Tobacco and Trolleys: Industry and Transportation
Antebellum Architecture
Richmond's African American Heritage
The Continuing legacy of Historic Preservation
Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
Bolling Haxall House

Bolling Haxall picture

Bolling Haxall House
Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries

The Bolling Haxall House, an Italianate residence with eclectic influences of the early Victorian period, is considered to be among the finest surviving mansions of its age in Richmond. Bolling W. Haxall, owner of Richmond’s famous Haxall Flour Mills, some of the largest in the world at that time, commissioned the building, which dates from 1858.  Not surprisingly, Haxall was one of the city’s wealthiest and most prominent businessmen before the Civil War.  While the architect is unknown, credit for the design of the unusual building goes to Richmond builders George and John Gibson.

The elongated cupola, semicircular pediment over the central third story window, and heavy bracketed cornice are all characteristic features for this transitional period in architecture in the mid-1800s. Finely detailed cast iron window arches, balcony railings, and an exquisite locally made cast iron property fence–attributed by some sources to Richmonder George Lownes, others to William Cook–round out this impressive mansion. The two cast iron, horse-head hitching posts in the front of the house once stood on Capitol Street, where state legislators used them for their horses. The sidewalk in front of the house was originally paved in hexagonal bricks, which some people considered to be of ill omen. Nurses would lead their charges into the gutter rather than walk across the evil bricks.

Bolling Haxall 2

Detail on Bolling Haxall House
City of Richmond Department of Community Development

Dr. Francis Willis bought the home in 1869. Dr. Willis added a beautiful walnut staircase and frescoed the walls of the main floor. His eye for beauty led to tragedy, however, when his daughter Emily, a sleepwalker, died in a fall down the curving staircase. In his despair, Dr. Willis sold the house to the Woman’s Club in 1900. To pay off the mortgage the ladies of the club rented the second and third floors of the house as apartments.

Established in 1894, the club was originally at 11 West Franklin Street, in the former home of Allan Talbotts. Still effective today, the Woman’s Club is dedicated to the education of women and supports civic efforts in downtown Richmond. In 1915, growth of the Woman’s Club called for the addition of an auditorium in the rear of the building and a ballroom on the second floor. The addition of the auditorium Richmond architects Carneal and Johnston designed entailed the removal of the rear porch, which had a magnificent view of the James River. Credited with preserving the building, the Woman’s Club supervised restoration of the cupola and the octagonal library to its original décor in the mid 1960's. In 1984, the Richmond architecture firm Wright, Cox and Smith renovated the house, and in 1999, C. Dudley Brown directed partial restoration of the interior.

Plan your visit
The Bolling Haxall House is located at 211 E. Franklin St. The building is open to the public. Call 804-643-2847 for more information. The Bolling Haxall House (Women's Club) has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.
previous page Next page