J.T. Holmes

Known Name(s)

J.T. Holmes


803 Gibbon Alexandria, VA

Establishment Type(s)

Tourist Home

Physical Status



803 Gibbon Street is two-story, brick, with running bond on the primary/south elevation and six-course American bond on the side/east elevation. The Queen Anne dwelling has a decorative cornice, segmental window pediments, decorative spandrels, and fanciful embellishments that all point to a late-nineteenth or early twentieth-century construction date. Based on Sanborn maps, it was constructed prior to 1896. Other buildings in Alexandria, including one located at 1012 King Street, have identical embellishment. 1962 photo courtesy City of Alexandria.

In 1929 the City of Alexandria issued permit #424 to owner James Holmes allowing construction of a one-story pantry 8’ wide by 7’ deep on the rear of house. 1942 permit #4506 approved Holmes' plan to enclose a porch, remove 2 windows, and install a bay window. Mrs. Arsenious Holmes received approval to build an additon in 1945 (permit #6789), and then roof an addition with tin said in a later permit (#6846).



Detailed History

James T. Holmes was part of the migration of African Americans from rural sections of Virginia to small-and-mid-sized Virginia cities that occurred in the late nineteenth century. Based on Holmes’s death certificate (he died March 4, 1945), he was born about 1865 in "Casnover” (probably Casanova near Warrenton) to Cora Conway and Taliferro Holmes. By 1880, the Holmes family were living in Falls Church (Fairfax County) where Taliferro was a farm laborer and Cora was keeping house.  They had 5 children. 

The 1897 Alexandria City Directory lists Holmes living at 801 Gibbon with his mother Cora. Cora has a grocery at 533 South Columbus Street and James is a bricklayer; they live at 803 Gibbon. Two years later, the Alexandria Gazette mentions that James T. Holmes purchased a house and lot at Gibbon and Columbus Street from a Justus Schneider for $1,040 (Alexandria Gazette; May 9, 1899, pg. 3). The 1900 Census had Cora listed as the homeowner with her 5 children, including James, in the home. She’s a confectioner, and he’s still listed as a bricklayer. That same year, he married Arsenius (also spelled Arsenious) G. Tyler from Washington, DC (“Local Brevities,” Alexandria Gazette April 4, 1900, 3). Her parents are Ruben Tyler and Victoria Ashton based on her death certificate (she died September 26, 1964, and was born August 3, 1875). In the 1910 Census, James is the homeowner; he is working as a contractor. They have a 6 year old daughter, Ruth T.  His sister-in-law, Catherine Dockett (seamstress) and aunt, Moonmony Morella (sp?), live with them. Two years later, the Holmes property is threatened for auction by the City for back taxes in 1911 (“Sale of Property…” Alexandria Gazette Nov. 23, 1912, 5).  There are 2 houses and lots (plural) mentioned in the paper (taxes are for $27.65). A 1919 building permit indicates that Holmes also owned a building at 808 Gibbon Street. The 1921 city directory has James listed as a confectioner, but by the 1930 US Census he is listed as a bricklayer again (Arsenious has no occupation listed). Their daughter, Ruth, lives with them and is a school teacher.

Holmes passed away in 1945. His wife Arsensius and perhaps her sister Catherine Dockett and daughter Ruth probably operated the tourist home after his death. (Thanks to Krystyn Moon for the information on the Holmes family).


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