A Significant Discovery on B. Henry Latrobe’s “Clifton”, Richmond, Virginia

Following my research on Richmond’s South Cathedral Place, I was assigned a topic that had led many previous researchers to dead end after dead end: a long-demolished Richmond structure attributed to our country’s first professionally trained architect and first Architect of the Capitol, B. Henry Latrobe. Latrobe could be considered an architectural historian’s ultimate celebrity … Continue reading A Significant Discovery on B. Henry Latrobe’s “Clifton”, Richmond, Virginia

Tracing Richmonder Benjamin James Harris

First owner of Clifton, Benjamin James Harris, has an interesting, yet spotty history.  I am working to uncover as much about him as possible, in the hopes of establishing a feasible connection to the commission from Latrobe.  So far my chronology is:

1808, March Harris owned a house at 11th & Main, called “Harris’s High House” which burned in this month

1808, May Harris bought 3 lots [more details to come]

1808? Commissions “Clifton” design plans from B.H. Latrobe

1812, Aug 3 Harris writes pantent request to Thomas Jefferson – DC? Re: Cotton & water purification (for an actual image of the letter and transcription, see below.)

1813, Feb 6 John M. Gordon, Lynchburg, Virginia, to Benjamin James Harris, Richmond, Virginia: power of attorney from John Bullock.

1814 A patent granted to Harris for a fireproof ceiling

ca 1814-1815 Purchased and moved to Belvidere estate (previously owned by Col. Harvie)

1817 Formed business partnership w/ Geo. Winston & Jacqueline B. Harvie (Col. Harvie’s son) to develop Sydney (The Fan)

1819, Dec 29 Daughter Caroline Virginia born to Harris and wife Sarah (d. Feb 17, 1871)

ca 1825 Transfer of Clifton to Madison Walthall

1839 Harris is tried and acquitted in Richmond for whipping a slave girl to death, via William Poe testimony

??? Bankruptcy from investment in Sydney town and economic downturn

??? Harris goes to New Orleans in an attempt to recoup his finances

??? Harris moves to Kentucy, becomes a maniac, dies (qtd Slavery in the United States: a social, political, and historical …, Volume 2 By Junius P. Rodriguez, p 611) Continue reading “Tracing Richmonder Benjamin James Harris”