205 N. 19th St.
The Pace-King Mansion sits in Shockoe Bottom, the bustling urban district anchored by the 17th Street Farmer’s Market. Richmond got its start here, and successive waves of growth have radiated outward. Despite centuries of change, including the explosion of commercial construction around the turn of the 20th century, some relics of the Bottom’s past remain. The Pace-King Mansion is one example, and it provides a window into antebellum Richmond, when Shockoe Bottom was one of the city’s best addresses.
Appropriately for a southern mansion, the star attraction of the Pace-King house is its porch. The porch is removed from the sidewalk by a full flight of steps, creating a comfortable distance from the street. The raised porch conceals an English basement below. The base of the porch is supported by a row of extraordinarily delicate marble piers. It is a wonder that they survived the conflicts, floods, and and weathering that have claimed so many buildings in Shockoe Bottom over the years.
Above the marble base is one of Richmond’s finest cast iron porches. A loose floral pattern fills in the railings while allowing light to penetrate to the base of the full-height double-hung windows behind. The porch is crowned with two layers of dense filigree, which are reinforced by an elaborate wooden cornice that crowns the facade.
The entire facade composition is built around the grand entry. The central bay of the porch is pushed outward, and its squashed archway complements the woodwork above the entry alcove. The double-width window on the upper story continues the central focus of the facade.
Much like the supposedly genteel Southern culture is represents, the outward appearance of Pace-King conceals an ugly reality, the slave quarters in the rear yard. This historical cloud will always hang over the building, but it has not prevented it from being effectively repurposed. A recent renovation by Richmond-based developer Robin Miller and Associates divided the house into several apartment units.
In its overall functional and physical structure, the Pace-King Mansion is nothing remarkable, but in its architectural particulars, it stands out. Even as new apartment houses and shopping centers have risen around it, the mansion continues to contribute to the texture of Shockoe Bottom.