Posts Tagged ‘History’

Halloween is definitely getting closer and if you don’t feel like driving to the ends of Richmond Metro to get a pumpkin or have a genuine Halloween experience, you are in luck this weekend.  Sunday, October 17 from 2-5pm the Edgar Allan Poe Museum downtown is having their own pumpkin patch and other Halloween activities for the kids.  Kids will be able to wrap mummies, go on a scavenger hunt, and decorate pumpkins.  There will also be “Poe-themed” face painting and even a black cat pinata.  Costumes are a must and there will be a costume contest to reward the best.  Of course this isn’t a farm so the number of pumpkins is limited.  In other words, if you want a pumpkin in addition to all the other fun activities, get there early.

The Edgar Allan Poe Museum has the world’s finest collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s manuscripts, letters, first editions, memorabilia and personal belongings.  It also has one of the most beautiful gardens in Richmond.  The museum is located close to where Poe lived and worked in Richmond in the early nineteenth century.  What better place to get the full creepy Halloween experience!  The museum is located at 1914-16 East Main Street Richmond, VA 23223.  Admission is $6 which is a lot cheaper than some of the pumpkin patches are charging this year.  Just watch out for ravens 🙂


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For the sake of full disclosure, I must tell you that Belle Isle is one of my favorite places in all of Richmond.  I’ve been waiting to write about it so that I could make another trip there and have everything fresh in my mind (ok, I admit, I really just wanted to go again!).  Aside from its amazing beauty, incredible convenience, and utter peacefulness, the island also has a long detailed history (but really, I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you).  Don’t be turned off by the fact that summer is over.  This is an even better time to go –without the crowds. The fall colors on the island are incredible.

Belle Isle is a 54-acre island on the James River that is owned by the City of Richmond.  It is said that the island was first explored by Captain John Smith in the early 1600’s.  Later in the 1600’s the island was owned by William Byrd I (but really, what wasn’t?).  In the 1700’s the island was home to a fishery.  In the 1800’s the Old Dominion Iron & Nail Company built a factory on the island.  By the 1860’s the island was inhabited by an actual village with a school, church, and general store.  During the Civil War, the island served as a prison for Union soldiers (this is the story I had always heard).  Between 1862-1865 the island held approximately 30,000 POW’s.  After the war, the nail factory reopened and operated until 1972.

In 1904, Virginia Electric Power Company built a hydroelectric power plant on the island which operated until 1963.  The shell of this building still stands on the bank of the James and on warm days you can watch crazy people with no fear (or too many beers in them) jump from the building into the water.  The island was designated a Richmond city park in 1973.

Today Belle Isle is one of the most popular parks in Richmond with areas for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, picnicking, sunbathing, exploring, kayaking, and more.  It is also home to the Xterra Challenge Mountain Biking Tournament which is a testament to the quality of mountain biking opportunities available.  The island is accessible by a suspension foot bridge from the north bank, under the Lee Bridge (watch out for the bikes crossing over).  I know it looks scary, but trust me, you’ll make it.  If you are driving, park over by Tredegar (don’t expect to find parking on a warm summer day). If you are feeling more adventurous (and the River is low) you can hop the rocks across the James River to get to the island.

Once you come off the pedestrian bridge go straight for about 100 yards and then bear right to the river. This is the main trail that loops around the island.  You can continue following this path along the river, or veer off on one of the many  side paths that will take you over to the rocks where you can sunbathe, picnic, swim, or relax.  Just remember, the rock is a rock — its hard, hot, and slippery so wear good shoes and bring something to sit on (trust me here).  If you continue on the trail, you will come to the quarry and pond on the left.  I’ve spent many days fishing there.  Can’t say I ever caught anything, but the relaxation was satisfaction enough.  Not too far from this point is a picnic area (if you don’t find the rocks appealing).  After you are done eating, continue on the main loop about 150 yards and there will be a side path that will take you to remnants of the power plant dam, oh, and more rocks.  As you keep walking on the main trail, you will also see the power plant and the iron mill.  Continue circling around until you see a steel framed building right before the foot bridge, which is the old iron foundry.  If you stop to explore on the way, the entire loop will probably take you about an hour.  It is an easy path with markers and historical notes along the way.  If you are looking for something more challenging (hiking or biking) head to the thinner trails on the interior of the island.  Wherever you go, do not miss the fantastic views of the Richmond skyline, Hollywood Cemetary, and Tredegar Iron Works.

The park is open from sun up to sun down.  Alcohol is supposedly not allowed, but evidence of how much Richmonders care about that law is littered all over the park.  As an aside, please pick up your trash when you leave.  I was very surprised at how much trash I saw everywhere!  Dogs are allowed on the island, as long as they are on a leash. Admission to the park is 100% free!!

You can walk the 2 mile + trail in just about an hour, but plan to spend the whole day so you can really explore the island, and get some relaxation time in!

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If all the sun, sand, and barbecues just aren’t for you, but you still feel like you want to get away, then this is the perfect activity for you.  The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is hosting an exhibition called Tiffany: Color and Light starting on May 29-August 15.   This exhibition features the work of renowned designer and master of glass,  Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Think windows and glass lamps.  VMFA is the only American museum to show the exhibition (Go Richmond!).  To complement this exhibit, VMFA has put together a driving tour of Tiffany windows throughout Virginia.  Don’t worry if you don’t want to spend your weekend driving all over the state, a large portion of the windows are right here in Richmond.  Just download the audio off the website and you are set to go! 

The entire central Virginia tour is laid out here. I don’t think there is any set order to the sites and the interior access hours of each site are different so be sure to check before you go.  There are no entrance fees except where noted.  There are audio downloads for each site as well.  If you don’t have an iPod or some other fancy audio device to put it on, there are written transcripts you can print out and read to yourself. 

The first Richmond location is All Saints Episcopal Church which has 2 Tiffany windows.  Interior hours here are very limited, Tuesdays from 9-12pm.  Something tells me though that you can probably see the windows from the outside as well. 

Next head over to the Congregation Beth Ahabah Museum and Archives where you can see the Mount Sinai Tiffany window.  This isn’t the hospital, its a window featuring a large volcano and it is amazing. 

Now head over to the Historic Ginter Park neighborhood to visit Ginter Park Baptist Church where the ornamental windows from the former Grace Street Presbyterian Church are located.  If you want a tour you need to call ahead for an appointment, but roaming around on your own is free. 

Next go to N. Laurel, next to the Landmark Theater, and visit the Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church where you can see the Angel Gabriel window.  

From here, drive over to the Lewis Ginter Mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetary.  Here you will find 3 Tiffany windows that are incredible.  There is no audio for this portion of the tour, but that is probably because Hollywood Cemetary offers their own walking tours. 

Maymont Mansion  is your next stop, where you can see a 15 foot stained glass window over the mansion’s grand staircase.  The mansion also has many other pieces by Tiffany.  There is a suggested donation of $5/person for entrance into the mansion.  Maymont is also offering a a 1 hour guided tour every Friday that features Tiffany’s works throughout the mansion and is meant to compliment the VMFA exhibit.  There is a $10/person charge for this tour, but if you are a diehard, why not go for it, everything else has been free up to this point.  

Saint James Episcopal Church has 4 windows and free admission, but if you want to get in, you need to call ahead.  There is also no audio for this stop so you may want to try and view the windows from outside. 

Next is the biggie, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church where you will find 10 amazing Tiffany windows and an altar piece mosaic.  This is one of the largest displays of Tiffany pieces in the area.  The Church also put together an awesome online site where you can learn everything there is to know about the windows.  If you were going to go to just one place on the tour, this would be it.  There are good access hours here and free guided tours. 

Finish up back at the VMFA where in addition to the exhibit, there are 2 Tiffany windows on display.  If all of those stops weren’t  enough for you, there are plenty of stops in Charlottesville and Petersburg too so why not make a few days of it.  I’m not sure the kids will get a kick out of it, but what a wonderful and peaceful way to spend a day or two.

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With Memorial Day coming up this weekend, I thought a trip to the Virginia War Memorial would be fitting.  The Memorial is located just north of the river, off of Belvidere Street.  It is currently made up of the Shrine of Memory, Torch of Liberty, Flag Court, Rose garden, and a Visitor Center.  An education center is currently under construction and is estimated to open in September 2010. 

The General Assembly first authorized the Memorial in 1950 as a way to honor Virginia residents who died in WWII.  While the Memorial was still in the planning stages, the U.S. entered the Korean war.  In 1953, after the war ended, the memorial was expanded to include those who died in the Korean War as well.  The Memorial was completed in 1955.  An addition was added in 1981 for the victims of the Vietnam War.  In 1996, names of those killed in the Persian Gulf War were added.   There are currently 11,634 names on the Memorial, arranged first by counties, then cities, then alphabetical.  Plans are underway to honor those who have died in Iraq and Afghanastan too.

The Shrine of Memory is the heart of the Memorial, it is the wall of names.  This is an open air Memorial with the wall on one side made of glass and the other side is made of stone.  The 11,000+ names are engraved on both the stone and glass walls.  There is a beautiful view of the city through the glass walls.   At one end of the Shrine area is a large statue named Memory.   The statue was carved from 100,000 pounds of white marble and stands 23 feet tall.  This is also where you will find the Liberty Torch, also called the eternal flame, and the reflecting pool.

Just outside the Shrine is Flag Court where seven flags fly: Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Merchant Marines, and the Virginia War Memorial. In the center of this semicircle of flags flies the POW/MIA flag in memory of those Prisoners of War and Missing In Action not yet recovered.

There are also 2 rose gardens at the Memorial.  Next to the Visitors Center there is a large bed of red rose bushes named Veterans Honor Rose.  Each day one of these roses is placed at the base of the statue, Memory.  Along the front retaining wall there is a bed of lilac long stem roses named the World War II Memorial Rose.

The War Memorial is open 7 days a week with free admission and free parking.  Tours are available by reservation only.  The Shrine of Memory is open all hours, but the Visitor’s Center and I’m assuming the upcoming educational center does have staffed hours.  All staff are volunteers, with many veterans volunteering. 

This Monday, May 31st, at 10am the 11th District American Legion will host a Memorial Day Ceremony at the War Memorial.  The guest speaker will be Mr. Ronald Miluszewski, Commander, Department of Virginia’s American Legion. This ceremony will be held outdoors and seating will be provided. In addition to Veterans presenting memorial wreaths, there will also be a Color Guard, buglers, rifle squad,and the  St. Andrew’s Society Pipe and Drummers.  The event is family friendly and what better way to show our kids that Memorial Day means more than just a day off of school.  Thanks to all our servicemen and women past, present, and future!

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It has been a rainy week and looks to be a rainy weekend.  Many of you have been asking for inside activities, so the next few days will cover a few inside activities for everyone.  Today’s activity is Theater IV – The Children’s Theatre of Richmond.  Theater IV is a nonprofit professional theater for younger audiences and families that tours all over the United States, in addition to performing here in Richmond.  

Theatre IV was founded in 1975 and was Virginia’s first professional theatre for younger audiences. They are located in the Empire Theatre, which they took four years to restore, on Broad Street.  The Empire Theatre was built in 1911 and is one of Virginia’s oldest theatres.  Theatre IV has been recognized as the “most outstanding contribution to children’s theatre” in the Southeastern United States.  It was also the only theatre in the U.S. to be chosen by the U. S. Dept. of Justice, the U. S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies as one of the twelve most proactive youth arts programs in the nation in 1995.  The founders of Theatre IV were named two of the 100 Most Influential Richmonders in the 20th Century.  In 2001, Theatre IV took over the responsibilities of the Barksdale Theatre and formed a partnership that still exists today.  Theater IV was also asked to perform their production of Buffalo Soldier at the pentagon as a morale booster after September 11.  They were the first professional theatre in the U.S. to perform inside the Pentagon.  Theatre IV has won the Family Favorite Award for Best Family Theatre in Richmond every year that it was offered. 

In my mind, one of the best things about this organization is the role its taken in the Richmond community and with children’s issues throughout the United States.  Some of the causes they have taken on include speech instruction for hearing-impaired children, child sexual abuse, juvenile delinquency & runaways, alcohol and drug abuse prevention, Vietnam POW’s, child safety, Richmond Boys Choir, and child education to name a few.  

Theatre IV puts on a wide variety of plays ranging from Jack and the Beanstalk & Snow White to I Have A Dream and Harriet Tubman.  There are also holiday favorites like Twas the Night Before Christmas and A Christmas Carol.  All shows are targeted at younger audiences, around age 8 and older.  Right now Theatre IV is putting on The Sound of Music and is getting rave reviews.  I haven’t actually been to this show yet so I can’t speak to it personally but reviews online and in the Times Dispatch are glowing.  In fact, many of you have already posted on this site that you loved it.  I’m looking forward to seeing it myself.  Through the end of the month, there will be kid-friendly shows at earlier times with snacks for the kids.  In June and July there will be later shows with a full bar.  Tickets are approximately $40.  You can purchase tickets here

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I know I said I would never type the word “garden”‘ again, but in Richmond, that is just about impossible.  Besides, this is not another home and garden tour, and it’s not your daughter’s tea party either.  The Secret Garden Party is a progressive party that travels through five different urban garden sites downtown.  For those of you that have never been to a progressive dinner, a progressive party is basically a travelling party with different stops and features along the way.  This year the party will stop at the gardens of the Valentine Richmond History Center, the John Marshall House, the Museum and White House of the Confederacy, Monumental Church (Historic Richmond Foundation) and the VCU Massey Cancer Center’s Healing Garden.  At each “stop” you will be treated to different live music, cocktails, refreshments, and gallery/museum tours.   Each site will feature a different theme and food:

  • Monumental Church will host a “Very Virginia” themed night with Virginia’s signature foods and wines.  Food will be provided by Very Richmond Indeed Catering and live music will be Justin Smith’s Jazz Band Trio.  Wine samples will be from various Virginia vineyards.  
  • The Museum and White House of the Confederacy will feature BBQ from Double T’s (in Carytown) and more Virginia wines (come on, you can never have enough).  Live music will be provided by The John Conley Trio.  
  • The Historic John Marshall House and Garden will highlight the area’s “Federal” roots by featuring period dancers, traditional music, and Madeira (John Marshall’s favorite drink).  
  • The Healing Garden at VCU’s Massey Cancer Center  will feature champagne and desserts baked by Massey volunteers.  Live music will be provided by Classical Guitarist, Leah Kruszewski.  
  • The Wickham House Garden at the Valentine Richmond History Center will have a 1930’s theme featuring period food and vodka gimlets.  Live music will be provided by Campbell’s Ramblers and will focus on ballads, blues, and dance favorites from the 1920’s-1930s.  


Each location will also feature a piece of Richmond history including the Richmond theater fire, the Civil war, and John Marshall.  You can start at any of the five sites and walk from garden to garden, there is no required order.  There will also be a shuttle circulating among all the sites if needed, but all the sites are located within three square blocks. 

The party will be held Thursday, May 13th from 5:30-8pm.  Tickets are $30/Single and $50/Couple beforehand and $35/Single and $60/Couple at the door.  Your ticket price includes all your refreshments, live music, and admission to each museum garden.  No word on whether the cocktails and wine are included in that price, but it looks promising.  Tickets can be purchased online here.  This is the first year of this event, so please check back in with your reviews!

Here is an awesome map of all the gardens provided b RVA News:

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So today is Mother’s Day (not really but pretend your on Oprah or Dave Letterman or something where they film a day early because they won’t be around on the actual holiday) and as we have already discussed at length, moms love flowers.  That is probably why the Museum District Association holds their annual Home and Garden Tour every year (hence the “annual”) on Mother’s Day weekend. 

There are many beautiful homes on the tour this year, each with their own story:

  • 6 North Boulevard – Designed in 1921 by Marcellus Wright, a Virginia architect who also designed Richmond’s Landmark Theater.  
  • 16 South Boulevard Unit #3 – Condo featuring beautiful antiques in a building built in 1918. 
  • 3120 Floyd Avenue – A home built in 1915 that still has its original stair rail, wood paneling, moldings, fireplaces, doors and more.
  • 3124 Floyd Avenue – Arts and Crafts home  built in 1915 with original details
  • 3124 Patterson Avenue –  Home built in 1921.  Each room features work by a Virginia artist.
  • 3126 Patterson Avenue – Home built in 1921 featuring art and photography by local artists
  • 3317 Stuart Avenue – A home built in 1925 with historic details mixed with modern conveniences
  • 3400 Park Avenue – Classic American Foursquare  originally built on the corner of the W.S. Forbes estate. 

The tour runs from 1-5pm.  Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the tour at Albert Hill Middle School (where the tour begins).  Advance tickets are available at several places around Richmond including Ellwood Thompsons, Strawberry Street Vineyard (for those of you going to the Strawberry Street festival today), Cocoanut Jewelry (Willow Lawn and Short Pump), and  Williams & Sherrill.  Don’t forget this is a walking tour so wear comfortable shoes.  Hope you enjoy and have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

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