The Seven Hills of Richmond seem to have always been a controversial topic in RVA. Today, many people consider the Seven Hills to be a myth.
The truth is, the official Seven Hills were declared in a 1937 ordinance by the City of Richmond but the ordinance was never passed.
Since then, the confusion has only grown larger. In 1947 The Richmond Times Dispatch published an article that attempted to clear the air about the Seven Hills. The article said that there were various lists of Richmond’s original hills and the hills that were found in 1937 were not accepted by the City Council.
Although the Seven Hills were never made official, those neighborhoods have shaped the city’s history and are a part of what make RVA unique.
Church Hill is Richmond’s first neighborhood and home to most of RVA’s original 32 blocks. The Church Hill area is filled with Richmond’s oldest history from the red brick sidewalks and gas street lamps to the classical architectural styles.
The center of the historic district is St. John’s Church, built in 1741, it’s where Church Hill gets its name.
During the 18th century Church Hill was the stomping ground for America’s early revolutionaries, like Patrick Henry. Who’s most well known for his “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech at St. John’s Church in 1775.
*1742— Church Hill population reaches 250.
The history of Church Hill radiates from the streets since most of the area’s real estate was built before the Civil War.
The classic architecture is what makes Church Hill one of Richmond’s most unique neighborhoods.
Architectural styles on display throughout the neighborhood include: Greek Revival, Italianate, Federal, and Queen Anne. By the 19th century Church Hill was booming and the population in Richmond had reached 5,730.
People began moving to the area for job opportunities in local tobacco factories like the Pohlig Box Factory located on 25th street just blocks away from St. John’s Church. Tobacco factories and industrial buildings provided Church Hillians with jobs and boosted the local population…
Richmond became the epicenter of life in the South during the Civil War and many areas around the Confederate Capital were burnt to the ground. It is a wonder so much of Church Hill was left untouched.
Some Church Hill buildings were transformed into hospitals during the war, the Pohlig Box Factory was among those.
One of the most famous hospitals of the time was the Chimborazo Hospital, located in Church Hill at the top of Chimborazo Hill. “The hospital on the hill” was known to be one of the most sophisticated, organized, and clean hospitals during the war.
According to the National Park Service, during the 3 years Chimborazo was in service over 75,000 patients passed through its doors. Today the hospital is located at Chimborazo Park and serves as a national medical museum.
In 1888 Richmond had also become the home of the nation’s first electric trolley system. These trolleys made traveling over Richmond’s many hills an easier task and created streetcar suburbs across the city.
By the turn of the 20th century Church Hill had already witnessed its fair share of history. The railroads in Richmond played a major role in jobs and the local economy.
In 1925 another piece of Richmond history was created when Church Hill Tunnel collapsed.
Before its major collapse the tunnel had always been problematic causing several homes to cave in. After rescue efforts were abandoned the tunnel was sealed encasing the workers and Locomotive 231.
Church Hill holds the key to much of Richmond’s history and the preservation of its history is important. Throughout the 1950s the neighborhood was in serious physical decline, as a result the Historic Richmond Foundation was established in 1956.
The foundation’s initial goal was to save and enhance the setting for St. John’s Church. A year later, in 1957 the City Council declared Church Hill to be a historic district. This was the formal beginning of the preservation movement throughout Richmond.
*2010– Church Hill population reaches over 5,600.
When the neighborhood was first developing people came to Church Hill for new opportunities and now people come for the character and ambiance that it has to offer.
Church Hill is a great place to live, work, and play.
The neighborhood atmosphere is a factor in what makes Church Hill unique. The classic homes overlooking the modern city create a balance between the past and present that is not found anywhere else in Richmond.
Businesses in Church Hill are as unique as the area, they range from photography studios to construction companies. Local restaurants like The Hill Café and community events like the Irish Festival bring Richmond-ers back to where it all began.
Besides the prime real estate, local businesses, hangouts and events on the hill there are several parks and overlooks throughout the neighborhood, like Libby Hill, Chimborazo, and Jefferson parks. Church Hill is home to the highest point in RVA and was even named one of the “10 Great Neighborhoods for Childless Adults,” by MSN.com. ”
A community happily caught between the past and the present,” the neighborhood is more than unique houses and the history behind them, it is the foundation of Richmond and that’s why it has remained such an appealing neighborhood for generations.
Sometimes we forget all that RVA has to offer. If there is something that you remember and would like to share about Church Hill feel free leave a comment below.
Be sure to keep an eye out for more about Richmond’s Seven Hills.
** Color photos were taken by Amber Shiflett