Richmond, Virginia

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Richmond (/ˈrɪtʃmənd/) is the capital city of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. It is located in the center of Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and the Greater Richmond Region. Richmond was founded in 1742 and has been a city in its own right since 1871. The city's population was 204,214 in 2010, according to the 2010 census[1], by 2020, it had risen to 226,610, making Richmond Virginia's fourth-most populous city. The Richmond Metropolitan Area has a population of 1,260,029 people, making it the state's third most populated metro.

Richmond is 44 miles (71 kilometres) west of Williamsburg, 66 miles (106 kilometres) east of Charlottesville, 91 miles (146 kilometres) east of Lynchburg, and 92 miles (148 kilometres) south of Washington, D.C. The city is located near the crossroads of Interstate 95 and Interstate 64, and is surrounded by Interstate 295, Virginia State Route 150, and Virginia State Route 288. It is surrounded by Henrico and Chesterfield counties. Midlothian is in the southwest, Chesterfield is in the south, Varina is in the southeast, Sandston is in the east, Glen Allen is in the north and west, Short Pump is in the west, and Mechanicsville is in the northeast.[2][3]

Richmond was founded on the site of a Powhatan Confederacy colony that was briefly inhabited by English colonists from Jamestown from 1609 to 1611. Richmond, as we know it today, was founded in 1737. In 1780, it replaced Williamsburg as the capital of the Virginia Colony and Dominion. Several noteworthy events occurred in the city during the Revolutionary War period, including Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" speech in 1775 at St. John's Church and the passage of Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Richmond served as the Confederacy's capitol during the American Civil War. It began the twentieth century with one of the earliest successful electric streetcar networks in the world. The Jackson Ward neighborhood is a traditional hub of African-American commerce and culture.

Richmond's economy is primarily driven by law, finance, and government, with federal, state, and local governmental agencies, as well as significant legal and banking enterprises, all located in the downtown region. Both a United States Court of Appeals (one of 13) and a Federal Reserve Bank (one of 12) are located in the city. Fortune 500 businesses Dominion Energy and WestRock are based in the city, with others in the metropolitan area.[4] The city continues to have one of the highest rates of murder and violent crime in the country, making it one of the most hazardous cities in the country.[5][6][7][8]


Colonial Era[edit]

Captain Christopher Newport led explorers northwest up the James River to an inhabited territory inside the Powhatan Nation after the first permanent English-speaking settlement was established in April 1607 at Jamestown, Virginia.[9]

In 1611, the first European settlement in Central Virginia was established at Henricus, near the confluence of Falling Creek and the James River. The Falling Creek Ironworks was founded in 1619 by early Virginia Company residents who were attempting to create profitable businesses. In the late 1600s and early 1700s, the Falls of the James saw greater White colonization after decades of conflict between the Powhatan and the settlers.[10]

After an invasion of Manahoacs and Nahyssans from the north, the Battle of Bloody Run was fought near Richmond in 1656.

Major William Mayo was commissioned by planter William Byrd II in 1737 to design the initial town grid. Because the view of the bend in the James River at the fall line was similar to the view of the River Thames from Richmond Hill in England (which was named after Henry VII's ancestral town of Richmond, North Yorkshire[19]), where he had spent time during his youth, Byrd named the city after the English town of Richmond near (and now part of) London. In April 1737, the community was laid out, and in 1742, it was constituted as a town.[11]


In 1775 Patrick Henry delivered his famous "Give me liberty, or give me death" speech in St. John's Church in Richmond, crucial for deciding Virginia's participation in the First Continental Congress and setting the course for revolution and independence.[12] The state capital was moved from Williamsburg, the colonial capital, to Richmond on April 18, 1780, to provide a more concentrated site for Virginia's growing westerly population and to isolate the city from British attack.[13] The latter purpose was in vain, as British troops burnt Richmond in 1781 under the command of Benedict Arnold, forcing Governor Thomas Jefferson to flee while the Virginia militia, led by Sampson Mathews, defended the city.[14]

Early United States[edit]

Richmond bounced back swiftly after the war, and by 1782, it was a bustling metropolis.[15] The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (written by Thomas Jefferson, 1743–1826) was passed in 1786 in the temporary capitol in Richmond, laying the groundwork for the separation of church and state, which was a critical component in the creation of religious liberty in the United States.[16] The Greek Revival style of the Virginia State Capitol building, planned by Jefferson with the help of Charles-Louis Clérisseau and finished in 1788, provided a permanent home for the new government.

Richmond grew in importance as an industrial centre after the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). George Washington helped design the James River and Kanawha Canal from Westham east to Richmond to bypass Richmond's rapids on the upper James River, with the goal of providing a water route across the Appalachian Mountains to the Kanawha River flowing westward into the Ohio and eventually to the Mississippi River. The image in the centre of the city flag represents the canal boatmen's legacy. Richmond became home to some of the country's largest manufacturing facilities, including iron works and flour mills, the largest of their sort in the South, as a result of this and extensive access to electricity due to the falls. By the mid-nineteenth century, anti-slavery sentiment was growing; in one famous 1848 case, Henry "Box" Brown made history by having himself nailed into a small box and shipped northward on the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad (a well-used "Underground Railroad" route for escaping disguised slaves) to abolitionists in Philadelphia, in the free state of Pennsylvania, escaping slavery.[17] The Richmond and Petersburg Railroad connected Richmond to Port Walthall in 1850, allowing ships carrying more than 200 tonnes of freight to connect to Baltimore or Philadelphia and passenger liners to reach Norfolk, Virginia via the Hampton Roads harbour.[18] The Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad, which was eventually supplanted by CSXT, connected Richmond to the north in the nineteenth century.

American Civil War[edit]

The state legislature voted to secede from the United States and join the newly formed Confederate States of America on April 17, 1861, five days after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. Official action was taken in May, after the Confederacy committed to relocate its national capital from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond. The new capital, on the other hand, was at the end of a long supply route, making it difficult to protect. For four years, the Army of Northern Virginia and the Confederacy's greatest troops and leaders were required to defend it. During the campaigns of 1862 and 1864–65, it became the principal objective of Union soldiers.

Richmond held positions in local, state, and federal government. One of the main slave marketplaces, hospitals, and a railroad hub The Tredegar Iron Works, the largest arms factory in the conflict, was also located there. It built artillery and other weapons, including the 723 tonnes of armour plating that protected the CSS Virginia, the world's first ironclad warship, and much of the Confederates' heavy ordnance machinery.[19] In Jefferson's constructed Virginia State Capitol, the Confederate States Congress shared rooms with the Virginia General Assembly, while the Confederacy's official residence, known as the "White House of the Confederacy," was two blocks away on Clay Street. The Seven Days Battles, which took place in late June and early July 1862, were an unsuccessful attempt by Union General-in-Chief George B. McClellan to take Richmond during the Peninsula campaign.

After adjacent Petersburg and many remaining rail supply routes to the south and southwest were destroyed three years later, in March 1865, Richmond became untenable. The desperate attack on Fort Stedman east of Petersburg by Confederate General John B. Gordon on March 25 failed. On April 1, Federal Cavalry General Philip Sheridan, assigned to interdict the Southside Railroad, met Southern General George Pickett's brigades at the Five Forks junction, smashing them and taking thousands of prisoners, encouraging Union General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant to order a general advance. Confederate casualties approached 5,000 when the Union Sixth Corps burst through Confederate positions on the Boydton Plank Road south of Petersburg, almost a tenth of Lee's defending army. President Jefferson Davis was then informed that Lee was going to leave Richmond.

On April 2, 1865, the Confederate Army began the evacuation of Richmond. That night, as government officials burnt records and fleeing Confederate forces burned tobacco and other warehouses to deny their contents to the victors, Davis and his cabinet, along with the government archives and Treasury bullion, left the city by train. Confederate troops blew up the gun powder magazine early the next morning, killing several paupers who had been housed in the makeshift Almshouse. General Godfrey Weitzel, commander of the United States Colored Troops' 25th Corps, accepted the city's capitulation from the mayor and a group of leading people on April 3, 1865.[20] The roaring fires were eventually put out by Union troops, but nearly a quarter of the city's buildings were destroyed.

While Davis attempted to organise his residual Confederate administration farther southwest at Danville, President Abraham Lincoln paid a visit to Grant at Petersburg on April 3 and took a launch to Richmond up the James River the next day. Lincoln met with Confederate Assistant Secretary of War John A. Campbell and presented him with a memorandum inviting Virginia's state legislature to put an end to the conflict. Lincoln rescinded his offer and ordered Weitzel to prevent the former Confederate state legislature from meeting after Campbell spun the note to Confederate legislators as a possible end to the Emancipation Proclamation. On April 6, Union soldiers killed, injured, or captured 8,000 Confederate men southwest of Petersburg near Sayler's Creek, as the Southerners continued their general retreat southwestward. Lee continued to refuse Grant's capitulation proposals until April 8, when Sheridan's soldiers and cavalry advanced around the diminishing Army of Northern Virginia and arrived in front of his retreating forces, cutting off the line of retreat to the southwest. At Appomattox Court House, he surrendered his remaining 10,000 troops, and the next morning he met Grant at the McLean Home. Davis was apprehended on May 10 near Irwinville, Georgia, and returned to Virginia, where he was imprisoned at Fort Monroe for two years until being released on bond.


Richmond resurrected as an industrial powerhouse a decade after the Civil War's burning ruins, with iron front buildings and vast brick factories. Canal traffic peaked in the 1860s, and railroads gradually took over, allowing Richmond to become a significant railroad junction, including the world's first triple railroad crossing.[21] Tobacco warehousing and processing remained important, aided by James Albert Bonsack of Roanoke's invention of the world's first cigarette-rolling machine in 1880/81. Richmond's revival was aided by the Richmond Union Passenger Railway, the country's first successful electrically powered trolley system. The first line of the system, designed by electric power pioneer Frank J. Sprague, opened in 1888, and electric streetcar lines quickly spread to neighbouring cities.[22] Transition from streetcars to buses began in May 1947 and was completed on November 25, 1949.

20th century[edit]

The city's population had grown to 85,050 people in 5 square miles (13 square kilometres) at the turn of the century, making it the most densely inhabited city in the Southern United States. Richmond's population was 62.1 percent white and 37.9 percent black in 1900, according to the Census Bureau.[23] The city's historic Jackson Ward became renowned as the "Wall Street of Black America" as freed slaves and their descendants established a thriving African-American commercial community.

Maggie L. Walker, an African-American businesswoman and financier, founded St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903 and served as its first president.[24] Walker's building was created by Richmond's first black architect, Charles Thaddeus Russell.[25] Walker was the first female bank president in the United States. Today the bank is called the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company and is the country's oldest surviving African-American bank. Other figures from this time included John Mitchell Jr. In 1910 the former city of Manchester consolidated with Richmond, and in 1914 the city annexed Barton Heights, Ginter Park, and Highland Park in Henrico County.[26] In May 1914 Richmond became the headquarters of the Fifth District of the Federal Reserve Bank.

Several notable performing arts venues, including the Landmark Theatre, Byrd Theatre, and Carpenter Theatre, were built throughout the 1920s. In 1925, WRVA, the city's first radio station, began operating. Richmond's first television station, WTVR-TV (CBS 6), was the first television station south of Washington, D.C. A "downtown boom" occurred between 1963 and 1965, resulting in the construction of almost 700 structures.[27] The Medical College of Virginia and the Richmond Professional Institute merged to form Virginia Commonwealth University in 1968. On the southside, Richmond's bounds grew by 27 square miles (70 square kilometres) in 1970. On January 1, 1970, after several years of legal battles in which Chesterfield County battled annexation, almost 47,000 former Chesterfield County residents found themselves within the city's borders.[28] Still-unresolved issues emerged in 1996 when a statue of African American Richmond resident and tennis champion Arthur Ashe was added to the collection of Confederate generals on Monument Avenue.[29] On July 10, 1996, Ashe's bronze statue was finally completed, facing the opposite direction as the Confederate generals, after months of controversy.[30]

In 1995, a multimillion-dollar flood wall was erected to protect the city's low-lying neighbourhoods from the swelling James River. As a result, the River District's businesses flourished quickly, and the region is now home to much of Richmond's entertainment, dining, and nightlife activity, thanks to the addition of a Canal Walk along the city's former industrial canals.[31][32]


37°32′N 77°28′W (37.538, 77.462) is the coordinates for Richmond. The city has a total area of 62 square miles (160 square kilometres), of which 60 square miles (160 km2) is land and 2.7 square miles (7.0 km2) (4.3 percent) is water, according to the United States Census Bureau.[33] The city is located in Virginia's Piedmont region, at the James River's highest navigable point. The Piedmont region, which lies between the low, flat Tidewater region and the Blue Ridge Mountains, is characterised by relatively low, rolling hills. The James River, the Appomattox River, and the Chickahominy River are all important bodies of water in the area.

The independent cities of Richmond, Colonial Heights, Hopewell, and Petersburg, as well as the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, Powhatan, and Prince George, make up the Richmond-Petersburg Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the 44th largest in the United States.[34] As of July 1, 2009 the Richmond—Petersburg MSA's population was 1,258,251.

Richmond is 21.69 miles north of Petersburg, VA, 66.10 miles southeast of Charlottesville, VA, 79.24 miles northwest of Norfolk, VA, 96.87 miles south of Washington, DC, and 138.72 miles northeast of Raleigh, NC.


Richmond's original street grid, laid out in 1737, included the area between what are now Broad, 17th, and 25th Streets and the James River. Modern Downtown Richmond is slightly farther west, on the slopes of Shockoe Hill. Nearby neighborhoods include Shockoe Bottom, the historically significant and low-lying area between Shockoe Hill and Church Hill, and Monroe Ward, which contains the Jefferson Hotel. Richmond's East End includes neighborhoods like rapidly gentrifying Church Hill, home to St. John's Church, as well as poorer areas like Fulton, Union Hill, and Fairmont, and public housing projects like Mosby Court, Whitcomb Court, Fairfield Court, and Creighton Court closer to Interstate 64.[35]

The socioeconomic and architectural diversity of the area between Belvidere Street, Interstate 195, Interstate 95, and the river, which includes Virginia Commonwealth University, is striking. The Carver and Newtowne West areas, north of Broad Street, are demographically similar to Jackson Ward, with Carver undergoing some gentrification due to its closeness to VCU. Monument Avenue, an exceptional collection of Victorian architecture, and many students may be found in the affluent region between the Boulevard, Main Street, Broad Street, and VCU, known as the Fan. The Virginia Historical Society and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts are located west of the Boulevard in the Museum District. Byrd Park, Maymont, Hollywood Cemetery, the largely black working-class Randolph neighbourhood, and white working-class Oregon Hill are all located south of the Downtown Expressway. Carytown is a popular commercial area located between Interstate 195 and the Boulevard on Cary Street.[36]

Several historic districts on Richmond's Northside are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[37] At the end of the 19th century, neighbourhoods like Chestnut Hill-Plateau and Barton Heights sprung up as a result of the new streetcar system, which allowed people to reside on the outskirts of town while still commuting to work downtown. Azalea, Barton Heights, Bellevue, Chamberlayne, Ginter Park, Highland Park, and Rosedale are all popular Northside neighbourhoods.[38]

The upscale, suburban West End is further west. Windsor Farms is one of the most well-known portions of the park. Laurel, Farmington, and the regions surrounding the Regency Mall are among the West End's middle- to low-income communities. Glen Allen, Short Pump, and the districts of Tuckahoe north and northwest of Regency Mall are all more affluent neighbourhoods. On this side of town, along the Richmond-Henrico boundary, lie the University of Richmond and the Country Club of Virginia.[39]

The Southside refers to the area of the city south of the James River. The affluent and middle-class suburban areas of Westover Hills, Forest Hill, Southampton, Stratford Hills, Oxford, Huguenot Hills, Hobby Hill, and Woodland Heights, as well as the impoverished Manchester and Blackwell areas, the Hillside Court housing projects, and the ailing Jefferson Davis Highway commercial corridor, are all located on the Southside. Fawnbrook, Broad Rock, Cherry Gardens, Cullenwood, and Beaufont Hills are some of the other Southside neighbourhoods. Before being annexed by Richmond, much of Southside had a suburban flavour as part of Chesterfield County, most notably in 1970.[40]


Richmond has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen: Cfa) with very hot, humid summers and fairly chilly winters, according to the Köppen climatic classification.[41] Due to the winter chill, Richmond is classified as a Temperate Oceanic Climate per the Trewartha classification.[42] In the winter, the mountains to the west function as a partial barrier to cold, continental air outbreaks; Arctic air is delayed long enough to be changed, then further warmed as it approaches Richmond. The warm summers and cool winters are aided by the open seas of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The coldest weather usually occurs from late December to early February, with an average of 6.0 days with highs below freezing. The January daily mean temperature is 37.9 °F (3.3 °C), with a daily mean temperature of 37.9 °F (3.3 °C).[43] The city of Richmond, as well as the locations south and east of it, are in USDA Hardiness Zone 7b. Hardiness Zone 7a encompasses the suburbs and areas to the north and west of Downtown.[44] Temperatures rarely drop below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius), with the most recent subzero reading occurring on January 7, 2018, when the temperature reached 3 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius).[45] The average daily temperature in July is 79.3 degrees Fahrenheit (26.3 degrees Celsius), with high temperatures reaching or exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) on 43 days of the year; 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) temperatures are not uncommon but do not occur every year.[46] Extremes in temperature have ranged from −12 °F (−24 °C) on January 19, 1940, up to 107 °F (42 °C) on August 6, 1918.[47] The record cold maximum is 11 °F (−12 °C), set on February 11 and 12, 1899. The record warm minimum is 81 °F (27 °C), set on July 12, 2011.[48]

The distribution of precipitation is quite consistent throughout the year. Dry spells of many weeks are not uncommon, especially in the autumn, when long stretches of pleasant, moderate weather are the norm. Total monthly amounts vary greatly from year to year, therefore no single month can be relied upon to be regular. Seven of the twelve months have seen snowfall. On average, 4 in (10 cm) or more falls in less than 24 hours happen once a year.[49] Snowfall is normally moderate, with an average of 10.5 inches (27 cm) per season.[50][51] Snow usually only lasts one or two days on the ground, but in 2010 it lasted 16 days (January 30 to February 14). Ice storms (also known as freezing rain or glazing) are very uncommon, but they are rarely strong enough to cause significant damage.

The James River reaches tidewater near Richmond, where flooding can occur at any time of year, with March being the most common month and July being the least. During the summer and early fall, hurricanes and tropical storms were to blame for the majority of the flooding. Hurricanes that passed close to Richmond dumped record amounts of rain. Within a six-week period in 1955, three hurricanes dumped record amounts of rain on Richmond. Hurricanes Connie and Diane were the most notable, each bringing severe rains five days apart. The remnants of Hurricane Gaston dumped up to 12 inches (300 mm) of rain on the downtown area in 2004, causing major flood damage.[52]

Snow and freezing rain cause the most damage in the winter, and hurricanes, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms cause the most damage in other seasons. Wind, flooding, rain, or any combination of these might cause damage. Tornadoes are uncommon, but the Richmond area has seen a few significant ones.

Annually, there are 84 days of overnight frost in downtown Richmond. Nighttime frost is more common in the areas north and west of downtown, and less common in the areas south and east. [65] The average first temperature below freezing was on October 30 from 1981 to 2010, and the average latest one was on April 10.[53]


2010 Census[edit]

The city had 204,214 residents according to the United States Census of 2010. 50.6 percent were Black or African American, 40.8 percent were White, 2.3 percent Asian, 0.3 percent Native American, 0.1 percent Pacific Islander, 3.6 percent were of another race, and 2.3 percent were of two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people made up 6.3 percent of the total (of any race).[54]

The city has 197,790 residents, 84,549 households, and 43,627 families according to the 2000 census.[55] 3,292.6/sq mi (1,271.3/km2) was the population density. With an average density of 1,536.2/sq mi (593.1/km2), there were 92,282 dwelling units. The city's racial makeup was 57.2 percent African American, 38.3% White, 0.2 percent Native American, 1.3 percent Asian, 0.1 percent Pacific Islander, 1.5 percent of other races, and 1.5 percent of two or more races. A total of 2.6 percent of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 84,549 houses, 23.1 percent of which had children under the age of 18, 27.1 percent of which were married couples, 20.4 percent of which had a female householder without a husband present, and 48.4 percent of which were non-families. Individuals made up 37.6% of all households, with 10.9 percent having someone living alone who was 65 years or older. The average family size was 2.95, with a household size of 2.21.

In the city, 21.8 percent of the population is under the age of 18, 13.1 percent is between the ages of 18 and 24, 31.7 percent is between the ages of 25 and 44, 20.1 percent is between the ages of 45 and 64, and 13.2 percent is 65 or older. The average age was 34 years old. There were 87.1 men for every 100 females. There were 83.5 males for every 100 females aged 18 and up.

The city's median household income was $31,121, and the family's median income was $38,348. Males earned $30,874 on average, while females earned $25,880. The city's per capita income was $20,337. About 17.1 percent of families and 21.4 percent of the population were poor, with 32.9 percent of those under 18 and 15.8 percent of those 65 and older falling into this category.


During the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, Richmond saw an increase in overall crime, particularly the city's murder rate. During that time, it was routinely recognised as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States.[56][57][58][59]

Various types of crime have reduced dramatically in the city from the late 2000s to the present.[60] Between 2004 and 2009, the country's major crime rate, which includes violent and property offences, fell by 47 percent to its lowest level in more than a quarter-century.[61] Richmond had dropped to 49th place on a Morgan Quitno Press list of the most dangerous cities in the United States in 2008, with the city's homicide rate at its lowest since 1971.[62][63] Richmond had dropped out of the top 200 by 2012.[64]

Richmond, like many other American cities, has seen a minor increase in killings in recent years, however violent crime and other forms of crime remain below the national average.[65][66]


The Virginia General Assembly in Richmond adopted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786, which was written by Thomas Jefferson in 1779. The First Freedom Center presently stands on the site as a memorial.


The strategic site of Richmond on the James River, constructed on undulating hills near the rocky fall line separating Virginia's Piedmont and Tidewater areas, provided a natural centre for the development of commerce. With the Great Turning Basin for boats, the world's only triple crossing of rail lines, and the crossroads of two major interstates, the downtown has always been a hub during these three centuries and three means of transportation.

Law and finance have always been economic driving forces.[67] The bankruptcy court in Richmond is very well-known.[68] The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, one of 13 federal appeals courts, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, one of 12 Federal Reserve Banks, are both located in Richmond, as are offices for international companies such as Genworth Financial, Capital One, Philip Morris USA, and numerous other banks and brokerages. Hunton & Williams, McGuireWoods, Williams Mullen, and LeClairRyan are four of the largest legal firms in the United States, with offices in Richmond. Troutman Sanders, which combined with Richmond-based Mays & Valentine LLP in 2001, is another law firm with a significant presence in Richmond.

Richmond has been a major centre for advertising firms and related enterprises since the 1960s. The Martin Agency, formed in 1965 and employing 500 individuals, is one of the most well-known agencies in Richmond. VCU's graduate advertising school (VCU Brandcenter) is frequently regarded as the best in the country thanks to the backing of local advertising agencies.[69]