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Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site

I had some time on my hands one Friday and with my wife’s blessing I used a few hours to drive over to the historic Jackson Ward National Historic Landmark district in Richmond Virginia to visit the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site. The block where the visitor center is located still has all its original buildings from the era, including Maggie L. Walker’s house, where this iconic woman lived for most of her life. 

The visitor center is actually a set of buildings the National Park Service purchased and converted for its use. The buildings used to hold a store and a restaurant, but now houses the small exhibits, theater, small gift shop and welcome space. To get to the building you need to park on 2nd Street and follow the signs to the courtyard behind the building and the into a back door.

From here you can enter the small visitor center with the exhibits, gift shop and friendly park rangers. You can make quick work of the exhibits inside as they are not that extensive. Note that while you can walk the courtyard and around the buildings, there is not much available for a self-guided tour. To get the full experience and insight into the history of this amazing woman, you really do need to take the Ranger led tour.

The tours start on the hour, and I arrived around half past, so that afforded me plenty of time to read the exhibits, the brochure, as well as check-up on my work email. They started the tour with a 20-minute video about Maggie L. Walker to put her life and all her accomplishments into its proper perspective. Born in 1864, still a year before the civil war was to end, to a mother who was a slave. She grew up poor, or as she put it, “On the rough side of the mountain.” She had to help her mother provide laundry services to make ends meet. She grew up from these humble beginnings to establish the first chartered bank in the United States by a black woman, which lasted for over 100 years, start the Richmond chapter of the NAACP, served on boards of local/national civil organizations, was invited to the White House by three different Presidents and ran a newspaper. All this while with the eye of supporting and uplifting the African American community.

After the video, the ranger walked me through the courtyard and over to Maggie Walker’s home. I was the only one on the tour, so had a personalize tour, which was pretty neat! Here the ranger explained in detail the parts of the home and related it to the period in which she lived. Amazingly, all but three pieces in the house are original! The house and the belongings were kept in the family and then transferred to the National Park Service when they made it a National Historic Site. 

The buildings behind the large mural in the courtyard are owned by the NPS and used as storage and artifacts. 

Historical Note: Richmond’s Jackson Ward became the premier center for African American business, music and theater and was one of the most prosperous black communities in the United States in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It followed New York’s Harlem Renaissance and was nicknamed the Harlem of the South. In the late 1950’s, the I-95 highway bypass was built through the neighborhood and destroyed much of it.

Not only were the items in the home original, since it was kept in the family, there are first-hand accounts of the placement of the items and stories of life within the home. This gave such a realistic feeling of the household. 

She kept pictures on the walls of the house of her contemporaries who she worked with, such as W.E.B. Du Bois, and Booker T. Washington. Some of whom visited Maggie Walker at the house.

I was truly impressed with the home, and the beautiful neighborhood, but more so by Mrs. Walker’s incredible life. She truly made a huge impact on her community, and I am glad her home and the rest of this area was preserved. If you are in the Richmond area, seek out the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site yourself!

If you are interested in National Park Cancellation stamps and want to hear more about them, check out my post on National Park Cancelation Stamps

National Park Cancellation Stamp "Maggie L Walker NHS, Richmond, VA"

Unit: Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site

Path to 425+: 84

Region: Mid-Atlantic

Month/Year: Dec 2023

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