The JXN Project: the Skipwith-Roper Homecoming

In late 2021, MWCLT Richmond Land Bank was approached by sisters Enjoli Moon and Dr. Sesha Joi Moon of the JXN Project. They were seeking a site in Jackson Ward to reconstruct the Skipwith-Roper cottage, the first home owned by a free Black man in what would become Jackson Ward.

Abraham Peyton Skipwith built the gambrel-roof cottage in 1793. He would later become the first Black man in Richmond—and possibly the entire Commonwealth—to have a fully executed will. The cottage stayed in his family until 1905, when it was sold to another Black family in Jackson Ward. In 1954, that family was forced by eminent domain to sell the cottage to the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike Authority. They were compensated only $25 for their incalculable loss. The cottage was deconstructed and rebuilt on a plantation in Goochland County which once belonged to the Confederate Secretary of War. Unfortunately, during that move and subsequent renovations, much of the original structure has been lost.

The Moon sisters uncovered much of this story with the help of Michael Paul Williams, Pulitzer-prize winning columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. This launched their initiative to construct a historical interpretation site centered around a replica of the cottage in Jackson Ward, which they have named the Skipwith-Roper Homecoming.

 

Recognizing the immense historical importance of this project to Jackson Ward, Black Richmond, and Black Virginia at large, the staff, board, and CAP of the MWCLT Richmond Land Bank elected to donate 10 of their 15 parcels in Jackson Ward to the JXN Project for this purpose. This donation, along with a $1.5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation, has brought the JXN Project up to nearly half of their fundraising goal for the Skipwith-Roper Homecoming.

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Building on the Past to Create a Vision for the Future.

Trough a brief engagement process funded by the Richmond Land Bank and Historic Richmond, we have created a vision plan with a set of community values and visuals that will guide the future development for 15 properties in Jackson Ward.

ZINE: Making an Interim Care Garden
at Preston and 3rd

Created by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architect as part of their pro bono work for the Richmond Land Bank in Jackson Ward

Project Background & Details

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Study area (RLB Properties shown in blue)

The Richmond Land Bank acquired 15 formerly tax-delinquent properties in Jackson Ward, between 2nd and 4th Streets, north of the Interstate and south of Shockoe Cemetery. Most of these properties are vacant. Historic Richmond, a non-profit with the mission to preserve the distinct character of Richmond’s history, is partnering with the Richmond Land Bank to explore more deeply the possibilities for development.      

 

Through this exploration, we have developed a set of community visions and values, including options for future uses. It is our hope through this process to honor the location’s rich past and create a practical vision for the future.

 

We engaged partners and nearby residents in a conversation to create a broad vision and values document, supported by visuals that will help guide future development of the 15 RLB properties. We endeavored to answer the questions: what is a solid vision for the future (near-term and longer term)? What principals and potential uses should be considered in future development?

Click below to read Historic Richmond's full draft narrative for the project.

Timeline

Richmond Land Bank, with Ebony Walden Consulting, an urban strategy firm and Form Coalition, a urban design firm, led a short community engagement effort during the summer of 2020.

2020
June
Discovery Phase
July
Vision & Values
August
Ideas & Visions

One-on-one conversations with community leaders and stakeholders

Online surveys, small group meetings (virtual, telephone and in person)

Pop-up meetings in the community at events and/or small group meetings 

Final Summary Report

The results of the interviews and surveys focused around three main priorities for the site’s revitalization, which were interpreted through FORM Coalition’s revitalization scenarios.

The three potential development scenarios focused on Culture, Legacy & Placemaking; Entrepreneurship & Economic Opportunity; and Housing & Green Space.

 

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