Richmond’s Fifth and Main Downtown Historic District encompasses the core of the city’s early 20th-century retail development and the remnants of a 19th-century residential neighborhood that first arose circa 1769 when settlement spread upward from the commercial area along the James River in Shockoe Valley. Like the rest of the early city, the district was laid out in a regular grid of square blocks. From 1800 to 1920, Franklin and Fifth streets centered on one of the city’s most fashionable neighborhoods and was home to many of Richmond’s wealthiest and most influential citizens. The streets were lined with large homes, mansions, and row houses set within narrow front yards often enclosed by wood or iron fences; such as the Hancock-Wirt-Caskie House (pictured on the corner above). By the 1920s, much of the early residential neighborhood was demolished and replaced by small shops and tall office buildings built in the latest revival styles inspired by the early architecture of Italy, Spain, and the U.S, as well as the Chicago School, Art Deco and Moderne. Collectively representing designs by some of the leading mid-19th and early 20th-century architects in the U.S. and Richmond, the buildings are mostly three stories or less in height, with some of the corner lots punctuated by office buildings rising as high as 11 stories. The district retains much of its early 20th-century integrity, with a few isolated structures from the antebellum and late-19th-century neighborhoods, such as the individually listed Second Presbyterian Church.
In 2012, the district boundaries were increased to include nine contributing historic commercial buildings, that further expand the architectural record of the local business community as originally described when the district was listed in 2006.
[VLR Listed 9/20/2012; NRHP Listed 11/28/2012]
Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark