The stage has been set for a handful of Jackson Ward properties to be transformed into a tribute to the neighborhood’s first known black homeowner.
The Maggie Walker Community Land Trust last month approved the donation of 10 parcels on North Third, East Preston and East Bates streets to The JXN Project, a local historic preservation nonprofit group.
The JXN Project’s plan is to develop the nearly half-acre assemblage into a historical interpretation site centered on a re-creation of the Skipwith-Roper Cottage faithful to the original structure.
The original Skipwith-Roper Cottage was built by Abraham Peyton Skipwith in the 1790s in Jackson Ward. Skipwith was the first known black homeowner in the neighborhood. The home was relocated in the 1950s to Goochland County to preserve it when construction of Interstate 95 sliced through Jackson Ward, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch report.
“In the wake of its year-long sesquicentennial celebration of Jackson Ward, JXN is shifting its focus to reconstructing the property of the ward’s first known black homeowner, Abraham Peyton Skipwith,” the group said in a prepared statement. “The reconstructed property will be established as a historic site for interpretative purposes.”
The preservation group was founded by sisters Sesha and Enjoli Moon in 2020, as an effort to celebrate Jackson Ward’s 150th anniversary. It’s initial initiatives including installing honorary street signs in the neighborhood.
The group declined to provide further comment for this story.
In addition to the replica cottage, the site would also include parking, greenspace and office space, according to a project proposal report.
The properties involved are 1001, 1005, 1007, 1009 and 1011 N. Third St.; 302, 304 and 306 E. Preston St.; and 303 and 305 E. Bates St. The assemblage is mostly undeveloped except for a duplex.
The properties are collectively valued at about $130,000, according to online city records.
Though the land trust’s board has approved the transfer, the properties aren’t expected to formally change hands until later this year, said board Chairwoman Carolyn Champion, who recently took over the role from Laura Lafayette.
Champion said The JXN Project approached the housing nonprofit about five months ago with the idea. She said the MWCLT decided to donate the properties to The JXN Project because they aren’t seen as ideal for affordable housing development. The land trust provides affordable housing opportunities to would-be homeowners in the region.
“There isn’t an obvious use,” Champion said of the site, which is between Interstate 95 and Shockoe Cemetery. “You could do affordable housing but it’s like a landlocked quarter.”