Honoring Local Residents, Dedication of Street Signs, Unveiling Ceremonies on August 10

Below are the names of honorees and their respective street sign ceremonies. More information about a few of the honorees follows.

From the office of Samuel Patterson – City Council Office  Samuel.Patterson@richmondgov.comb

Unveiling Ceremonies:  August 10, 2018

Sign Name/Location of Unveiling/Time of Ceremony

Carl Otto/The Corner of Williamsburg Road and Stoney Run/9:30AM
*(The matching sign goes at the corner of Government Road and Stoney Run)

There may be a Ribbon Cutting for the announcement of the Fulton Memorial Park at this intersection-so these two are combined

Spencer Jones /The Corner of Williamsburg Road and Goddin Street / 10:15AM  (Combined Ceremony)
*(The matching sign goes at the corner of Goddin and Fulton Street)

Earl Robinson/The Corner of Fulton Street and Goddin Street (700 Goddin Street) /10:15AM (Combined Ceremony)
*The matching sign goes at the First corner of Goddin Street Circle

Mary Lou Decossaux / The Corner of Williamsburg Road and Salem Street (NRC Corner) / 11:00AM
*The matching  sign goes at the corner of Salem Street and Nelson Street 

Reception to be held at the Neighborhood Resource Center at 1519 Williamsburg Road / 11:30AM-12:45PM

Percy and Angie Strickland/ The Corner of North 31st Street and “N” / 1:30PM
*The matching sign goes at North 30th Street and “N” Street

Mary Thompson/ The Corner of North 22nd and “Q” Street/2:00PM
*The matching sign goes at the corner of North 22nd and “R” Street

Willie Andrews/The Corner of North 23rd Street and County Road /2:30PM
*The matching signs goes at the corner of North 24th and County Road
Reception to be held at the Sarah Garland Jones Center-2600 Nine Mile Road  3:00PM

Interesting information about several of the honorees…

Carl Otto
Fulton’s Gillies Creek Park Private Developer and Expert on the Park

Gillies Creek Park sounds like nothing else in the Richmond area. The clanging of horseshoes. The clunk of flying discs hitting trees and poles. The amazing click-clacking of furiously played dominoes. The banging of hard-charging BMX bikes and dirt jumpers. The grunting, groaning, screaming and cheering of coed flag football and kickball players.

Lots and lots of laughter coming from all types of people in this most organic, most egalitarian, most unlikely of RVA parks.

“We’re 26 years into a 10-year plan,” joked the de facto godfather of this 100-acre former wasteland.

That’s Cmdr. Carl Otto talking, a retired Navy submariner, 79 years old, the president of the Gillies Creek Park Foundation since 1989, and a guy who just beat me 21-1 in horseshoes. And I’m not bad. “I’m 41 percent,” Otto said of how often he throws a ringer.

Of course, he’s a slacker compared with 62-year-old Glenn Barlow, a state champ who throws ringers 73 percent of the time (35 percent left-handed!), despite heart bypass surgery, a plate in his neck and a surgically welded heel.

“Ask my wife,” Barlow told me when I asked him what this park means to him. “She’d say it’s my second home.”

If you ask the domino players, you’ll hear the same thing.

In fact, for many of them (virtually all of them African-Americans), this was their first home. They grew up here, played here, lived in the old frame homes that were bulldozed in the ’70s as part of a rather shamefully executed “slum-clearance” urban renewal project in partnership with the federal government.

But part of the deal was a strip of this floodplain reserved for the Gillies Creek Natural Area. This is the narrow waist of the East End, a somewhat scraggly ravine between Libby/Church/Chimborazo hills and Fulton/Powhatan hills. Despite being just minutes from downtown, it has long been an out-of-the-way place, easy to overlook.

Which made it a prime place to grow organically. There wasn’t much here when the submariner came on deck. Otto had grown up in Richmond and dreamed of a park where people did things and played together.

“I was tired of people just reading books and shining cars,” Otto said.

“Elson Redmon, the director of Rec and Parks then, said, ‘I don’t have any money,’ ” he recalled. “So I took $20 down to the State Corporation Commission, and I had a foundation.”

No, he’s not a guy taking credit for this park. In fact, he’ll bend your ear with the stories and names of people, associations, corporations and, yes, even city workers who rolled up their sleeves cleaning up, shaping and funding the place.

The amount of scrounging and deal-making that has gone on here would make Radar from “M.A.S.H.” proud. There, by the horseshoe pits, are some of the bleachers from Dinwiddie Motorsports Park. That roof over there by what was once Fulton Street? That’s part of the old 17th Street Farmers’ Market. Those trees? That concrete? Donated or otherwise mysteriously dropped off. If heavy equipment was needed, it arrived. The widely known disc golf course was built almost entirely by volunteers.

“Not a whole lot of money involved,” Otto said.

Spencer Jones and Earl Robinson-Fulton’s Historical Experts

Spencer Jones, a walking history Book of the Fulton area

The purpose of the Historic Fulton Oral History Project is to educate, to raise awareness, and to gain an understanding of life in the Historic Fulton community, located in the East End of Richmond, Virginia. Its need comes from a commitment to preserve the 20th century history of the neighborhood and its residents. This was accomplished through the compilation of the oral histories of Historic Fulton residents, particularly those with strong ties to the Historic Fulton community prior to the City of Richmond’s 1970s urban renewal plan.

The interviewees were also witness to the City of Richmond’s 1970s urban renewal plan that permanently changed the landscape of Historic Fulton. These interviews present the unique perspectives of those who were Historic Fulton residents by allowing the community to speak for and about themselves. With the Greater Historic Fulton area undergoing continued change and development in the 21st century, understanding Historic Fulton’s past is an invaluable resource for the neighborhood’s future.

The project was developed in 2011 in partnership with the Virginia Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), The Valentine, the Neighborhood Resource Center of Greater Fulton, and the Greater Fulton Future Legacy Work Team. Physical copies of audio recordings and written transcriptions were distributed to a variety of local institutions to ensure that the oral histories may be accessed widely.

What happened to historic Fulton is grist for a “bucket load of blues”.

The neighborhood was the object of a misbegotten urban-renewal effort that erased its urban grid and architecture from the landscape in the 1970s.

Former residents, determined to retain memories of their community, regularly gathered in a vacant block of Fulton Street for reunions before construction on suburban-style dwellings placed the land off-limits.

Earl Robinson, whose 1965 brick rancher was the lone home to survive the renewal effort, and Spencer Edward Jones III were the keepers of the Fulton flame. Robinson died two years ago today at 68. Jones soldiered on in their dream of establishing a memorial park for the community.

Today, their vision is much closer to reality.

Corey Harris, a singer, songwriter and guitarist who has collaborated with blues legend B.B. King, alternative rock band Wilco and renowned Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, will give a benefit performance at the Byrd Theatre to raise money for the Fulton Memorial Park.

“As a songwriter, I’m always drawn to stories,” he said.

Harris, 43, a native of Colorado and the recipient of a 2007 MacArthur “genius grant,” has lived in the greater Fulton area for three years. He said “Fulton Blues” — which was released Thursday — was inspired by the book “Built by Blacks,” a local history by Selden Richardson that chronicles Fulton’s demise.

His website for “Fulton Blues” describes a neighborhood “older than the city itself.”

To call Fulton the birthplace of Richmond is no hype. The Indian leader Powhatan, Christopher Newport, John Smith and Abraham Lincoln all trod Fulton. African captives were marched from its docks on the James River to the city’s slave market. City officials — in indiscriminately razing what had become a drug-ravaged and decaying community — showed no regard for Fulton’s residents or history.

“I think it’s a tragedy anytime people are pushed out of their neighborhood, and people’s sense of place is demolished for other people to come in and make money,” Harris said Thursday.

Harris, a former resident of New Orleans, likened the destruction of old Fulton to sections of the Crescent City, post-Katrina.

“It was urban, and now I could compare it to the countryside,” he said of that city’s Lower 9th Ward. The Fulton landscape cannot be re-created. But plans are under way to memorialize the neighborhood in a triangular park bounded by Williamsburg Avenue, Goddin Street and Fulton Street.

Conceptual designs call for a canopy of new foliage surrounding the lone remaining tree on the block — a symbolic reminder of the resilience of the Fulton community. The park would have an amphitheater and promenades reflecting the neighborhood’s history, from its commercial heyday to its decline. Granite and cobblestones from the old neighborhood would be recycled at the memorial, including a granite arrangement representing the destruction of Fulton.

The park, as currently planned, would cost an estimated $1 million, said Cheryl Groce-Wright, executive director of the Neighborhood Resource Center of Greater Fulton. It would include statues of Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely Jr., a Fulton native and the first African-American to command a Navy ship and fleet, and Robinson. Plans also call for a bronze map of the old Fulton and tables for dominoes and cards, games favored by residents at reunions.