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Time for a little history! Union Hotel- A Tale of Two Colleges

Michael James and Paul Hammond write:

The Union Hotel was Richmond’s first “real” hotel. It was located on the southwest corner of 19th and Main and built by Dr. John Adams in 1817 and designed by architect Otis Manson, one of Richmond’s first “real” resident architects. All of Richmond’s major urban universities can trace their roots to the hotel.

Adams, a physician, merchant and Richmond’s sixth mayor, built a mansion on Church Hill (also designed by Manson) located a half block southwest of St. John’s Church where Patrick Henry gave his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. Adams father, Colonel Richard Adams, (1760-1817) owned most of the land on Church hill. Once a friend of Thomas Jefferson, they fell out because of Jefferson’s choice to build the Capitol on Shockoe Hill instead of on Church Hill. The younger Adams lost both the mansion and the hotel in the financial panic of 1819. Adams sold the mansion to John Van Lew from Philadelphia, whose daughter, Elizabeth, would later became the notorious union spymaster during the civil war.

Read more about the Union Hotel and more here!

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SA Chaplin
SA Chaplin
2 years ago

Very interesting. I would quibble, however, with the use of the adjective “notorious” (by James and Hammond) in reference to Elizabeth Van Lew. Ms. Van Lew was a renowned abolitionist who covertly assisted the North in the American Civil War. The word “notorious” suggests a dishonorable reputation.

And, while I don’t want to replace any monuments in Richmond, if we did, I would vote for a monument to Elizabeth Van Lew.

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