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Richmond's African American Heritage
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Maggie L. Walker House

Maggie Walker House

Maggie L. Walker House
Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
National Park Service

The Maggie L. Walker House, a two-story home with architectural elements in both the Italianate and the Gothic styles, was home to one of the country's most celebrated African American women.  Constructed in 1883 by George Boyd, a black builder, the home is in a prime location in the heart of Jackson Ward, the center of Richmond's African American business and social life at the turn of the 20th century. 

Maggie Lena Walker was born on July 15, 1864.  Her mother was a former slave and servant in the home of Elizabeth Van Lew.  At the age of 14, Ms. Walker joined the local council of the Independent Order of St. Luke, a fraternal burial society established in 1867 in Baltimore.  The Order administered to the sick and aged, promoted humanitarian causes, and encouraged individual self-help and integrity.  As a member of the Order, Maggie Walker held a number of offices including delegate at the Order's biannual national convention.  In 1899, the organization elected her as Right Worthy Grand Secretary, a position of leadership she held until her death.

In 1902, Walker established the St. Luke Herald so that the Order could better communicate with the public. The following year she opened the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank and served as its first president—earning her the distinction of being the first woman to charter and serve as president of a bank in the United States. Walker later served as the chairperson of the bank after it merged with two other Richmond banks to become The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company.  The latter is still in operation today, across the street from its earlier location at 1st and Marshall Streets, and was the longest continually African American operated bank in the country. 

In addition to her work with the bank and the Order, Mrs. Walker was active in her community in many ways.  Over the course of her life, she served on the board of several women's organizations, including the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and the Virginia Industrial School for Girls.  She also served as vice-president of the Richmond branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and was a member of the national NAACP board.

Maggie Walker and her husband purchased the Leigh Street house in 1904. They soon began making changes, including the introduction of central heating and electricity.  With the addition of several bedrooms and enclosed porches, the home increased from nine to 28 rooms.  In 1928, they added an elevator to the rear of the house to accommodate Mrs. Walker, who was confined to a wheelchair. 

The house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975.  The Walker family owned the home until 1979, when the National Park Service and Eastern National Parks and Monuments Association purchased the home and all its contents. The house was then restored to its 1930's appearance.  With the renovation of adjacent buildings, the National Park System unit now includes Mrs. Walker's residence of 30 years as well as a visitor center detailing her life and the Jackson Ward community in which she lived and worked.  The furnishings found throughout the home today are original family pieces and provide a tangible link to Mrs. Walker's occupancy from 1904 to 1934.  Together, the house and the furnishings help visitors learn more about Maggie Walker and the world in which she lived.  The surrounding community of Jackson Ward is a National Historic Landmark district.

Plan your visit

The Maggie L. Walker House at 110A E. Leigh St., a unit of the National Park System, has also been designated a National Historic Landmark.  Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file. Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site at 600 N.2nd St. is open from Monday-Saturday 9:00am to 5:00pm and is closed on Sundays.  Admission and parking are free.  For further information call 804-771-2017, ext. 23, or visit the National Park Service Maggie L.Walker National Historic Site website, which features an interesting collection of photographic images.

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