Ginter Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.
Verno, Yvonne and Chen, Kimberly Ginter Park Terrace Historic District, 2002, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Ginter Park Terrace is one of several streetcar suburbs developed in the north side suburban areas (referred to as Northside) of the city of Richmond, Virginia, in the second decade of the twentieth century. The neighborhood takes its name from the adjacent Ginter Park, a neighborhood of suburban estates developed in the late nineteenth century by Major Lewis Ginter, a prominent tobacconist. The neighborhood was subdivided and platted in 1913 adjacent to the streetcar line. The wedge-shaped tract is bounded by Ladies Mile Road on the west and north, Edgewood Avenue on the east and Brookland Park Boulevard on the south. Ginter Park Terrace has clear boundaries and Pollard Park, at the western edge, forms a gateway from Chamberlayne Avenue and serves as a transition from commercial uses to the residential neighborhood. Edgewood Avenue delineates the start of more intense commercial development along Brookland Park Boulevard and Ladies Mile Road separates the smaller and more closely placed dwellings of Ginter Park Terrace from the large lots and grand houses of Ginter Park. Although there are a few two-family and multi-family residences, single-family dwellings predominate. The houses are oriented east to west facing narrow tree-lined streets. American Foursquare plan houses with Craftsman, Colonial, Dutch, Mediterranean and Tudor Revival-style influences are randomly placed throughout the neighborhood creating a dynamic visual experience of various styles, colors and textures. The district contains 297 resources. There are 165 contributing dwellings, 6 of which are duplexes, and five noncontributing dwellings. There are also two noncontributing buildings housing businesses on the Brookland Park Boulevard edge of the district. There are 121 contributing garages; three noncontributing garages; and one contributing site, Pollard Park.
The predominant building type found in Ginter Park Terrace and the Northside streetcar suburban areas in general is residential in nature. "Unlike the rigid town house, which was restrained by the straightjacket of small city lots, the suburban house could be free and informal, with sun porches and verandas opening onto gardens on all sides. The townhouse was a simple rectangular box; the suburban house could have wings disposed in a free form manner. While the town house was typically brick, the suburban house could be wooden. The size and exuberance of the buildings were restricted only by lot size. The new neighborhoods had a homogeneous look about them that would characterize most subsequent twentieth-century American suburban building. In these Northside neighborhoods the American Foursquare became a framework upon which to hang the stylistic embellishments of the eclectic, revival styles of the early to mid-twentieth century. Interspersed are examples of Craftsman houses as well as later Colonial Revivals from the mature years of the neighborhoods.
The Ginter Park Terrace Historic District exemplifies architectural styles, which "speak the language of social reform developing during the early part of the twentieth century, from the late teens until the 1930s. During this era the architectural styles and interior design of the late nineteenth century were often considered "old fashioned," inefficient and often unhealthy. The proponents of what would later be called "progressive architecture" were following the trends of simple lines, fewer but larger rooms and simple and practical construction techniques. Many middle and upper income families abandoned the clustered, urban row house to take advantage of larger detached suburban dwellings. For middle income and working class families the American Foursquare with its simple and economical square shape and four-room plan became the icon of suburban living. The simplicity of the American Foursquare form made it the ideal vehicle for carrying decorative embellishments drawn from revival styles such as Colonial, Mediterranean, Dutch Colonial and Tudor as well as the American Bungalow and Craftsman movements. Architects and builders interpreted these architectural styles in a vernacular or local manner. This was not uncommon throughout the country during this era of architectural revolution.
Pattern books, Sears-Roebuck and other mail order kits from about 1900 to 1930 popularized the American Foursquare which until recently was a style without a name. An unpretentious square form, with a hipped or gable roof, heavy eaves, a porch across the front and one or more dormers characterizes the style. It is reminiscent of the Colonial Revival. As a builder's or pattern-book house, however, the American Foursquare was highly adaptable. It often contained elements of Tudor, Spanish Revival, Prairie and other styles. The American Foursquare could also be constructed in variety of building materials such as shingle, clapboard, rusticated concrete block, brick and stucco. The blending of the American Foursquare with Craftsman or Prairie influences is the most prominent design in the Ginter Park Terrace Historic District. These houses feature low pitched gable and hipped roofs with wide overhanging eaves with exposed roof rafters, decorative (false) beams or braces under the eaves. Dormers with shed, hipped or gable roofs occur frequently throughout the neighborhood.
One of the outstanding details in Ginter Park Terrace is the full-width porch, a feature common to American Foursquare, Craftsman and Colonial Revival style houses. The means of supporting the porch roof is a distinctive and variable detail. Typically short, square upper columns rest upon more massive piers or upon a solid porch balustrade. Commonly the columns have slopping sides, referred to as battered. The materials used for the piers, columns, and solid balustrades are varied and include stone, shingles, brick, concrete block, and stucco. In Ginter Park Terrace they frequently occur in combination.
There are several Colonial Revival-style houses dispersed throughout the neighborhood. Colonial Revival was a popular architectural style between 1880 and 1955. Over this seventy-five year period several subtypes evolved. In Ginter Park Terrace the three predominant Colonial Revival styles feature a hipped roof with full-width porch, a hipped roof without full-width porch and a gambrel roof. However different these subtypes are, they share similar qualities including a rectangular form and an accentuated front door with a decorative crown, which sometimes is extended to create a small entry portico. The exteriors of the Colonial Revival houses in Ginter Park Terrace are brick, stucco, or aluminum siding with either slate or shingled roofs.
The 3000 block of Hawthorne Avenue consists of only seven structures, all of which are oriented toward Pollard Park, the district's western boundary. This block consists of houses which exemplify every architectural style found in the Ginter Park Terrace Historic District. A fine example of an American Foursquare style dwelling with a center hall and matching garage structure remains at 3003 Hawthorne. A notably distinct representation of Mediterranean Revival with Italian Villa features, including French doors, a green glazed tile roof, pergolas, and a formal symmetrical design is located at 3009 Hawthorne. This house also retains its original four-car garage with matching pergolas. The house at 3011 Hawthorne is a Dutch Colonial with a gambrel roof. The distinctly curved roof is extended to form the front porch. An example of Tudor Revival with exposed half-timbering and large gambrels is found at 3013 Hawthorne.
The 3000 block of Noble Avenue consists predominately of American Foursquare and American Bungalow-style houses. Representative of the typical one and one-half story American Bungalow with a brick exterior and the extended main roof integral to the front porch is the dwelling at 3010 Noble. The house at 3004 Noble exemplifies the Colonial Revival style with a side-hall plan, distinct crown molding detailing, granite lintels at the windows, fanlight above the front door, Flemish-bond brick and two distinct dormer windows on the third floor. A variety of period materials are found on the exterior of the houses on Noble Avenue including stone, stucco, brick and clapboard. In some examples all of these materials are uniquely combined on a single exterior.
The 3000 block of Moss Side Avenue has many examples of the American Foursquare in brick and in stucco. The predominate exterior finish, of the thirty-seven original dwellings, is stucco. Seven of the dwellings have brick exteriors. Of those seven brick houses, one is Dutch Colonial Revival and another is Tudor Revival. The remaining brick houses are American Foursquare in style. The stuccoed example of an American Foursquare house in this block varies not only in design, but also in the texture and application of the stucco which is characteristic of a process known as "pebble and dash." In this stucco process one or two different sizes of aggregate rock are added to the stucco mixture to create interesting textures and coloring variations in the finished surface.
Pollard Park at the western entrance to the district serves as a buffer to the commercial development along Chamberlayne Avenue. The park once contained a spring-fed creek and rustic pavilions. Today, the park is landscaped with trees and shrubs and scattered benches for passive enjoyment.
Statement of Significance
Just as Richmond, Virginia led the nation in the development of the first electric street railway system, its Northside suburbs were among the earliest speculative real estate developments in the United States that were tied to the new technology. Richmond made history on May 4, 1888 when it placed the world's first commercially successful electric street railway or trolley system in full service. The introduction of "an electric streetcar system began to change the physical landscape of the city and to shift attention from the old wards to new suburban sections. Streetcar companies and land speculators were often one and the same. They bought suburban tracts and often placed amusement and picnic sites at the end of the trolley lines as an inducement to potential homeowners. The tranquility of Richmond's Northside was a tremendous lure for citizens, especially the upper and middle classes, who were growing dissatisfied with the declining quality of life in the inner city. The area was also extremely attractive to a new breed of businessman, the real estate speculator. Principle among the early Northside real estate speculators and developers were James H. Barton and Lewis Ginter. Matthew Gilmour, a speculator, purchased the wedge-shaped Ginter Park Terrace property in 1890 along with numerous other holdings but the neighborhood was not platted or marketed until 1913. Thus making it part of the second wave of Northside development that occurred in the first two decades of the twentieth century.
The Ginter Park Terrace Historic District is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under criterion A because it, like many of Richmond's north side residential areas, is associated with the city's early entry into the field of speculative real estate development made possible by the development in 1888 of an electric street railway system. The district is also eligible under criterion C because it exhibits a fine collection of 20th century residential architectural styles including American Foursquare in brick, stone, stucco and weatherboard with all manner of stylistic variations, as well as Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial, Tudor Revival, Bungalow and Spanish and Mediterranean Revival styles.
Northside refers to a large plateau, once a part of Henrico County, rising above Bacon's Quarter Branch to the north of the city proper. It is bounded roughly by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad line on the east, the 1867 city boundary on the south, and the Seaboard AirLine Railway on the west. The northern boundary was established in 1914 when this large area was annexed into the city of Richmond. Isolated from the city by the ravine carved by Bacon's Quarter Branch, prior to 1880 the district was largely undeveloped with the exception of some scattered estates and farmsteads. A single road, the Brook Turnpike extended north from the city to the town of Ashland. The valley between Northside and the city was committed to industrial development and railway tracks, which further separated the two areas. The heights themselves were described as "a region of unsurpassing beauty. The high plateau, the undulating hills, the gentle slopes, at the feet of which sparkling streamlets dance and play in hundreds of eddies and dainty waterfalls as they busily pursue their flower-strewn ways through shadowy vales and sunny meadows, combine to make a landscape of almost unequaled lovelines. James H. Barton, a successful real estate speculator from Little Rock, Arkansas, was drawn to the natural beauty of the Northside and its close proximity to the city. Barton also recognized the need to bridge the ravine separating the two and foresaw the electric streetcar as a possible solution. The first of two viaducts to cross Bacon's Quarter Branch and the industrial area was completed on April 23, 1891 by James H. Barton's Brookland Railway and Improvement Company and connected First Street to the bottom of Monteiro Street. The developers of Northside were also principals in the new technological enterprise. The incorporators of the Brookland Railway were also involved in The Northside Land Company, which was simultaneously developing Chestnut Hill and Highland Park, accessed by the Fifth Street Viaduct (Northside Viaduct), which was completed in 1892. In 1927 the two viaduct entities finally merged to form the Richmond Viaduct Company. In 1932 the latter was itself absorbed into the Virginia Electric and Power Company (VEPCO). Streetcar service to Northside ended on October 23, 1949.
Northside contains a collection of suburban developments that were the result of real estate speculation by a number of individuals, beginning in the late nineteenth century. The three earliest subdivisions, Brookland Park, Chestnut Hill and Barton Heights, were created in February, September and December of 1889. Together they represent a good cross-section of early twentieth-century middle-class housing and reflect the nationwide pattern of private development spurred by the introduction of commuter railway lines to outlying districts of the city center. Entrepreneurs offering home sites and ready-designed homes to a growing middle and professional class created these new neighborhoods. With James Barton, a new type of developer was arriving on the scene, one whose principal occupation was land development. This phenomenon was in contrast to the familiar type of developer who typically sidelined in real estate sales while practicing other professions. Alliances within the business community permitted these new developers to trade on advances in technology, like the electric streetcar, to promote their new towns and suburbs. Richmond's Northside developments were the first of the nation's "streetcar suburbs," predating well-known national examples such as Chevy Chase, Maryland and Oakland and Los Angeles, California, by four and six years, respectively.
Brookland Railway and Improvement Company's First Street viaduct crossed Bacon's Quarter Branch into the heart of Northside, an area collectively known as Barton Heights. In 1889, James H. Barton acquired two large tracts of land - Brookland Park and Barton Heights. Barton Heights met with instant success, but Brookland Park was sparsely developed until 1910. Barton Heights was so successful that in 1896 it was incorporated as a town in Henrico County. In 1895, the Brookland Railway (First Street Viaduct) was extended westward along Brookland Park Boulevard, into Lewis Ginter's suburbs, then northward up the median of Chamberlayne Avenue. At Laburnum Avenue, the line turned west to Hermitage Road also called Lakeside Avenue, where it turned north leading to Lakeside Park.
Unlike the other Northside developers, Lewis Ginter was of the old school. He was a founder of the American Tobacco Company and his real estate interests were more altruistic in nature than profit oriented. Ginter himself observed that it was not important if he saw a return on his real estate investment. Ginter's venture also differed from the other Northside developments in that it was geared toward the upper middle class and linked to an amusement park. In 1883 Ginter made the first of his Northside land acquisitions: the 418-acre Westbrook plantation. Ginter made additional land acquisitions in 1888 and 1889 and in 1891 he formed the Sherwood Land Company to advance his dream of suburban estates. Planning for Sherwood Park began in 1891, but this residential development was not started until 1928, thirty-one years after Ginter's death. The first houses were constructed in Ginter Park during 1895, and in 1896 Ginter established the Lakeside Wheel and Country Club at the end of the trolley line. When Ginter died in 1897, much of his vision had not been realized and was left to others to complete.
The service extension of the trolley line spurred commercial development at the intersection of Brookland Park Boulevard and North Avenue. The expansion also guaranteed the success of additional suburbs to the north and west. The Oak Park subdivision was laid out in 1890 as part of Joseph M. Fourqurean's North Street subdivision. The Highland Park Realty Corporation, another interest of Joseph M. Fourqurean, laid out the first phase of Battery Court in 1906. Between 1910 and 1911, three more subdivisions - Parkland, Norwood and Belrose - were laid out and Battery Court was expanded. John Stewart and Jonathan, sons of Joseph Bryan, began the adjacent Laburnum Park, in 1911. North Richmond Terrace, Roland Park, Ginter Park Terrace and Alvista Heights followed in 1913 and 1914. John Pope, Lewis Ginter's adopted son, began developing plans for Bellevue prior to his death in 1896 on property that he and Ginter purchased in 1883. It was not until 1919 when J. Lee and C. W. Davis purchased the 165-acre tract that it was developed. The remainder of the Bellevue subdivision, which includes areas known as Monticello Place, Virginia Place and Brookdale, was principally developed in the 1920s and 30s. The last of the streetcar-influenced subdivision was Woodrow Park in 1924.
Matthew Gilmour, of whom little is known, began acquiring land, principally on the Northside, in the late nineteenth century. On June 21, 1890 he purchased the thirty-eight acre Ginter Park Terrace tract from James Barton and Lawrence Lamb. Gilmour referred to the property as Brookland Heights. But it appears that he never subdivided the property into lots for sale or development. In February of 1913 Ginter Park Realty Corporation purchased the thirty-eight acres from Gilmour and had it subdivided and platted as Ginter Park Terrace. Ginter Park Realty Corporation had no ties to the estate of Major Lewis Ginter. It only traded on the value of the Ginter name and the success of the nearby Ginter Park neighborhood. C. Cortlandt Walton, Jr. established Ginter Park Realty Corporation in 1912. Born in Cumberland County, he moved to Norfolk in early childhood. It was in Norfolk in 1905 that Walton first entered the real estate business. He moved to Richmond in 1912 where he developed a number of subdivisions until 1928 when he became a manager of the mortgage and loan department of the Southern Bank and Trust Company.
The next major revolution in transportation, the introduction of the automobile to the American landscape, would herald the demise of the trolley in Richmond. "By noon on Friday, November 25, 1949, the last streetcar, 'Old No. 408,' had completed its final run on the Hull Street-Highland Park (in Northside) line. The Virginia Transit Company allowed the public to come to its railyard on Chimborazo Hill to take away 'souvenirs.' All the trolleys were then burned to remove the wood from the steel frames, and the metal was sold for scrap. By the time the streetcar met its demise the Northside suburbs were fully developed and suburban growth pushed further out into the surrounding counties.
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Brookland Park Boulevard • Chamberlayne Avenue • Edgewood Avenue • Hawthorne Avenue • Montrose Avenue • Moss Side Avenue • Noble Avenue