Mrs. Johnson

Known Name(s)

Mrs. Johnson


371 N. Federal St. Harrisonburg, VA

Establishment Type(s)

Tourist Home

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.

Mrs. Johnson: The address no longer exists. The site now consists of a parking lot for the Colonnade apartments, an ABC store, the SSA, and other businesses. This is across from another Green Book business, Mrs. Ida Francis at 252 N. Mason. According to 1912 historical map records, the parcel on which 371 N. Federal Street was located also backed up to N. Main Street and had a secondary structure with an address of 370 N. Main Street. 1912 records indicate that the structure on N. Main Street was a boarding house. The structure on N. Federal Street is believed to have been Johnson’s Restaurant as shown in the historical photograph here. Local residents verified that this photo is indeed Mrs. Johnson's.

What used to be N. Federal Street between E. Gay Street and E. Rock Street is now an alleyway that connects a James Madison University student apartment building, auto body repair shop, and ABC store. Based on historical map records, it appears that 371 N. Federal Street would have been located at what is now the southeast corner of the Virginia ABC store parking lot.

Research and photos by Caroline Vanterve, with many thanks to Robin Lyttle and Sharon Barber of the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Alliance.


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