This Old House: A DIY Guide to Researching your Historic Home

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Little is known of the early history of Brookbury Farm, an antebellum agricultural plantation and one of the oldest houses in the City of Richmond. Most recently the home of Judge James Sheffield, the first Black judge to be appointed to a Virginia court since Reconstruction, the property was clearly historically significant for its association with this late 20th century Civil Rights leader. But what additional layers of significance are revealed through additional research? Who owned this property over the centuries? Who inhabited the main house? Who inhabited the extant antebellum slave cabins? Who marked their trails to Falling Creek on its trees? What traces do they leave of their stories in Brookbury’s soil? Who designed that remarkable 20th century addition?

This historic property appeared on our radar earlier this year. On the tax sale list, it was considered at risk. Since then, Historic Richmond staff, architectural historians and archaeologists with the Department of Historic Resources and others have been working to establish its historic significance for listing on the federal and state historic registers. Join us as we discuss our experience with Brookbury Farm and learn how to research everything from early deeds, land maps, historic photographs and surveys, city directories, physical evidence, personal collections, and more for your own beloved historic property and how to navigate listing on the historic registers.

Michael Clem, Archaeologist | Virginia Department of Historic Resources
Danielle Porter, Director of Preservation | Historic Richmond
Marc Wagner, Architectural Historian | Virginia Department of Historic Resources

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Many thanks to our presenting sponsor Dominion Energy and program sponsor TCV Trust & Wealth Management!


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