3506 Seminary Avenue

A Gambrel-Roofed Home in Richmond’s Swankiest New Subdivision of the Early 1900s

It wasn’t as if it had just occurred to him. They had already lived here in the house on South Third a few years, and truthfully, there were aspects of where they were living that had been making him think it was time to move on for some time now. The 35-year-old Frederick V. Gunn, called Fred by all who knew him, had been working his way up for years. Now, in 1906, he had his own business as a merchandise broker, buying in bulk and selling to the multitude of small stores in the city that re-sold to the public.

Angus, his son, had been born in November 1899.  Fred’s wife, twenty-eight-year-old Maud, had come down with typhoid in Richmond not long after that. It hadn’t been easy for her to cope, as sick as she was and with a baby at home. Typhoid had been bad that year in Richmond. Though the papers hadn’t reported on it, it had reached epidemic proportions in 1900; eighty-eight people had died from it.  Maud, of course, fortunately wasn’t one of them. No one knew for sure, but everyone suspected there was something about the water which spread the typhoid. Drinking water for nearly everyone in Richmond, including Fred’s family, came from the James, and sometimes they could even smell the sewage and industrial pollutants living so close to the river.

When he had moved as a single person to the little house on 309 South Third, it had been a good location, close to his work. It was pleasant to walk through Gambles Hill Park in an evening, taking a cigarette break. But now a second son, whom he made his namesake, had been born since the family had moved in and the quarters were becoming more cramped. And it could be noisy. Southern Biscuit (who knew so many people craved cookies?) had a very large facility around the corner and Binswanger Glass Company and the Miller and Miller Planing Mill were just across the canal, also very close by. Tredegar Iron Works and the railroad were not quiet, or clean, neighbors. In the streets themselves, ever-present wet dung from the horses pulling carts delivering supplies or goods to and from the factories attracted flies, implicated in the typhoid, and they were especially bad in the summer humidity. Laborers, and who knew who else, filled the crowded streets going to and from work. There were even worries of escapees from the state penitentiary located only a couple of blocks in the other direction. No, this was not a good place for his family.

Fred’s business was now located across town, at 110 Virginia, near the area of the city that was called Barton Heights. He could keep a large warehouse there at lower prices than were available along the river, and though it was in Northside, it was an easy commute from his home; the electric trolley took him practically door to door.

He rarely had time to read the papers, but today he had arrived early, and he was taking a moment to peruse the previous day’s Evening Journal before his workers showed up. He had picked it when he saw it laying on the sideboard next to his hat as he was preparing to leave for work in the February morning chill. Maud always left the paper there for him. An article with a headline that was hardly larger than that of the text of the article drew his attention: “Ginter Park to be Residential Spot.” He continued to read, “A score of beautiful homes are to be erected by (the Lewis Ginter Improvement Company) on (this) beautiful tract of land this summer.” He’d heard of Ginter Park; it was just east of his business, just over the city line in Henrico County. But what really caught his eye was this: “The property is equipped with modern sewerage. Pure artesian water is pumped from a well in the park and run in pipes all through the property. The property will be regularly inspected by sanitary officers.” The chances for another run-in with typhoid would be much dimmed, Fred thought. The article’s description continued, “Ginter Park covers 300 acres and is surrounded by macadamized roads, elegant shade trees on both sides of the streets and hedges of shrubbery.” You wouldn’t have to walk to the park to be in the park in a place like that, he thought; and the paved roads would shed the mess left by horses in the street.

The article noted that the houses would only be sold to “desirable people,” and if he missed the intent of the phrase, it was made explicit in the very next sentence, “One specification in all deeds of sale of the property says that only members of the Caucasian race can own the land” and then further, “Any reputable white person can purchase a lot and borrow money from the Lewis Ginter Improvement Company to build the house.”

Later that afternoon, Fred stepped out the back door to oversee packages being loaded on to a cart for an unusually large delivery. It was an unseasonably warm day for February, a good one, he realized, to slip out of work for a short while and see this Ginter Park.

A full history of this beautiful home is available here (searchable PDF):

3506 Seminary Avenue

Following (for search purposes) are names of persons in the studied families or persons closely associated with them, including their birth and death dates when known. Patronymic names of women are underlined.

  • Frederick Vest Gunn
  • Frederick Vest Gunn, Jr.
  • Angus Gunn
  • Maud Porter Gunn (first name also spelled Maude)
  • James F. Gunn
  • Udora H. Childrey (first name also spelled Eudora)
  • William McCay Porter
  • Mary Ellen Moore Porter
  • William M. Huntt
  • Simon M. Block
  • Annie Redd
  • Charles Luther Weaver (most often written Charles L. Weaver) (June 13, 1887-May 7, 1938)
  • Virginia Clary Weaver ( -September 7, 1962)
  • Charles A. Weaver
  • Sallie A. Ingram Weaver
  • W. J. B. Housman
  • Merrill Cole
  • Ty Cobb
  • Althea O. Smart
  • Richard Florance
  • Charles Granville Weaver (May 11, 1926 [or November 26, 1925] – November 21, 1997)
  • Dr. Barton
  • Mr. Follett
  • Mary Branch Hamlet Weaver
  • Teresa Weaver
  • C. Carter Chase ( – February 27, 1947)
  • Elizabeth C. Chase
  • Harold M. Weaver
  • Vesta P. Weaver
  • George C. Dykes
  • Margaret V. Dykes
  • Henry Wiliam (sic) Kykes
  • Jane Marie Bickerstaff Dykes
  • Frederick J. Cobb
  • Amelia C. Cobb
  • Charles E. Blackburn
  • Preston B. Blackburn
  • Margaret H. Stewart

Other search terms: Richmond, Virginia, typhoid, epidemic, Gambles Hill Park, Southern Biscuit Company, Binswanger Glass Company, Miller and Miller Planing Mill, Tredegar Iron Works, Barton Heights, Northside, Evening Journal, Ginter Park, Lews Ginter Improvement Company, housing segregation, redlining, marketing, health concerns, Sons of the American Revolution, Ireland, Irish, immigrant, Kinney Tobacco Company, Shockoe Bottom, Kanawha Canal, Roberts and Hoge Company, Frederick V. Gunn and Company, Robert Roberts, Richard Roberts, Ashland, sopranos, singers, Ginter Park Citizens’ Association, soap peddling, disinfectants, choloro-naptholeum, napthol, 2-Napthol, Hollywood Cemetery, Boy Scouts of America, Richmond Council of the Boy Scouts, Johns Hopkins graduate, St. John’s College of Annapolis graduate, Henrico County State Fair, Ginter Park Women’s Club, Christchurch Episcopal School, Rappahannock River, Virginia Episcopal School, Lynchburg, bullying, Adair Archer Memorial Medal, Girl Scouts of America, William and Mary graduate, Farmers Home Administration,

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