Wish You Were in Dixie? Visit Historic Richmond

Richmond, Virginia, is famous for lots of things, too many to name; one of the biggest is its ties to Civil War America. Richmond was the home base of the “Confederate States of America,” the place where the Confederate White House, occupied by Jefferson Davis, was located. Although time has taken a big toll on America’s Civil War sites, many of Richmond’s historical homes and buildings have been preserved or restored. Here you’ll discover some homes and churches that witnessed Richmond’s role in the “War Between the States.”

Richmond is such a big city that its historical properties are split into many different neighborhoods. One of these neighborhoods is known as the Franklin Street District. Here you can find 19th century homes ranging from the early 1800s to the Victorian era of the 1890s. Among those that stood during the Civil War are the Cole Diggs House, the Kent-Valentine House with beautiful stately columns, the Ritter-Hancock House, and the Price Home, also known as the Dooley-Madison Rest Home. There is additional amazing architecture spanning decades; you can find some wonderful stone and brick homes that resemble castles with walkways and round rooms.

If you have a tour guide or know someone who is familiar with the area, you may enjoy knowing the name of each individual house you visit. If you love historic homes as I do, you’ll probably want many photos (of course, be warned; if anyone is still *living* in these old homes, and in most of them people still are, it may look strange when you point your camera at their house). If you act like a tourist, they will probably leave you alone! Try to get pictures of plaques and markers as well. Some historic homes in Richmond can be toured, so hop online to a place like www.historicrichmond.com (or search the web) and ask the staff there when and where certain tours will be offered.

St. John’s Church District (known as Church Hill), is also home to structures that stood during the Civil War era. No visitor should even consider coming to Richmond without seeing St. John’s Church. Not only did it stand in the 19th century, but in its older form stood in the days of the Revolution and hosted the “speechifying” of Patrick Henry. The homes of Carrington Row were all constructed in the early 1800s (1818 to be exact) and are uniform in appearance. The Adams-Taylor House, Morris Cottage, and Adams Double House all stood in the 1860s. The Elmira Shelton House, a quaint red-brick home with simple but elegant adornment, is particularly interesting because of its connection to Edgar Allen Poe. His sweetheart (Elmira Shelton) once lived here.

Some historical structures are scattered throughout the city and aren’t situated in any particular district. One of these is the Wilton House, an ancient edifice from the mid-1800s. It originally stood outside of town but was later brought into the city limits. The Tudor home known as Agecroft is by far Richmond’s most historical building and the most interesting. You may find it difficult to believe it was built in the 1400s even though Virginia was not colonized until the 1600s. It’s true! The home was actually moved from England, from an area known as Lancasshire.

Don’t forget to learn all you can about Richmond and its role in the pivotal “War Between the States” before visiting the city, since it is most famous for that association. Look for the canals lying outside the city. Near the canals you’ll find a building steeped in history; the Tredegar Iron Works. Almost all of the cannons used by the Southern Army during the war were made right here in Tredegar. The place itself was built in 1837, a mere twenty-four years before the start of the war.

Driving will probably not be an easy feat in Richmond even on the “slowest” hours of the day. This is where it helps to take a bus, tour, or other form of public transportation so you don’t frazzle your nerves trying to get around. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask directions. Even if you’re a “Yankee,” I guarantee Richmond’s citizens *will not* bite. And don’t try to put on a fake Southern accent to blend in; it’s very noticeable, and all they will hear is a “Yankee” trying to sound like a Southerner!

By Lacie Schaeffer

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