Frederick Douglass Court

Richmond, VA
United States
Frederick Douglass Court

Developed along streetcar lines and located north of downtown Richmond, this 16-acre residential community was laid out by the University Realty Company, a group of prominent African Americans seeking a new neighborhood of modern homes on spacious lots. The company formed in 1919 to develop Frederick Douglass Court on land adjacent to Virginia Union University. Bordered by Brook Road, Overbrook Road and Dubois Avenue, the neighborhood was subdivided into 113 lots, typically 30 by 135 feet, with larger parcels along Brook Road. Available lots were up to three times the size of those in nearby Jackson Ward, allowing space for front yards as well as larger back yards and porches. Seeking continuity, developers offered three basic designs for planned homes, based on what was called a foursquare plan. A number of existing homes are attributed to local African American architect Charles T. Russell.

Few demonstration homes were actually built, and instead, the subdivision evolved gradually. The early stucco model homes were joined by Tudor style houses in the 1920s and 30s as well as ranch-style homes in the 1940s, and finally, a few modern residences in the 1950s. During the 1970s, plans for the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike threatened Fredrick Douglass Court, however, opposition by residents eventually pushed the corridor elsewhere. Mature trees shade the sidewalks along Brook Road, while grassy medians feature smaller flowering varieties such as crape myrtles. The tree canopy along other streets is sparse, dotted with only a few large trees interspersed with smaller ornamentals.