RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After nearly two decades of preservation efforts, a cottage once owned by a former slave will be moved to a permanent location in the Richmond district of Manchester.
The Winfree Cottage is the last property standing out of 17 similar houses in Manchester. The cottage given to Emily Winfree by her former master, slave owner David Winfree.
Emily Winfree was born into slavery in 1834 and lived during the Civil War, Reconstruction and the Jim Crow eras in Central Virginia. Winfree lived with her children in the 700-square-foot cottage, renting out the other half of the space.
In 2002 the building was threatened to be demolished. Many local organizations worked to rescue and stabilize the building, including members of the former Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods, David Herring, Kim Chen and Jennie Dotts.
The Alliance quickly stepped in to protect the cottage by moving it. The property was then donated to the City of Richmond and, over the past 20 years, efforts had been made to find a more permanent location.
Before being moved to its current location near Lumpkin’s Jail, the cottage was previously at Shockoe Bottom, where it endured wear and tear from Tropical Storm Gaston in 2004. Now, the cottage is in a historic area of Richmond where many Black Americans worked and lived after the Civil War. Visitors can still go to the cottage at its current location behind Main Street Station.
The cottage now sits on elevated beans since being transported from Shockoe Bottom. The organization Historic Richmond played a key role in the stabilization efforts of the space.
“So we were making the structural repairs, painting the building, making sure that it would still be structurally sound so that it will one day be restored when it is moved to this permanent site,” Director of Preservation Efforts Danielle Porter said.
Historic Richmond’s restoration efforts occurred during 2014 and 2015.
In 2014, Delegate Delores McQuinn and architect Burt Pinnock engaged Storefront for Community Design to consult on feasibility and to produce stabilization drawings. These plans were produced by volunteer consultants, Charlie Field, of Obsidian, Inc., and Mimi Sadler, of Sadler & Whitehead Architects, PLC.
In 2015, Storefront partnered with Historic Richmond on the stabilization efforts of Winfree Cottage.
Historic Richmond worked with a number of local businesses to obtain donations of materials and bids for labor. Donated materials include lumber from Siewers Lumber & Millwork, paint from Sherwin-Williams and miscellaneous supplies from Lowe’s.
For many years, Richmond’s Office of Economic & Community Development has been a strong advocate for the project. With funding from the city, Restoration Builders of Virginia provided construction services to stabilize the building. An independent contractor, Emmett Burke, painted the cottage’s exterior and roof.
While Historic Richmond has undoubtedly reached a level of success in efforts to stabilize the building, the organization said that the cottage continues to suffer from 12 years of water damage and structural deterioration.
Staff at Historic Richmond are happy to hear that the cottage is being relocated to its original location. Porter said preservation efforts like these allow members of the Richmond community to learn about where they came from to see where they are today. She said this project brings an opportunity for community appreciation and educational awareness of Richmond’s historic past.
It will cost $500,000 to relocate the cottage. The city’s plans to move the property to the corner of Fifteenth and Maury Streets, across from J.H. Blackwell Elementary School, is pending neighborhood approval. If all goes according to plan, the cottage can be seen at the spot as early as next spring.