The earliest structures in the WAIA date back to the 1880's on land that was then a tree nursery with most of the subsequent homes being built between 1900 and 1910. By the time you arrive at the 3rd and last block the houses date to the 1920's.
At the time a lot of prominent families lived on nearby West Franklin Street and their children built on Harrison Street, this resulted in the moniker "Honeymoon Row". The resulting children then moved to the West Avenue neighborhood and thus became known as "Stork Alley". The neighborhood has lived up to this distinction with a great number of children always present as is evidenced by the toys seen throughout the sidewalks and front porches.
In 1940 a group of neighbors got together to brainstorm a means to beautify the neighborhood and came up with the idea of a Garden Tour. The tour was so successful that it was decided to create a neighborhood association and on May 26, 1941 the WAIA was born with its first mayor, Dr. J. M. Hughes. The WAIA is the oldest neighborhood association in Richmond. The Garden Tour is an annual event that has endured the test of time.
Most of the homes on Franklin and Harrison Streets have since been absorbed into the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) campus. The WAIA has fought hard to maintain its enclave-like neighborhood as a place for families to raise their children in a place of beauty and friendship. So history keeps being made in the WAIA.
A little bit of history in the form of the description of the West Avenue Coat of Arms.
"In the first quarter of the shield, the red roses stand for the garden work done year round and the garden tours. The second quarter holds an open right hand representing the friendly, hospitable, and interesting people who live here. It is also the hand that reaches out to pick up and comfort the child who has fallen from his bicycle. The cross of St. James is in the third quarter together with two escallops or cockleshells. Pilgrims of whom St. James was patron wore these fan-like shells as a badge. Our collective ears are habitually tuned in at noon and at six in the evening for the chimes of St. James. The towers in the fourth quarter of the shield symbolize the enchanting homes in which we live and the long length of residence here for some of us. The motto on the scroll is in Latin, Non Sibi Sed Suis, "Not for herself but for Her Own". The date 1873 in the center base of the scroll is the earliest known date of the street, now known as West Avenue. Documentation is found in the map of Richmond City, 1873, by J.F.Z. Caracristic. Of the three storks on the crest, the center one is a boy stork and both girl storks are expectant, face-to-face. Five 5-pointed stars blazon the center chief and center base of the border. They symbolize the highest service rank in the United States and thus are most befitting our beloved community."
Prepared By: Col. Charles W. Dobson, Mayor, 1970
O, little street of fellowship, of tender care and love,
Of faith, of hope, of charity, a bit of what's above.
No friendships are so lasting, nor any quite so true
As these which you enkindle, Spirit of West Avenue.
Why are you not called "Friendship Lane" or
"Happy Children's Row"?
Or "Little Street of Cheerfulness”, is what I’d like to know,
For your happy deeds are many and your sadnesses are few,
what's in a name? Nothing! Tis the Spirit of West Avenue.
Frank McCarthy, Jr., 1927
O little street, brimful of happiness,
And love, and all that makes life sweet and true,
I wonder how those oafs who christen streets
Could e'er have christened you "West Avenue”
You should have had the tenderest, sweetest name,
All redolent of hearts and homes, in lieu
Of which those oafs who christen Richmond streets,
Just christened you a plain West Avenue”.
Cally Ryland, 1939
Quoth Miss Malicia Pettigrew,
"It's spring-time on West Avenue,
The cardinal in our backyard
Assumes the role of daily bard --
Upon each porch, 'neath awning's shade
Is heard the rocking-chair brigade,
Broadcasting winter-pent reviews
Of this and other avenues --
New residents are shocked, no doubt,
To find how much is known about
Their private, personal affairs
By occupants of rocking chairs.
The constant, unremitting bangs
That hail emergence of gangs,
Of children who consider sod
Their playground, engineered by God
In spite of all the neighbors who
Know more about yourself than you,
There's no place like West Avenue”
Smiled Miss Malicia Pettigrew.
Pleasant Conquest, Jr., 1932
A little street only three blocks long,
And the heart of the street is full of song
With the laughter of children and neighborly chattering
Some say we're a self-satisfied gathering!
We love our street, quiet and discreet,
From the rest of the city set apart;
Yet, from it wonderful people start.
We have a writer of great renown,
A State official who deserves a crown,
A movie producer of whom we are proud,
We're a happy and congenial crowd
Mrs. M.S. Valentine, IV, 1951