11 Most Endangered Historic Places
Year Listed: 2001
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Threat: Deterioration, Neglect, Poor Public Policy
Founded by free blacks and immigrants, Jackson Ward became a gerrymandered voting district in the 1870s that kept those groups voting in one area. When early 20th-century Jim Crow laws separated the races, the people of Jackson Ward created a self-sustaining economy that made the area famous as the "Black Wall Street" and alive with theaters, clubs and restaurants. In 1903, entrepreneur and activist Maggie Lena Walker, born to former slaves, became the nation's first woman bank president by establishing the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. During the depression, her bank bought all the local black-owned banks in town and renamed itself the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. In the 1950s, construction of Interstate 95 cut through Jackson Ward, permanently dividing it in two. Then, when desegregation came to Richmond, many residents moved away and many businesses dried up. Urban renewal in the 1970s and 1980s caused widespread demolition and insensitive development; since then, many of the neighborhood's historic buildings have fallen into disrepair and approximately 100 of them are vacant.