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James M. Starr (1824-1900)

James Starr

Businessman and philanthropist, James M. Starr was a beloved figure in Richmond’s early history. Upon his father’s (Charles W.) death, he assumed control of his estate and continued the work of improving the area that is now known as the Starr Historic District.

In 1856 he began leasing the Richmond Artificial Gas Works and bought the facility outright in 1863. He successfully ran the company until 1893 when he sold it to the Richmond LIght, heat & Power Company. In 1872 he, along with George Trayser and Richard Jackson, formed the Trayser Piano Company. After several reorganizations it became the Starr Piano Company in 1893, and James’ brother, Benjamin, was also a partner.

In 1896 Starr purchased the Hicksite Quaker Cemetery, had the remaining graves relocated, and created a park for the city. Starr Park, as it was called, was located between North 9th and 10th at North F. The park was part of the area turned over to State Highway Commission in 1952 for Tenth Street overpass over the railyards.