Constructed in 1883 by George Boyd, a local African American builder, the Walker home at 110 ½ E. Leigh Street in Richmond, Virginia, evolved from a modest, five-room Italianate row house to a sprawling 28-room urban Victorian mansion by 1928. The house sat squarely in the center of “Quality Row,” a residential block of African American lawyers, doctors, ministers, and bankers in Jim Crow Richmond’s Jackson Ward. This neighborhood was known as the “Harlem of the South” during the first quarter of the 20th century. More...
The first two owners of the house were both African American doctors; first Dr. James Ferguson followed by Dr. Robert Jones. Jones commissioned the first round of renovations. He expanded the house through the empty half-lot to the west, incorporating an indoor kitchen, and installing new bedrooms upstairs. Dr. Jones used the street-facing first floor addition as his physician’s office. Patients entered the doctor’s office through the recessed entrance office. The Jones family entered the residence through the main double-leaf entrance.
In 1904, Maggie L. Walker purchased the house for $4,800. Although married at the time, only Mrs. Walker’s name is on the deed and it was only her money used for the purchase. She moved into the house a year later with her husband, Armstead; mother, Elizabeth Mitchell; two sons, Russell and Melvin; and adopted daughter, Margaret “Polly” Anderson, later Payne.
Over the course of her occupancy, Mrs. Walker commissioned major changes to the home, inside and out, to accommodate her ever-growing family. Today, visitors see the extensive renovations completed in 1922 by Mr. Charles T. Russell, Virginia’s first African American architect. He designed the columned front porch, a second story open balcony (enclosed in 1924), and bedrooms that extend to the carriage house at the property edge.
After Mrs. Walker’s death in 1934, her daughter-in-law, Hattie, inherited the house and remained there until 1971. In 1978, her daughter, Maggie Laura, deeded the house to the National Park Service.