Developer Gumenick Properties named its project at Staples Mill and Bethlehem Roads “Libbie Mill” to emphasize the way the development links together Libbie Avenue and Staples Mill Road. Libbie Avenue, in turn, took its name from Libbie Freeman Thompson, wife of a local businessman. Staples Mill Road is named for the grist mill belonging to the Staples family; it stood in the vicinity of present-day Dickens Road and Staples Mill Road in the 19th century. The fourth boundary of the site is a creek named Jordan’s Branch.
One hundred years ago north Henrico was rural — mostly farms and woods. It was so open, the well-to-do could enjoy a “drag hunt” — horseback riding with dogs across country, but following a scent, not chasing a fox. One drag hunt held in 1914 had “no falls to mar the sport,” and included checkpoints at places with familiar names: Lakeside, Staples’s Mill [sic], Dumbarton, and Libbie Avenue.* As the 20th century progressed, the railroad and horses became less common ways to get around and paved roads and cars began to dominate. As formerly rural areas became more accessible to city dwellers, developers subdivided old farms and put up homes and, eventually, apartments.
Long-time residents of the area remember the property that’s now Libbie Mill as home to the Suburban Apartments from the 1950s until 2002. A church was built there, too. The congregants of Trinity Baptist worshiped there from 1951 until 1980. In 1980, the building became the property to the First Mennonite Church of Richmond, which met there until 2004.
Although the Suburban Apartments complex was emptied in the early 2000s, and demolition was complete in 2006, the recession slowed development. Development kicked into high gear with last year’s opening of Southern Season, and the filling of office spaces. Henrico County Public Library expects to bid farewell to Dumbarton Area Library on October 17 and welcome patrons to the new Libbie Mill Area Library on October 29, 2015.
*Richmond Times Dispatch, March 8, 1914, p. 3.
Full bibliography for this series, here.