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What is: A Hilton hotel and apartment building in the place of a once pioneering retail flagship store and HQ.

What was: Begun as a dry good shop by Mr. Miller and Mr. Rhoads in 1888, Miller and Rhoads became an iconic department store that once stretched an entire street block and left an indelible mark on not only the retail landscape of the city, but also on Richmond residents.

Miller & Rhoads offered customers one-stop convenience for goods and services ranging from stamps to clothing, sporting goods, to public telephones, but in a glamorous, cosmopolitan setting where exceptional customer service reigned supreme.  That included: specialty hats made by the milners; the ever-popular Tea Room, which featured regular fashion shows, and signature menu; as well as pioneering “Santaland” attraction.

The Santa Land attraction included woodland scenes with lifelike, animated animals were strategically placed throughout the room. Fully decorated trees adorned a path leading to the beautiful stage. Onstage were a huge fireplace, a Christmas tree, and a golden chair with a red velvet back and seat where Santa Claus sat.  SantaLand was so popular, Miller and Rhoads aired commercials with the tagline “Miller & Rhoads – Where Christmas is a Legend.”

After being picketed in the early 1960s by African Americans, it fully desegregated in 1961.

The store also hosted famous writers, art exhibits and other community events that helped add a cosmopolitan flair to the city.  Many a Richmonder met their friends at the store under its famous clock. As suburbs and malls came to the forefront, Miller and Rhoads moved into that space.  However, faced with increasing competition from stores like Leggett and Hess’s and dwindling finances, Miller & Rhoads filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  By 1990, all Miller & Rhoads stores closed their doors for good.

What is: Chimborazo Park, Richmond, VA.  Statue of Liberty replica (this one #136 of about 200) dedicated in Chimborazo Park on February 11, 1951. A gift to the city by the Boy Scouts of Robert E. Lee Council in 1951.  Worth noting this is the same site of the Confederate States military hospital, which was the largest hospital in human history, receiving 17,000 wounded and serving more than 76,000 patients.

What was: Inscription at the base: “With the faith and courage of their forefathers who made possible the freedom of these United States.  The Boy Scouts of America dedicated this copy of the statue of Liberty as a pledge of everlasting fidelity and loyalty.  40th Anniversary Crusade to strengthen the arm of Liberty, 1950.”

Between 1949 and 1952, approximately two hundred 100-inch (2.5 m) replicas of the statue, made of stamped copper, were purchased by Boy Scout troops and donated in 39 states in the U.S. and several of its possessions and territories. The project was the brainchild of Kansas City businessman, J.P. Whitaker, who was then Scout Commissioner of the Kansas City Area Council.

The copper statues were manufactured by Friedley-Voshardt Co. (Chicago, Illinois) and purchased through the Kansas City Boy Scout office. The statues are approximately 8+1⁄2 feet (2.6 m) tall without the base, constructed of sheet copper, weigh 290 pounds (130 kg), and originally cost US$350 (equivalent to about $3,900 in 2021) plus freight. The mass-produced statues are not meticulously accurate, and a conservator noted that “her face isn’t as mature as the real Liberty. It’s rounder and more like a little girl’s.” Many of these statues have been lost or destroyed, but preservationists have been able to account for about 100 of them (Source: Wikipedia)

What is: The Mayo Bridge, across the James River, connecting the City of Richmond with what was the town of Manchester.  Route 360 from the southside to downtown

What was: John Mayo built his first toll bridge here in 1788 to connect Richmond and Manchester, the town across the James River.  The earliest version of the Mayo Bridge was little more than a series of rickety pontoons tied together by wood planks.  Given the power and flooding of the James River, by 1802, John Mayo found himself faced with the task of building the fourth iteration of the Mayo Bridge. To do this, he relied on a workforce often available for large scale construction projects, a group of free and enslaved, black and white, local and regional workers, and skilled craftsmen, who made up the brute muscle to build a major bridge

The bridge also has a major place in the story of slavery, as Africans being sold south from the 19th century markets in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom, would be walked in coffles or transported in carts across the bridge to be loaded onto ships and sent south to their new owners.

In 1800, Richmond was a slave town, with a community whipping post where slaveholders had punishment meted out in a public square. Enslaved men loaded and moved flatboats of tobacco and other cargo. Throughout the state in 1800, 39.2% of the total population were slaves.  During the spring and summer, Gabriel planned a revolt that intended to end slavery in Virginia. Plans were made with enslaved people over 10 counties and the cities of Richmond, Norfolk, and Petersburg, Virginia. Hundreds of slaves from central Virginia expected to march into Richmond across this bridge and take control of the Virginia State Armory and the Virginia State Capitol, as well as set fire to a warehouse district in Richmond, and seize the bridge to control traffic in and out of the city.  Known as Gabriel’s Rebellion, due to weather it had to be postponed.  In the interim, someone reported the plans.  Everyone associated with Gabriel’s Rebellion was hung.

The Virginia Assembly in 1802 made it illegal for blacks, whether free or enslaved, to obtain and pilot or navigate a boat. Two years later, they were unable to meet in groups after their work was done or on Sundays. In 1808, state legislators banned hiring out of slaves and required freed blacks to leave the state within 12 months or face re-enslavement.

What is: a parking lot with an area that has been explored in an archaeological dig.  Near the train station and Interstate 95 running behind the trees, Downtown Richmond, VA

What was: The Devils Half Acre, also known as Lumpkin’s jail. It was a home, tavern and jail.  It was the place of some of the South’s most savage treatment of slaves, who would be sold at one of the many auction houses in the area, or who were captured under the Fugitive Slave Act.

Robert Lumpkin opened the jail in 1844 and was known as the “bully trader” with a flair for cruelty.  Part of an 1856 account noted, “After entering his cell, the handcuffs were not removed, but, in addition, fetters were placed upon his feet. In this manacled condition he was kept during the greater part of his confinement. The torture which he suffered, in consequence, was excruciating. The gripe of the irons impeded the circulation of his blood, made hot and rapid by the stifling atmosphere, and caused his feet to swell enormously. The flesh was worn from his wrists, and when the wounds had healed, there remained broad scars as perpetual witnesses against his owner.”

Lumpkin maximized his income by offering slave traders accommodation, a slave trading holding facility, and an auction house.  It remained in operation until the Union occupation of Richmond in 1865.

When the city fell to the Union, Lumpkin got out.  Shackling some 50 enslaved and weeping men, women and children together, the trader tried to board a train heading south, but there was no room. He died not long after the war ended.

After the war, it was renamed and reclaimed as “God’s Half Acre” when Lumpkin’s wife, Mary, once also a slave, made the property available to house a school that became Richmond Theological Seminary — the original campus of Virginia Union University, a historically black college now located near by.

The historic site was buried during the construction of Interstate 95 through Richmond.  It was found in 2008 when archaeologists discovered the original foundations, walkways and more than 6,000 artifacts beneath 16 feet of fill.

What is: The old steel mill wheel at the front of Tredegar iron works which is today the main visitor center for the Richmond National Battlefield Park and the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar.

What was: the iron works plant in Richmond opened in 1837 by a group of businessmen and industrialists who sought to capitalize on the Transportation Revolution. Tredegar operated on hydro power by harnessing the James River and the canal. The plant employed skilled domestic and foreign workers as well as slaves and free blacks. By 1860 it was the largest facility of its kind in the South – a contributing factor to the choice of Richmond as the capital of the confederacy.

It produced the steel for the first Confederate ironclad ship, as well as about half of the artillery production. It also manufactured steam locomotives, rail spikes and clamps. The iron works is one of the few Civil War era buildings that survived the burning of Richmond.

Tredegar began producing again by the end of 1865. By 1873 it employed 1,200 workers and was profitable business. The financial panic of 1873 hit the company hard and it did not make the transition to steel. The Tredegar company remained in business throughout the first half of the 20th century, and supplied requirements of the armed forces of the United States during World War I and World War II.

The company name Tredegar derives from the Welsh industrial town that supplied much of the company’s early workforce.