Richmond City Council narrowly approved $7,500 for the construction of a new armory for Richmond’s blacks in 1894. His department perpetually underfunded, the frustrated Cutshaw went before the council and secured additional funds. Cutshaw, who oversaw the design and construction of many Richmond parks, markets, schools and armories, apparently felt military experience and training was excellent influence in the life of young men of any race. His designs and influence over armory construction ensured that young black and white men, although socially divided by an increasingly segregated city, could still benefit from the discipline and education of drill and practice.
Skilled black craftsmen and laborers built the Leigh Street Armory. Armstead Walker, husband of bank president Maggie L. Walker, served as the brickwork contractor for the project. Walker’s role drew complaints from the white Bricklayers Union, which claimed that Walker had no right to the project in reference to a decision made in 1887, that only “native whites” could be employed on construction projects. John Mitchell Jr. advocated for Walker and made sure that the Walker and his craftsmen were allowed to finish the project. Walker’s role in construction of the Leigh Street Armory ensured this building so important to black society was, in fact, built by blacks.