Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The 7 Hills of Richmond, VA: Church Hill

This is Part 1 of Blog Series: The Seven Hills of Richmond, VA. Find the Intro here. Church Hill
Church Hill is easily one of Richmond's first neighborhoods and home to Richmond's original 32 blocks. Its neighborhood has some of the oldest history, from the red brick sidewalks to gas street lamps and classic architectural styles. In the center of this historical neighbor lies St. John's Church. Built in 1741, it is where Church Hill gets its name. To this day, it is the only standing colonial structure in the city that remains intact. In 1775, Patrick Henry gave his famous speech "Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death" on the grounds. 

In 1742, the population of Church Hill reaches 250 souls. The historical architecture of Church Hill makes it one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city. Architectural style displayed include: Greek Revival, Italianate, Federal, and Queen Anne. By the 19th century, the population of Church Hill grew to 5,730 residents.
During the Civil War era, Richmond was at the epicenter of life in the south. As the capitol of the Confederacy, people flocked from all over to move to the center of it all. It was at this time, most of the buildings in the church hill area were transformed to into hospital to care for the wounded. Among these buildings, was the Pohlig Box Factory. However, when the Union soldiers overtook Richmond, they settled into camps around the Church Hill area. Richmonders were afraid of the Union soldiers taking precious documents and goods, so they set fire to many of the warehouses in the area. Only few remain standing today.
Church Hill had its second major tragedy in October of 1925. During the reconstruction of Richmond, the C&O Railroad line, which ran through a tunnel underneath Church Hill, collapsed. It was to be the longest tunnel ever built up until that time at a stunning 190 feet in length. The train, Locomotive 231, along with 4 railroad workers were stuck and killed instantly. Since it was deemed unsafe to attempt to retrieve the train and its cargo, the tunnel was closed. In 2006, an attempt was made to recover the train, however, as the tunnel was filled with water, the city deemed it unsafe to attempt to retrieve. Today, you can see the bricked-in entrance at the south-east end at the end of the alley just north of Marshall Street, on 18th street.
In the 1950's, Church Hill was on the decline as a result of high crime and absentee landlords. As a result, local Elisabeth Scott Bocock and neighbor Louise Catteral founded the Historical Richmond Foundation in 1956 to preserve and protect the history of historic Church Hill's St. John's Church. However, as a result of their efforts, City Council declared Church Hill to be a historical district of Richmond.
Church Hill today is a hustling and bustling neighborhood that has shown she can withstand all that is thrusted upon her. She has stood strong for almost 300 years, and has proven she is here to stay. The neighborhood of Church Hill is what makes it unique. From the classic homes overlooking the city, to the ambience and character of the locals themselves, Church Hill is a great place to live, work, and play.

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