Excerpt...52 Virginia Weekends Ordering Information
Chapter 1--Richmond, A Capital City
Welcome to Richmond, a city rich with tradition and ripe with growth. It's a great place to spend the weekend. Richmond is at the heart of everything wonderful about the Old (and new) Dominion. There's an interesting blend of historic and modern in Richmond. Over a billion dollars of shiny new buildings grace the downtown skyline, but they coexist with restored mansions, museums, and warehouses. Richmonders and visitors alike enjoy the new and old riches, but at a southern gentleman's (and gentlewoman's) pace.
Richmond is an historic treasure trove waiting to be discovered. It all started when Indians settled in the area to take advantage of the James River for location, food, and transportation. The Pilgrims soon followed, with one of the first few English settlements in America.
Richmond developed quickly into a political and industrial power. The city was named for Richmond-on-the-Thames in England and it's present layout was planned way back in 1737.
Richmond played an active role in the development of the U.S. Patrick Henry spoke his immortal words at St. John's Church on Church Hill: "Is life so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" The Revolutionary War would start just a month later.
As the new nation developed, so did Richmond. The primary industries included tobacco, coal, flour, furniture, and textiles. The city prospered for decades, but a major role in the Civil War changed the face of Richmond forever.
Richmond became the Capital of the Confederacy and was the site of many bloody battles. By 1865, it was obvious that the Union Army would take Richmond. The city was set afire (by the Confederates) and many buildings were ruined.
Richmond rebounded quickly from the Civil War devastation and has been on the move ever since. The city has grown consistently in industrial and political importance through the 1990s.
Industrial growth has been fueled by big companies making Richmond home. Companies like Reynolds Metals, Philip Morris, Ethyl, and James River have put Richmond on the corporate map. The city boasts 14 Fortune 500 companies, Virginia Commonwealth University's famed Medical College of Virginia, and the headquarters for the Fifth Federal Reserve District.
On the political scene, Richmond boasts the state's democratic machinery in style, with a beautiful capitol, many distinctive office buildings, and a thriving state economy.
Richmond has many famous sons and daughters: Maggie Walker was the first female bank president in the country; Edgar Allan Poe changed the face of American poetry; Arthur Ashe Jr., Willie Lanier, and Lannie Wadkins have all graced the playing fields; Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Shirley MacLaine, and Warren Beatty have all entertained America; and many more famous figures have proudly called Richmond home.
Downtown Richmond is at the center of everything. The downtown area is certainly central to the history, culture, and business of the Old Dominion, the South, and the U.S.
From gleaming skyscrapers to teeming renovated warehouse restaurants, downtown Richmond is endlessly interesting to businesspeople, historians, and tourists. In many ways, knowing downtown means knowing Richmond. It's a microcosm for all that makes the city tick.
Downtown Richmond has developed from a combination of new and old delights into what Virginius Dabney, in Richmond: The Story of a City, called an "intriguing blend of the old and the new--of Charleston and Savannah on one hand, and Atlanta and Dallas on the other. While showing the elan and drive in business and industrial realms, the city clings--a bit precariously at times--to its distinctive 18th- and 19th-century heritage."
This unique heritage makes for a downtown blend of modern and mature. Each downtown area has its own history, flavor, and relevance. It's this relevance--in history, government, business, and culture--that makes downtown Richmond so enjoyable to visit.
Some history and statistics show just how important Richmond is. Richmond became the state capital in 1780. Later, the James River, railroads, and highway system made Richmond an industrial and business crossroads. The city really is a central character.
All of this means that Richmond's downtown features a combination of growth and history. It's a combination that is working in this capital city.
In many ways, Franklin Street could be called the "Gateway to Downtown Richmond" and all that it holds. Richmond landmarks like The Jefferson Hotel, The Commonwealth Club, and many others provide the perfect prelude to how the old blends so well with the new in this city.
All along Franklin Street, historic houses saved from the wrecking ball now serve as private residences or as offices for organizations like the Garden Club of Virginia, the Junior League of Richmond, and The Woman's Club. All along Franklin Street, the powers that be (and have been) definitely have the keys to the city.
"Richmond's institutions, old and new, line Franklin Street in buildings that are historically and architecturally significant," says Virginia Ritchie, president of the Central Richmond Association. "The street is a stunning introduction to all that downtown Richmond offers."
Older landmarks like the YMCA and newer ones like the shiny Engineers Club provide perfect places for the city's people to meet and play during the day. Further east, the Richmond Public Library is a place to peruse books about the city.
Main Street is still the "main" street in downtown Richmond. Walk the street on a sunny business day and it's packed with a collection of business suits, bike messengers, food vendors, and lots of lively activity.
Main Street is where Richmond still means business. Along this stretch, industrial, business, financial, government, and legal big-wigs put Richmond on the national business map.
The 3rd Street Diner stands at the head of Main Street, giving residents and businesspeople a place to head for food and company at all hours. Every "Main Street" in America needs a diner like this.
Further east, Richmonders really get down to business. Behind these walls turn the white-collar wheels of Richmond. Stocks are bought and sold, multi-million deals are finalized, and legal eagles convey the Constitution.
Old Richmond business landmarks like the Iron Fronts building stand near sparkling new buildings like Main Street Centre. The old Planters National Bank Building at 12th and Main is now the home of the Virginia Supplemental Retirement System and, just down the street, Exchange Place is again commercially active.
Every business day, the old clock at the corner of 10th and Main gives the current time and the Scott & Stringfellow board gives the current stock market update. Main Street is still where much of Richmond's main business takes place.
Broad Street is undergoing exciting development as a downtown commercial and residential growth area. The Broad Street Old and Historic District features 19th- and 20th-century commercial buildings that are quickly becoming new stores and apartments. This section has also been dubbed "President's Row," because of the presidential streets running across it, like Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe.
Broad Street presents a mini-history of architecture, from Romanesque to Art Deco. The Empire Theatre and the Central Fidelity Bank building, once Richmond's tallest building, are just two examples of Broad Street's architectural diversity.
Broad Street leads downtown to City Square. This area has seen successful ventures like the Richmond Coliseum and the Richmond Centre for Conventions and Exhibitions, as well as Sixth Street Marketplace, a shopping, dining, and meeting mecca similar to many downtown Rouse developments throughout the U.S.
Jackson Ward Historical District is a quintessential urban neighborhood that shouldn't be missed by Richmond visitors. The area features more cast iron architecture than can be found anywhere else in the U.S. It's slowly returning to its former state as an active residential and commercial hub.
Jackson Ward had its heyday earlier this century. This area was the home of many prominent Richmond blacks, including Maggie Walker and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. The Maggie L. Walker House memorializes the woman who founded the nation's oldest continuously operated black-owned bank. Nearby, a bronze statue commemorates "Bojangles," the famed tap dancer who grew up in Jackson Ward. He is caught in a typical pose, dancing down some steps.
Second or "Two" Street was the lively center of Jackson Ward earlier this century. Little of the activity survives, but a taste of it can be found at Eggleston's on the corner of Second and Leigh. It's quite possible that the area will someday return as a main course in Richmond's downtown menu of things to see and do.
Virginia Commonwealth University was formed when the Medical College of Virginia and the Richmond Professional Institute combined in 1968. MCV was originally housed completely in the Egyptian Building at 1223 East Marshall Street.
The school and hospital have grown to become one of the nation's largest and most successful health care facilities with university affiliation and has definitely placed Richmond on the medical map. It's not abnormal to see white coats, stethoscopes, and notebooks alongside standard suits and dresses in this area of downtown.
MCV is currently the headquarters of the Biotechnology Institute of Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology and is attracting much attention for work in the biomedical and biotechnical fields. A large life sciences technology park is currently being developed adjacent to the active downtown campus.
Within an eight-block section of the downtown area, Court End contains nine National Historic Landmarks, three museums, and eleven other buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
Considering there are fewer than two thousand National Historic Landmarks in the country, Court End is obviously the ultimate downtown Richmond historic neighborhood. But all of these historic buildings are set amidst the active modern-day municipal and state government workings.
The focal point of Court End's colorful past is the Capitol at Second and Grace Streets. It's the second-oldest working capitol in the United States--after Maryland's in Annapolis. The Capitol was designed by Thomas Jefferson and was modeled after a Roman temple in Nimes, France. It was later used as the model for the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Virginia's most treasured work of art stands in the Rotunda, elegantly lit by skylights in the dome above. This life-sized statue of George Washington was the only one of him executed live.
While at the capitol, lucky visitors may actually get a tour from a true southern belle, replete with genuine accent and interesting anecdotes. On the grounds of the Capitol are the Governor's Mansion and the Bell Tower, which now houses a helpful Visitor's Center.
Other buildings of interest surround the Capitol. The recently-renovated Executive Mansion houses Governor Allen and his wife Susan when they are not on the road marketing the state in some way (Susan is active in Virginia tourism). Richmond's Old City Hall, on Capitol Square, is in the Gothic Revival style and houses the courtroom from which the area derives its name. Morton's Row along Governor Street provides a look at the Italianate residences that used to surround Capitol Square (they are now state offices)
Next on the Court End neighborhood tour is the John Marshall House at Ninth and Marshall Streets. This was his residence for forty-five years while he served as Secretary of State, Ambassador to France, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S. There is an interesting collection of Marshall's memorabilia, which is a monument to his eventful and highly successful life.
The Wickham-Valentine House on Clay Street provides a glimpse into the life of John Wickham, Richmond's wealthiest citizen when he built the house in 1812. The property includes the Valentine Museum, which relates Richmond's varied history through excellent exhibits and slides.
Nearby on Clay Street, the White House of the Confederacy provides further insight into Richmond's Civil War role. The home served as the residence of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy from 1861 to 1865. It is the centerpiece of the Museum of the Confederacy, which houses the largest Confederate collection in the nation.
Thus, from the Capital of the Old Dominion to the Capital of the Confederacy, Court End has and will serve as a mecca for Richmond's downtown.
Perhaps no other area best displays the way Richmonders can combine the past and present to make for an enjoyable future. Shockoe Slip was a lively area full of stores and warehouses in the 19th-century, but fell into decay when commerce along the James River slowed.
The Slip is again lively, but now it's full of diners, shoppers, and strollers. At the head of the Slip is the sparkling Omni Richmond Hotel and the James Center, the sleek office hub typifying the business boom. But you're just steps away from a cobblestoned walk into Richmond's past.
Further down the street and into the piazza is the Shockoe Slip Fountain. This, one of Richmond's more unusual monuments, was erected in memory of Charles S. Morgan. He was the "one who loved animals," as inscribed on the fountain. It once provided water to animals hauling goods in Shockoe Slip and now serves the same purpose for Richmond's mounted police force.
In so many ways, the James River dictated the way Richmond developed into a business hub. History is repeating itself with the erection of the Riverfront Plaza and other riverside development.
The "Towers of Power" put two major Richmond companies along the riverfront. Wheat, First and Hunton & Williams have given riverfront development their stamps of approval and many are likely to follow.
The city's most recent attraction is the stunning new Canal Walk. This multi-purpose development is already a big success story, with thousands of locals and visitors enjoying its many facets. The Canal Walk proper meanders 1.25 miles through downtown Richmond along the banks of the Haxall Canal and the James River & Kanawha Canal, parallel to the James River.
The Haxall Canal has its headgate and western terminus west of 5th street, across Tredegar Street from the historic Tredegar Iron Works, headquarters for Richmond National Battlefield Park. Though the Haxall Canal's eastern terminus is near 12th Street, the Canal Walk continues along the banks of the James River & Kanawha Canal, which starts around 12th Street and runs to the Great Ship Lock at Pear and Dock Streets. The Canal Walk currently extends as far as the Floodwall at 17th Street, with many interesting displays about the history of canals, canal boats, docks, and their uses in downtown Richmond. But there's much more to do along the Canal Walk than just walk.
Canal boating experiences are definitely popular with Canal Walk visitors. Kanawha Cruises (649-2800) offers two unique possibilities from 9:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. daily, weather permitting. For a unique tour with historic interpretation, 38-passenger canal boats with costumed professional drivers may be boarded near the Kanawha Cruises ticket booth in the new Turning Basin (located at the base of Virginia Street, one block west of 14th Street and one block south of Canal Street). Along with a stroll along the Canal Walk, this is a great way to learn first-hand about the history and uses of the canals and canal boats. In addition, six-passenger electric boats are available for rent on an hourly basis from the Kanawha Canal kiosk and pier, which is located at the western end of Brown's Island (near the headgate of the Haxall Canal). This is a 'drive-yourself' experience, allowing visitors to be canal boat 'captains' for the day.
In addition, Kanawha Cruises offers charters and dining cruises, while the VALENTINE MUSEUM /RICHMOND HISTORY CENTER (649-0711) features history-based guided walking tours along the Canal Walk (and elsewhere). Sites for private functions along the Canal Walk and on Brown's Island are available for rent through Downtown Presents (643-2826), which also handles many festivals, concerts, and other public events.
Visitors to the Canal Walk area will find that it's bustling with development. New shopping, restaurants, other businesses and condominiums, located in the old warehouses on and near the Canal Walk, are bringing new life to the area, making a Canal Walk experience even more enjoyable.
With destinations like the new Valentine Riverside and Canal Walk, this area may quickly become Richomond's newest tourism, business, and residential hub. It's not hard to imagine for a city that somehow succeeds in combining the old and the new.
After all of this history, visitors may think Richmonders live in the past. But modern Richmond is also receiving much attention. This modern movement, with a healthy respect for the past, can best be seen in Shockoe Bottom. This historic warehouse district is experiencing renewed residential and commercial growth with the completion of a flood wall preventing the reoccurrence of damaging floods.
Whether you're developing a new advertising campaign with one of the Shockoe Bottom's many marketing firms or just "doing" lunch, the Bottom is a place to see and be seen in Richmond's downtown.
The area is the perfect Richmond blend of old and new. Trendy restaurants, offices, and residences are housed in renovated buildings from the earlier commercial boom. For example the old Belle Bossieux Building (now Awful Arthur's) on 18th Street, was built as a row of shops, with residences above. It was designed by Edmund Bosssieux, a New Orleans native who obviously liked that city's architectural style.
The oldest continuously operating farmers' market in the country is at 17th and Main. Area farmers have brought their produce here for over two hundred years. The site was first established as a farmers' market by the same act of legislature that made Richmond the capital of Virginia.
An eerie contrast to the lively Shockoe Bottom commercial scene is provided by the Poe Museum on Main Street. Richmond's oldest structure is now an interesting memorial to Edgar Allan Poe. It presents the life and career of this strange, but very talented, author. There are lots of pictures, relics, a brief slide show, and the Raven Room containing forty-three illustrations for his poem "The Raven."
After a day touring the downtown area, it's best to branch out to see the rest of Richmond. Tourism officials have made it easy to choose from the menu of many sights by providing a unique ride to everything of interest.
In 1887, Richmond began the nation's first trolley system. More than 100 years later, history repeated itself with the reinstitution of trolleys. The present-day tourist vehicles have mahogany trim, leather grab straps and seats, and observation decks. On weekends, the "Cultural Link" trolley connects visitors with thirty-one of the city's most fascinating cultural and historic locations. The trolley passes by each sight every forty-five minutes.
Many "Link" riders first head for the Science Museum of Virginia on Broad Street. Housed in the former Broad Street Railroad Station, there are very few "Do Not Touch" signs in the museum. Instead, visitors are encouraged to touch, observe, and experience the impact of science on life. The museum is best known for UNIVERSE, one of the world's most advanced planetariums and space theater.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts contains one of the finest modern art collections in the nation. "Most curators of modern art--those for instance at the Hirshorn--would give their eyeteeth for the best new things in Richmond, wrote Washington Post art critic Paul Richard. Also popular is the collection of Faberge jeweled Easter eggs and "objects of fantasy"--the largest such collection in the free world.
Back on the trolley, riders can enjoy a scenic reminder of Richmond's southern heritage. On the statue-laced Monument Avenue, the trolley passes many monuments to the South, including Robert E. Lee astride his horse Traveller, erected in 1890. Along Monument Avenue are some of Richmond's most beautiful metropolitan homes. Nearby, the Fan District offers many beautifully renovated homes and excellent local restaurants.
Hollywood Cemetery, with its rolling hills and bluffs overlooking the James River and downtown, contains the resting places of more than 18,000 Confederate soldiers, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and U.S. Presidents Monroe and Tyler. It's a perfect place for tourists to unwind and revel in Richmond's past.
Whether they're staying there or just visiting, The Jefferson Hotel is an elegant historic trolley stop. Built in 1895, one of the oldest and grandest hotels in the South is now beautifully renovated and welcoming visitors and overnighters to its elaborate lobby and interesting guest rooms.
On the other side of downtown, St. John's Episcopal Church stands on historic Church Hill, overlooking the city skyline. It was here, in 1775, that Patrick Henry made his famous "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!" speech. Guided tours present the history of the church and allow visitors to stand where Patrick Henry stood surrounded by the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Harrison on that famous day. The speech is often recreated on Sundays.
These sights provide an overall view of the past and present in the heart of the Old Dominion. However, Richmond offers much more than a taste of old and new. The Richmond folks exude Southern hospitality and provide a personal touch to Richmond's present and past.
There's also much more to Richmond a bit further afield. The "fashionable" West End takes in the west side of the city of Richmond and part of Henrico County. The West End features: great shopping "On the Avenues" at Libbie and Grove, the Shops at Willow Lawn, and many malls; upscale living and playing in many neighborhoods and at the Country Club of Virginia; the beautiful campus of the University of Richmond; and Innsbrook, a successful commercial, business, and residential development.
South of the James River, fast-growing Chesterfield County offer suburban living in successful developments; lots of shopping; many new commercial parks and business developments; and a different Richmond lifestyle.
There are also many excursion possibilities. One popular offering is a cruise aboard the Annabel Lee, a 20th-century paddlewheeler. Cruisers enjoy a scenic trip along the James River, with many dining and entertainment options.
Civil War buffs should head straight for the Richmond National Battlefield Park. The park was the site of one of the Confederacy's largest hospitals. A film, "Richmond Remembered," gives an excellent overview of the major role of Richmond during the Civil War.
A leap into the present can be provided by Paramount's Kings Dominion, twenty miles north of Richmond on I-95. This family entertainment center provides more than one hundred rides, shows, and attractions.
Of course, Virginia's Historic Triangle is a little more than an hour away on I-64. Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown can combine as one of the few reasons to leave Richmond. Smart drivers take Route 5 for the scenery and pretty plantations along the way.
With so much to offer for trips to its interesting past and present, Richmond is an ideal destination or stopover. There's something for the great grandfather and teenager in all of us.
Specifically: For information about sightseeing options mentioned, contact the Richmond Convention & Visitors Bureau at 550 E. Marshall St., Richmond, VA 23219; 800-365-7272.
Accommodations recommendations include: Bensonhouse of Richmond Bed & Breakfast (804-353-6900); The Jefferson Hotel (804-788-8000); and Linden Row Inn (see Chapter 48, 800-348-7424).
Dining recommendations include: Joe's Inn in the Fan (804-355-2282); 3rd Street Diner downtown (804-788-4750); and The Tobacco Company Restaurant in Shockoe Slip (804-782-9555).