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”

A chronology of events

Now that I’m completely finished with the report, I can relax a little and share the findings here on the blog.  There are a lot of parts and pieces to the research, so I’ll be adding them as posts over the coming weeks.  I also hope to create a version of the full presentation to post in a few weeks, so keep an eye out for that!

Today I’ll share with you Appendix B – which is just a basic chronology of events for each house.  You can take a look at the full appendix below, but here’s a snapshot of 811 South Cathedral Place’s major events over the years:

Pickrell-Alsop House, 811 South Cathedral Place

1889, Jul 29 John C. Shafer took out $4,500 Mutual Assurance Coverage on unit under policy #24225; Construction was in process, property owned by John C. Shafer

1889 – 1900+ Pickrell family resided

1890, Dec 16 Joint deed with 813 Floyd Avenue made as bond towards repaying of a $10,000 debt; Legh R. Page and George Christian appointed trustees

1895, Mar 24 John C. Shafer, property owner, died

1903, Apr 9 James A. Moncure, administrator of the Shafer estate transferred property by deed to Boswell Alsop for $8,500

1903, Jun 4 Cornerstone laid for foundation of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart Continue reading “A chronology of events”

A Visit to 819 S. Cathedral Place

100_1473On Tuesday of this week, I was very fortunate to meet with Mr. Walter Harrow from the Virginia Baptist Mission Board who was so incredibly kind to give me a tour of 819 South Cathedral Place, the westernmost unit of our row.  This is also the unit that appears to be the first sale and deed transfer from developer John C. Shafer to George Stevens in 1892.

It is understandable why this home was so desirable.  George Stevens was already residing on the row two houses down at 815 Floyd Avenue and evidently liked the location.  He was married and probably living with a few small children as well as an in-law, according to the Richmond Directories of that time.  819 was built with a slightly wider footprint, and of course being on the end offered more windows for added light and circulation, which couldn’t hurt the full household.  And, Stevens was headed up the ladder towards distinguished success at Chesapeake & Ohio Rail.  He was in the position to make the purchase of a comfortable residence for his family. Continue reading “A Visit to 819 S. Cathedral Place”

Findings on George W. Stevens, resident of 819

Some small developments and findings on George W. Stevens, so far first owner-occupier of one of the row houses.  His obituary printed in the New York Times notes his sudden death while dictating a letter at the age of 69.  He had four children, the first his only girl, Helen Stevens who married Episcopal minister Rev. John J. Gravatt.  So, we now know that most likely the property was transferred to Helen by will, then sold (transferred by deed) by the Gravatts to the Holzgrefe sisters in 1942.

Click through to see the obituary. Continue reading “Findings on George W. Stevens, resident of 819”

1897 Resident of 813 Floyd Avenue Makes National Headlines

According to Richmond directories in 1897, the Freemans who resided at 813 Floyd Avenue were joined by Dr. Ernest C. Levy and his wife Rachel, a couple who were probably looking for a more suburban address than their prior East Grace Street home.  Dr. Levy was a City Health Officer, and was later promoted to Chief Health Officer and made national headlines in a 1911 New York Times article for his prediction that the African American race would be extinct by the 21st century.  Levy was obviously way off base with this incredulous prediction! Continue reading “1897 Resident of 813 Floyd Avenue Makes National Headlines”