Manchester Real Estate
The complicated Manchester story began ahead of Richmond’s — in 1769 — with an industrial canal (still extant) to harness the James River for turning the wheels of mills. It encompasses wharves and slaves and textiles; a probable refuge for then-Gov. Thomas Jefferson as Richmond’s tobacco warehouses were torched by the traitorous Benedict Arnold; and an early 19th-century effort to run a school for the deaf and mute. The Mayo family was granted a state charter to connect Richmond and Manchester by toll bridge — a span that had to be rebuilt often after getting washed away by James River floods; this remained a problem until the completion of a floodwall in the late 1990s. The main streets were patriotically named for naval commanders of the Barbary Wars off North Africa and the War of 1812, including Commodores Stephen Decatur, William Bainbridge and Isaac Hull. A pre-Civil War gravity-powered railway hauled coal from Chesterfield County mines to Manchester’s docks. It was an independent city that never quite collected enough revenue to be run properly and that was denigrated with the nickname “Dogtown.”
After an often-rancorous referendum, Manchester consolidated with Richmond in 1910. For most of the 20th century, the community possessed a burgeoning Hull Street of restaurants, movie theaters, shops and salons and South Side versions of Broad Street stores, including a Thalhimers. Hull Street held a Christmas parade and a Fourth of July spectacle. But Hull, like Broad, served also as a racial demarcation line.
Some early adopters rediscovered Manchester. Texas-based franchise Spaghetti Warehouse opened in a former industrial-machinery manufacturing plant at 701 Bainbridge St. in 1992. After the restaurant’s 1998 demise, the Carter Ryley Thomas public relations firm opened shop there. The homegrown Legend Brewing Co. opened a small pub next to its brewery at 321 W. Seventh St. in 1994. Last year, Legend, the precursor of the current microbrewery boom, celebrated its 20th year.
In 2002, after a decade of civic effort, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources recognized the Manchester Residential-Commercial Historic District. This meant state historic tax credits for the rehabilitation of ailing structures; in 2006, the neighborhood entered the National Register of Historic Places.