The Richmond History Podcast

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Winfree Cottage

Winfree Cottage, photo by Jeff Majer

If you park behind the Main St Station, or have walked that part of the slave trade, you may have wondered why there is a crazy old looking house on a trailer.  I have seen no signs, just a random old, rundown house, but it is the Winfree Cottage, a small two room house built for Emily Winfree, a newly freed slave, by her former owner and the father of five her children, David Winfree, who deeded the tiny house and 100 acre to Emily in 1866.1

Winfree Cottage, fireplace and door between the 2 rooms, photo by Jeff Majer
Fast forward to Oct 2002, two Manchester residents ran into the offices of Association to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods A.C.O.R.N. upset that the cottage was about to be demolished to expand a parking lot at 209 W. Commerce Rd.  After some quick research it was confirmed that it was the former slave's residence2 and the only remaining Slave Cottage in Richmond.3

Winfree Cottage, interior, photo by Jeff Majer
David Winfree was a wealthy landowner in Manchester, Va (now part of Richmond) during the Civil War.  David paid $800 for the cottage.  Emily raised the five children in one of the two rooms and rented out the other room.2

Today it is owned by the city.1  ACORN intended it to go on the Richmond's Slave Trail and in 2004 Richmond City Council passed resolution 2004-272-256, authorizing land at 1621 Broad St near the corner of Crane and Broad St just north of the Downtown Richmond Farmer's Market to be used as a permanent site.2  It was soon realized that site which is a parking lot right now, was not suitable.2  So since it was saved from destruction at its Manchester location where it sat since at least 1866, the cottage has lived as a nomad on the trailer as it awaits a piece of Earth to be settled into permanently.1


Winfree Cottage, rafters, photo by Jeff Majer
When it first left the ground and gained wheels it was in a construction company parking lot in 20034 and has lived near the Lumpkin's Slave Jail site since at least 20054  You can see from these interior photos that people have been getting in and leaving trash and it is breaking down even more.  You can compare them with the photos Selden Richardson, an architectural historian for ACORN and the author of Built By Blacks:African American Architecture and Neighborhoods in Richmond, VA took back in 2005.

Winfree Cottage, photo by Jeff Majer
"We've just hardly scratched the surface of the story" Richardson said "Its important to preserve because it really is the last artifact we have from this vanished black community in this part of Manchester.  It certainly provides a vehicle to study African-American history in the city," and  "The story of Emily Winfree and how that branches out in the community, crossing social and racial barriers, I think is an important story... a neglected part of Richmond history".4

Winfree Cottage, interior, photo by Jeff Majer
I am hoping to get an update about any plans for the cottage; I will update it when I find out.  If you know what is happening with it please comment below.  Thanks.

This is a video I found of David Herring of ACORN talking about the Winfree Cottage.

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