Interesting photo – John, do you know who took it and when? And what is the source? Library archives or some other interesting place?!
Wow. Amazing photograph. Click on it to see a larger view with more detail (and source info.) Fascinating to see how densely built the city was during that era.
Am I wrong, or does it look like the the land to the south of Main Street was below grade with the street? I guess this shows that the land was filled-in over the years so newer construction could be on the same plane with Main Street.
Thanks for sharing, John.
Would love to know the year as well. There is only one warehouse in the distance, no Lucky Strike building, or other tobacco warehouses, etc.
What was that tall building on the right? Perhaps it was that era’s Alley Katz or something.
Amazing photo, John.
Looks like it’s a Library of Congress photo. You’d be surprised what you can find online if you visit their “American Memory” website. What a cool photo – thanks for posting it, John!
Very cool photo! I love seeing photos from that era. It looks like the grade of the hill was much less than it is today
Elaine #2, I agree that the buildings on the south side of Main are below the grade of Main St. It almost seems as if they are oriented towards the south – I’m not sure but maybe the backs of the buildings are along Main St.? And I think the sidewalks there are wood.
I know some of the street grades were changed as the years went by; Grace St. up here is another example as I recall although at the moment I cannot remember if it was lowered or raised.
And thanks also for telling me to click on it to see the attribution to the Library of Congress. They have such an amazing amount of photos.
“It almost seems as if they are oriented towards the south – I’m not sure but maybe the backs of the buildings are along Main St.?”
Interesting observation. It does appear so.
Here’s another view a few years later (sorry for the long link).
This print shows streetcars, which began running in 1888, and still shows the old steeple of St. Paul’s peeking out from over the Capitol. The steeple was converted to a cupola in 1905, so I’m dating it between 1890-1900.
The first photo shows streetlights but no tracks. Does anyone know when we first got municipal street lights? That could pin it down.
I love old Richmond pictures like this. I especially like the ones where you can see a comparison of an old picture and what it looks like now, like the ones here:
I’d love even more to see a bunch from one particular spot over the years to see the progression.
All these pictures seem sort of depressing. The city used to be booming with industry and people. It seems like there was a drop in population sometime in the 70’s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richmond,_Virginia
I also believe that the city has expanded over the years, so I would bet we are still far from the population density of 1900’s in the actual downtown area. It seems that our population is growing again, but it doesn’t seem like the city will ever get back to the way it was in the early 1900’s.
Another great one from Libby hill. You can still see the docks:
I’m all for a vibrant downtown, James, but I would think living in the 1900’s would be far more depressing than it is today!
Any romantic notions of living in that era appall me.
It isn’t about romanticism, it’s about having a busy and functional city. We are missing that today.
Then as now, Richmond is a provincial city that’s long on charm and short on vision. In the 1890’s, it was still recuperating from the disastrous blowback of the Civil War. The fire Confederate soldiers set before evacuating the city – causing a wave of civilians to follow them – pretty much knocked the great flour mills, which were among the most productive in the world, off their feet. Because of postwar economics, Richmond would never rebuild them. The fire cut out the heart of the business district, so memorably captured, after the fire ran its course, by Matthew Brady and others. The picture shows a town that was struggling to reclaim itself from an ash-pit it could still taste in its mouth. Such unvarnished views of a city’s progress are among the most invaluable gifts an honest pictorialism can give us. The popular image of Richmond – inculcated by exponents of The Lost Cause – was much more serene. And absolutely off the mark.
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