History of the District

The neighborhood  has its roots in speculative development during the late 19th century.  The burgeoning population of Richmond created numerous problems for the  city, including sanitation and infrastructure issues and racial conflicts.  Speculators became interested in the  relatively inexpensive land directly north of the city in Henrico County,  just as the invention of the electric streetcar made  development of  suburban neighborhoods a feasible alternative to life in the city.   These entrepreneurs were able to capitalize  on concerns of the upper and middle class inhabitants of the Richmond touting their suburban  developments as a better way of life.
Lewis Ginter, a  wealthy businessman who made his money in the tobacco industry, laid the  foundation for development in the Hermitage area in 1897 by constructing his  own streetcar line, the Lakeside Line, which ran down the center of Hermitage Road and  terminated at the Lakeside Zoo and Wheel Club.   Several grand estates already existed along Hermitage Road, but infill from three  separate neighborhood developments introduced narrower lots and smaller-scale  construction to the area and opened it up to the middle class.

The neighborhood contains illustrations of the full range of domestic architectural styles and  building forms popular during the late-19th and early-20th centuries with  expressions of these styles to meet the needs of an economically diverse  population.  The buildings along Hermitage Road are  predominantly rectangular in plan, center-passage, and double-pile dwellings of  three and five bays with hipped or side-gable roofs. The Colonial Revival style  is the most prevalent treatment.  Typical   Colonial Revival  side porches, side wings, and/or port cochères are on nearly half of the district’s buildings.

Several  noteworthy high style, architect-designed residences of the late-19th  and early-20th centuries are in the district.  D. Wiley Anderson  designed a number of these homes.  A  prominent architect practicing in Richmond’s  Northside during this time, Anderson  frequently designed Late Victorian and Colonial Revival-style buildings but was  popular for his eclectic combinations.   One of the purest examples of his Late Victorian architecture is Holly  Lawn, a c. 1900 Queen Anne dwelling at 4015 Hermitage Road.  This house is three stories with a compound  form and an irregularly shaped roof.  Its  stylistic details include a buff colored brick façade with decorative  detailing, fish scale slate roof shingles, polygonal towers, and roof finials.

Montrose at 4104 Hermitage Road  is another example of Anderson’s  Late Victorian work.  Built for the  Edmund Strudwick family c. 1898, this Richardsonian Romanesque home is the only  one of its kind on Hermitage.  The  three-story, four-bay residence has a mansard roof with parapet cross-gables,  ashlar stonework, battlements, and Romanesque arches.  The house faced the threat of demolition in  1988, but the community rallied and created a local historic district to  protect it.

Rosedale at 4016 Hermitage Road  is an excellent example of Anderson’s  eclectic designs.  Combining Queen Anne  and Colonial Revival elements, Anderson juxtaposed a complex Queen Anne  building form and roof form against a four-bay façade that gives the impression  of Colonial Revival symmetry, and embellished it with Colonial Revival  detailing.  Anderson  designed the c. 1897 home for John Pope, a prominent Richmond businessman and a real estate  partner of Lewis Ginter.

Shadyhurst at 4106 Hermitage Road  is illustrative of Anderson’s  more purely Colonial Revival style.  The house  dates to c. 1899 and originally belonged to J. Clements Shafer, a private  secretary to Lewis Ginter.  Characterized  by a large wrap-around shed roof porch supported by slender, square columns, it  has a standing seam metal roof and a cornice with modillions.  The home originally had a three-room  servant’s cottage, a stable, and a carriage house, but only the servant’s  cottage remains today.

The Hermitage  Road Historic District is still a peaceful, elegant neighborhood that remains in  many ways a streetcar suburb from more than a century ago.  Except for the wide, grassy median that replaced  the trolley line running down the center of the avenue, little else has  changed.  Because of its timelessness,  this area is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in the city.

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