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
Hancock-Wirt-Caskie House

Hancock-Wirt-Caskie House

Hancock-Wirt-Caskie House
City of Richmond
Department of Community Development


One of Richmond’s best-preserved early 19th-century mansions, the Hancock-Wirt-Caskie House, with its unusual architectural plan, has seen a diverse succession of owners, including an attorney general and two mayors. Michael Hancock, about whom history books mention only his penchant for gambling, built the house in 1808-1809. A few years later, Hancock sold the property to William Wirt to pay for gambling debts. Wirt is famous as the author of one of the first great biographies in American literature, Life of Patrick Henry. He also was Attorney General of Virginia and later served as U.S. Attorney General under James Monroe and John Quincy Adams. Benjamin Tate, former Mayor of Richmond, bought the house and eventually passed the house onto his son. The younger Tate also served as Mayor of Richmond between 1826 and 1839. After this, the house passed into the hands of the Palmer and Caskie families, who would own it from 1854 until c. 1945. This lengthy period of continuous occupancy and little change in ownership help account for its remarkable state of preservation.

Recognized as one of Richmond’s finest examples of the Federal style, the house is the last remaining building of its kind. During the early 19th century, it was one of several houses in Richmond with a three-sectioned bay motif with a two-story porch in between. Architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who designed a house with semi-octagonal bays, likely influenced the design of these houses. Flemish bond brickwork, marble lintels and keystones, finely detailed interior woodwork, and an octagonal living room all combine to make this a sophisticated example of early 19th-century residential architecture in Richmond. Owned by the American Red Cross from c. 1960 to c. 1970, the building now houses attorneys’ offices.

Plan your visit
The Hancock-Wirt-Caskie House is located at 2 N. 5th St.  The building generally is not open to the public.  The Hancock-Wirt-Caskie House has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.
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