“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Culpeper in Culpeper County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

A Tribute to Black Americans – Early 1900’s

Lower End of E. Davis, Commerce Streets


—Town of Culpeper, Virginia —

A Tribute to Black Americans – Early 1900’s Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, June 15, 2008
1. A Tribute to Black Americans – Early 1900’s Marker
Inscription.  The area to the south was the center of commerce in the early 1900’s. It was here that retail shops, repair shops, hardware stores, restaurants, hotels and services flourished. In this era, blacks owned and operated nearly half the businesses in the Town, and both white and black Americans conducted business here.

The Wharf. From a historical perspective, The Wharf is a sub area of Downtown Culpeper, located at the lower end of E. Davis Street. Around 1900, the Wharf was known for its busy shipping activity, commercial businesses, churches, hotels, restaurants, and services. These businesses were predominately owned and operated by Black Americans. According to a local historian, Black American businesses flourished in part because they allowed whites and blacks to purchase goods and services “on credit”—a practice that was unusual for the time. As a rule, credit was not offered to blacks or poor whites in many localities. “In all they were the Town’s entrepreneurs; they had no banks to borrow from.”

Fishtown. To the south of the Wharf is the historical area known as “Fishtown,”
A Tribute to Black Americans – Early 1900’s Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, June 15, 2008
2. A Tribute to Black Americans – Early 1900’s Marker
which occupied Commerce Street, Waters Place and Locust Street. “Fishtown” got its name from Friday and Saturday fish fries on open fires. Black American businessmen in this area were sought after for their goods, services and talents, with thriving businesses and shops. Although several homes existed in the area of “Fishtown,” the majority of blacks resided in nearby enclaves, such as Tin Cup Alley (E. Spencer Street), Whipple Alley (E. Chandler Street), Slabtown (Old Fredericksburg Road), Jeffrey Town (N. Commerce Street), and Sugar Bottom (West Street / Locust Street).

Then and Now. Like other small communities, Culpeper’s Downtown experienced a decline in the mid-1900’s. Retail businesses suffered, buildings and infrastructure deteriorated and investment went elsewhere. In the late 1980’s, the Code of Virginia classified this area as “slums and blight.” The Town received a grant funded in part by the Virginia Community Development Block Grant program, which provided the catalyst for rehabilitation and redevelopment of the area.

Today, this area is listed in both the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register and is an integral part of the Town’s Historic District.

Culpeper continues to attract more visitors each year. It is important that Culpeper’s Black American presence
Detail of Map on Marker image. Click for full size.
3. Detail of Map on Marker
Map is a Sanborn map showing businesses around 1900. This marker is located at the point of the triangle in the upper center of the map formed by Commerce St. and Wausau Place. East Davis Street is in the center left of the map.
in this area be known and appreciated.

(photo caption) Lightfoot’s Grocery. Mr. Henry Lightfoot (1845-1931) owned and operated Lightfoot’s Grocery on East Davis Street, in the 1870’s. Mr. Henry Lightfoot also served on the Town Council in the 1880’s. In the early 1900’s, the store expanded and relocated across the street to 254-258 East Davis Street and was owned and operated by Mr. Lightfoot’s son, Mr. J.E.R. Lightfoot.

(photo caption) Approximately 100 years later, the lower end of East Davis Street has been rehabilitated and returned as a vibrant—yet quaint—place to live and work for residents, businesses and visitors.

Special thanks to: Culpeper Parking Authority, Culpeper Town Council, Johnson Lane, Harrison Lightfoot and the Lightfoot family, William & Rosie Marle Martin, Museum of Culpeper History, Department of Tourism.
Location. 38° 28.39′ N, 77° 59.574′ W. Marker is in Culpeper, Virginia, in Culpeper County. Marker is at the intersection of Commerce Street and Wausau Place, on the left when traveling north on Commerce Street. Touch for map. It is in a small triangular park next to the parking lot between Commerce St. and Wausau Place. Marker is in this post office area: Culpeper VA 22701, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Culpeper Court House (within shouting
View of East Davis Street from Commerce Street image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, June 15, 2008
4. View of East Davis Street from Commerce Street
The former Southern Railroad station is behind the photographer.
distance of this marker); a different marker also named Culpeper Court House (within shouting distance of this marker); Eppa Rixey Boyhood Home (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Gallant Pelham (approx. 0.2 miles away); “Gallant” Pelham’s Last Days (approx. 0.2 miles away); A.P. Hill's Boyhood Home (approx. 0.2 miles away); William "Extra Billy" Smith (approx. 0.2 miles away); Pennsylvania (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Culpeper.
Also see . . .  Museum of Culpeper History. “The first railroad - the Orange and Alexandria - came to the county in 1852; first telephone, 1894. In 1871, the first public school (one room) in the county was organized. [County-wide] school enrollment for the 1972-73 year was 4,765.” (Submitted on June 29, 2008.) 
Categories. 20th CenturyAfrican Americans
The Culpeper Railroad Station image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, June 15, 2008
5. The Culpeper Railroad Station
The intersection in front of the photographer is Commerce Street with East Davis Street to the right.
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Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on June 29, 2008, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 1,539 times since then and 24 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on June 29, 2008, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.
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