Got back from the circuit court records room a little while ago, and although I did not find the rosetta stone I was hoping for, I did learn that there was a history of substantial business transactions between John C. Shafer and Gilbert J. Hunt in the conveyance of undeveloped land tracts. After a successful first transaction in 1888, Hunt most likely built several detached town homes along the section north of Park outlined in blue. Possibly two of these structures are still standing on what is now North Cathedral Place.
There was a lot of business between the two men in 1889 – the same year our row was constructed – with two substantial transactions along the 900 block of Floyd Avenue, where Hunt would build his residence on the corner. The other transaction gave Hunt the additional land for the six rowhouses beside his home, which are now demolished. With transactions totaling $23,870, perhaps there was some side business worked in for the construction of our row. That hypothesis is still just that – a hypothesis.
Lastly, a deed was recorded in 1896 in the amount of $29,000 for a parcel matching the description of Shafer’s residence (he died March 24, 1895). This needs some clarification, as Carneal’s Richmond’s Fan District says the Mansfield Watkins property (Shafer’s home at 900 Park Avenue) was not demolished until 1905. The National Register nomination form for Hunt’s home at 901 Floyd Avenue does identify two addresses – 900 and 902 Park Avenue and having had Gilbert Hunt dwelling, that have since been demolished to accommodate modern VCU buildings. I find it interesting that the Shafer family would’ve sold the family homestead a year after their patriarch’s death to Mr. Hunt, and also interesting that in that case, Hunt would’ve waited to develop the lots for 9 years.
Baist Atlas of Richmond 1889, Special Collections and Archives, James Branch Cabell Library, VCU Libraries