Jackson Ward is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Richmond and the only one of the large downtown residential neighborhoods to survive. It is bounded on the south by Marshall Street, on the west by Belvidere Street, on the east by 4th Street, and on the north by the Gilpin Court public housing project, which is just north of I-95. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the area north of Leigh Street developed as a neighborhood of free blacks known as Little Africa. After the Civil War, freed slaves came to Jackson Ward in large numbers, creating one of the leading African American business centers in the United States. This concentration resulted in a considerable amount of building activity, undertaken by a strong community of African American builders and eventually by African American architects. After World War II the area suffered as property was condemned and demolished for governmental projects such as the convention center, parking lots, public housing, and the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike. This is balanced somewhat by a substantial amount of rehabilitation in the district. The churches of Jackson Ward are important architectural and cultural landmarks that remain vital parts of the community. Efforts are underway to revitalize the business district as part of the Virginia Main Street program.
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