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The so-called seven hills of Richmond

March 29, 2017 8:03 am by

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Alyson Lindsey Taylor-White’s Richmond Myths and Misconceptions at The Shockoe Examiner looks at a number of the stories that we tell ourselves about Richmond, from the evacuation fire to the staircase at the Jefferson Hotel to the so-called hills:

Like Rome, Richmond was built on seven hills. This is an old myth that just won’t go away on its own. No one is disputing that there are hills in Richmond. If you travel around the city, you have no doubt realized that there are some serious inclines, as well as equally generous valleys (Shockoe Bottom). This came to a discussion at city council in the 1930s, and they drafted an ordinance naming the original “seven” hills. The reason the ordinance was never adopted is perhaps because they could not agree to disagree on which to include. Because there are not or have not been seven hills. If you count some of the former ones along with the current ones they are:

Chimborazo Hill
Church Hill
Council Chamber Hill
French Garden Hill
Fulton Hill
Gambles Hill
Libby Hill
Navy Hill
Oregon Hill
Shockoe Hill
Union Hill

It gets even more confusing if you research old Richmond records, because several of these hills have gone through an equal number of names. Church Hill has been Richmond Hill and Indian Hill. Church Hill gets its name from the many churches there, but in particular, the first church, St. John’s. Fulton Hill was also called Powhatan Hill. Fulton was named for James Alexander Fulton who married Eliza Mayo, and built a (then) suburban house they named Powhatan there. Legend has it that is where Powhatan’s son Parahunt met with English adventurers John Smith and Christopher Newport in May of 1607. Eliza Mayo is from the family that built the Mayo Bridge over the James River. Those of you fond of recreating and residing in the former municipality of Manchester across the James River will also be reminded of Forest Hill and Westover Hills.

IMAGE: Adams 1864


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