The Deuce: A Street Decapitated

Despite the no-walk sign, Tony stepped out in front of oncoming traffic. “Gotta cut that light by a second” he said, weaving among the passing cars with long strides. “You just gotta do it sometimes, you know?” (Photo by Jack DeAngelis)

by Jack DeAngelis

“This is a historic street, you know,” said Jamie.

I do know. The Hippodrome Theater was famous for attracting crowds and celebrated musicians. And the old speakeasy next door was one of the only places to buy alcohol during the prohibition era.

But that’s not what Jamie meant. Instead of highlighting the classic attractions, he pointed to an abandoned building on the corner. “Over there—that used to be a Chinese place. And this Bond building has been here forever.”

When Jamie was a child, his mother was a waitress at a restaurant on 2nd Street in Jackson Ward. To him, the street is historic because it is where he grew up. The Hippodrome may be a cultural centerpiece of the neighborhood, but the local residences and workers are the ones that really inject life into the community. People like Jamie are not flashy like Ella Fitzgerald or Duke Ellington, but they are the people that make up the community.

Second Street comes to an abrupt end less than half a mile north of Broad Street. The Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike section of I-95 suddenly blazes through the neighborhood, cutting the street off short. On the other side of the highway, 2nd Street technically continues through Gilpin Court, but the continuity of Jackson Ward’s backbone is destroyed. Today, most Jackson Ward residents will say that 2nd Street ends at the highway.

The other side of 2nd Street, one intimately bound to Jamie’s Jackson Ward, is nearly always forgotten.

To walk the Deuce, click the map below: