We love this city. From the rich history to the beauty of driving through a Fan street in the spring. This city has it all: a roaring river, wide variety of parks, museums, culture, art, music, and people that keep it running. Richmond is divided like the geographic points of a compass: North Side, Southside, East End and West End. Since there is no one municipal organization that represents the Greater Richmond region, the boundaries of these subregions are loosely defined. The definitions are also affected by the James River which has separated Henrico County on the north bank and Chesterfield County to the south. Until 1910, the James also separated the City of Richmond on the north bank from the City of Manchesteron on the south bank, until they merged by mutual agreement in 1910. A large portion of the river which divides the modern City of Richmond is part of the city’s James River Park System.
So where do you fall? Most people who have lived in Richmond have moved around and lived in various neighborhoods, exploring just a touch of what each one has to offer. No matter where you are, you’re sure to find great restaurants, interesting homes, and awesome people. Here’s a brief breakdown of the main neighborhoods in our city:
Jackson Ward / The River District / Shockoe Slip / Shockoe Bottom / East End / Tobacco Row / Union Hill / Byrd Park / Carver / Carytown & Museum District / The Fan / Oregon Hill / Manchester / Westover Hills
Jackson Ward: Jackson Ward is an historic neighborhood that at one time was known as the “Harlem of the South. ” A center for commerce and entertainment, it was frequented by the likes of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole and James Brown. Jackson Ward was also home to Maggie L. Walker, the first woman to charter and serve as president of an American bank. The Maggie L. Walker House is now a U.S. National Historic Site. Jackson Ward is home to the Hippodrome Theater.
During the construction of the Eisenhower Interstate highway system in the 1950s Jackson Ward was split in two, much to the detriment of the neighborhood. In the early 2000s, the Greater Richmond Convention Center and Visitors Bureau was built at the eastern edge of Jackson Ward. Jackson Ward now has a mix of residential and student homes as VCU continues to move East into the city.
The River District: In 1999, the City of Richmond completed its canal walk project, a refurbishment of a 1.25-mile segment of the Haxall Canal and the James River & Kanawha Canal that had fallen into disuse. Developed as a tourist destination, the area surrounding the Canal Walk was branded by The River District Alliance as “The River District.” The actual boundaries of the River district are not defined, and include some businesses commonly thought to belong to other districts, like Shockoe Bottom and Shockoe Slip. Recently, the River District has been used as a canvas for the RVA Mural Project, headed by Richmonder and muralist, Ed Trask. The city’s flood wall that borders much of the downtown segment of the river is now filled with art from internationally renowned muralists.
Shockoe Slip: Shockoe Slip is a collection of tobacco warehouses in which are located shops, restaurants, and offices. The name “slip” refers to the canal boat slips nearby where goods were loaded and unloaded. Shockoe Slip became developed as a commercial and entertainment district in the 1970s. The rough boundaries of Shockoe Slip include 14th Street, Main Street, Canal Street and 12th Street.
Shockoe Bottom: Shockoe Bottom, just east of downtown along the James River, became a major nightlife, dining, and entertainment center in the last two decades of the 20th century. After centuries of periodic flooding by the James River, development was greatly stimulated by the completion of Richmond’s James River Flood Wall in 1995. Ironically, the next flooding disaster came not from the river, but from Hurricane Gaston which brought extensive local tributary flooding along the basin of Shockoe Creek and did extensive damage to this area in 2004, with businesses being shut down and many buildings condemned.
East End: The East End of Richmond, Virginia is actually a collection of neighborhoods. Within the city, and in Henrico County, it is roughly defined as the area of Richmond north of the James River and east/northeast of the former Virginia Central Railroad – Chesapeake and Ohio Railway line (now owned by CSX Transportation and operated by the Buckingham Branch Railroad) which originated at Main Street Station, and south and west of I-295.
Within the city, this includes neighborhoods such as Church Hill, Fairmount, Union Hill, Fulton, Fulton Hill, Montrose Heights, Fairfield Court, Creighton Court, Whitcomb Court, Mosby Court, Eastview, Brauers, Peter Paul, Woodville, North Church Hill, Chimborazo and Oakwood. The terminology “East End” also broadly includes much of eastern Henrico County and part of Hanover County as a portion the Richmond Metropolitan area.
Tobacco Row: Just east of Shockoe Bottom, Tobacco Row is a collection of tobacco warehouses and cigarette factories adjacent to the James River and Kanawha Canal near its eastern terminus at the head of navigation of the James River. Beginning in the 18th century, many growers and shippers of Virginia’s major cash-crop of tobacco maintained facilities there, as well as directly across the river at Manchester. Substantial multi-story brick buildings were constructed to protect the contents from loss due to fire. During the American Civil War (1861–1865), Tobacco Row was the site of infamous Libby Prison and nearby Castle Thunder, detention facilities of the Confederate government.
The area was vacated by the tobacco companies by the late 1980s. Led by Richmond developer William H. Abeloff, many of the old warehouses of Tobacco Row were modernized and converted into developments of loft apartments, condominiums, offices, and retail space along part of the restored canal system. In 2006 the Richmond Housing Authority using HOPE_VI grants worked with developer McCormack Baron Salazar to redevelop former warehouses in Tobacco Row into 250 mixed income housing units.
Union Hill: Union Hill is one of the oldest and most historically significant neighborhoods of Richmond and, as such, has been the recent focus of rapid gentrification and preservation. Its architectural and historical significance has earned the neighborhood designation on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. It is situated on the high western bluff above Shockoe Bottom. Houses of a remarkable mix are balanced along the irregular, picturesque and sometimes narrow streets that follow the curve of the hill. Those homes that line Jefferson Park have a clear view of downtown Richmond. Union Hill is bordered on the south by Jefferson Avenue, on the north by Venable Street, on the east by 25th Street, and by Mosby on the west. The term “Union Hill” first occurs in 1817 — probably referring to the combination of several hills that were joined by fill and grading over the years.
Byrd Park: The Byrd Park neighborhood was in the Far West End of the City when it was planned in the late 1910s. This is a residential area, now in the Central neighborhoods of the City, bounded on the south by Byrd Park and Maymont Park, on the north by theDowntown Expressway, on the east by Meadow Street. The heart of the neighborhood is located north and east of its namesake and its three lakes; Boat, Swan and Shields. Homes include row houses built in the 1920s, two-story frame bungalows, brick Colonials, Cape Cods, tri-levels, ranchers and American Four Squares mostly built in the 1930s and 1940s. Westover Road hosts a number of large lakefront Spanish, Georgian and Colonial Revival mansions. The Fountain Lake area features upscale condos and apartments. A small, neighborhood retail section and a converted 1922 public school (now retirement home) is located along middle blocks Idlewood Avenue in the northern part of the neighborhood.
Carver: The Carver neighborhood, also called Sheep Hill, lies north of Broad Street (Richmond, Virginia) to the west of Jackson Ward and downtown Richmond. Carver was first settled by blue-collar Jewish and German tradesmen, and became a thriving black community in the early 1900s before being cut through by major thoroughfares such as Jefferson Davis Highway, Belvidere Street and Interstate 95. In modern times, Carver has seen new life, with redevelopment of older housing, some new homes, expansion to the north side of Broad Street of Virginia Commonwealth University facilities and student housing. Today, Carver is a diverse mix of students, singles, young families, and elderly residents.
Carytown & The Museum District: Carytown is a residential and commercial area that generally consists of 1920s era homes and privately owned shops, clothing stores, cafes, and restaurants along Cary Street. The Byrd Theatre, located in this district, is a historic 1920s era movie palace that shows second run movies and that offers periodic performances of its Wurlitzer organ.
The Museum District (also sometimes known as West of the Boulevard, and often the Upper Fan) is located just west of the Fan district (and the Boulevard) and north of Carytown. Historically, this area was a site where many Confederate Soldiers were hospitalized/lived after the American Civil War. Some large institutions in this district are the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the world headquarters for the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Virginia Historical Society.
The architecture is predominantly from the 1920s, though other styles from Victorian through Art Deco, up to the modern period, are also represented. Most houses are attached, or semi-detached, with occasional apartment buildings, and large Mansions along Monument Avenue. Occasional houses are distinguished, but as in the neighboring Fan the most interesting aspect is the general preservation of the neighborhood – it has mostly been preserved as built. It’s also just so happens to be the neighborhood that we’re located in.
The Fan District: So named because of the “fan” shape of the array of streets that extend west from Belvidere Street, on the eastern edge of Monroe Park, westward to the Boulevard. (Though the streets rapidly resemble a grid after moving through what is now Virginia Commonwealth University). The Fan is one of the easterly points of the city’s West End section, and is bordered to the north by Broad Street and to the south by 195). The western side is sometimes called the Upper Fan and the eastern side the Lower Fan, though confusingly the Uptown district is located near VCU in the Lower Fan. Many cafes and locally owned restaurants are located here, as well as historic Monument Avenue. Development of the Fan district was strongly influenced by the City Beautiful movement of the late 19th century.
The Fan District is primarily a residential neighborhood consisting of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century homes. It is also home to VCUUs Monroe Park Campus, several parks, tree lined avenues and three of the city’s historical monuments. The District also has numerous houses of worship, and locally owned businesses and commercial establishments. The Fan borders and blends with the Boulevard, the Museum District, and the Carytown district.
Oregon Hill: Oregon Hill is currently bordered by Cary St. to the north, Belvidere St. to the east, The James River and Canal to the south, and by the Hollywood cemetery and Linden St. to the west. It is located only a few blocks south of Virginia Commonwealth University. With generally low-rent dwellings, it is a popular place for students to rent houses or apartments. Recently, there has been much development throughout Oregon Hill. This development has occurred in several forms. Infill projects have erected houses in lots that were previously vacant due to fires or other demolition. Many old buildings have either been torn down and replaced with townhouses, or renovated. As of 2007, a new townhouse complex called “The Overlook” has been mostly completed and inhabited on the blocks overlooking the James River. Possibly one of the most important sites in this neighborhood is “Moss’s House.” As well as the “Burrito Lounge.” Up until the 1990s, original housing stock stood on and was inhabited in this area. It was demolished and the land stood vacant after 1997, during which time it was used as a riverside park overlooking the James. The complete demolition of all the houses on these 3 blocks was a source of bitter contention between the neighborhood and the Ethyl Corporation, which owned the land. Some original houses still look over the river to the west of this development. It is also home to Hollywood Cemetery and one heck of a view overlooking the James River and Downtown.
Manchester (Arts District): Manchester is an industrial and residential area directly south of downtown Richmond across the James River from the Canal Walk. Not to be confused with the Manchester area of Chesterfield County, Manchester (also known as Old Manchester and South Richmond) has a distinguished history of its own.
Originally known as Rocky Ridge, for over 200 years, Manchester was a separate town and later independent city on the south bank of the James River across from Richmond. It was commercially successful due to its agricultural mills and docks, where coal from the Midlothian area 13 miles west was transported on the Chesterfield Railroad, the first in Virginia, beginning in 1831. The City of Manchester merged with Richmond in 1910.
In current times, the Manchester section of Richmond is mostly notable for its new development. With many new homes and recent commercial additions such as Overnight Transportation, Legend Brewery, refurbished industrial building loft condominiums, Sun Trust’s Riverview Center, and the Plant Zero Cafe Art Works Studios and Galleries, and Plant Zero Event Space, it is seen as an area of rapid growth. Currently, these efforts of revitalization are moving the buzz word of the area, now known to locals as “Old Manchester.” Efforts from the city, developers, merchants, and local artists, and community members, are now maintaining an improved lifestyle.
Westover Hills: Westover Hills, one of Richmond’s more established neighborhoods, is located directly south of the James River where State Route 161, a major north-south roadway through the city, crosses via the Boulevard Bridge (also known as the “Nickel Bridge”, its original toll) from the City’s Fan District. The neighborhood lies along both the east and west sides of Westover Hills Boulevard in that area. This location makes it near the geographical center of the City. Most of the homes were built during the 1920-1940 period. The styles are highly varied, with Cape Cods located next to Spanish Colonial and Tudor Revival, with the odd farmhouse or Arts and Crafts thrown in. Many of the houses were first built to be near the terminus of the trolley line which ran up Semmes Avenue and terminated at Forest Hill Park, where an amusement park and swimming lakes were located.
Many housing sites feature large lots and a generally suburban feel. Some homes are located overlooking the banks of the James River, Westover Hills Boulevard, Forest Hill Ave. and Forest Hill Park. The neighborhood features well-established restaurants and businesses, along with churches and some arts establishments. The neighborhood was also home to Frederick William Sievers, sculptor of the Matthew Fontaine Maury and Stonewall Jackson monuments on Monument Avenue as well as the Virginia Monument at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. There is a historical marker at the location of his workshop in the yard of a West 43rd Street home.