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West of Boulevard Historic District

West of Boulevard house

West of Boulevard house
City of Richmond
Department of Community Development


West of Boulevard Historic District is a 69-block residential neighborhood in the West End of the city.  Developed from about 1895 until about 1940, the district conforms to an irregular grid pattern of broad tree-shaded east-west avenues and narrower north-south side streets.  Here one of Richmond’s most significant collections of early-20th century architecture conveys a uniformity of scale, materials, and setbacks while reflecting a rich variety of architectural styles of the period. Compact rows of brick row houses, detached town houses, apartment buildings, commercial buildings, three churches, a synagogue, and five schools are in the district.  Architectural styles include Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival, Colonial Revival, Classical Revival, Craftsman, Mediterranean, Tudor Revival, and Art Deco.

Western development in the city halted after the nationwide recession in 1873, but Richmond’s economy soon rebounded.  City population rose from 63,600 in 1880 to 81,388 by 1890 creating a demand for more housing.  Developers looked west beyond the city limits as a likely area of development.  The arrival of the electric streetcar after 1888 allowed for the rapid expansion of residential development in the suburbs surrounding the central city.  No streetcar lines extended into the West of the Boulevard area until 1909.  In that year, the Virginia Railway and Power Company extended the Broad Street line west to Sheppard Street and then south along Sheppard and Belmont Avenue to West Cary Street.  A streetcar line also extended along Floyd Avenue west of Robinson Street.

Before the arrival of the streetcar lines, only small pockets of residences, mostly modest two-story frame dwellings, were in the West of Boulevard Historic District area.  After 1900, development along Monument Avenue significantly affected the concurrent development of much of the West of Boulevard neighborhood, and the architecture for the district started to imitate the elegant brick and stone residences along the more prominent avenue.  While Monument Avenue boasted upper-class residents who headed large corporations, the West of Boulevard area was home to middle-class individuals with more modest occupations.

The oldest buildings in the district appear to be the three granite-faced dwellings at 2905, 2911, and 2915 Grove Avenue.  Built in the late 1890s, these highly original interpretations of the Queen Anne style are among Richmond’s most interesting examples of late Victorian architecture.  Each house has a lively outline with angled projections and a corner tower.  Nearby, twin brick houses, at 2818 and 2902 Ellwood Avenue, are Queen Anne and Italianate inspired compositions local architect D. Wiley Anderson designed.  Built around 1895, each house has projections, gables, a corner pyramidal-roofed tower, modillion cornices, decorative woodwork, and a porch with turned posts.

Another D. Wiley Anderson-designed the dwelling is at 2904 Floyd Avenue.  An unusual brick building with a slate mansard roof, decorative brick cornice, and gables flanked by pinnacles, it has Romanesque Revival features such as round-arched windows and a heavy stone-trimmed arched porch.  Another Romanesque Revival-style building from 1907 is at 2821 Floyd Avenue.

St. Benedicts

St. Benedict'sChurch
City of Richmond Department of Community Development

Notable individual examples of the Colonial Revival style dating from the 1910s include the dwellings at 3319 and 3321 Ellwood;  2815 and 2817 Floyd, local architect Isaac T. Skinner designed; 400 North Sheppard; and two houses at 2909 and 2921 Floyd.  An unusually large frame Colonial Revival house is at 303 Grove Avenue.  Built in 1914, it features an Ionic-columned porch and an entrance with fanlight and flanking sidelights.

Fine collections of Colonial Revival houses dating from 1913 and 1914 are in the 2800 and 2900 blocks of Ellwood Avenue.  Impressive rows of dwellings on both sides of the 500 block of North Sheppard date from 1917 and 1918, and several examples local contractor O. J. Davis built between 1912 and 1914 are in the 3100 block of Floyd.  Another fine collection is in the 3100 block of Grove Avenue.  Local contractor A. D. Sprinkle constructed four Colonial Revival houses at 3107-3113 Grove in 1912, and Matthias Kayhoe built three (3101-3105) dwellings in the same block the following year.  Muhleman & Kayhoe built four similar houses in 1915 at 3101-3107 Stuart Avenue, and four houses with second-story bay windows at 3216-22 Stuart (builder unknown) are from 1917.

City school architect Charles M. Robinson designed two schools in the district.   Robert E. Lee Middle School at 3101 Kensington Avenue dates from 1919 and is unique to the city.  This Colonial Revival building has a large flat-roof, parapeted central section embellished with engaged Corinthian columns, a modillion and dentil cornice, and tall round-arched windows.  Three-story square towers lie at either end of the central section, each topped by a copper dome above a bracketed frieze and dentil cornice.  Small two-story wings with grouped windows flank the towers.

Robinson also designed the Albert H. Hill Middle School at 3400 Patterson Avenue.  Constructed in 1926, this building is also unique in Richmond.  Mediterranean in style, it consists of a three-story, flat-roofed, and parapeted central section skirted by a pantile pent roof supported by metal brackets.  This section also contains three double doors, each topped by a fanlight.  The central section has flanking two-story wings with rows of windows and projecting end pavilions.  Colorful tile and terra cotta wall and parapet decorations adorn both the end pavilions and the central section.

The elegant, largely intact collection of early 20th-century architecture makes the West of Boulevard Historic District a highly prized residential community in Richmond.  Its close proximity to renowned museums and unique shopping experiences makes this neighborhood one of the more dynamic parts of town.

Plan your visit
West of Boulevard Historic District is generally bounded by Colonial Ave. to the east, W. Grace St. and Cutshaw Ave. to the north, Thompson St. to the west, and Ellwood Ave. to the south and is 1.5 miles west of downtown. Private homes are not open to the public.
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