The Fan is a district of Richmond, Virginia, so named because of the fan shape of the array of streets that extend west from Belvidere Street, on the eastern edge of Monroe Park, westward to the Boulevard

History of the Fan

firehouse theatre

The Historic Fan District is an 85-block Victorian residential neighborhood immediately west of the Richmond downtown commercial area. The Fan District development followed the tracks of a late 19 century trolley line.

The Fan was originally inherited in part by William Byrd from his uncle, and partly granged by royal Governor William Berkeley in the late 17th century. In the mid-1700’s, this property was developed into farmland by William Byrd II.

The area which became the Fan was a small, rural settlement coalescence named either for the nearby tavern or for the skirmish which occurred between Benedict Arnold and local Revolutionary troops.In 1817, the entire are was divided into lots for the town of Sydney, which never materialized. The area was relatively untouched by the Civil War, although Stonewall Jackson trained VMI cadets in Monroe Park and several of the Buildings which later became Richmond College were used as a hospital. Extensive building in the area did not begin until the 1880’s, when the affluence of the middle class emerged during the Progressive Era. With the city’s population rising by nearly 30%, more housing was required. Resulting annexations by the city incorporated west to Lombardy Street in 1867 and to Boulevard in 1892. Building in the district was complete by 1920.Although the homes were designed and built by relatively few local architects and contractors, and extraordinary variety of styles and building treatments contribute both to the District’s distinctive quality and cohesive identity. Italianate, Richardson Romanesque, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival building styles predominate, but examples of Tudor, Second Empire, Beaux Arts, Art Deco, Spanish, Gothic, Bungalow, and the American Arts and Crafts Movement are obvious as well. The area was a fashionable address for the socially conscious upper middle class through World War II, although, as with most cities, many of the homes were subdivided during the Depression.

However, in the 1950’s the large stately homes, picturesque shady streets, and proximity to downtown and the university became extremely attractive again and a renovation boom – a revitalization of the neighborhood and restoration of the townhomes – began and continues today.

An excellent history of the Fan District can be found on the Fan of the Fan website, specifically here.

History of the Fan District Association

A wonderful history written by Samuel J T Moore, Jr has been saved and may be found here; it was completed in August of 1981, is over 60 pages long, and details social activities, service work, and original Christmas Tour planning from the 60’s and earlier.

Gail Zwirner, FDA Historian, has compiled additional history of the FDA and the Fan District in general.  The first section has been released:

  1. Part One: The 60’s
  2. Part Two: The 70’s
  3. Part Three: The 80’s
  4. Part Four: The 90’s
  5. Part Five: The 2000’s

Finally, a list of prior FDA Presidents is here. Take a look; you may find a neighbor or friend whom you could thank for their service.

Christmas House Tour / Holiday House Tour

Finally, the Christmas Home Tour, currently known as the Holiday House Tour, has a strong history of original art in its promotional materials.  A selection of these may be found here.