The Phoenix Bank of Nansemond was built in 1921 during a period when blacks began to open their own businesses in an attempt to provide their communities with the same types of goods and services available in white communities. Between 1900 and 1920, at least twenty black-owned banks opened in Virginia. The Phoenix Bank of Nansemond opened in 1919 to serve the black citizens of Suffolk. Black physician Dr. W.T. Fuller suggested the establishment of the bank to assist with the commercial boom the community had experienced through growing peanuts and other local crops. Other black businesses followed, including real estate, insurance, and funeral parlors. Together these enterprises provided the bank with enough business to secure its capital.
Dr. Fuller served as the bank's first president until his death in 1921 when he was succeeded by vice-president John W. Richardson. Under Richardson's leadership, the bank moved to a new home on East Washington Street, operating until 1931 when it closed during the Great Depression. The building has since been used for numerous commercial endeavors.
The bank building is a rectangular, semi-detached, two-story structure built in 1921. The interior contains very few original features. The bank was designed by Dr. Harvey Johnson, the architect of the Crispus Attucks Theatre. The bank was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
Geographical and Contact Information
339 East Washington Street