Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Art History

First Advisor

Dr. Charles Brownell


The 800 and 900 blocks of West Franklin Street, Richmond , Virginia were developed during the period of 1855 to 1925. As a result, manifested on these two blocks are important examples of late-Victorian and early twentieth-century American architecture. The predominance of the Second Empire and Richardsonian Romanesque styles indicate that this neighborhood experienced the most intensive building campaign during the 1880s and 1890s. This development corresponds to the period of economic recovery experienced in Richmond after the Reconstruction. Though Richmond suffered economically due to its geographical and political position during and immediately following the Civil War (1861-65), the post-Reconstruction economic recovery made possible financial success for a small number of enterprising Richmonders. Tobacco, trade, and manufacturing were the leading occupations of the financially successful. The original residents of West Franklin Street and their homes are evidence of this prosperity. Roughly one quarter made their fortunes in tobacco, one quarter in manufacturing, one quarter were merchants of one type of another, and the balance were independent business men, lawyers, stockbrokers, and real estate developers. These successful Richmonders chose to erect monuments to their success in the homes they commissioned from local and nationally known architects, builders, and craftspeople. This thesis charts the pattern of social, aesthetic, and architectural development by identifying the patrons, architects, contractors, and craftspeople who built the 800 and 900 blocks of West Franklin Street.

The 800 and 900 blocks of West Franklin Street, comprised in a National Register Historic District, are now largely owned by the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). In 1925, the school began acquiring the old residences and remodelling them into dormitories and classrooms, eventually acquiring 34 out of 42 of the extant original buildings. Consequently, VCU now owns a major intact collection of architectural and historical merit. Though VCU has commissioned master plans and architectural guidelines to guide the development of the growing university, there are no specific guidelines for the maintenance and treatment of the historic buildings. The adoption of and adherence to a university-wide preservation plan is proposed in order to protect this unique and important district.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission