Frank's Restaurant

Known Name(s)

Frank's Restaurant


145 E. Wolf St. Harrisonburg, VA

Establishment Type(s)


Physical Status


Detailed History

AREA CONTEXT: This was a thriving African American community that was the target of urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s, when the City’s urban planners had to convince the City that there were “slums” and “blight” in the City. Harrisonburg’s housing authority was established in 1955 for the sole purpose of executing urban renewal, and razed much of this northeast area to build what now are large surface parking lots and businesses.

There were two phases of this urban renewal project: R-4, which was approximately 32.5 acres, and R-16, which was approximately 7.5 acres. The properties at N Main Street, Federal Street, and Wolfe Street would have been included within the R-16 project, and no longer exist. Mrs. Ida M Francis’ home on Mason Street remains today because Mason Street was the boundary of the urban renewal project.

FRANK'S: East Wolfe Street was a primarily residential area prior to urban renewal in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Residences began to be constructed nearly a century prior in the 1850s and 1860s and were originally occupied by free born African-Americans. Residences had minimal setbacks with large lots in the back, many of which had fruit trees and gardens. It was a very tight knit community, with children playing together in the yards and alleyways behind the houses.

There is little information about Frank’s Restaurant itself. However, much is known about the building that once stood at 145 E. Wolfe Street. This building was called the Pythian Building and leased space to several African-American organizations and businesses. The most well-known business operating at this address was the Richmond Beneficial Insurance, Co. Harrisonburg Branch Office. This insurance office was run by a Black man, George Newman, and his son, Frederick Newman. The Pythian Building also leased space to a social organization known as the Blue Circle Club. The Blue Circle Club was well-known and influential in Harrisonburg’s Black community, and was formulated in January 1927  “to promote social and athletic activities and to rally behind, all worthy movements for the betterment of the colored        race.”  Its members were primarily Methodist, as the Methodist church was in close proximity to the Pythian Building. The Blue Circle Club was predominantly social in nature. However, the club organized Christmas events and toy drives for Harrisonburg’s Black children every year, in addition to raising money for a flagpole at the Effinger Street School, Harrisonburg’s first African-American school.

There is conflicting information about whether this site was located at what is now the Elizabeth Street parking garage or whether it was located at what is now the parking lot for the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. Either way, the site would have been located on the south side of E. Wolfe Street and was razed as part of urban renewal to build a parking area.

Research and photos by Caroline Vanterre with many thanks to Robin Lyttle and Sharon Barber of the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Alliance for their help with Harrisonburg sites.




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