Located on the northern side of Richmond’s downtown district – bounded by Interstate 64/95 to the North, Belvidere Street to the West, Broad Street to the South and 2nd Street to the East – Jackson Ward is a nationally recognized historic neighborhood rich with architecture, history, and possibilities.
Jackson Ward was first conceived by William Byrd III in 1769 who decided to subdivide and sell 100 acres of land on the outskirts of the city. Later, in the 1800s, several owners followed suit, choosing to subdivide their parcels into smaller lots. It was then that a truly diverse group of European immigrants, freed slaves, artisans, and businessmen began building many of the structures seen today. This development, contributed to and strengthened by the simultaneous boom of Richmond’s Broad Street corridor, gave way to a thriving African-American community known for its entertainment venues, churches, and civil rights activists. Because of this, Jackson Ward became colloquially referred to as the “birthplace of Black Capitalism”.
As the neighborhood thrived in the 19th and early 20th centuries, many unique and beautiful examples of Greek Revival, Italianate, and Second Empire architecture were built. But, during the 1950s, the neighborhood began to decline as the result of changing demographics and the construction of the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike. Jackson Ward became known less as a cultural center and more as a troubled neighborhood.
Fortunately, Jackson Ward has begun to thrive again. Homeowners, business owners, and investors are recognizing the character and potential of the area. The revitalization of Broad Street, the growing arts community, and the neighborhood’s proximity to the VCU campus, medical center, and Convention Center, have made it a popular destination in recent years.
Here are a few things to check out:
- Art and lots of it! – The Richmond arts community is thriving and Jackson Ward is home to many galleries. Check them out next time you are there or during First Fridays Art Walk.
- Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia – Located in the what was formerly the Leigh Street Armory, this is a “must visit” when visiting Jackson Ward.
- Max’s on Broad – Great food. Great atmosphere. Valet parking. Sign me up.
- Saison – Try the burger. You will not regret it.
- The Rogue Gentleman – Go back in time (no flux capacitor required) and have a prohibition-themed cocktail.
- Hippodrome Theater – Opened in 1914. Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Richmond’s own Bill “Bojangles” Robinson performed there regularly.