From Monroe Park westward to where it becomes Monument Avenue, Franklin Street provides a timeline of fashionable Richmond's houses and churches in an array of styles—from Italianate and Second Empire to Richardsonian Romanesque, Colonial Revival, and classical and Spanish Colonial revivals. Virginia Commonwealth University's stewardship of many of these buildings has been a mixed blessing. Utilitarian modifications have changed the interiors. In a few instances, bland modern university structures have intruded onto the street. Nevertheless, much of this area of West Franklin retains a coherent streetscape.
Monroe Park is the point from which the radiating streets in this part of Richmond give name to the Fan District. After the Civil War this former drill field and fairground was graded and planted for use as a public park. The establishment of Monroe Park ensured that this area would become the neighborhood to which wealthy Richmonders would flee from the confines of downtown and express their wealth and social status in new homes. Here, wrote a commentator in 1893, “the opulence and taste and artistic ideals of this prosperous and progressive city are externally manifest most.”
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