Vinny poses behind the bar he tends when the crowd gets heavy. (Photos by Chance Evans)

by Chance Evans

A walk down First Street shows a few of the faces of Jackson Ward: churches, houses both abandoned and well-kept, businesses thriving or failing, and vacant lots. School children, old men in wheelchairs,  college students. This is the beauty of Jackson Ward and the source of its charm. In a neighborhood marked by transition, you never know who you’re going to meet.


An abandoned house sits two buildings away from the Rogue cocktail bar.

Two doors down from one of those abandoned houses, a trendy cocktail bar sits nestled between a well-kept historic home and newly built apartments. Inside, a young man is folding napkins for the dinner shift.

Rogue Restaurant and Cocktail Bar is among the trendy restaurants popping up in Jackson Ward.

Who Are You?
“I’m Vinny, 24, I work here. I’ve been working in restaurants since high school.”

Where Are You From?
“I grew up in the West End. I went to Godwin High School. I just started going back to school this semester. I live right across the street now. It used to be an old bank.”

CT Russell Lofts, where Vinny lives, was once home to the 2nd Street Bank. The bank served the Richmond Beneficial Life Insurance Co., once located in the same complex. It was part of the banking group run by Maggie Walker.

What Brought You Here?
“I came here to work at this restaurant. Then I moved in with my girlfriend. We met because of this restaurant. Usually dating a regular isn’t a good idea, but its worked for me.”

What is Jackson Ward to you?
“I’m working at a local restaurant, so my circle is mostly confined to people that work here, in the restaurant business, and locals who come here often.

“There are still older black families that live here, and the area is desegregated. However, it is a gentrifying area. For about ten 10 years, young professionals and students have been moving into the Broad Street side. Those same people are moving into the back of Jackson Ward. White people are coming in and gentrifying it. This guy named Nos runs a blog and gave four ingredients that make an area gentrified: yoga, coffee, juice bar and a cocktail bar. We have three of those on this block.”

A set of recently constructed apartments located beside Rogue Restaurant and Cocktails; it is one example of the new apartment buildings popping up.

“There are a few new constructions going up, like the one right beside this building. That vacant lot across the street was just sold by the city for redevelopment. Soon there are going to be new apartment buildings and businesses looming and casting shadows over the rest of Jackson Ward.”

A vacant lot recently sold by the City of Richmond for redevelopment; there are few other lots in the area like this one.

“I don’t think there are tensions between the old and new, but my perspective is a young white dude who works here. However, there does seem to be a glass wall between people.”

Vinny finishes folding napkins for the dinner rush while he speaks about his experience in Jackson Ward.

Where are you going?
“After I finish my associate’s degree, I want to transfer to UVA and study entrepreneurial business. My girlfriend is about to finish pharmacy school and start her residency, so I’ll go where she goes. Wherever I go, I will be going to school.”

“I want to build a company that acts as a brand representation and creates strategies for wineries, breweries, and distilleries.”

“I am more than likely moving out of Jackson Ward.”