From its beginnings as a trading post for early settlers to the thriving economic center it is today, Richmond has grown into a city with a rich history, diverse culture and gracious hospitality. Tree-lined streets and quaint bricked walkways invite locals and visitors to explore this easily manageable city. Stroll along the river that brought Captain John Smith to this area, walk in the footsteps of patriots like Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson and see the Capitol building which once flew the flag of the Confederate States of America.
A charming blend of old and new, Richmond's city center is made up of commercial, residential and government buildings.
Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom
Originally part of Richmond's commercial district, this newly renovated part of town is the hot spot for trendy restaurants and lively entertainment. Its location along the river, cobblestone streets lit with gaslamps and old warehouses converted into shops make it a great place for an evening stroll. The quaint
This historic section of town is nicknamed “the Harlem of the South” because of the many legendary African-American performers who got their start here—among them
Richmond's first suburb is so named because the streets fan out from Monroe Park creating wide lots and avenues, which are lined with stately homes. Several types of architecture are represented here including Queen Anne, Tudor, Spanish and what is believed to be the largest collection of Victorian buildings in the country.
Along the west end of Cary Street is Richmond's version of New York's Greenwich Village or Washington DC's Georgetown. Boutiques, cafes and ethnic restaurants line the streets where some of the city's best people-watching can be done. Everything from used bookstores and antique shops to specialty food stores and art galleries have been established in this former residential neighborhood making it a perfect place for a Saturday afternoon stroll. For those who need a break from all the shopping, coffeehouses are in abundance – more per square mile than anywhere east of Seattle. For something more substantial, restaurants range from casual eateries like Carytown Burgers and Fries to fine dining at
Richmond's location in the center of Virginia provides easy access to other areas of interest as well. Washington DC is only 90 minutes to the north and a drive to the east leads to the resort town of Virginia Beach and
With its long history and political and economic prominence, Richmond has always been a city with much to offer in the way of accommodation. Grand Old South hotels in the downtown area have made room for newer modern lodgings that fit every price range. Charming bed-and-breakfast inns offer the comforts of home with genteel southern hospitality.
The epitome of gracious accommodations is found at theJefferson Hotel. Its clientèle has included several US presidents and notable personalities such as Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford. The 1895 Beaux Arts hotel is adorned with Persian carpets, Tiffany glass windows and a sweeping grand staircase. Equally regal, although much newer, is the elegant Berkeley Hotellocated in the heart of historic Shockoe Slip. In this renovated warehouse district are several of the larger hotels that cater to business and convention travelers as well as tourists. They include the Richmond Marriott, Omni Richmond and the Crowne Plaza hotel. The charming Linden Row Inn consists of seven antebellum townhouses with many original furnishings inside.
This classic residential neighborhood, with its collection of stylish homes, is a wonderful place to stay, especially for a romantic weekend getaway. Two lovely bed-and-breakfast inns offer comfortable accommodations with the convenience of being close to dining, shopping and historic sites. The Summerhouse is a Greek Revival home built in 1909 and the Emmanuel Hutzler House dates back to 1914. Both are located on tree-lined Monument Avenue.
Certainly one of Richmond's, and the country's, most significant events took place at St. John's Church for which this area of town is named. Mr. Patrick Henry's Inn honors the man who declared in 1775 that he would give his life for freedom. The colonial-style hotel has an award-winning tavern on the first floor and antique-filled guest rooms upstairs. Nearby is the William Catlin Bed & Breakfast, a quiet retreat not too far from the entertainment of Shockoe Bottom and downtown.
Richmond North and West
A little further out, convenient to the University of Richmond and larger corporations, are several hotels with familiar names and a variety of price ranges. They include the Hyatt Richmond, the Days Inn-Richmond and Courtyard by Marriott. Many cater to the busy traveler and are equipped with business center, fitness facilities and restaurants.
Whether for business or pleasure, luxury or budget, Richmond visitors will be welcomed with the hospitality of the Old South and the conveniences of the 21st century.
With its colonial and Civil War history and modern-day museums and parks, Richmond is a city with much to offer the visitor. Many sections are easily walkable, but a car is necessary to reach some of the outlying areas. The city and surrounding area is easy to navigate and most attractions are well-marked. The Historic Downtown Richmond Ticket is a great deal for those who wish to visit several places of interest. They are available at many museums and visitors centers.
Tour One: Downtown Richmond
Begin at Capitol Square with the magnificent Virginia State Capitol, the oldest legislative house in the Western Hemisphere. In the enclosed park is the Executive Mansion, home to the Governor of Virginia and the Old Bell Tower which houses a tourist center where information on Richmond and Virginia can be obtained. The Old City Hall with its Victorian-Gothic exterior, is located at the northern entrance to the square.
One block up is Broad St. Turn right and then left on 13th St. to visit the Museum and White House of the Confederacy. A block west from here is the Valentine Museum with exhibits on the almost 400-year-old history of Richmond. The nearby John Marshall House–at 8th and Marshall Sts. has been restored to its original condition and contains memorabilia from the great Chief Justice who lived here until 1835. Head south on 8th St. to the corner of Grace St. to visit St. Paul's Episcopal Church, where Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, and Robert E. Lee, worshipped. Shockoe Slip - a restored warehouse district – is not far if a stop for a bite to eat or a little shopping is in order.
Tour Two: Church Hill and Eastern Richmond
Perhaps the most famous landmark in this area is St. John's Church where Patrick Henry delivered his famous line, "...give me liberty or give me death...," declaring his commitment to the cause of freedom from Great Britain. Eight blocks east of the church is one of the Richmond National Battlefield Park visitor centers. Housed in what was originally the Chimborazo Hospital for Confederate soldiers, it now contains exhibits, a bookstore and a film on the history of the battles around Richmond. Loop back towards downtown and make a stop at the Farmers Market – one of the oldest in the country dating back to 1740.
Tour Three: West Richmond
Jackson Ward, a thriving African-American community since the Civil War, is a good place for a walking tour. The neighborhood has the largest collection of castiron work outside of New Orleans. Be sure to visit the Maggie L. Walker residence, home of the first female bank owner, and the statue honoring Bill Bojangles Robinson. The Hippodrome Theater was host to many renowned performers from Jackson Ward including Lena Horne and Billie Holiday. Take Monument Avenue west, passing by the statues for which the street is named. Five Civil War heroes and local tennis legend, Arthur Ashe, are memorialized here. Carytown, with shops and restaurants, is not far away. Just take Malvern Avenue south to Cary Street.
Tour Four: Richmond Riverfront
Along the James River are two lovely homes: Victorian Maymont with its beautiful gardens and wildlife park, and the Tudor-style Agecroft Hall, built in 15th-century England and shipped across the Atlantic. Both houses have magnificent views of the river. Nearby is Hollywood Cemetery, final resting place of many historic figures including two presidents of the United States: James Monroe and John Tyler. Jefferson Davis, the only President of the Confederate States, is buried here along with one of his generals, J.E.B. Stuart and 1800 soldiers.
Tour Five: Colonial Heritage
Traveling southeast from Richmond, along the James River, are several 18th-century plantation homes open to the public. Among them are Evelynton, Berkeley, Sherwood Forest and Shirley Plantation. The plantation road leads directly into Colonial Williamsburg, the restored original capital of Virginia. Costumed guides lend an air of authenticity as visitors step back in time to the late 1700s. Jamestown is nearby with its replica of the fort that was built here in 1607 when the first settlers arrived in North America. Yorktown, site of the Revolutionary War victory, is also worth a visit.
If you would rather go with a guide, Historic Richmond Tours offers basic downtown tours as well as themed tours, which take in the battlefield, Hollywood Cemetery or the Church Hill district. Living History Associates lead walking tours with costumed guides and are also available for private tours.
Richmond, center of controversy and commerce, capital of Virginia and of the Confederate States of America, has a rich and vivid history. Its strategic location, both militarily and commercially, brought two major wars–the American Revolution and the Civil War to its doorstep. Both left their mark on the city but through all it has endured, Richmond has retained the trademarks of a classic southern city - hospitality, charm and fortitude.
Just ten days after the English landed at Jamestown in 1607, Captain John Smith traveled up the James River looking for a connecting route to the East Indies. The region was inhabited by the Powhatan tribe, and ruled by Chief Powhatan, father of John Rolfe's future bride, Pocahontas. Settlements were established along the river as early as 1611 in and around what is present-day Richmond. The communities thrived on the export of tobacco, coal and timber; the river providing easy access to the ocean. In 1737, William Byrd laid plans for the city of Richmond and named it after Richmond-on-the-Thames, in England.
“Give me Liberty or Give me Death,” rang out from St.John's Church in 1775 during a meeting of the Second Continental Congress. Patrick Henry's cry for freedom from Great Britain fell on the ears of his fellow patriots, among them George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Thirty days later the “shot heard round the world” was fired from Concord, Massachusetts and the American Revolution began. In the early years of the war, most of the fighting took place in the north. However, Richmond first played a major role by supplying American troops with tobacco – used for cash – and cannons, guns and powder. By 1779, Williamsburg, then the capital of Virginia, was a target for British naval attack because of its proximity to the ocean. Important documents were transported to Richmond for safekeeping and the capital was officially established here in 1780.
In January of 1781, the British army marched into Richmond led by former Continental army general, Benedict Arnold. Arnold turned treason against the United States with the promise from Britain of a high military rank and a large sum of money. He received neither at the end of the war.
The British troops, led by Lord Cornwallis, burned much of Richmond and nearby Petersburg before heading down the James River towards Williamsburg. They were defeated at Yorktown by combined French and American armies led by the Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington and surrendered in October, 1781.
After independence, Richmond was immediately caught up in the westward expansion of the new country. A canal was built along the James River to facilitate trade with communities farther west and Richmond, as a result, became an important commercial center. The city was enjoying its own economic boom with tobacco production, iron works and many other manufacturers opening up. Along with the canal route, a railroad was built through Richmond in 1834, further enhancing its already flourishing economy.
Although initially reluctant to secede from the Union, Virginia was nevertheless forced to make that decision after Lincoln called upon the state to take up arms against its southern neighbors. Richmond quickly readied itself for war, becoming the main source of armaments and munitions to the southern states as well as the capital city of the Confederacy. Soldiers from all over came to Richmond to train under Robert E. Lee, a Virginia native who was first asked to lead the Union army, but felt he could not turn against his home state. With its strategic location and importance, it is not surprising that a familiar war cry of the Union troops was “On to Richmond”.
One quarter of the battles fought in the Civil War were fought within a 75-mile radius of the city and sixty percent of the casualties happened at them. Seven attempts were made to capture the city; two came close enough to see the Capitol building before they were thwarted by the Confederate army. Many of the captured Union men were incarcerated at the infamous Libby Prison–notorious for its deplorable conditions.
Richmond was finally overcome by Union troops after the Siege of Petersburg which caused Lee's army to retreat and eventually surrender at Appomattox in April, 1865.
After five years of reconstruction following the war, Virginia was readmitted into the United States. Just as it did after the Revolution, Richmond rebounded into a strong manufacturing center. Businesses sprang up and by the turn of the century, the city was a major producer of large commodities including iron, tobacco and flour. The city became a principal banking center as well, being named the headquarters of the Fifth Federal Reserve district in 1914.
Richmond continued to thrive throughout the twentieth century, surviving the Great Depression better than most cities due to its tobacco-based economy. Since the 1980s, the city has welcomed several large corporations who have made Richmond their home because of its proximity to the Washington-Baltimore area and the major shipping ports of the Hampton Roads, and because of its extreme livability.