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Charles T. Russell
*Charles Russell was born on this date in 1873. He was a Black architect.
A Richmond native, Charles Thaddeus Russell graduated from the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, in 1899 with a certificate from the carpentry department and a diploma from the academic department. Two years later, he went on to serve as supervisor of carpentry at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he learned mechanical drawing and served an architectural apprenticeship during the campus’ construction.
In 1907, he returned to Richmond after he was named an instructor in manual training and superintendent of university grounds at Virginia Union University. It was there that he began to take on architectural commissions. He transformed the city’s Jackson Ward neighborhood, designing a number of buildings that turned the area into a thriving business district that has been called the “Black Wall Street of America.” Russell designed many notable buildings in Richmond, including the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank (which he later expanded and refurbished), the Richmond Beneficial Insurance Company building, and a number of houses, churches, and multi-use commercial buildings.
In 1925, he remodeled and expanded the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, which was originally built in 1890 by George Boyd. That building was saved from demolition in the mid-1950s when Interstate 95 was developed, cutting through the Jackson Ward neighborhood. A number of the neighborhood’s buildings were destroyed during this interstate construction project including many designed by Russell, but this church still stands as a fine example of Russell’s legacy. Charles Thaddeus Russell died on August 24, 1952.