Step Into: Lincoln's Richmond Virginia

Posted by Jimmy Im on November 13, 2012 at 10:30:29 AM EST | Post a Comment

Yes, Virginia may be for lovers but after serving as the location of the upcoming film Lincoln, it's high time we saw it from his eyes. The former Capital of the Confederacy, Richmond was the place battles and campaigns heavily occurred in the American Civil War, which called upon Abe's involvement. And all it took was Daniel Day Lewis retracing his steps to turn our attention back there. Tourists are flocking, now, to historic cites Richmond and Petersburg where you would have found Lincoln in 1865 and where Daniel Day Lewis captured Honest Abe's best moments in 2012. So we tracked down the top spots that Lincoln and Lincoln both explored so that you can, too.

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Museum and White House of the Confederacy

Home to an extensive museum with Civil War period pieces and exhibits, the White House of the Confederacy actually houses the world's largest collection of Confederate memorabilia. The National Historic Landmark is the former home to Confederate president Jefferson Davis and his family throughout the war. Here, Lincoln came to confer with the garrison commander. Inside, you can actually visit the room where Lincoln sat at a small desk when meeting the commander. Additionally, most of the 19th-century furniture is original.

Fun Fact: The White House of the Confederacy served as one of the prime locations for filmmakers to do research on the film.

Virginia State Capitol

Reopened after a recent $104.5 million restoration, The Virginia State Capitol in Richmond was visited by Lincoln at the end of the Civil War and has a memorable scene in the movie. The building designed by Thomas Jefferson in 1785 is an architectural delight (it's modeled after a Roman temple) and the Virginia legislature has the privilege of working there today. The grounds were actually transformed to look like Civil War Camps, and the sets used to portray Washington were set up here as well. Guided tours are available.

Fun Fact: Daniel Day Lewis requested the building to be open for him only, allegedly to get into character.

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Historic Streets of Church Hill

During filming, Daniel Day Lewis stayed in this historic neighborhood, which is in the oldest part of Richmond and is chockfull of row homes with ironwork from as early as the 1700s. Here, the Libby Hill Overlook has a great view of the James River (named after the bend in the Thames River in Richmond, England). Lincoln first landed on shore in a paddleboat, unannounced with a small entourage, on this river. Visitors should dine at Arcadia, a fairly new American restaurant in Shockoe Bottom where Daniel Day Lewis sightings were frequent. A smartphone photo of him having lunch went viral during filming.

Fun Fact: From Church Hill, you can see Rocket's Landing along the river, an emerging area with condos, restaurants, and office spaces. This is actually where Steven Spielberg camped out.

The Jefferson Hotel

Quirks and myths abound at the Jefferson Hotel: the grand staircase is said to be the model for the staircase in Gone with the Wind; a large marble pool in the lobby was home to live alligators until 1948; and several Lincoln cast members stayed here. Rumors include Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, and Joseph Gordon Levitt. True or not, Sally Field is the only actor to be confirmed as having stayed here but we wouldn't doubt the others: this 228-room property opened by Lewis Ginter is well appointed with a fantastic new restaurant Lemaire (touted as the best in Richmond), 108-year history and has hosted a slew of former presidents like Wilson, Coolidge, Roosevelt (both Teddy and Franklin), Truman, Reagan, and even President Obama.

Fun Fact: Due to several cast members' requests, a "Lincoln Laundry" (washer, dryer, steamer, TV, chairs) was set up so they could handle their own laundry.

Centre Hill Mansion, Petersburg

In nearby, historic Petersburg, Centre Hill Mansion is the former home of the Bolling family where Lincoln and his family visited in April 1865 with Elizabeth Keckly, Mrs. Lincoln's seamstress. The Mansion, built in 1823, was used as the headquarters for the Union's commanding officer of the Petersburg garrison after the siege of Petersburg succeeded. Additionally, Petersburg was a hot spot for high society in the early 1800s (even Edgar Allen Poe honeymooned here in 1836). Since the movie wrapped, tourism in Petersburg has increased. Parts of Lincoln were filmed at Centre Hill Mansion, and Spielberg even did some light refurbishing to the carpet and public bathrooms.

Fun Fact: According to their Facebook page, Centre Hill Mansion will be the official home for Lincoln costumes worn in the film.

Jimmy Im is a freelance travel writer based in NYC. He's hosted programs on the Travel Channel and LOGO, and makes regular appearances on morning news shows as a "travel expert." He teaches travel writing courses and is also cofounder of OutEscapes.com. Follow him on Twitter @dieselmad.

Photo credits: Downtown Richmond courtesy of Flickr/Ron Cogswell; Arcadia Richmond courtesy of Arcadia Richmond; White House of the Confederacy via Shutterstock

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