The capital of Virginia is Richmond which is located right in the center of the state. It’s a fairly large city that is split up into several neighborhoods and districts. Richmond is known for its history, particularly during the Civil War when it was the capital of the Confederate States of America. This photo above shows Richmond as you approach the city coming up the James River. When I was a little kid and we passed by Richmond I used to think it was an enormous city with an impressive skyline. When I got older and revisited my opinion changed and I thought of Richmond of just a small city worthy of a day trip. Now that I’ve been several times I realized all the unique neighborhoods, history and other things that Richmond has to offer!
Like all capitol buildings, they are surrounded by parks and monuments. The largest monument is this statue of George Washington. Many other states have statues of George Washington, but I think it’s more significant here since he was a native of Virginia
This photo shows a memorial dedicated to Barbara Johns. At the young age of 16, she successfully led a strike to fight for equal rights in education during the 1950’s which helped end segregation. Numerous other statues and memorials surround the capitol and I certainly can’t photograph them all!
The area surrounding the capitol is called Captiol Park. This photo shows one of the gardens there. Richmond had actually put in a good effort to “Green” the neighborhood. Part of the project included gardening of course, but for the most part it was about reducing pollution, upgrading infrastructure, and just making the entire city more efficient.
Something else that makes Richmond such an interesting city is that it was once the capital of the Confederate States of America, or CSA, during the Civil War. Directly across from the state capitol building is this old CSA treasury building. I always thought that putting their capital in Richmond, which is essentially right on the border of USA’s capital of Washington DC, seemed like a poor decision. The reason Richmond was chosen was because of its resources and existing infrastructure. As a matter of fact America’s first ironclad warship, the USS Virginia, was built in the state and fought in the battle of Hampton Roads! Richmond still remains a transportation hub of resources to this day. I just happened to be in one of Richmond’s neighborhoods that had a good view of the James River when this coal train passed by below. These photos were taken over a decade ago, and sadly I might have lots the higher res versions!
The Confederate States of America had their own White House located in Richmond. I visited the original Confederate White in Montgomery, Alabama before it was moved to Richmond. The one in Alabama served only for a brief period, while this one essentially lasted the entire Civil War. Today the house is completely surrounded by a hospital. There was an annoying ambulance parked in front that prevented me from taking a decent photo.
I did a tour of the White House, but no photos were allowed inside. It was a very elegant building and it’s too bad I couldn’t share any of it. The adjacent museum allowed photography. It boosts having the largest collection of Civil War artifacts. The president of the Confederate States of America was Jefferson Davis. He lived in the White House until it was finally overrun by Union troops. While he was president, he received this letter above from Pope Pius IX. The letter was written in Latin as was customary back then. It basically encouraged peace between the states and stated that Jefferson Davis was an honorable leader of the CSA.
There were more Confederate flags than I could count within the museum. This one got my attention because it’s actually the Army of Northern Virginia’s flag. This was created by two teens during the Civil War. As a local to Northern Virginia, it’s always strange to hear about our own army that existed during the Civil War. I don’t recall many other states breaking their armies down into state regions.
Out of dozens of Civil War portraits here I decided to share this one of General Forrest. This Confederate soldier joined as a private without any military experience. His natural ability to lead and quick learning allowed him to rise the ranks quickly. He rose all the way to the rank of Lt. General; something that usually takes at least a quarter of a century in modern times.
Another interesting artifact here was this doll. It was actually used to smuggle morphine to wounded troops during the war. I’m unsure of why the morphine had to be smuggled, but my assumption is it was mostly manufactured in the north so obviously the south couldn’t trade with a country they were at war at. Somehow this doll’s head detaches where things could be smuggled inside.
After I left the Civil War museum, I started to walk east towards the city center. As I said Virginia Commonwealth University essentially surrounds the Civil War museum, so I had to cut through parts of it to get to my destination. I happened to walk past the university’s “Egyptian Building”. This is actually a historic building that was built before the Civil War. At the time it belonged to America’s 10th oldest college of Hampden-Sydney. It continues to serve as a medical college building under VCU.
After I continued past the Egyptian building I came across the James Monroe skyscraper. I didn’t know it at the time I took the photo, but this is actually Richmond’s tallest building. It also served as Virginia’s highest building from 1981 until being surprised by a new skyscraper in Virginia beach in 2007. Originally this building was supposed
Just a block away from the capitol building is main street and the city center. This is mostly a business oriented neighborhood that has the city’s tallest buildings. I walked these streets during working hours and there were a lot of people going about. There were several food stands and even saw a few singers out. This guy below thanked me for giving him a tip and claimed that he wasn’t able to compete with a saxophonist a block away.
Also in the downtown district, I ate at this great restaurant called Penny Lane. Since I knew I was going to London in only a few weeks, the British flags got my attention and it seemed an obvious choice for a meal. The inside was really impressive! The restaurant has a larger section and bar past this room. It’s always hard to go up to a group of people and stick a camera in their face so I took one of this room instead.
Many that live on the east coast have driven on I-95. Many have Florida as their destination, and sometimes come from as far north as New England or even Canada! For those that have driven through Richmond and didn’t take the 295 bypass, you’ll probably recognize this clock tower. I remember seeing this countless times while driving through the city. As a little kid, I was always fascinated on how the high was elevated and passed by several buildings and gave a near eye level view of the clock tower. For my entire life I didn’t even know what this building was used for until I finally stepped inside while in the city. It turns out it’s Richmond’s Main Street train station that opened its doors in 1901. It’s one of the few original buildings in the city that still serves the same purpose today!
If you leave the train station and continue on Main Street you’ll get to a neighborhood called Shockoe Bottom. The walk in between wasn’t too impressive. It seemed that every other building was out either occupied by an interesting store or restaurant or just abandoned. There was plenty of street traffic, but not too many pedestrians. The only area where I saw any significant amount of life on Main Street was this farmer’s market.
From Maint Street I headed just a block southwest to East Cary street. Here you’ll see a dramatic change from Main Street. Cobblestone roads, nice restaurants, and even trolleys. I’ve been to Richmond a few times, but since I was mostly just passing through I had no idea the city had neighborhoods like this.
The photos above and below shows Shockoe Bottom. It’s not a very large neighborhood, but big enough that it has several blocks and some great places to stay and eat at. Some shops here included this bookstore below, a few antique stores, and a local coffees shop that I spent some time at.
There’s all kinds of places to eat at here, from upscale restaurants to more casual dining. My favorite was a pizza joint called Bottoms Up. This was actually recommended to me by a local, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. I was pretty surprised to see their prices of $8 a slice! That’s about double what a normal slide would cost, but these here are more like a quarter of a deep dish pizza, and it’s some heavy stuff! I had the Mexican; packed with jalapenos, salsa, and sour cream.
Possibly Shockoe Bottom’s best attraction is this small home. The house was built in 1738 by German immigrants and is now a museum known as the Old Stone House. Not only did Edgar Allen Poe live here, but the house is also the oldest original building in Richmond! Like the Confederate White House, this museum rudely doesn’t allow any photography inside the home. You can see a lot of the original furniture that had decorated the place when Poe lived here. There are also some huge portraits of the poet that were painted right after his death and are close to a century old.
The backdoor of this humble house will take you into his Enchanted Garden. Edgar Allen Poe grew up poor, but his fans created the garden on his property as Poe had described it in one of his poems.
At the end of the Enchanted Garden is the shrine of Edgar Allen Poe. There are rooms that surround his garden that also have some of his belongings on display. This trunk below was one of his final possessions. At the end of his life, Poe was hospitalized in Baltimore. While lying on his death bed he used this trunk for his belongings. He died on October 7th 1849. His final words was “Lord, help my poor soul”. After his death the key was found in his pocket, and family members and friends fought over who should inherit it.
While the Edgar Allen Poe’s Stone House is the oldest building in Richmond, you’ll find plenty of 19th century buildings throughout the city. Most of Richmond did not survive the civil war, so it’s difficult to find anything before the mid 1860’s. These vintage ads though have survived decades if not over a century. I found it really interesting to see the wording they would use, the things they would advertise, and of course the prices. Above is an old wall in Richmond when Cokes still cost only 5 cents each!
With coffee, alcohol, and sodas definitely dominating the beverage market today, it’s probably rare that you’ll see a giant advertisement for tea. Even more rare is finding an advertisement that they put sugar in their product. Nowadays it’s nearly impossible to find teas, or coffee without sugar.
Directly west of downtown Richmond will put you right along the James River. You can get some great views of the city here as well as the river itself. You also can’t miss this large memorial which is right at Richmond’s western entrance to the city. This is dedicated to veterans from the state who fought in America’s major wars like the two World Wars, Vietnam and Korea. There wasn’t anything on the recent Middle Eastern wars, but I’m sure that will be coming soon.
These photos are also over a decade ago and I don’t have any higher resolution available. The cemetery photographed above is called Hollywood cemetery and is the final resting place for tens of thousands of buried soldiers, mostly from Confederate armies. There are even three US presidents buried in the cemetery. You can see that quite a number of the graves are still lined with Confederate flags. Many Americans are split with the symbolism of the confederate flag. Some see it simply as a representation of the south and their history and culture, while others see it as a symbol of modern day racism. This is one of the few places where you will see countless Confederate flags on US government property.
Whenever I visit CSA memorials, I always find it interesting how many of them still show disappointment that the US didn’t separate. It’s like part of them still thinks rejoining the Union was a mistake. Above is a confederate memorial I found in Hollywood cemetery. It reads, “Fate denied them victory but gave them a glorious immortality”.
On the upper right is a statue of Jefferson Davis, who was the president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. He believed that the Union had been corrupted and that a pure confederate government was the only way to survive. When the war was over, Jefferson Davis was captured and put in prison. He was never charged and released only two years later. He spent the rest of his life doing various things. Like all politicians he wrote a book. His was called “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. He later even ran for a political election but was denied the job by the US government. Eventually he retired in his home state of Mississippi.
Northeast of Hollywood Cemetery and west of downtown Richmond you’ll enter another historic neighborhood called Monroe Ward. Monroe Ward is similar to Shockoe Bottom just that it lacks the cobblestone streets. I really loved seeing the 19th century architecture and other creations that survived the past two centuries. The photo above shows some homes in Monroe Ward. Below is a post that was once used by visitors to tie up their horses along the streets.
There’s a few other random sites in Monroe Ward such as this modern “Thin Blue Line” sculpture of a police officer. Because this piece of artwork is on the side of a building you can’t tell how large it is. It’s actually 12 feet in height and weighs over 1300 pounds (600 kg)! Also in this neighborhood is the headquarters of the Richmond fire department.
Monroe Ward also is home to the city library and the fire department headquarters. The library got my attention because of its sign and design.
Richmond seems to have more graffiti or street art on its buildings than any other city I’ve been to. Usually I see random buildings covered here and there, but it seems common throughout the city. These two photos above and below were from the Shockoe Bottom area. Main street, Monroe Ward, and other neighborhoods all had them as well.
The main reason why I came to Ward Monroe was to purchase a new memory card and lens cap for my camera. A horse had knocked off my lens cap in Kyrgyzstan and sent it into some rapids below where I couldn’t find it. The camera store had some great prices and I was able to get everything I needed. Stepping outside back onto the main street I noticed how most of the buildings here were unique. One owned by the Richmond Diary Co was shaped like a giant milk bottle. Above is a shot of some pedestrians in the neighborhood. Below is a large Coca Cola Building.
Like Shockoe Bottom, Monroe Ward has a wide range of restaurants as well. I’d say there is even a better selection here as the neighborhood just seemed much bigger with more options. Monroe Ward’s restaurants seem to range from straight up dive bars and hole in the walls establishments to these nicer restaurants. I did take a photo of the inside of Chez Foushee, but after seeing the expression on people’s faces I decided it was best not to post it.