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Overview of Richmond,  Virginia

"Some information from Wikipedia"

Richmond Virginia Overview

Richmond, Virginia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States of America. Like all Virginia municipalities incorporated as cities, it is an independent city, not part of any county (Richmond County is unrelated, and located more than 53 miles (85 kilometers) distant in a different region of the state). Richmond is located on the fall line of the James River in the Piedmont region of Virginia and is at the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and the Greater Richmond Area.

Common colloquialisms for the city are: RVA, The 804 (its area code), and RIC (its airport code).


In 1607, James I granted a royal charter to the Virginia Company of London to settle colonists in North America. After the first permanent English settlement was established later that year at Jamestown, Captain Christopher Newport and Captain John Smith set sail ten days after landing at Jamestown, traveling northwest up Powhatan's River (now known as the James River) to Powhatan Hill. The first expedition consisted of 120 men from Jamestown, and made the first attempt to settle at the Falls of the James, located between the 14th Street Bridge in modern downtown Richmond and the Pony Pasture (a recreational area along the banks of the river south of the City of Richmond). The settlement was made at this location as it is the highest navigable site along the James River.

In 1673, William Byrd I was granted lands on the James River that included the area around Falls that would become Richmond and already included small settlements. Byrd became a well-connected fur trader in the area and established a fort on the site. William Byrd II inherited his father's land in 1704 and in 1737 he founded the town of Richmond at the Falls of the James and commissioned Major William Mayo to lay out the original town grid. Byrd named the city Richmond after the town of Richmond or Richmond-upon-Thames in England, a suburb of London. He gave the new town the name because the view of the James River in Richmond, Virginia is strikingly similar to the view of the Thames River from Richmond, England, where he had spent time during his youth. The new town became the seat of Henrico County in 1752 which had been located in nearby Varina (now a Richmond suburb) where John Rolfe and Pocahontas had established their farm the previous century and developed the new world's first commercially successful export product, tobacco.

Revolutionary War

In 1775, Patrick Henry delivered his famous "Give me Liberty or Give me Death" speech in St. John's Church in Richmond that was crucial for deciding Virginia's (then the largest of the 13 colonies) participation in the First Continental Congress and setting the course for revolution and independence. Both Thomas Jefferson, who would soon write the Declaration of Independence and George Washington, who would soon command the Continental Army were in attendance at this critical moment on the path to the American Revolution.

In 1780, Virginia's state capital was moved from the colonial capital of Williamsburg to Richmond because it was less vulnerable to attack by the British. In 1781, under the command of Benedict Arnold, Richmond was burned by British troops causing Governor Thomas Jefferson to flee the city. Yet Richmond shortly recovered, and, in May 1782.


In 1786, one of the most important and influential passages of legislation in American history was passed at the temporary state capital in Richmond, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Written by Thomas Jefferson and sponsored by James Madison, the statute was the basis for the separation of church and state, and led to freedom of religion for all Americans as protected in the religion clause in the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. Its importance is recognized annually by the President of The United States, with January 16th established as National Religious Freedom Day.

The Virginia State Capital building was designed by Thomas Jefferson and completed in 1788. It is the second-oldest US statehouse in continuous use and was the first US government building built in the classical Roman style of architecture, setting the trend for other state houses and the federal government buildings (including the White House and The Capital) in Washington, DC.

Richmond soon emerged an important industrial center and crossroads of transportation and commerce. George Washington proposed and received the support of the Virginia legislature for the establishment of the James River and Kanawha Canal, the first canal system to be established in the western hemisphere. The canal allowed goods and services coming up the James River to be navigated around the falls at Richmond and connect Richmond and the eastern part of Virginia with the west. As a result Richmond became home of some of the largest manufacturing facilities, including iron works and flour mills, in the south. Canal traffic peaked in the 1860s and slowly gave way to railroads, allowing Richmond to become a major railroad crossroads, eventually including the site of the world's first triple railroad crossing. The Canal officially ceased operations in the 1880s and portions of the canal have been preserved and rebuilt in the late 1990s, spurring tourism and economic development along the old canal route in downtown Richmond.

Civil War

The aversion to the slave trade was growing by the mid-nineteenth century, and in 1848, Henry "Box" Brown made history by having himself nailed into a small box and shipped from Richmond to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, escaping slavery to the land of freedom.

At the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, the strategic location of the Tredegar Iron Works was one of the primary factors in the decision to make Richmond the Capital of the Confederacy. From this arsenal came the 723 tons of armor plating that covered the CSS Virginia, the world's first ironclad used in war, as well as much of the Confederates' heavy ordnance machinery. In February 1861, Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery, Alabama, the first Confederate capital. In the early morning of April 12, 1861, the Confederate army fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Civil War had begun. On April 17, 1861, Virginia seceded from the United States and joined the Confederate States, and soon thereafter the Confederate government moved its capital to Richmond. The Seven Days Battle, in which Union General McClellan threatened Richmond and came very near it but ultimately failed to take the city, followed in late June and early July of 1862. Four years later on April 3, 1865 Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army captured Richmond, and six days later, Robert E. Lee's retreating Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House symbolically ending the war. On April 2, 1865, about 25% of the city's buildings were destroyed in a fire set by retreating Confederate soldiers.

Monument Avenue was laid out in 1887, with a series of monuments at various intersections honoring the city's Confederate heroes. Included (east to west) were J.E.B. Stuart, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Matthew F. Maury. Richmond is the final resting place of both Stuart and Davis (see Hollywood Cemetery).

Richmond had the first successful electrically-powered trolley system in the United States. Designed by electric power pioneer Frank J. Sprague, the trolley system opened its first line in January, 1888. Richmond's hills, long a transportation obstacle, were considered an ideal proving ground. The new technology soon replaced horse-powered streetcars.


The city is located in the Piedmont region of Virginia, at the highest navigable point of the James River. The Piedmont region is categorized by relatively low, rolling hills, and lies between the low, sea level tidewater region and the Blue Ridge mountains. Significant bodies of water in the region include the Chickahominy River, the James River, and the Appomattox River.

The Richmond-Petersburg Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the 46th largest in the United States, includes the independent cities of Richmond, Colonial Heights, Hopewell, and Petersburg, as well as the counties of Amelia, Caroline, Charles City, Chesterfield, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, King and Queen, King William, Louisa, New Kent, Powhatan, Prince George, and Sussex. As of July 2004, the total population of the Richmond-Petersburg MSA was 1,154,317.

Richmond is located within 200 miles of several major cities, including Newport News, Virginia (62 miles), Hampton, Virginia (73 miles), Portsmouth, Virginia (77 miles), Norfolk, Virginia (77 miles), Chesapeake, Virginia (87 miles), Alexandria, Virginia (91 miles), Washington DC (96 miles), Virginia Beach, Virginia (96 miles), Baltimore, Maryland (129 miles), Durham, North Carolina (132 miles), Roanoke, Virginia (137 miles), Raleigh, North Carolina (137 miles), Dover, Delaware (154 miles), Greensboro, North Carolina (166 miles), and Winston-Salem, North Carolina (183 miles).


Richmond has a mild subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. Spring arrives in April with mild days and cool nights, and by late May, the temperature has warmed up considerably to herald warm summer days. Summer temperatures can be unpleasantly hot, often topping 90 degrees with high humidity. Richmond is notorious for its humidity, which creates high heat index values. Days stay warm to mild until October, when hurricanes are less likely and Fall is marked by nights once again becoming cooler. Winter is usually mild in Richmond, but some winters differ from others. Snowfall can occur during the winter, and the most likely month is January. The average annual snowfall is 12 inches.[ Heavy snowfall of over 10 inches is not common, and it last occured in 2000.

Annual cultural events and fairs

The city is home to several annual cultural events. As the capital of the commonwealth of Virginia, the state fair is held at the end of September at the state fairgrounds, located just outside of the city near the Richmond International Raceway. In November, the Suntrust Richmond Marathon and 8K Race is held downtown, and the James River Writers Festival also takes place. During the month of December, the Grand Illumination takes place, in which the buildings of the downtown area light up for the Christmas holiday season. This usually occurs on the same weekend as the Richmond Christmas Parade, which travels along Broad Street.

In April, the Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K race is held, as well as the "Easter on Parade" street festival. The James River Film Festival also takes place during this month, and the VCU French Film Festival is also becoming very popular, and features foreign films. Other notable events during the year include the 2nd Street Festival and the Carytown Watermelon Festival. The monthly Artwalk takes place on the first Friday of every month between September and June, in the downtown gallery district.

Richmond hosts the National Folk Festival in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Museums, galleries, and historical attractions

Richmond has a significant art community, and the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts is consistently ranked as one of the best in the nation. In addition to many art venues associated with the university, there are also several attractions nearby, including the Valentine Richmond History Center, Virginia Historical Society, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Richmond Symphony, and the Richmond Ballet. The Byrd Theatre in Carytown is a classical movie theater from the 1920s era that still features movies on a regular basis, and has become popular among the college student population, particularly due to its low ticket price of $2.00.

The Science Museum of Virginia, is also located on Broad Street near the fan district. It is housed in the neoclassical Union Station, designed by Beaux-Arts-trained John Russell Pope in 1919. Adjacent to the Science Museum is the Richmond Children's Museum, a fun-filled museum for children with many hands-on activities.

As the former Capital of the Confederate States of America, Richmond is home to many museums and battlefields of the American Civil War. The Museum of the Confederacy, located near the Virginia State Capitol and the MCV Campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, once served as the White House of the Confederacy, and today features a wide variety of objects and material from the era. Near the riverfront is the Tredegar Iron Works and Civil War Battlefields National Park Visitors Center. There is also a Slave Trail along the river as well.

Other historical points of interest include St. John's Church, the site of Patrick Henry's famous, "Give me liberty or give me death" speech, and the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, which features many of his writings and other things from his life, particularly when he lived in the city. The John Marshall House, the home of the former Chief Justice of the United States, is also located downtown and features many of his writings and objects from his life. Hollywood Cemetery is also the burial grounds of two U.S. Presidents as well as many other civil war officers and soldiers.

The city is also home to many monuments, most notably several along Monument Avenue in the fan district. Other monuments of interest in the city include the A.P. Hill monument, the Bill "Bojangles" Robinson monument, the Christopher Columbus monument, and the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument. The Virginia War Memorial is also located on Belvedere near the riverfront, and is a monument to Virginians who died in battle in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq War. Located near Byrd Park is the famous World War I Memorial Carillon, a 56 bell carillion tower.

Richmond has sometimes been called a City of Churches. Early dominant influences were the Episcopalians and Methodists, but congregations of many faiths and denominations are prevalent today. Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was penned in Richmond by Thomas Jefferson.
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