Richmond, Virginia is an open-air museum of architectural history. The city is filled with neighborhoods echoing the voices, tumultuous political history and culture of Virginia’s past. I like to think our job as residents of these historic homes is to act as stewards of the artistic expression of our shared history. There are so many historic neighborhoods in the city, I had to pick and choose which ones to shine a spotlight on for this essay. This was not easy, but I’m trying to give buyers a quick overview of the largest old and historic neighborhoods in Richmond. Here goes…
The Fan is special because its cohesive and predominantly intact nature reflect its original construction, mainly from 1890 to1920. Monument Avenue is its most recognizable street, famous for its statues of ‘heroes’ of the Confederate army and early 20th c mansions. The Fan got its name from the way the streets fan out from the axis point at Monroe Park like a fan. With VCU at the eastern end of the neighborhood, the Boulevard marks the most western point of the neighborhood. There is a gorgeous variety of architectural styles including Italianate, Colonial Revival, Richardsonian Romanesque, Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, and Spanish Colonial. Like most upper-middle class, turn-of-the-century neighborhoods in America, the Fan is densely-built with row-houses that boast front porticos, formal entryways, parlors, grandly decorated dining rooms and small urban ‘yards’. Sprinkled among the homes are numerous commercial properties that house small cafes and restaurants, coffee shops and local businesses. Also, there are a number of small but lovely triangle parks which are frequented by residents. The Fan contains numerous schools and churches and is convenient to downtown, Northside, Southside and the near West End. Prices range from approximately $325,000 – $1.9m.
Church Hill, which sits high above downtown and the river on one of Richmond’s highest points, began its growth in the early 19th century providing modest homes to mainly middle-class families of merchants and factory workers. It gets its name from St John’s Church built in 1743, where Patrick Henry gave the famous ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ speech. The neighborhood boasts hundreds of intact, historic homes that reflect its early occupants and extends north from Broad Street for about 15 blocks. Church Hill has some of the most breathtaking views of Richmond. Greek Revival is the most common architectural style, with most homes built of wood siding, with lovely formal porticos and tall windows. Church Hill houses are charming and simple. They typically have wide plank flooring and simple millwork. Other architectural styles in the neighborhood include Italianate, Second Empire and Queen Anne. There are four parks frequented by residents including Chimborazo, Libby Hill, Jefferson Park and Patrick Henry Park. Church Hill has really come into its own in the past few years, particularly regarding its thriving food scene, although it’s separation from the rest of Richmond by downtown makes it a bit of an island unto itself. Church Hill residents are very proud of their neighborhood, rightfully so, and sometimes refer to themselves as ‘ChurchHillians’. Prices can range from approximately $180,000 – $800,000.
Ginter Park and Bellevue
Ginter Park was planned and conceived by Tobacco tycoon Major Lewis Ginter in the late 19th century. He dreamed of a place that was close to the city but rural in nature. The neighborhood was filled with literally thousands of shade trees and hedges. The trolley ran directly through the Chamberlayne and Hermitage Boulevards. The boundaries lie roughly from North Avenue to Moss Side and Brook Road. Ginter Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Place. There is a dizzying array of styles in Ginter Park and Bellevue from Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Spanish Colonial, Bungalows, Queen Annes and American Foursquares. Bellevue, which is west of Ginter Park, was developed later from the 1920’s – 1940’s and features smaller homes typical of the era. MacArthur Avenue in Bellevue is a small but lively commercial strip that boasts a number of fine restaurants, a bustling coffee shop and a couple of antique shops. Both neighborhoods have nice, deep lots with mature plantings and the nearby Bryant Park provides lots of green space and hiking trails. Prices range approximately from $250,000 – $750,000
Bon Air was originally conceived as a ‘resort’ for Richmond’s wealthy city dwellers to escape the oppressive heat and congestion of 19th century Richmond. Bon Air comes from the French expression ‘good air’. Prominent railroad executives helped conceive of the Bon Air village and made the neighborhood easily accessible by rail from the city. Today, Bon Air encompasses about 8 square miles and boasts a large variety of architectural types. Unlike narrow and dense city neighborhoods, Bon Air homes have a distinctive “country’’ flair with numerous Queen Anne Victorians, Colonial Revivals and later smaller 1930’s and 40’s bungalows. They have sweeping porches typically on all sides of the house, large yards and beautiful windows and doors. Surprisingly, there are still a few unbuilt lots in Bon Air that can be had for under $200,000. Prices range approximately from $200,000 – $795,000.
These are just four of the beautiful, historic neighborhoods of Richmond. Westover Hills, Forest Hills, Brookland Park Boulevard, Highland Park, Jackson Ward, Carver, Byrd Park and Carver, Oregon Hill and Union Hill are others, and I hope to write in more detail about some of these neighborhoods in upcoming posts. There are lots of old and historic places to live to choose to live in Richmond, and I hope you’ll let me be your guide.