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Centered on the fall line of the James River, about 75 mi upriver from the Chesapeake Bay, Richmond completes the transition from Tidewater Virginia into the Piedmont, the central section of rolling plains that reaches toward the mountain barrier in the west. Not only is Richmond the capital of the Commonwealth, but it was also the capital of the Confederacy. As a result, the city is studded with historic sites. At the start of the Civil War, Richmond was the most industrialized city in the South, and it remains an important city for national industries. After years of urban decay, Richmond transformed itself into a lively and sophisticated modern town, adding high technology to traditional economic bases that include shipping and banking.
Richmond is divided into four quadrants: Northside (north of the James River), Southside (south of the James River), West End, and East Richmond. The main attractions, sites, hotels, restaurants, and shopping are spread out between several popular neighborhoods. Starting with Church Hill at the east end of downtown, heading west you'll come to Shockoe Bottom and Shockoe Slip, downtown, the Fan District which is home to Virginia Commonwealth University, the Museum District, the popular shopping area Carytown, and finally to the West End, a major residential and business area.
To the west of downtown, Monument Avenue, the only street in the U.S. designated a National Historic Landmark, is lined with statues of Civil War heroes, as well as a newer one commemorating Arthur Ashe, and the stately homes of some of the first families of Virginia. A block south, a series of streets fanning out southwesterly from Park Avenue near Virginia Commonwealth University creates the Fan District, a treasury of restored turn-of-the-20th-century town houses that has become a popular neighborhood. Adjacent to it is Carytown, a restored area of shops and eateries along Cary Street.
Richmond's historic attractions lie north of the James River, which bisects the city with a sweeping curve. The heart of Old Richmond is the Court End district downtown. This area, close to the Capitol, contains seven National Historic Landmarks, three museums, and 11 additional buildings on the National Register of Historic Places—all within eight blocks. Just a mile east of Court End is historic Church Hill, a neighborhood of 19th-century homes and historic St. John's Church, which offers a free reenactment of Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty" speech on Sunday at 2 pm (Memorial Day through Labor Day).
Running west from the Court End district is Main Street, lined with banks; Cary Street, an east-west thoroughfare, becomes, between 12th and 15th streets, the cobblestone center of Shockoe Slip, and the west end of Cary Street, known as Carytown, is Richmond's most popular shopping district. Shockoe Slip (once the city's largest commercial trading district and the heart of the slave trade) and Shockoe Bottom (on land formerly occupied by a Native American trading post) are unique, restored areas filled with trendy shops, restaurants, and nightlife. Shockoe Bottom landmarks include the 17th Street Farmers' Market, operating since 1775, and Main Street Station, an elaborate Victorian structure capped by red tiles that was Richmond's first train station. Drive west beyond the historic downtown to see a fascinating group of charming and distinctive neighborhoods. Not far from the Capitol is Jackson Ward, called the "Home of Black Capitalism," a cultural and entrepreneurial center after the Civil War.
Richmond's Parks, Plantations and Estates
Richmond has an abundance of beautiful parks, as well as historic estates and plantations. Many notable citizens, Confederate leaders, and even a few presidents are buried at Hollywood Cemetery, which offers beautiful views of the James River.
Richmond at a Glance
- Agecroft Hall
- American Civil War Center
- Barksdale Theatre
- Berkeley Plantation
- Beth Ahabah Museum and Archives
- Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia
- Canal Walk
- Children's Museum of Richmond
- Chimborazo Medical Museum
- Citie of Henricus
- Confederate War Memorial Chapel
- Edgar Allan Poe Museum
- Henry Clay Inn
- Hollywood Cemetery
- Iron Horse
- John Marshall House
- Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
- Library of Virginia
- Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
- Meadow Farm
- Museum and White House of the Confederacy
- Paramount Kings Dominion
- Richmond National Battlefield Park Visitor Center
- Richmond Slave Trail
- Science Museum of Virginia
- Shirley Plantation
- St. John's Episcopal Church
- Tuckahoe Plantation
- Valentine Richmond History Center
- Virginia Aviation Museum
- Virginia Center for Architecture
- Virginia Historical Society Museum of Virginia History
- Virginia Holocaust Museum
- Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
- Virginia State Capitol
- Virginia War Memorial
Elsewhere in Richmond, Fredericksburg and the Northern Neck
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