Maggie Lena Walker’s Richmond, Virginia home is a National Historic Site and museum and is open to the public for tours. The exhibit follows Walker’s life from childhood to her death in 1934. A Richmond area bank president, community leader and civil rights activist, Maggie L Walker was among the most influential Virginia citizens in the early 1900’s.
The home is located in the historically black Jackson Ward neighborhood of Richmond. The historic site consists of 6 buildings, many repurposed as national park offices, one of which serves as the exhibit hall for the Maggie Walker historic site, and one of which is the Maggie Walker House itself. The home is a brick townhouse built in the Victorian Gothic style. The front of the home is decorated with a Colonial style porch and fabric awning. Furnishings and décor in the home’s interior are a combination of Walker’s personal belongings, as well as period items from the 1920’s and 1930’s. Additional collections at the museum include artwork and personal items belonging to the Walker family, and the Walker family papers, a significant collection of photographs as well as Ms. Walker’s business papers, correspondence, speeches and diaries. The collection also includes a number of papers and artifacts from Walker’s business headquarters at St. Luke’s Hall.
History: Maggie Lena Walker (1867-1934) was the daughter of a slave who later became a bank president, newspaper owner and civic leader devoting much of her life to the civil rights advancement and economic and educational empowerment of her fellow African Americans. Maggie Walker was the leader of a fraternal organization named the Independent order of St. Luke. Under her leadership, the organization grew to over 100,000 members in 24 states, and in 1902, opened the St. Luke’s Penny Bank, making her the first African American woman to have founded a bank in the United States. The organization opened a newspaper, the St. Luke Herald, and department store under her guidance, and became a catalyst for economic advancement and civil rights achievement. She was on the board of the National Association of Colored Women and served as both vice president and board member of the NAACP. The townhome, built by George W. Boyd in 1883, was where Maggie Walker lived with her family from 1905 until her death in 1934. When the Walker family purchased the home in 1904 they made several changes, including the addition of electricity and central heating. The home went from 9 to 28 rooms as several bedrooms and enclosed porches were added. In 1928, an elevator was installed to assist Ms. Walker with access to the second floor. Although her health was declining and she was in a wheelchair at this point in her life, she remained active in the IOSL organization until her death in 1934. The home was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1975 and opened to the public as a museum in 1978. Maggie Walker’s descendants donated the home and all its contents to the people of the United States in 1979. The site is now managed by the National Parks Service.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Park rangers provide one-hour tours of the exhibit hall and home. Prior to the tour, a 12-minute film recounts the life and history of Maggie L Walker and her impact on the Civil Rights movement in Richmond, Virginia and beyond. Hands-on interactive tours for children follow Virginia’s Standards of Learning. Field trips and group tours for all ages may be arranged. For those who cannot make it to the home, the Travel Trunk program brings classrooms to life with a visit of a trunk full of memorabilia and history from the museum. The Maggie L Walker Summer Youth Leadership Institute follows Ms. Walker’s vision of self-improvement and offers a two-week leadership program for Richmond area youth ages 14-18.
Past and Future Exhibits: “The St. Luke Hall: A Beacon of Black Business” tells the story of the Independent order of St Luke and its achievements and growth under Maggie Walker’s leadership. “A Woman of Fine Presence: Maggie L Walker’s Style” explores Ms. Walker’s sophistication and pride through a series of portraits and photographs. “History at Sunset” was a walking tour that began at a dedication of a Maggie L. Walker statue in downtown Richmond, then proceeded through a tour of the home and a celebration of her 153rd birthday, closing at the Evergreen Cemetery where she lies to rest.
What’s Nearby: The Maggie L Walker home and museum is located in Richmond’s historic Jackson Ward neighborhood. Podcasts are available for self-guided walking tours of the history of Jackson Ward.
3215 E Broad Street Richmond, VA 23223, Phone: 804-771-2017
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