The Brookland Park Historic District is composed of several late-nineteenth and early-twentieth subdivisions anchored by commercial development at North Avenue and Brookland Park Boulevard.
The Brookland Park Historic District
- Early History
- Residential Development
- Commercial and Public Development
- Architectural Styles
- Credit and Sources
Brookland Park, the earliest and largest of the subdivisions in the Brookland Park Historic District, was plated in the same year, 1890, as Barton Heights to the south. However, because of its distance from the streetcar terminus this area was slower to develop and the lot sizes were smaller because the developers did not think them to be as desirable as those closest to the trolley.
Modest frame bungalows and American Foursquare houses, built in the early-twentieth century, surround the heart of this historic district at the crossing of North Avenue and Brookland Park Boulevard. This intersection was the neighborhood’s’ early twentieth-century commercial center, and the point where the streetcar tracks once turned west, linking other neighborhoods in Richmond’s Northside. Monumental heoclassical churches and school buildings enhance the neighborhood, as do two, small, triangular public parks. Most of the streets are lined with sidewalks and mature trees. A secondary grid of alleyways provides access to one-story frame garages and service sheds.
The Brookland Park Historic District is composed of several late-19th and early 20th century subdivision on the Northside of Richmond. The largest and earliest of these subdivision is Brookland Park which began in 1890 as a joint venture of James H. Barton and Joseph M. Fourqurean. The neighborhood grew slowly as it was some distance from the brand new electric street car terminal in Barton Heights. Its growth spurted after 1911 when the Norwood subdivision joined Brookland Park to the Town of Barton Heights to the south. Belrose (191I), North Richmond Terrace (1913), and Alvista Heights (1914) continued the grid pattern and lot sizes established in Brookland Park as development moved further north of Brookland Park Boulevard. The last subdivision Woodrow Park (1924) filled in a small tract of land to the west of Brookland Park.
The historic district’s northernmost boundary is Ladies Mile Road. The eastern boundary is the Richmond-Henrico Turnpike and the steep ravine of Cannon’s Branch. Norwood Avenue and Lancaster Road define the district’s southern boundary and Griffin and Edgewood Streets define its western edge. The south and west boundaries, shared with the Barton Heights and Battery Court Historic Districts, are corporate definitions derived from the neighborhood development. They do not delineate a sharp change in neighborhood character or architecture.
James H. Barton appeared on the Richmond business scene quite suddenly in 1889 when he purchased farmland north of the city at the end of Second Street on the “New North Mile Road” (North Avenue).
“I saw,” he said, “the finest piece of suburban landed property I ever beheld. It began almost at the city limits, and included two hundred acres. From it the prettiest view of the city that had come under my observation could be seen… I bought it and am now putting into practice my scheme.
Constructing a viaduct across the ravine between the city and this “high plateau, capable of presenting the most pleasant sights,” Barton connected his new town of Barton Heights to the city and soon (1894) had electric trolleys ferrying his clients to new homes. In addition to his purchase of the heights above Bacon Quarter Branch that today bear his name, Barton with his relations Hattie C. Lamb (his sister) wife of T. Avery Lamb, and her brother-in-law Lawrence Lamb, began looking further north as well.
In February 1889, Barton and the two Lambs bought from two of the heirs of
Edward Griffin a total of 73 % acres to the west of the North Road. In 1884 the 137-acre farm of Fendall Griffin had been divided among his heirs (the children of his son Edward Griffin (1795-1872) had been a delegate to the General Assembly from Henrico County in the 1850s, and his property sat astride the Barton’s proposed development of the area north of present-day Battery Court and Barton Heights. Today Fendall and Griffin Avenues memorialize this early ownership. The remaining parcels of the Griffin estate were retained by Emma Bowe (Mrs. N. W.) and George Griffin, and would later constitute a major part of the Battery Court neighborhood.
James Barton and the Lambs had some competition in the development of Brookland Park. Joseph M. Fourqurean, a successful dry goods merchant and president of the North Side Land Improvement Company, partnered with August F. Cordes (another Broad Street dry goods merchant in 1890 to open up Oak Park, which was located across North Avenue from Barton and Lamb’s venture and south of Brookland Park Boulevard to Hooper Avenue. Fourqurean (died 1911) like a number of Richmond’s new merchants, had founded his business. Fourqurean Price & Company in 1865, in the ashes of the old capital. His long involvement in the city’s capitalist circles provided him with many prominent associates.
The Northside Land Companys was simultaneously developing the land east of the Richmond Henrico Turnpike, today’s Highland Park. Like Barton the company constructed a viaduct (Fifth Street) over which another trolley line carried Chestnut Hill’s residents to their new homes. Because of its greater ties to the city’s power structure, the Northside Land Company also pitched Chestnut Hills to a higher income clientele.
By 1894 Brookland Park was laid out around the intersection of North Road and (a newly cut through) Brookland Park Boulevard which connected Chestnut Hill to the east to the Brook Pike on the west. It extended north to Gladstone Street (then Jones), east to the Richmond Henrico Turnpike, west to Griffin Avenue and south to Norwood Avenue (then Rogers Street). Lots were generally smaller the further they were from the trolley lines, which stopped at the Cedar Tree (Kersting Street, later Cedar Tree Street, today Graham Road).
In the same year Barton District was created within Henrico County’s Brookland District. It included Barton Heights, Brookland Park (Barton & Lamb) and Joseph M. Fourqurean’s North Street subdivision. The county’s supervisors appointed Board of Improvements Commissioners for the Northside district in 1898: J. M. Fourqurean, A.F.Mosby, W.H.Dunn, C.W.Wingfield and C.W.Vaughan. This body had authority to direct locally raised tax monies to capital improvement projects in the area.
But Fourqurean’s and Barton’s Brookland Park venture was premature in 1890. Perhaps the lots were too small at 30 feet and the distance from the trolley too far to compete with Barton Heights proper. The 1901 Henrico atlas shows 28 dwellings and one church (Barton Heights Methodist at 2819-21 North Avenue between Essex & Hooper 1893) compared with the 120 houses in the town of Barton Heights. Other developers and savvy property owners likewise held onto the lands between Barton’s two ventures for the next decades. It was not until 1911 that subsequent suburban development closed the gap between Barton Heights and Brookland Park.
It would be John B. Swartwout who opened the land between the two original Barton ventures (Barton Heights and Brookland Park) as Norwood in 1911 (between Hooper and Graham), having acquired the large parcels on the east side of North Avenue after 1904 from Julia A. Schultz (widow of J.B.) and Franklin B.Traylor. Swartwout (1882-1947) was a lawyer and real estate developer. A native of Port Jervis, New York he was reared in Richmond and participated in a number of real estate ventures in addition to maintaining his law practice. In the far west end of the city, Swartwout developed the Tuckahoe Apartments in the 1920s, which continue to overlook the Country Club of Virginia. During the development of Norwood, J. B. Swartwout made his home on North Avenue just outside the limits of the town of Barton Heights.
His house (2503 North Avenue) faces Overbrook Road in the center of group of Spanish Colonial Villas constructed in the 1920s. Swartwout’s house is a modified Greek Revival House and appears to be the oldest surviving structure in the District. From its age it appears to be the manor house of the Schultz property that Swartwout had acquired after 1904.
Among the residents of Brookland Park was J.F. Pizzini at 3110 (910, 1610) North Avenue, in 1906 publisher of the Catholic Visitor, and owner of Pizzini’s Show Prints on 8th Street. North of Essex on Barton Avenue at 1309 (2808) lived Frank H. Nott (1865-1939) whose company dealt in recycled materials (junk). His wife Edith Emms continued to head the company and live in their substantial house until her death in 1950.
The Bickerstaff family whose business was automotive supplies (J. L. Bickerstaff & Sons at 1811 East Main Street) maintained a neighborhood presence in the years before World War II in the Alvista Heights section. Alvista Heights was developed after 1914 along the westem slope beside the Richmond Henrico Turnpike, north of Brookland Park Boulevard and below Gladstone Street. In 1924 J. L. Bickerstaff Jr. lived in the original corporation of Barton Heights at 2206 Lamb Avenue. John J.Bickerstaff lived north of Brookland Park Boulevard at 3029 Lamb. By 1932 John J. had moved to 3118 Lamb and remained there into the 1940′s. James H. Bickerstaff also lived on Lamb (at 3129) in 1932, but had moved a block away to 3110 Woodrow by 1940, by which time he had assumed the presidency of the family business.
Other residents of Woodrow Park developed in 1924 included J. Hay Taliaferro (clerk at Kingan & Co, Provisioners) at 3215 Woodrow. In 1932 John M. Valentine, Jr. had lived at 3112 Woodrow Avenue, while the senior Valentine, of the long established auction house, lived further east on Brookland Park Boulevard in Highland Park (1115 East).
North of Alvista Heights was North Richmond Terrace (1913) bounded on the south by Gladstone (Jones) Street and on the north by Ladies Mile and its intersection with Cliff Avenue. Meredith Street is the lone cross street of the subdivision, and like the other cross streets north of Brookland Park Boulevard, has no addresses on it. The area showed a good proportion of home ownership in 1940. In that year and in the preceding decade Richmond City police detective Lt. Daniel W. Duling lived at 3324 Barton Avenue near the edge of the district. His son Frank Duling became the city’s chief of police in the 1960′s, and has remained a Northside resident on Brook Road.
Meredith Street memorializes the partnership of Meredith & Cocke whose lands also bordered the northern limits of Brookland Park. Similarly Garland and Hanes Avenues recognize the ownership of Garland Hanes, whose lands once lay north of Brookland Park Boulevard (Brook Pike) and principally east of North Avenue.
Commercial and Public Development
During the 1920s and 1930s, as the subdivisions became more populated and the streetcar line was extended to the north and west, commercial development flourished at the intersection of North Avenue and Brookland Park Boulevard.
It was at Brookland Park Boulevard that the trolley turned west to service other neighborhoods. The 1922 City Directory lists only two commercial buildings on North Avenue – the North Avenue Market at 2927 and the Mills Company, Inc., confectioners at 3000 – and none on Brookland Park Boulevard. By 1926 the 2900 block of North Avenue and the 00 to 200 blocks of Brookland Park were fully developed with a variety of commerical establishments.
The directories lists several grocery stores, including the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company at 2912 North Avenue and 119 Brookland Park Boulevard. There was a restaurant, several bakeries and confectioners, barber shops, a florist, tailors and shoe repair, a Chinese hand laundry and a hardware store. It was a shoping district that could satisfy all of the consumer needs of the Northside residents.
The corner of North and Brookland Park is dominated by two large structures, the former Northside Branch of the City and State Bank and Trust Company, and the remaining half of the Brookland Inn (see above). The two-story, Art Deco Brookland Theater breaks up the 100 block of Brookland Park while the Northside Branch of the American National Bank commands the 200 block.
It is the public buildings that tell the story of the development of the Brookland Park community, from its initial identity as a speculative suburb for the white middle class to the presentday mixed-income, mixed-race community.
In 1896 the community was home to four white Protestant congregations: the frame Barton Heights Baptist Church(1892) stood at Virginia (Greenwood) and Wickham streets. In 1922 a new masonry sanctuary was built at Hanes and Norwood, which today houses the First African Baptist Church.
The original Barton Heights Methodist Church (1893) was on North Avenue between Essex and Hooper. In 1922, reflecting a change in the composition of the white population, the old building was sold to St. Paul Catholic (whose ornamental-block priests’ house continues to occupy the comer of Hooper and North). The Methodists built a new building at Garland Avenue in 1931, which today houses the congregation of Garland Avenue Baptist Church.
Epiphany Episcopal was originally located at 801 (2201) Barton Avenue at Battery Street. In 1932, as the Church of the Epiphany, it moved to a new Collegiate Gothic sanctuary on Hanes Avenue at Essex. When its congregation opted to move to Henrico County in 1960, the building was transferred to St. Philip’s Episcopal, an African American congregation formerly located on Leigh Street at St.James. The Overbrook Presbyterian Church building still stands on Overbrook at the southeast corner of Miller Avenue. Its name was changed to reflect its current predominantly African-American congregation, All Souls Presbyterian Church.
In Brookland Park a remarkable consistency pervades the residential architecture. Most houses are builder-designed American Foursquares with features reflecting the Colonial Revival or Craftsman styles. The dominant building use in the historic district is the single-family home; these houses, along with the duplexes that dot the neighborhood, are similar in scale, materials, character, and setback. Though a few larger Brookland Park houses were constructed south of Brookland Park Boulevard, most are two stories, enclosing less than 2,000 square feet of finished living space. Most are frame with a single-story porch spanning the facade, and either Colonial Revival or Craftsman in style, moderate in scale, with understated materials and stylistic expression.
The neighborhood’s primary residential streets run north and south, continuing the grid pattern established in Barton Heights, located south of this district. Very few buildings front on the east west cross streets, except at Brookland Park Boulevard. The relatively flat topography allows for an uninterrupted grid of long blocks at the neighborhood’s interior. A majority of the district’s noncontributing modern buildings are located at the eastern edge (see Clifton Street and Nomood Court) where the land falls sharply to the Richmond-Henrico Turnpike, resulting in irregularities in the street grid. At the northeast section of the neighborhood, smaller cottages and bungalows edge the historic district along Cliff Avenue.
The neighborhood’s visual interest derives from the variety of commercial buildings at its center and from the monumental churches and schools which are focal points in the early suburban grid. The neighborhood’s commercial area is anchored the masonry buildings on the south side of Brookland Park Boulevard at North Avenue.
Across the Boulevard, on the north side of the intersection, at 2 East Brookland Park Boulevard a one-story Moderne structure faces the comer with a curved front and an aluminum canopy projecting over the entry. At North Avenue and Brookland Park Boulevard many one and two-story commercial structures represent a pared-down commercial vernacular, as seen in the former A&P Grocery Store at 2921 North Avenue. Other commercial buildings incorporate features of the Spanish Colonial (see 101-113 West Brookland Park Boulevard) or Classical Revival styles, as seen in the former bank building at 201 West Brookland Park Boulevard.
The historic district’s other landmarks-its schools and churches–represent either the Classical Revival or Gothic Revival styles.
The district’s two publics chools are monumental buildingsin the Classical Revival style: North Side Junior High School (now Community High School) at 201 E. Brookland Park Boulevard and J.E.B. Stuart Elementary School at 3101 Fendall Avenue. The more understated St. Paul’s School building at 2811 Fendall Avenue was constructed in the Colonial Revival style in 1923.
The 1922 First African Baptist Church (built as the Barton Heights Baptist Church) is located at the intersection of Hanes and Norwood Avenues. Repeating a pattern established in Richmond’s other historic Baptist churches, this is a temple form Classical Revival building. The design of the Garland Avenue Baptist Church (built as Barton Heights Methodist Church) at 2700 Garland Avenue is heavily influenced by the Scottish Architect, James Gibbs (1683-1774) and forms an impressive terminus to the Norwood Avenue axis.
Greek Revival (ca. 1840)
The sole example of the Greek Revival style in the historic district is 2503 North Avenue (pictured above). During the 1910s this was the home of [awyer J. B. Swartwout, one of Brookland Park’s early developers. This three-bay detached building appears to be the oldest structure in the early north Richmond suburbs. The Flemish bond brickwork has been painted and the original porch and entry have been replaced with Colonial Revival elements (perhaps during Mr. Swarhrvout’s ownership). At the first floor the original six-over-nine, floor-length windows and ramped hoods have been preserved, as have the six-over-six second-story windows. The box cornice is enriched with modillions and a crown molding. The projecting center bay of the house, which contains the primary entry, is articulated with a cross gable.
Italianate (ca. 1890-1910s)
Although the ltalianate-style dominated Richmond’s urban architecture in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, this style is not well represented in the Brookland Park Historic District. Typical ltalianate houses tended to have a vertical emphasis with a parapeted facade shallow- pitched shed roofs, bracketed cornices, and a paneled frieze. Of the four examples of Brookland Park’s ltalianate buildings, the three-bay, two-story house at 3121 North Avenue has the greatest integrity. This two-story frame house retains a typical bracketed and denticulated cornice and paneled frieze with sawn vents. Although modern shutters and a first-floor picture window have been added, the two-over-two second-floor windows have been preserved, as have the sawn brackets and tumed columns of the three-bay front porch.
Late Victorian (1890s-1900s)
The few Late Victorian-style buildings in Brookland Park are typically frame, detached, single- family houses that are vertically oriented, with less exuberant decoration than the later Queen Anne examples. Some have steep pitched metal roofs, where others have a false mansard roof on the facade only. Brookland Park’s scattered examples tend to be located in an 1890s development mapped as “Division of Barton and Fourqurean Land”.
3008 Barton Avenue is an example of this small scattering of stylistically similar buildings. An L-shaped, house with weatherboard siding and a two-bay side entry porch, 3008 Barton originally had a cross-gable standing-seam metal roof. A paneled and bracketed three-sided bay announces the primary living space within, and supports a projecting bay holding a pair of narrow one-over-one sashes. A louvered bull’s eye centered in the steep-pitched gable above completed this handsome architectural flourish. The porch featured a spindle frieze and turned columns and balusters. A recent renovation has eradicated most of this detail.
Queen Anne (1890s-1920s)
The few pure Queen Anne style houses in the Brookland Park Historic District are frame buildings, clad in weatherboard, with a mix of intersecting roof forms and angled bays. The remaining historic ornament is concentrated on their porches where sawn brackets are combined with turned columns and balusters. In contrast with the neighboring Barton Heights Historic District where the Queen Anne style was dominant, in Brookland Park, Queen Anne style attributes such as varied material textures, angled bays, and multiple roof forms are often fused with attributes of the Colonial Revival style. Examples of these stylistically-mixed houses include 2608 and 2702 Barton Avenue. Much of the sawn-wood ornament that once adorned the neighborhood’s Queen Anne style houses has been lost.
Colonial Revival (1910s-1940s)
The Colonial Revival style, characterized by simple massing, box cornices, molded casings, and generic details recalling American Colonial architecture, dominates Brookland Park’s residentialarchitecture.
These houses, duplexes, and small apartment buildings (with four or fewer units) are usually weatherboarded, rendered in stucco, or surfaced with gunnite. Their roofs are usually hipped with centered dormers. The more high-style Colonial Revival examples have pedimented doors or entryways, dentils or modillions, and patterned upper windowsashes.
Several prominent examples, such as the Nott House at 2808 Barton Avenue and the nearby house at 2812 Barton, Avenue were constructed in molded concrete block.
The larger scale examples are found on Barton Avenue, particularly in the blocks south of Brookland Park Boulevard. These houses, at the core of the Norwood and Oak Park subdivisions, perpetuate the architectural themes established in the bigger houses of James Barton’s earlier development, Barton Heights.
Much more common in the Brookland Park Historic District are the Colonial Revival Style houses built on the American Foursquare prototype, such as those lining the 2800 and 2900 blocks of Griffin Avenue. These boxy, weatherboarded or stuccoed houses often have paired windows with patterned upper sashes. Their raised, one-story, two-bay porches have square or round Tuscan columns. Centered in their hipped, standing-seam metal roofs are hipped dormers.
Earlier (1910s) examples of this style tend to be south of Brookland Park Boulevard. A majority of those north of Brookland Park Boulevard were constructed in the 1920s.
Bunglaw Craftsman (1900s-1930s)
Hundreds of examples of the Bungalow style are found in the Brookland Park Historic District. These builder-designed houses were constructed throughout the neighborhood. Like the district’s Colonial Revival style houses, most examples of the Bungalow style are boxy American Foursquare houses surfaced with stucco or gunnite. Most of the Bungalow Style houses are wood-frame construction with hipped or gable roofs and raised one-story, two-bay front porches with prominent piers. The roof rafters are often exposed within deep eaves, asin the gable-roofed examples at 3118 and 3219 Barton Avenue, both American Foursquares. Many similar examples are found on Griffin, Fendall, Hanes, and Garland Avenues, the streets comprising the Brookland Park subdivision.
Commercial Style (1920s-1930s)
Generic Commercial style brick and stucco-faced buildings are concentrated in the area spanning Fendall and Barton Avenues along East and West Brookland Park Boulevard and in the 2900 block of North Avenue. These one-and-two-story buildings with their large, plate-glass storefronts have flat roofs with parapets and simple, geometric brick, stucco, or cast stone ornament. 2923 North Avenue is an excellent examples of this style.
After its 1920s construction this one-story building was the neighborhood A&P grocery store. When the A&P moved to larger facilities on Brookland Park Boulevard, 2923 became home to a local bakery. Like the adjacent building at 2919 North Avenue, 2923 has a brick facade and a ramped parapet.
Classical Revival (1920s)
The Classical Revival buildings of the Brookland Park Historic District are the neighborhood’s landmarks. The most impressive of these, Barton Heights Baptist Church (1922, at 2700 Hanes Avenue), Barton Heights Methodist Church (ca. 1930s, at 2700 Garland Avenue), and Northside Junior High School (1920s, at 201 East Brookland Park Boulevard) feature two-story porticoes with pediments, full entablatures, raised basements, and monumental stairs. The main entry to the junior high school is set within an enormous cast stone arch filled with an ornamental metal screen.
The most prominent feature of the J. E. B. Stuart Elementary School (3101 Fendall Avenue), the historic district’s other 1920s public school in the Classical Revival style, is the three-story mass of the rounded auditorium centered in its facade. This red brick school is less monumental than the Northside Junior High School building, but its classical moldings and two-story paired pilasters convey dignity and seriousness of purpose.
The small-scale Classical Revival bank building at 201 W. Brookland Park Boulevard is an abandoned architectural jewel. Tuscan pilasters define the corners of this two-story building. A molded metal entablature wraps the building below the paneled parapet. The arched central entry is framed with an architrave consisting of alternating rounded and squared blocks, topped with a segmental pediment. One block further east at 115 West Brookland Park Boulevard, the Brookland Theater incorporates an Art Deco marquee with a more playful adaptation of the Classical Revival style.
Gothic Revival (1920′s)
Epiphany Episcopal (now St. Philip’s Episcopal), at 2900 Hanes Avenue, is a modestly scaled redbrick church building with cast-stone Gothic Revival ornament. The building presents the sole example of this style in the Brookland Park Historic District. The church’s corner entry tower, parapeted end walls, shallow buttresses and arched windows are capped or framed in cast stone that mimics the ornament of English Gothic churches. W. Lauman Ragland, a general contractor who was once mayor of Barton Heights, built the church in the early 1920s. The Epiphany Episcopal Church building is reminiscent of Ralph Adams Cram’s widely acclaimed designs for the University of Richmond campus (1910s and 1920s).
Art Deco (1920s-1940s)
2 East Brookland Park Blvd is the historic district’s best example of the Art Deco Style. Its curved corner at the northeast comer of Brookland Park Boulevard and North Avenue reinforces the importance of this commercial intersection. The slightly recessed corner entry is protected by a curved aluminum canopy, which also shelters the flanking plate glass storefronts. The two sides of the building are almost devoid of ornament. The building rests on a shallow projecting base. One large glass-block window admits natural light to the
Post World War II (1940s)
Several clusters of Post World War ll cottages are concentrated in the 2700 block of Fendall, the 2900 block of Lamb Avenue, and in the 3300 block of Cliff Avenue. These small-scale one-and one-and-one-half story houses are typically three bays wide with a front porch. The houses were intended to provide economical housing for returning war veterans. Ornamentis restricted to window shutters and a few simple moldings. Gable roofs are typical, as are dormers and six-over-six windows. The Lamb Avenue examples are unusual in their orientation (the gable end faces the street) and in their off-center entries.
Credit and Sources
The text above is almost entirely sourced from the the registration form from the Brookland Park application to the National Register of Historic Places (PDF). The original document for the Brookland Park Historic District, dated March 2001, was put together by Kim Chen, Mary Sadler, Peter Witt, and Jean McRae, and includes much more more than is shown here. Check out the original form to learn more or read up on any of the other sites in Richmond that are listed on the National Register.
All photos by John Murden unless otherwise noted. The circa 1990s photo of the Brookland Inn / 2900 block of North Avenue is from Virginia Film Office. The black&white photo of the trolley is from an unknown source.
Previous neighborhood profiles in the series: