitage Road, they were grand two and three story, Late Victorian and Colonial Revival style homes set on large landscaped lots with horseshoe driveways. Several of these estates were designed by the prominent Richmond architect, D. (David) Wiley Anderson. D Wiley Anderson.
Middle Class Dwellings
By the early 1900's, Hermitage Road's exclusive character was beginning to change. By 1912, the Rosedale, Bellevue Park, and Virginia Place neighborhoods had been subdivided, and upper and middle class dwellings were beginning to appear. A trend common throughout Richmond's Northside suburbs, construction of high style architecture for the wealthy made way for more modest middle and upper class housing. At the same time, the popularity of the Victorian architecture of the late 1900's was beginning to fade, replaced by period revivals and modern houses, the mainstay for these new suburban residences.
A study of Richmond's Northside neighborhoods demonstrates an architectural variety, which was driven by differences of vision, architects, lot layout, and economics. Underlying this diversity, however, was the common theme of suburban values, expressed through the built environment and achieved through shared architectural styles. The eclecticism of the period's architecture made possible the adaptation of similar stylistic details to diverse building forms, thereby accommodating variant economic needs and individual tastes.
Beneath the stylistic details, a variety of building forms were employed. In Ginter Park Terrace for example, the American Foursquare plan was used for the majority of the residential structures in the neighborhood. Most houses followed this plan, but varied in their stylistic detailing, which included Colonial, Dutch Colonial and Tudor Revivals, Craftsman, and Mediterranean styles. In Highland Park, early residences were narrow, side-passage plans with Queen Anne and Colonial Revival detailing. After World War I, Craftsman details on American Foursquare and bungalow plans prevailed. In Laburnum Park, the American Foursquare and the bungalow form were employed. Stylistic detailing included Colonial and Tudor Revival, French Renaissance and Mission styles. Along Hermitage Road, the two-story, center passage plan with Colonial, Tudor, or Italian Renaissance Revival stylistic detailing was the most common.
Regardless of the wide range of building forms employed in Richmond's early suburbs, the most dominant architectural style throughout the Northside and along Hermitage Road is Colonial Revival. Arguably one of the most popular and enduring styles of American architecture, it was the style of choice throughout the Northside and for over half of the residences along Hermitage Road. Colonial Revival's roots trace back to the late nineteenth century when architects and builders began reviving the Colonial architecture of America's early past. Inspired by the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial, the Colonial Revival style was to some extent, a reaction against the picturesque styles of the Late Victorian period of the late nineteenth century. Drawing on elements from early Colonial architecture, it created an association with the more traditional and puritanical values of America's colonial past, symbolized an "American national style," suggested an American tradition and heritage, and stimulated feelings of patriotism and nationalism. Further, its symmetry, simplicity of design, classical proportions, and refined details created order and harmony against the backdrop of industrialized and chaotic cities that were plagued with overcrowding, pollution, industrialization, and racial unrest. It also symbolized the American ideals of family, an ideal upon which suburban development was founded. The frequent use of the Colonial Revival style created neighborhoods with distinct yet cohesive characteristics that were found in shared American values.
Colonial Revival drew on the stylistic elements of the Colonial period's Georgian, Federal, and Dutch Colonial styles of architecture. Interpreting these styles rather than duplicating them, stylistic elements were often combined to create an eclectic mix. Colonial Revival structures were typically rectangular in plan and of one to three stories high, allowing for a wide range of sizes. They frequently had side-wings or side-porches on one or both sides creating additional space at minimal cost. The Colonial Revival was very adaptable to changes in stylistic trends, building materials, and technology, allowing for the incorporation of new building elements as needed. Elaboration appeared in the entrances, windows and cornices. Paneled entry doors, often with sidelights and transoms or semi-circular or elliptical fanlights were common, and entrances were often emphasized by pedimented entry porticos with classical columns and flanking pilasters, bracketed overdoors, or simpler door surrounds of flanking pilasters or architrave trim. Multi-paned sash windows that appear in symmetrical rows are typical as are modillioned, dentiled and bracketed cornices.
Because of its flexibility of elaboration and simplicity of form, Colonial Revival was extremely adaptable to a variety of tastes and budgets and lent itself well to both the high style dwellings of the wealthy and to the more modest styles of the middle class. Its rectangular plan was simple and economical to construct, producing more floor space per dollar. Further, it could be constructed in wood, its details could be standardized, and ornamentation could be applied sparingly or liberally depending on the owner's budget and tastes. Its economy, flexibility, and the shared values it imparted through its common language of design made Colonial Revival the ideal building style for the suburban homes of the early twentieth century. In Virginia the popularity of this style is closely identified with the traditional architecture of Colonial Williamsburg.
The full range of Colonial Revival forms that are represented along Hermitage Road clearly illustrate how the varying economic levels of the district's residents were melded together into a diverse, yet cohesive landscape founded in a common architectural language that imparted shared values. Today, the Colonial Revival architecture present in the Hermitage Road Historic District stands virtually intact and retains significant exterior details such as multi-pane sash windows, slate roofs, front porches and entry porticos supported by classical columns, modillioned and dentiled cornices, and transoms, sidelights, and elliptical fanlights. The quality craftsmanship of the Colonial Revival period is reflected in these early suburban homes, and that they have remained intact is a testament to the enduring popularity of the Colonial Revival style.
Although not nearly as predominant as the Colonial Revival style, Tudor Revival and Italian Renaissance Revival are also represented. Similar to Colonial Revival, these were eclectic interpretations of earlier styles. The Tudor Revival is a Gothic-inspired style that employs stucco with half-timbering over stone or brick. Like the Colonial Revival styles, the Italian Renaissance Revival structures along Hermitage Road are simple rectangular forms with paneled doors with sidelights and transoms, classically ornamented entry porticos, and multi-pane sash windows. They are set apart by their Spanish tile roofs, overhanging eaves with exposed rafters or decorative brackets, and stucco cladding.
Like Colonial Revival, both the Tudor and Italian Renaissance Revivals are found in varying forms, along Hermitage Road, from modest to high style. Flexibility in elaboration and the propensity to look to the past to create a heritage or a feeling of history and tradition through architecture are qualities they both share with Colonial Revival. It is these shared qualities that made them popular alternatives to Colonial Revival.
The residential dwellings along Hermitage Road provide an intact example of the variant forms of architecture employed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and illustrate how these styles were modified, from high style forms to the most modest articulation to meet the needs of an economically evolving population. Further, this architecture clearly represents the broad patterns of suburban development in Richmond at the turn of the twentieth century as the district evolved from an enclave of mansions for Richmond's wealthy to an upper and middle class suburban neighborhood. Finally, the architecture prevalent in this district clearly illuminates the values and ideals of its early residents.
As part of three distinct suburban developments, the Hermitage Road Historic District clearly represents the broad patterns of community planning and development prevalent in Richmond's Northside during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The nine country estate homes built between the late 1890s and 1925, clearly illustrate the needs and preferences of Richmond's early upper class suburban residents. The thirty dwellings erected between 1908 and 1938 serve as excellent examples of Richmond's early upper and middle class suburban development and demonstrate the changes in development patterns over time. Further, the district maintains a high degree of integrity to convey its historic significance and most of its historic fabric has been retained. The deep, spacious lots with deep set backs, landscaping, tree-lined streets, and street lamps illustrate early twentieth century development patterns, and although the streetcar line has long since disappeared, the median down the middle of Hermitage Road where it once ran, serves as a constant reminder of days past. Finally, the architecture along Hermitage Road is in excellent condition, and few modifications or additions have been made.
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Prepared by: Lisa C. Wood, Hermitage Road Historic District Association; Bonnie Alberts, Catherine Easterling and Robert Taylor, University of Mary Washington; Sevanne Steiner, Savannah College of Art and Design; formatting by Jean McRae of Virginia Department of Historic Resources.