Postscript! Richmond’s 1904 trolley boycott preceded Rosa Park’s protest in Montgomery, AL by almost 50 years. The Black community that chose to walk instead of ride segregated trolley cars was credited with causing the Virginia Passenger & Power Co. to declare bankruptcy.
It’s hard to look beyond the enormity of the Civil War when visiting the former Capitol of the Confederacy.All around Richmond, Virginia there are constant reminders of the warfare, suffering, heroism and death in the 1860’s, when the city had only 40,000 residents.The Civil War Museum at Tredegar Iron Works is a must-see for every Civil War buff.A marker on Brown’s Island along the James River informs us that the area was used for loading and storing gunpowder during the Civil War.Belle Isle, midway across the James River was used as a prison camp for Union soldiers.Hollywood Cemetery is the resting place for eighteen thousand Confederate dead and for Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy.A Slave Trail runs through town.
But there is so much to appreciate and understand before and after the Civil War.
The city is home to much more than Civil War history.Richmond began as a city of trade, which developed on the James River (Powhatan River before 1607) after a 1612 tobacco harvest was sent to England.Trade expanded to include canal and rail transport by the 19th Century.Now, at the intersection of I-64, I-95, and Route 1, trade is auto and truck-centric.The tidewater provided easy access to ports along the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.Some of the manufacturing and warehouse buildings that pre-date Route 1 are still evident in Shockoe Bottom along the James River.Water power for manufacturing and electric generation was readily available, with a seven mile segment of the river where it drops 105’ in elevation.The exposed bedrock at the fall line also enabled the construction of bridges across the James.
Richmond has been the Capitol of Virginia since 1780, when it was moved inland from Williamsburg to prevent British attack from the water.Despite this precaution, Benedict Arnold and the British found the Virginia legislature anyway, and burned the City the following year.Virginia Governor, Thomas Jefferson, was forced to flee during the mayhem.The Capitol building, completed in 1788, was designed by Jefferson, the second of 8 Virginia-born US Presidents.It is still in use, as is the longest continuously occupied Governor’s Mansion in the US, which is on the Capitol Square Grounds.
Sculpture on the Capitol Grounds includes a monumental statue of George Washington on horseback, surrounded by notable patriots, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, a tableau commemorating the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court Decision in 1954, and a Tribute Garden to Virginia Native Americans.
Although it is only about 100 miles from the US Capitol, Richmond is home to a Federal Reserve Bank, and to Federal Circuit and Appeals Courts.Governmental employees represent about 1/6th of Richmond’s paid workforce.
During the 20th Century, Richmond was known as the headquarters of “Big tobacco” (Phillip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, American Tobacco Co.).By the end of the Century, 125 billion cigarettes were produced annually by Philip Morris alone.
The City is a center of learning with Virginia Commonwealth Univ, University of Richmond, and Virginia Union University.
It has long been a cultural center for arts and music, exemplified by the National Theater – now a music venue, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Valentine Museum, founded in 1898, it was Richmond’s first Museum.
I stayed in what I dubbed “the Parking District” on Canal Street near the exit ramps from the Downtown Expressway, which seamlessly bring commuters in from all directions.This Richmond neighborhood has largely been given over to parking on surface lots where old buildings used to stand and to parking garages attached to new office buildings and hotels.While options for in-town living seem to be expanding in places like Shockoe Bottom, most of the workforce in Richmond arrives there by car.Despite a glorious historic train station with Amtrak service, only 2 trains stop each day North and South.Subway or light rail?Fugggetaboutit!The only public transit available is the bus, with only 3 dozen routes for the metropolitan area of about half a million.
The current dearth of public transit is ironic, since the 1888 Richmond Union Passenger Railway was the first successful and safe electrified trolley line in the world.Boston soon followed Richmond’s example and the rush was on to transport commuters using electric traction in cities worldwide.Horse-powered urban transit was all but dead within a decade in the US.But Richmond trolleys were replaced with bus service by 1949, just as petroleum power was becoming the new standard in transportation.The legacy of Richmond being the first at something so positive was lost.
So it is unsurprising that the legacy of the Civil War remains.
Peter Evans VA Richmond Nov 14, 2022 Architecture City Planning War & Peace
Location: Richmond, VA
Peter Evans Nov 14, 2022
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