Historic Ginter Park
Richmond businessman and philanthropist Lewis W. Ginter conceived Ginter Park, a serene late 19th and early 20th-century neighborhood of stately homes. Born in 1842 in New York City, Ginter became a tobacconist, industrialist, and entrepreneur. His idea for Ginter Park was part of a larger plan for spacious residential communities incorporating schools, churches, and community centers. He formed the Sherwood Land Company with the intent of developing such neighborhoods on the north side of Richmond. His namesake development, Ginter Park, was the first of these efforts. Founder of the American Tobacco Company and one of the most prominent Richmonders of the time, Ginter planned this idyllic suburban community after visiting Melbourne, Australia, where he found business men retreating home to the country at the end of each work day striking. Ginter began to realize his dream of a community of suburban estates -a place where “a gentleman could ride to and from work without the sun’s glare in his face” -by purchasing several hundred acres of farmland in what was then Henrico County.
Major Ginter helped gather momentum for his plan by donating land to Union Theological Seminary as a means of convincing the institution to move from Hampden-Sydney College near Farmville, Virginia. Located at 3401 Brook Road, the seminary remains an institutional anchor and architectural gem in the geographic center of Ginter Park. Ginter also negotiated the extension of an electric trolley line (established in Richmond in 1888) to the future neighborhood in 1895. For a mere five cents, Richmonders could travel between Ginter Park and downtown Richmond in just 15 minutes. In that same year, Ginter oversaw construction of the carpenters’ homes on Cottage Avenue (now Hawthorne Avenue). The largest of these six cottages, at the corner of Walton and Hawthorne, served as quarters for the supervisor of Ginter’s land company.
Lewis Ginter passed away in 1897. His final resting place is in Hollywood Cemetery in an elaborate stone mausoleum with stained glass. Ginter’s niece, Grace Arents, inherited his fortune and carried his dream through to fruition. At that time, the only completed residences were the workmen’s cottages on Chamberlayne and Hawthorne Avenues, the waterworks houses on Westwood Avenue, and the seminary’s faculty residences on and around the Seminary Quadrangle. Thomas Jeffress, former business partner and co-executor of Ginter’s estate, founded the Lewis Ginter Land and Improvement Company in 1906 to promote the sale of residential lots. The first major residential construction boom in Ginter Park began in the first decade of the 20th century. An advertising supplement in the May 3, 1908 Richmond Times-Dispatch showed photographs of 15 of the finest recently-completed houses in the new community, with the 3500 block of Seminary Avenue offering some of the most impressive mansions.
Ginter Park includes house in a variety of late 19th and early 20th-century architectural styles from modest cottages to Colonial Revival, Spanish Colonial, Arts and Crafts/Bungalow, American Foursquare, Queen Anne, Shingle Style, and Tudor Revival. The 1908 Lewis Ginter Community Center at 3421 Hawthorne Avenue is the most prominent example of the Tudor Revival style in Ginter Park. Its first uses were as a town hall and schoolhouse.
Ginter Park Union Seminary
Ginter Park's development entailed a host of associated public works improvements. These included new roads constructed of crushed stone from quarries on Hermitage Road, with tile sewer lines laid in the roadbeds; and artesian wells to provide fresh drinking water. The subdivision of predominantly single-family dwellings is laid out in a grid pattern of streets and lined with deciduous shade trees and miles of hedges. The community covers approximately 21 city blocks and has a plan characterized by wide divided boulevards running north and south and large residential lots, generally measuring 100’ wide by 250’ deep. With the exception of changes to Chamberlayne Avenue as a result of its later designation as U.S. Route 1, Ginter Park retains most of its turn-of-the century residential planning qualities, including many of its original stone street signs, that established its reputation as “Queen of the Suburbs.”
In 1912, Ginter Park became an incorporated town, independent from Henrico County. Its first and only mayor, John Garland Pollard, went on to become Governor of Virginia. A park named in his honor marks the original entrance into Ginter Park from the City of Richmond. The city annexed Ginter Park in 1914. The registered historic district encompasses 2900 acres and includes 291 buildings and 179 structures. Every October, the Ginter Park Residents’ Association sponsors a “Harvest Home Tour.”
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