The city of Richmond is located at the head of the navigable waters of the James River. The city, the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, was founded at the fall line of the James River where the coastal plain meets the piedmont plateau. Richmond is approximately 100 miles south of Washington, D.C. and midway between Atlanta and Boston.
The origins of Richmond - or "None-Such-Place"- are as colorful as the city itself. There was "no place so strong, so pleasant, and delightful in Virginia, for which we call it None-such." So wrote captain John Smith about the site he chose in 1609 when he established the first English settlement near the falls of the James River. Until that time, Indian tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy had inhabited the area. After two unsuccessful attempts to settle this naturally advantaged location for transportation and trade, settlers enjoyed a change of luck. By 1644, the construction of Fort Charles began attracting many new settlers. Soon, the community grew into a popular trading post for furs, hides and tobacco.
William Byrd I founded the second settlement when he patented land here in 1676. He soon built a fortified community, trading post, and warehouses just across the river near the mouth of Goode Creek. Richmond was founded in 1737 by Colonel William Byrd II. He inherited the former Stegg lands on both sides of the James River from his father and became known himself as the "Father of Richmond." He visited here in 1733 and planned to build a city. Four years later, his friend William Mayo made a map of Richmond and the first lots were sold. In 1737 William Byrd II laid out Richmond - which he named for Richmond upon Thames, now a borough of London - here in the Shockoe valley. A historic marker in Richmond on Franklin Street between 17th and 18th Streets commemorates the city's rich history.
There were only 250 people living in Richmond when it became a town in 1742. In early 1780, the State Capitol was temporarily moved to Richmond from Williamsburg at the request of the General Assembly, which wanted a central location that was less exposed to British incursions. In May of 1782, eight months after the British surrendered at Yorktown, Richmond was incorporated as a city and officially became Virginia's new capital. On July 19 of that same year, Richmond's first City Charter was legalized.
Memories of yesteryear fill the streets in Richmond. Magnificent monuments, cobblestone streets, a 300-year old farmers' market, renovated tobacco warehouses and the White House of the Confederacy are examples of the reminders Richmond offers about the capital city's place in our nation's turbulent, fascinating history. In Richmond, grand riverfront estates, wrought iron gates, gas-lit cobblestone streets and miles of historic battlefields blend the past into the present.
The history of the city is taught to some 140,000 students are enrolled in 132 elementary schools, 41 middle schools and 35 high schools, six exceptional education schools and five vocational and alternative schools through the Richmond Public School District and the school districts of the surrounding counties. The city is also home to four four-year universities and a number of two-year and special institutions that offer a full scope of higher educational and continuing education programs.
When not in school, the city and county Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities offers numerous opportunities for young people in cultural enrichment, health and physical education, recreation, citizenship and leadership and outdoor enrichment. The city and counties also provides after-school programs at many public school sites that offer a combination of social interaction, recreation, instruction and tutoring. Dance, swimming and golf programs are among those that have earned national recognition, and nearly every imaginable team sport is provided for young people in the Greater Richmond Metropolitan Area.
Few cities in the country can boast such a glorious Capitol Square. Situated on a hilltop in the heart of downtown, Capitol Square is an oasis of ancient trees and rolling green lawn. Its crowning glory is the neo-Classical Virginia State Capitol building, designed by Thomas Jefferson. It is in the Capitol Rotunda that you will find Virginia's most treasured work of art. George Washington actually posed for a life-sized statue sculpted by famous artist Jean Antoine Houdon. It was the only time he ever posed for a sculpture.
From spring and well into autumn you'll find people partaking of their workday lunches on the lawn of Capitol Square or you can join the business crowd for lunch in the plaza in the downtown financial district complete with live entertainment by local musicians. And don't miss the festivities during the Grand Illumination when all the Christmas lights are lit in the downtown financial district.
Richmond is made up of numerous distinct neighborhoods. The Shockoe Slip is a lively, restored neighborhood that was once home to the city's largest commercial trading district and was part of an area devastated by fire during the Civil War. Today 19th-century warehouses contain sophisticated restaurants, lively nightclubs and elegant shops. The Shockoe Bottom has also been completely restored thanks to the completion of a multi-million-dollar flood wall. The area is home to some of the area's most sought after restaurants and nightclubs. The neighborhood's most spectacular and most recognizable landmark is Main Street Station. Once the first sight rail travelers saw upon entering Richmond, it is still one of the city's most impressive sights and plans for the future include reviving rail travel to station. The 17th Street Farmer's Market is perhaps the oldest in the country and features a wide assortment of produce.
Often called the "Birthplace of Black Capitalism," Jackson Ward became a Black cultural and entrepreneurial center following the Civil War. It was here that Maggie Lena Walker became the first woman bank president and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson refined his dance moves. This historic district, which boasts more cast ironwork than any neighborhood outside New Orleans, is currently undergoing dramatic changes and restoration.
Once the most fashionable residential neighborhood in Richmond, today Court End is home to seven National Historic Landmarks, three museums and 11 other buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. This is an unusual concentration considering that there are fewer than 2,000 National Landmarks in the U.S.
Named for its streets that "fan" out from downtown, The Fan is said to be the largest intact Victorian neighborhood in the U.S. Best described as architecturally diverse, The Fan is comprised of everything from traditional brownstones to elegant townhouses in softly muted yellows, pinks and blues. The area is locally famous for its variety of eateries and sidewalk cafes and world famous for the border it shares with Monument Avenue.
The Historic West of the Boulevard Association was formed in1964 by residents who were interested in preserving the character of this historic and architecturally significant neighborhood. Architectural and historic treasures abound throughout the district, including Historic Monument Avenue, The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, The Virginia Historical Society and Museum, The Confederate Chapel and The Virginia Holocaust Museum. The eclectic shopping district Carytown defines the southern boundary. The abundance of world-class museums within the boundaries of the neighborhood has earned the area the nickname, "The Museum District." Home to 4600 residents the neighborhood comprises one of the largest Historic Districts in the state. Historic West of the Boulevard was nominated and won the citywide award for the Neighborhood of the Year in the past.
Church Hill sits poised above the James River as a time capsule of the 18th and 19th centuries. It is along the narrow, shady streets in this neighborhood that visitors will find elegantly restored townhouses presented with a dash of cobblestone, a sprinkling of gas lanterns and a heavy layering of cast ironwork.
The centerpiece of the district is historic St. John's Church. On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry presented his famous "Give me liberty, or give me death" speech here at the Second Virginia Convention. On summer Sundays, re-enactments give visitors the chance to sit next to Washington or Jefferson and relive this dramatic moment in our country's history.
Other areas of the Greater Richmond Metropolitan Area offer excellent opportunities for residences, education and recreation. We offer services in all of the surrounding counties of Henrico, Hanover, Chesterfield, New Kent, Powhatan, Goochland, Louisa and King William. Central Virginia offers every lifestyle imaginable - from country living to suburban and urban environments - all within an easy commute to downtown Richmond. Whether you're looking for a fast-paced urban lifestyle or a planned suburban community or privacy in the country, there's None-Such-Place as Richmond, Virginia!