Main Street looking toward Shockoe and Church Hill, 1856. The “daguerrean gallery” of William Abbot Pratt (he of Pratt’s Castle renown) is behind us, to our right — or we’re in his building at 145 Main.
We are looking directly into Shockoe, and its nest of slave merchants and the infamous Lumpkin’s Jail. The First Market building — it was just a few years old then — is lost in the jumble of buildings and shadows toward the bottom of the hill. But if you travel our eye from the “DYES” sign, to the widow’s walk banister, and past some roof tops, you’ll see the cupola of the Masonic Temple — which still stands. And somewhere up there on Church Hill — perhaps just out of frame (others, whom I hope I will visit this post, know that landscape better than I) is the house of Elizabeth Van Lew. NIne years later when Richmond’s business and financial districts were immolated, Mrs. Van Lew had a box seat on her veranda for this Wagnerian end.