18 March 2015

Media covers historic priorities - Shockoe Bottom, the James River and Winfree Cottage

ABC8: "Community meetings planned to allow Richmonders to weigh in on Shockoe Bottom development" video

http://wric.com/2015/03/18/community-meetings-planned-to-allow-richmonders-to-weigh-in-on-shockoe-bottom-development/


National Trust for Historic Preservation: "Saving the James River" video

http://my.preservationnation.org/site/MessageViewer?dlv_id=70221&em_id=69025.0


Style Weekly: "The Nine Most Endangered Places in Richmond "

http://www.styleweekly.com/richmond/the-nine-most-endangered-places-in-richmond/Content?oid=2186150  The article included these endangered places:

The Winfree Cottage
The tiny cottage once occupied by Emily Winfree, a former slave, has been up in the air for too long. Literally.

The 700-square-foot former residence, which is at least 150 years old, rests indecorously on railroad ties and steel beams in Shockoe Bottom. There, it awaits its fate as to its resettlement and restoration.

Originally situated in Manchester near today’s Commerce Road, this frame house was purchased in 1866 for Emily Winfree (1834-1919) by her former owner David Winfree, a prosperous Chesterfield County farmer and the father of her six children. When the place was threatened with demolition in 2002, a local preservation group, the Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods, swung into action, saving the building. It was rolled into Shockoe Bottom where, the thinking went, it could become part of the slave-trade narrative there.

The city now owns the old house and it could become a major artifact in an eventual slavery museum in Shockoe Bottom.

But here’s an alternative suggestion: Why not roll the cottage back across the river? It has no connection to Shockoe, and with the current and dramatic repopulation of Manchester — a phenomenon that couldn’t have been foreseen a decade ago — it could provide a historic point of interest. The Bottom already is rich in history and needs no imported attractions. The same can’t be said for Manchester, which has been physically and culturally decimated through the years. A developer or consortium of developers could step up to the plate to provide an appropriate location for the cottage near its original setting. If looted World War II artifacts can be returned to their rightful places, the same principle should be applied here.

Shockoe BottomIt makes sense that the city’s oldest neighborhood, Shockoe Bottom, has been under siege for the longest period of any neighborhood: it’s been around the longest. First came the railroads, then came an interstate highways. Miraculously, the 17th Street Farmers’ Market still clings on by its fingernails. Originally a trading post between the Piedmont and the Tidewater regions, it’s a place where a handful of vendors still sell produce daily.

Ironically, it’s taken the threat of an ill-conceived baseball stadium, which would destroy the historic street grid of the valley, to generate discussion and action on how to both reinvigorate the market and illuminate the rich and tragic history of this place as a slave-trading center. But years of uncertainly over the fate of this old section, and the havoc of periodic flooding, has kept private development from taking full advantage of this area’s full potential.

It’s time for the heavy handed planning conceptualists to back off. Let’s improve overall maintenance of streets and sidewalks, respect the area’s deep historic layering, tighten up the basic infrastructure and let market forces have at Shockoe in an organic way.

Additional small businesses and eateries could be established here knowing that life wouldn’t be disrupted by months, if not years, of construction for a ballpark. It’s clear from the results of recent and considerable investments in market-priced apartment and commercial complexes here, involving both historic and new buildings, what the vibe of the Bottom can be. The only parts of the neighborhood that haven’t evolved were those earmarked for the ballpark scheme. Let’s free up these blocks and let the marketplace determine what comes next.





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