Richmond. The “City of Seven Hills”. On a recent trip to this southern city located off the James River, my camera lens sought to capture the varied architecture found within the hills of a city entrenched with pre-civil war history. A city that holds Antebellum architecture and varied jewels of history and architectural distinction.
Although this city is not new to me, having resided here for two years in the early 1990’s, the city of Richmond was always one in which I found appreciation. Granted, coming from Long Island, New York to Richmond,Virginia, the Southern charm took me by surprise. Yet looking back, it was a time in which I discovered the nuances that this city on hillsides offered. History and architecture. The architecture layered within this southern city is varied and distinctive. Red bricks, decorative wood and wrought iron facades beckoned my camera lens.
Grand classics that have survived time, from the classic architecture of the pre-Civil War homes on 18th century Church Hill to the structures nestled within the city’s hilly surrounds, these are details that are worthy of focus. And focus I did. Image after image, compiled to relay the diverse architectural appeal of Richmond. Perhaps it can be said that every city across the country and beyond, offers a unique landscape of architecture. For certain, Richmond’s use of red brick and ironwork are iconic to the southern charm of this city. Red bricks or painted bricks paired with carved wooden or stone classical pediments and decorative ironwork facades. Historical character, indeed.
Richmond, the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, was founded in 1737 as the central marketplace for inland Virginia. Of interest, Richmond held three historic political conventions during the pre-Revolutionary war years (including Patrick Henry’s iconic speech “Give me liberty or give me death”(1775) at the St. Johns Church (built 1741/notably the only Colonial structure that remains in Richmond). After the Revolutionary War Richmond grew rapidly and in 1782 it was incorporated as a city. As a port city off the James River with major commercial and industrial centers, it is interesting to note that the first American iron and brick supplies were manufactured in Richmond. Who knew? Of course, this “River City”, although it is also known for its tobacco processing (a nod to the historic district of “Tobacco Row”), it is perhaps the remnants of the brick and pre-civil war Antebellum houses with wrought ironwork that offer a vivid reminder of the city’s early history. The picturesque architecture, monuments and mansions throughout the city certainly inspires. A trip down “Monument Avenue” offers a southern history of the “Gilded Age” and luxury that still stands the test of time. Add to that, architecture that reflects Gothic, Greek Revival, Neo-Classical, Italianate and Federal style embellishments that the city’s architecture holds as visual treasures. It is my hope that the images presented provide a broad “snapshot” of the architectural array that represents Richmond’s importance before the Civil War and the iconic structures built in years that followed. Memorable to me over the years is the Main Street Train Station, located in “Shockoe Hill”. Decorated with what is described as “Pompeian” brickwork, terra-cotta and stone, it stands distinctively over the city and the raised highway that has since wrapped itself closely to the clock tower. Modern life paired against iconic architecture of a city, indeed.
And of the “Seven Hills”? History notes that the “Seven Hills” were declared in a 1937 ordinance by the City of Richmond but the ordinance was never passed. Again, who knew? Although never officially accepted, the city itself was forged around those neighborhoods which are believed to have shaped the city’s history. The “Seven Hills” are Union Hill, Council Chamber Hill, French Garden Hill, Navy Hill, Gambles Hill, Shockoe Hill and the oldest, Church Hill. A brief history lesson, indeed. The locals are aware of these “Hills” that comprise of the city of Richmond. Although there are no signs visible, perhaps the hills that rise above the city will surely notify you that you are within the distinction of another area of this southern city.
Architecture and its details. Life is all about the details. It is the architectural details of this great city that is layered in early American history that my camera zoomed in on. Truth be told, some of the images were taken from a car window. For certain, much territory can be covered from the car. Alas, I was the sightseer this time rather than the driver. In a city that was very familiar to me, my lens found new details with which to appreciate. Looking at the city with a renewed perspective, if you will. As my mantra is always “look up” and appreciate the details, my camera honed in on those details and embellishments. History’s structures of visual interest surrounded. Renewed perspective and deeper appreciation. The visual journey from behind the lens always endures to inspire me. The scenery and life that whirls past us, captured, from behind my lens…
PS: When I left this city, I boarded an Amtrak train with a one-way ticket to Chicago. Perhaps when you leave a city, your appreciation grows deeper for the recollections of what each city offers. Appreciation. And of Chicago? Now living within its outskirts, it still is “My kind of town”….
“Ones destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things”