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RICHMOND
Fan Area Historic District

Grove Ave

Grove Avenue
City of Richmond
Department of Community Development

 

The Fan Area Historic District is a large late 19th and early 20th-century residential neighborhood west of Richmond’s downtown commercial district. The neighborhood is unquestionably one of the city’s greatest cultural and architectural assets. Within its boundaries lies a rich, cohesive collection of historic buildings in a variety of architectural styles such as Italianate, Richardsonian Romaneque, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Bungalow, American Foursquare, Tudor Revival, Spanish Colonial, and Art Deco. The district developed largely from c. 1890 to c. 1930, a period of general economic prosperity for the City of Richmond and one of gradual westward expansion from its commercial center.

The Fan has its roots in the Harvie family estate. The family subdivided part of its estate into streets and lots in 1817 naming an area to the north of Spring Street Sidney and an area to the south Belvidere. Little in the way of development occurred in the first half of the 19th century, and the neighborhood remained an unincorporated rural enclave. The Sidney stood at an angle to the original city grid. Today, the angling of certain city streets on the east and west sides of Belvidere Street near Monroe Park illustrates that original plan. Most of the Fan area now follows a strict grid pattern of linear streets and square blocks.

The name of the district refers to the way in which certain streets radiate or “fan” westward from Monroe Park. Several of these streets originated as 18th and 19th-century turnpikes or trade routes leading westward from Richmond, like Scuffletown Road (now Park Avenue), the Westham Turnpike (now Cary Street), and the Richmond Turnpike (now Broad Street). These roads later became part of the grid pattern of blocks and streets extending west, as development of the area increased after 1900.

Fan Area

Houses in Fan Area Historic District
City of Richmond Department of Community Development


Architecturally, most buildings in the district are brick row houses and semidetached or detached town houses, usually 2½ stories in height with a porch or stoop fronting the sidewalk. The historic density averages 12 houses per block, creating a rhythmic streetscape that is rarely broken by modern intrusions. The playful irregularity of rooflines, turrets, dormers, bay windows, cornices, projecting porches, and recessed entrances of the houses adds to the Fan's unique visual interest and charm. Guided by a deliberate plan of development with many buildings designed by the same architects or built by the same contractors, the Fan is remarkably cohesive.

Most of the houses date from between c. 1900 and c. 1915, a period of economic prosperity in Richmond, when building contractors and real estate developers actively promoted the construction and sale of whole blocks of well-designed and fashionable residences for Richmond’s growing population. By the early 1920s, the area had many of the physical characteristics of the inner city neighborhood it still has today: a streetscape often characterized by repetition in scale, mass, height, building material, and ornamentation, with seemingly endless blocks of brick town houses and row houses.

Originally containing predominantly middle-class houses, the Fan quickly became a desirable place to live, remaining so until World War II. The area thrives again today with many restaurants, corner stores, small businesses, and churches interspersed throughout the dense tree-lined residential neighborhood.

Two antebellum houses in the district individually are listed in the National Register of Historic Places: the 1857 John Whitworth House, a frame house at 2221 West Main Street and on the same block at 2226 West Main Street, the 1859 William W. Morien House. Also individually listed is the Hospital of St. Sophia, Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor at 1401 Floyd Avenue. It initially was a brick house in the 1830s but became a larger Italianate and Second Empire building between c. 1880 and c. 1900. The building is now the Warsaw Condominiums. Another individually designated building is the former Stonewall Jackson School, dating from between 1886 and 1887, at 1520 West Main Street. This two-story brick building is an excellent example of the Victorian Italianate style. Sacred Heart School at 1122 Floyd Avenue is illustrative of the same style. The district includes two early 20th-century schools, the William Fox School at 2300 Hanover Avenue and the Binford School, a fine example of Tudor/Gothic Revival architecture, at 1701 Floyd Avenue.

During the c. 1890 to c. 1910 period when the Queen Anne style emerged as the most fashionable and popular architectural style in America, architect-contractors designed and built entire blocks of buildings in this style along the principal streets in the district. Attractive to members of the middle class and conveniently located in proximity to Richmond’s new electric trolley system, these row houses offered an eclectic range of architectural diversity. The impressive Old Dominion Row in the 1500 block of Grove Avenue contains 12 two-story brick row houses with alternating turrets, towers, gables, and porches with decorative woodwork. Built by the Old Dominion Building and Loan Association in 1895 and attributed to architects B.W. Poindexter and C.K. Bryant, the row was an ambitious construction project for the 1890s.

Fan Area 2

Dominion Row
City of Richmond Department of Community Development

In the Fan area, as elsewhere in the city, a new architectural style, the Colonial Revival, emerged as the preference of builders and clients in the early 20th century. This style became popular because of renewed interest in the colonial American past. Davis Brothers Inc. built the three nearly identical Colonial Revival houses at 1903, 1905, and 1909 Stuart Avenue. Although the overwhelming majority of its buildings are residential, the Fan contains several excellent examples of late 19th and early 20th-century commercial architecture. Mostly located along the commercial corridors–West Main, North Lombardy, North Robinson, and Strawberry Streets–these buildings served the commercial needs of area residents. Most continue to operate as small businesses. Some of the oldest surviving commercial buildings retaining their original storefronts and upper façade treatments are at 1203, 1301, 1303, 1307, 1502, and 2215 West Main Street, and 6 North Robinson Street.

Plan your visit
The Fan Area Historic District is located roughly between Park Ave. on the north, W. Main St. on the south, N. Harrison St. on the east, and Boulevard on the west. The district is accessible by vehicle or on foot, and some buildings other than private residences are open to the public.
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