1812 East Grace St.
For a hint of what 18th century Richmond might have looked like there are few better places to examine than the Adam Craig House, an evocative dwelling that sits kitty-corner at the southeast corner of the intersection of East Grace and North 19th streets in Shockoe Bottom. Its lot fills a quarter of the city block, a configuration that follows the establishment of the city grid system of 1737.
The date of the houses is subject to question but it may have been built in 1784, two years after its owner, Adam Craig, moved from Williamsburg to Richmond. He was the clerk of the Richmond Hustings Court, the Henrico County Court and the General Court. In 1787 he married Polly Mallory. Among the couple’s six children was Jane Stith Craig who was probably born in the house and served as the inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem, “To Helen.”
Unpretentious, the Craig House is the oldest frame house in Richmond and the second oldest overall (the oldest is the Old Stone House, or Poe Museum, located nearby at 1914 East Main St.).
After a chain of owners and uses, by 1935 the house was in poor condition. At that time a young Richmond minister led a small group of citizens who sought to preserve it. Their effort led to the founding of the William Byrd Branch of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), an organization that went on to raise public awareness of historical resources and save additional structures.
The two-story, five bay, frame house follows the traditional Virginia center hall plan as is apparent from its symmetrical front facade. The single story front portico with paired classical columns is a later addition.The rear wing, also frame, is almost as large as the main building block.The features of the 18th century interior are largely intact. The two-story brick kitchen on an edge of the property was built in 1815 to replace a frame cookhouse.
Today the house is a single family residence and maintained meticulously. Its grounds are planted with large English boxwoods and mature magnolias which are framed by a white picket fence and an old brick city sidewalk on two sides. It is an urban oasis with few equals in Richmond.