Richmond may have been founded by English colonists, but it has a Scottish streak. Just look at the number of glens that show up in our neighborhoods’ names. Glen Allen and Glenbrooke Hills in Henrico County, for example. And Glenburnie in the city’s West End.
In fact, while the Glenburnie neighborhood traces its roots back to the 1930s, its namesake goes back much further in time and place.
According to a promotional brochure produced in 1938, the neighborhood, which runs north from Grove Avenue to Patterson Avenue and east from Seneca Road to Tuckahoe Boulevard, got its name from the Glenburnie estate that once occupied the land.
And the estate’s original owners named it after their ancestral home in Scotland.
Don’t expect to stumble onto flocks of sheep being herded through the neighborhood by vigilant border collies, though. Like many suburbs developed during the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, Glenburnie is aggressively Colonial.
Among the architectural styles listed in the 1938 brochure are Williamsburg Colonial, New England Colonial and Fredericksburg Colonial.
Planning for the subdivision began in 1936, with Matt P. Will acting as its developer and, at least initially, its sole builder.
Will had built homes in other neighborhoods, including nearby Hampton Gardens and Willway, but Glenburnie represented “a step up” for the developer because it was a larger project for him, said Robert Cosby, Will’s grandson and president of Henrico County-based Will & Cosby & Associates.
It proved to be a hit with homebuyers looking to move to the new suburbs emerging just west of the city.
But Will faced obstacles. The majority of the neighborhood, which has 179 homes, was built during the Great Depression and the early years of World War II, and as the economy faltered, Will sold lots to other builders.
The economic troubles also impacted sales prices.
“In talking with my grandfather 30 years ago, he said he started off getting $9,000 for a home and lot,” Cosby said. “But because of the Depression, he had to dump the last house for $8,000.”
Will didn’t let the setbacks impact Glenburnie’s building plans, though. “He put overhangs on when most builders did not,” Cosby said. “He added extra trim, and he would put a three-inch-thick front door on so people would get that solid feel when they came in.”
That attention to detail has attracted homebuyers to the neighborhood for decades, said Bob Collins, a real estate broker with Long & Foster and a lifelong Glenburnie resident. (His parents bought the seventh house built there.)
“Andrew Kidwell designed the homes, and he was a master,” he added.
The neighborhood’s location continues to appeal to homebuyers, as well.
“You can walk up to the Avenues for dinner or to see a movie,” Collins said. “And Carytown, clubs and prestigious private schools are just a short drive away.”
But Glenburnie’s greatest appeal might be a little hard to see at first glance. “It’s a true neighborhood,” Collins said. “You know who lives down the street, and you can talk to them in the evening. That’s a huge thing.”