Jackson Ward Historic District

Historical Significance

Jackson Ward was one of the most significant black neighborhoods in the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The area that would become known as Jackson Ward was first inhabited by people of Italian, Jewish, and German descent. In the mid 1800's, free and enslaved African Americans moved into the community. The area became a predominately black neighborhood towards the end of the Civil War. In 1871, the area was given the name Jackson Ward by General Ulysses S. Grant.

By 1900, Jackson Ward was a thriving community with a vibrant, self-sufficient economy, including banks, barbershops, restaurants, benevolent organizations, insurance companies, and medical practices. Influential figures such as John Mitchell, Jr., editor of the Richmond Planet, an African American newspaper, and Maggie L. Walker, the first woman to charter and serve as president of an American bank, operated businesses and lived in Jackson Ward.

Central to the community's social and economic life was Second Street, also known as "The Deuce." Many entertainers performed there at the Hippodrome Theater, including Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Jackson Ward was nicknamed "The Harlem of the South," a tribute to its prominent social and economic status.

Jackson Ward's decline began in the 1950's with the Federal Government's proposal for low-income housing and the development of a new interstate, I-95, which displaced many homeowners and businesses. The plan was eventually altered; however, the community of Jackson Ward was severely damaged through urban renewal plans aimed at improving downtown Richmond's business district. With the onset of the Civil Rights movement and desegregation, Jackson Ward moved further into decline as small community businesses gave way to large department stores. The forty-block area that remains of the district after construction and redevelopment is one of the larger National Historical Landmark Districts associated with African Americans in the United States. 

Physical Description

Jackson Ward is one of Richmond's most architecturally diverse cityscapes. Buildings include Greek Revival, Italianate, Federal, Gothic, and Romanesque architecture. The community is well known for its decorative wrought iron detailing, the community has the second largest collection (after New Orleans) of original ironwork in the United States, most of which was produced at Richmond's Tredegar Ironworks. Sites of particular importance are The Adolph Dill Mansion (now the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia), The Hippodrome Theater, First Battalion Virginia Volunteers Armory, Tucker Cottage, Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, Ebenezer Baptist Church, The Maggie Walker House, The Bojangles Robinson Statue, Old Armstrong High School, and the Slaughter Hotel. The National Register of Historic Sites lists 600 sites of historic significance in the Jackson Ward community.

Geographical and Contact Information

Blocks between 4th, Marshall and Smith Streets and Turnpike
Richmond, Virginia
23220

Images

Jackson Ward Historic Marker

Jackson Ward Historic Marker

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Cite this Page:

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Jackson Ward Historic District,” African American Historic Sites Database, accessed July 27, 2017, http://aahistoricsitesva.org/items/show/221.

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