Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Richmond Historical Information

By 1900, Richmond’s population grew to 85,050 people. There was the theater mogul Jake Wells. He built many vaudeville theaters and opera houses in Richmond during the early 20th century. There were other theater and opera houses which started to open on what became “Theater Row.” They included The Bijou, the Colonial Theater, and The Lyric Opera House. In 1903, the African American businesswoman and financier Maggie L. Walker chartered St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. She served as its first President. She was the first woman (of any race) bank President of America. Today, the bank is called Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. It is the oldest surviving African American bank in the United States. For over 250 years, the James River divided Richmond on the north bank from its sister, independent city of Manchester. It is located on the south bank. There was the issue of toll bridges over the James River among the Manchester and Richmond residents. By 1910, Manchester agreed to a political consolidation with the much larger independent city of Richmond. Richmond's better-known name was used for both areas as it contained the location of Virginia's state capital. Key features of the consolidation agreement were requirements that a "free bridge" across the James River and a separate courthouse in Manchester be maintained indefinitely. Instead of a barrier between neighboring cities, under the consolidation the James River became the centerpiece of the expanded Richmond. Although Manchester is now defunct as an independent city, vestiges of the name can be found in the Manchester Bridge, Manchester Slave Trail, and the Manchester Courthouse. In 1914, Richmond was the headquarters of the Fifth District of the Federal Reserve Bank. It was selected, because of the city’s geographic location. It was the place with importance as a commercial and financial center. It has transportation and communication facilities. Virginia had a leading regional role in the banking business. The bank was originally located near the federal courts downtown and moved to a new headquarters building near the Capitol in 1922 (today the Supreme Court of Virginia building), and finally to its present location overlooking the James River in 1978.

In 1919, (or at the end of World War I), Philip Morris was established in the city. Richmond was in the broadcasting era by late 1925 when WRVA (or known originally as Edgeworth Tobacco Station and owned by Larus & Brothers) went on air. There were white ballad singers and black gospel quartets who were popular on the radio during that time. Richmond back then knew of its southern roots. Entertainment locations grew in Richmond by the 1920’s. In 1926, the Mosque (now called the Altria Theater) was constructed by the Shriners as their Acca Temple Shrine, and since then, many of America's greatest entertainers have appeared on its stage beneath its towering minarets and desert murals. Loew's Theater was built in 1927, and was described as, "the ultimate in 1920s movie palace fantasy design." It later suffered a decline in popularity as the movie-going population moved to the suburbs, but was restored during the 1980's and renamed as the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts. In 1928, the Byrd Theater was built by local architect Fred Bishop on Westhampton Avenue (now called Cary Street) in a residential area of the city. To this day, the Byrd remains in operation as one of the last of the great movie palaces of the 1920's and 1930's. In 1926, the Carillon in Byrd Park was constructed as a memorial to the World War I dead. The Carillon still towers above Byrd Park in the city. In 1927, the dedication of Byrd Airfield (now Richmond International Airport) included a visit by Charles Lindbergh. The airport was named after Richard E. Byrd, the famous American polar explorer. The John Marshall Hotel opened its doors in October 1929.

The tobacco industry grew. This was the industry that helped Richmond recover from the Great Depression. Within 5 years, Richmond’s economy bounced back. Richmond attracted businesses relocating from other parts of the country as one of the northernmost cities of the right to work states. The population of the city had grown to 255,426 by 1936, and the value of new construction to the region was 250% over that of 1935. By 1938, Reynolds Metals moved its executive office from New York City to Richmond. By the end of World War II in 1945, more than 350,000,000 pounds of war supplies were being shipped through the Defense General Supply Center, located nine miles (14 km) south of the city. 1946 marked a crucial turning point for Richmond’s economy. During that year, the highest level of business activity was recorded in the history of the city. Within one year, Richmond was the fastest growing industrial center in the United States.

From 1945 to 1960, Richmond continued to grow. In 1948, Oliver Hill was the first black person elected to the city council of Richmond since the Reconstruction era. In 1948, WTVR-TV or the south’s “first television station” existed to broadcast in Richmond. Roads improved in the early20th century. Streetcars soon disappeared after World War II as they couldn’t compete with automobiles and buses. The Richmond-Petersburg area's interurban services were gone by 1939. The last streetcars ran in 1949 on the Highland Park line when they were replaced by buses. The National Auto Trails system grew into a national network of highways. The area was served by the Davis Memorial Highway or the busy north-south corridor in central Virginia shared by U.S. 1 and U.S. Route 301 through the cities of Richmond, Colonial Heights, and Petersburg. It crossed the James River on the Robert E. Lee Memorial Bridge. After World War II, with only four traffic lanes and long stretches of undivided roadway, the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway became a major area of traffic congestion, as well as the site of occasional spectacular and deadly head-on collisions. The 1952, the Wilton House museum opened up. In 1954,  Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County is decided as part of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling (officially overturned racial segregation in U.S. public schools). The Davis case was the work of Richmond civil rights attorneys Oliver Hill and Spottswood William Robinson III who took on the state's law firm of Hunton, Williams, Gay, Powell and Gibson, also based in Richmond. In 1955, VMFA, under the leadership of Leslie Cheek Jr, constructs a 500-seat proscenium stage known as the "Virginia Museum Theater" to feature the arts of drama, acting, design, music, and dance alongside the static arts of the galleries. In 1955, prior to the creation of the U.S. Interstate Highway System, the Virginia General Assembly created the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike Authority as a state agency to administer the new Turnpike of the same name. The new toll road was planned with only 15 exits, and most of these were well away from the highly developed commercial areas along parallel U.S. 301. Following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling the Byrd Organization (in 1956) passed the Stanley plan to advance Massive resistance policy of segregated schools. Some of the intellectual framework for these laws was due to forceful editorials from Richmond News Leader editor James J. Kilpatrick. Effects of these policies would affect the Richmond area for years, especially in rural areas like New Kent and Prince Edward County. The Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike opened in 1958, and soon was granted the Interstate 95 designation in the Richmond area, splitting into Interstates 85 and 95 at Petersburg.

New Developments came from 1960 to the year of 2000. Richmond had natural gas in 1950. Energy demands were desired to be met. By 1952, cigarettes production reached an all-time high for Richmond at 110 billion per year. There was the huge downtown boom from 1963 to 1965. This came to cause the construction of more than 700 buildings in the city. By 1968, Virginia Commonwealth University was created by the merger of the Medical College of Virginia with the Richmond Professional Institute. The Richmond Coliseum opened in 1971. In 1972, Richmond experienced severe flooding. Hurricane Agnes dumped 16 inches of rain on central Virginia. The rain flooded the James River to 6.5 feet. This was over the original 200 year old record. In 1984, Richmond completed the Diamond ballpark and the Richmond Braves or an AAA baseball team, was created for the Atlanta Braves. The Richmond Braves started to play in that year. In 1985, Richmond saw the opening of the 6th Street Marketplace. This is a downtown festival marketplace which was a solution to the downtown area’s urban erosion. The project did fail and the shopping center was closed and demolished in 2004. In 1990, Richmond native L. Douglas Wilder (the grandson of slaves) was sworn in as Governor of Virginia. Douglas Wilder was the first elected African American governor of any state in United States history. In 1995, a multimillion dollar floodwall was complete. This was down to protect the city and the Shockoe Bottom businesses from the rising waters of the James River. Also during 1995, a statue of Richmond native and tennis star Arthur Ashe was added to the famed series of statues on Monument Avenue. Notwithstanding objections of purists in the country, Ashe was added to a group of statues that previously had consisted primarily of prominent Confederate military figures (we know that the Confederacy was heinous and evil), as a sign of the changing nature of the city's population. Richmond continued to grow well into the 21st century.

By Timothy

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