Before he began developing neighborhoods in North Chesterfield, James Kenneth Timmons was building pontoon bridges for Gen. George S. Patton. The Greenville, S.C., native had been studying civil engineering at Clemson University when the United States declared war on Japan and Germany in 1941, and he left school to serve as a combat engineer and second lieutenant in Patton’s Third Army.
“As a combat engineer, he built portable bridges, did demo work and cleared minefields,” said Chris Timmons, one of his three sons. “But he carried a rifle and fought alongside the other soldiers, too.” (The other sons are Ken Timmons and Jeff Timmons.)
Timmons arrived in Normandy two days after D-Day, and he accompanied Patton as the Third Army advanced toward Germany.
“He helped put the first pontoon bridge across the Rhine River, and he was awarded the Bronze Star for that,” Chris Timmons said.
After the war ended, Timmons, by then a first lieutenant, served as the military governor for Mannheim, Germany. He returned to the United States in 1946 and finished his coursework at Clemson two years later.
“He got married in 1949 and went to work in Houston for Texas’ highway department,” Chris Timmons said.
Then a friend suggested he move to Richmond. In 1951 he acted on the suggestion and bought a survey and engineering company with a downtown storefront. He rebranded the business as J. K. Timmons & Associates.
“The company did land surveying, civil engineering, road designing, landscape architecture – about everything you could think of, as far as civil engineering is concerned,” Chris Timmons said.
The company stayed busy, working on many of the new subdivisions that were being built in Richmond’s expanding suburbs. Among its biggest nonresidential projects was performing engineering and survey work on the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike.
Then, in 1957, Timmons joined with several business partners to buy a large parcel of land in northwestern Chesterfield County. Their goal: to develop a large, upscale community there, with an array of amenities designed to draw homebuyers deeper into the suburbs.
“It was in the middle of nowhere,” said Chris Timmons, who was a vice president for Windsor Properties, his father’s development firm. “I remember when Salisbury Road was a mud road.”
Despite its relatively remote location, work progressed in the community, and sales picked up significantly after Timmons built the Salisbury Country Club there in 1964. Today, Salisbury has approximately 1,600 homes.
With Salisbury, Timmons established a strategy that many developments emulate even today, said Karen Berkness, an associate broker with Joyner Fine Properties.
“He created a neighborhood that included a country club and churches and commercial areas, along with a couple different condo options, all in one area,” she said.
Timmons went on to develop 17 other subdivisions, including Oxford, River Oaks, Queensmill and Stoney Glen.
“He paid attention to the details and made sure the value of each development was enhanced by strict architectural control,” Chris Timmons said. “And the quality of the builders he used was first-rate.”
Among Timmons’ residential standouts is Reed’s Landing, Chesterfield’s first gated community. Work began in the 325-acre development, which is located off Old Gun Road, in 1981. Today, it has approximately 214 homes, most of which sit on lots that are at least 1 acre.
“Mr. Timmons wanted people to have some space and privacy and yet feel like they were in a neighborhood,” Berkness said. “So his lots are larger than most. He also didn’t clear-cut the lots like many other developers. Instead, he hand-selected which trees were to be taken down, and he left some of the pretty, older trees. He had a keen sense of beauty, and it made his neighborhoods feel as if they had always been there.”
Timmons retired from J. K. Timmons & Associates in 1989. By then, the firm had 330 employees and offices in Richmond, Lynchburg and Greensboro, N.C. Today, the company, now known as Timmons Group, has offices in Richmond, Charlottesville, Hampton Roads and Loudon County, as well as Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C.
With his engineering work behind him, Timmons shifted his focus exclusively to working on his final two subdivisions, Greywalls and Maple Grove, both in Powhatan County.
Timmons died in 2013, at the age of 87.
As an engineer and a developer, Timmons played a central role in shaping Chesterfield and Henrico County’s residential landscape, said Bill Stinson, owner of W.L. Stinson Custom Homes Inc.
He also helped shape careers.
“I was 28 years old when I started building houses in Reed’s Landing,” Stinson said. “Mr. Timmons would sell me lots, and I’d pay him after they sold, interest-free. He was an important mentor to me, and building 75 homes in Reed’s Landing was the highlight of my career.”
His work with Timmons wasn’t limited to Reed’s Landing, though. When Stinson wrapped up work there, Timmons showed him a map of the 1,200 acres of land that would become Greywalls and Maple Grove.
“He told me he had enough land to keep me busy the rest of my life,” Stinson said.
Stinson built several homes in Greywalls, and he renovated the Foundry clubhouse, which sits at the center of the development. Today, he’s the president of the Foundry Golf Club.
Construction continues in Greywalls and Maple Grove, as well as in Salisbury, Timmons’ first and largest development – a testament to his enduring legacy.
“My father was one of the men who made Richmond a better place to live,” Chris Timmons said.
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