From Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Richmond, Virginia there is an abundance of history waiting to be uncovered, so what better way to start your US history lesson by exploring one of these very locations. After a long drive the previous day, we were really excited to see what the historic city of Richmond, Virginia had to offer, though the elements had other ideas.
Imagine waking up full of excitement only to look outside and see torrential rain falling in an attempt to dampen your spirits. However, we are hardy folks and a little (ok A LOT) rain was not going to prevent us from exploring.
One-fourth of all the American Civil War’s battles and 60% of its casualties occurred within a 75-mile radius of Richmond.
If you are ever in the state of Virginia, I highly recommend taking time to check out Richmond, not only because of the steeped history here but also because of the plethora of attractions that are available. Here is a brief summary of the landmarks and attractions we were able to see during our short visit to Virginia’s capital.
Heading to the downtown area of the city, we immediately visited the site of the Virginia Capitol which is surrounded by a number of key statues such as the George Washington Monument, Bell Tower and Virginia Civil Rights Memorial. Despite the rain, Heather took some awesome pictures of these landmarks and really made it worthwhile exploring this part of the city.
The Capitol building is open to the public and guided tours are given daily. Parking is limited in the near vicinity to the Capitol so be prepared to walk from the parking lots at either 8th and Grace Street or 7th and Marshall Street.
We are both sticklers for monuments and statues, so with Richmond being such a hotspot for these iconic landmarks, it quickly made us forget about the constant downpour we were engulfed in. Capitol Square encompasses not only Richmond’s but the nation’s stance on the enduring principles and leadership that have evolved over the years.
The Capitol building is located directly next to the Executive Mansion which stands on the same grounds and provides residential quarters for Virginia governors. These grounds have housed many leading names from around the world including a visit from Queen Elizabeth II in 2007 and Winston Churchill back in 1929.
Are you a US history enthusiast? If you are, then visiting Capitol Square is just the start of the various landmarks worth exploring in Richmond. If you are not, don’t worry because you probably will be after seeing all of these cool attractions!
If you thought that exploring the grounds of Capitol Square was enough to satisfy your US history fix, don’t worry because Richmond has a wealth of other monuments and memorials worth experiencing. In fact, Monument Avenue is the name of a premier avenue style setting in the heart of the city, providing a variety of key memorials reflecting some notable figures throughout US history.
The layout of Monument Avenue almost made me think of the Champs-Elysees in Paris or the Mall in London. However, unlike these famous stretches that lead to a key attraction like the Arc de Triomphe or Buckingham Palace, Monument Avenue provides visitors with these iconic memorials at various stages along the avenue. The six monuments are specifically of five Virginian Confederate participants of the Civil War along with a notable sportsman that heralded from Richmond.
Despite the relentless rainfall that continued throughout the morning, we found a number of spots along Monument Avenue to park and explore each of the landmarks. Let’s take a look at each of the monuments along this avenue.
The Robert E. Lee monument is the largest of them all and was actually the first to be constructed dating back to 1890. In 1907, the J.E.B. Stuart equestrian memorial was constructed and is in close proximity to the Lee Memorial on the south-eastern end of Monument Avenue.
Just a few days after the unveiling of the Stuart Memorial, the Jefferson Davis monument was revealed to the local Richmond population. Davis was President of the Confederate States in the 1860s and there is actually a very close relationship with Robert E. Lee who is also idolized in Richmond as mentioned previously.
Whether this relationship was a positive as you might imagine…well I will let your imaginations run wild here because stories suggest accusations against him for treason led to Lee becoming a more affectionately followed confederate general!
Stonewall Jackson – now that’s a popular name in Richmond, Virginia! He is the best known Confederate general after Lee. Along with this iconic memorial along Monument Avenue, there is also a commemoration for him in Capitol Square, so whenever you explore Richmond you will likely see something related to Jackson.
The first of the final two monuments along this avenue is the Matthew Fontaine Maury memorial. The Maury Memorial is different to the aforementioned Confederate general memorials, because his role was in oceanography and chief of sea coast.
The creation of this memorial in 1929 does still provide evidence that Maury is a recognized figure though indirectly with the Confederacy, further supported when you see parades that pass by the previous four memorials but make a turn before reaching Maury’s monument! Controversial perhaps but it still provides an iconic representation of a key figure in Richmond’s history.
And then we have the final monument of a key figure in the world of sport – Arthur Ashe. If you thought the addition of Maury’s memorial in 1929 was controversial, the inclusion of Ashe’s on Monument Avenue caused even more uproar. It is much smaller than the rest of the memorials and is the only one that faces away from the center of Richmond.
Many claimed that Ashe had no direct relationship with the Confederate leaders while others (mainly African Americans) at the time claimed that his distinguished fame among the city and global sport warranted a spot along this avenue.
Regardless of your position on whether Ashe should be memorialized alongside these other leaders, his iconic place in the world of tennis ensures that wherever this monument is located it is a richly deserved accolade.
Experiencing the Capitol Square and Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia is just a small snippet of the amazing attractions on offer in this part of the state. Unfortunately our time in Virginia’s capital city was limited and after exploring the downtown historical area, we headed over to Agecroft Hall which adds a completely different dimension to the city as it’s roots are located back in Lancashire, England. But this just develops the variety that is on offer in Richmond, enhancing its reputation as a city with a plethora of attractions for all types of visitors.
Heather is a huge history fan so naturally she had a great time exploring Richmond and likely could have spent much more time taking in more of the museums and attractions available here. History is not my preferred domain but I have to admit that Richmond did provide a very different experience than just learning about history in a classroom setting or reading a book. There is nothing quite like seeing memorials, monuments and representations of history to really grab your attention. Richmond certainly achieves this and I look forward to returning here to learn much more in the near future!
Disclaimer – We would like to thank Visit Richmond for working with us during our visit to Virginia’s capital. The content of this post are solely our personal opinions/experiences and we were not financially compensated for this post.