Preservation Magazine, Fall 2016

Timeline: A New Chapter for Richmond's Black History Museum and Cultural Center

The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia

photo by: Black History Museum, Richmond, Virginia

The recently restored and expanded Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.

This past spring, the 35-year-old Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia reopened in a new location, Richmond’s historic Leigh Street Armory, after a 15-month renovation and restoration. We chart the history of both the museum and its new home here.

1894: The Richmond City Council votes narrowly to approve $7,500 for the construction of a new armory for Richmond’s African-American militiamen.

1942: After serving as a school, the Leigh Street Armory reopens for use by African-American servicemen during World War II.

1981: Carroll W. Anderson Sr. founds the Black History Museum, eventually securing a permanent location in a historic house in Richmond’s Jackson Ward district.

1985: A fire devastates the Leigh Street Armory, damaging the second floor and burning a hole in the metal roof.

2003: The armory is stabilized with help from a Save America’s Treasures grant. Crews install new floors and a temporary roof, and rebuild exterior brickwork, including the fire-damaged eastern wall.

2013: The building is acquired by the Black History Museum, which restores and expands the structure with assistance from city and state grants, and individual donors.

2016: The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia reopens, featuring state-of-the-art digital exhibits and a new glass, wood, and steel entry.

Richmond Armory

photo by: Library of Congress

The Leigh Street Armory.

Katherine Flynn is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores, and uncovering the stories behind historic places.

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