Tourist in My Own Town – First Visit to the State Capitol & the Church Beside – Richmond, Virginia

Blog - Virginia_State_Capitol_Building_2 - wikimedia org (2)Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org

I love history but am not a very serious student of it. Wanna be, but truth be told, not so much. Children’s picture books with real (not revisionist) history as text are about my speed. Seriously, I do appreciate context and seeing puzzle pieces of our stories fit together. What a gift to have someone else bring me along with their children on a history field trip, sort of. That was my yesterday.

A friend, new to Richmond, Virginia, invited me to join her for a trip to the State Capitol downtown. I agreed to drive since I knew my city so well. [Ha!] It was a hot humid day which made it perfect to be inside an air-conditioned government building.

We headed into Richmond via Monument Avenue.   A really gorgeous, tree-lined street with huge houses on each side. It’s called Monument Avenue because of all the monuments . Most are of Confederate generals atop their horses. I told my passengers that there’s some sort of code about the hewn statues – denoting, by the position of horse and rider, whether the generals survived the waror not. Well, it turns out that’s a myth.  Strike one for the city “insider”.

We missed our turn into the city on purpose to drive across the James River by way of the Belvidere (Robert E. Lee) Bridge. Richmond is a striking city with the James running through it. On the U-turn back toward the city, I pointed out the Virginia War Monument and then what I thought was the Capitol Building, right behind, on a grassy knoll that slopes right down to the River. Wrong! Strike two. [I still don’t know what that great white columned building  is. Anybody?]

Strike three for me was assuming there would be parking attached to the Capitol building. I circled and circled and circled. We finally called the Capitol information line and found that St. Paul’s Episcopal Church a couple of blocks away offers their parking lot for $5/hour. That’s a deal in downtown Richmond, if you can’t get a metered space.

The Virginia State Capitol was designed by Thomas Jefferson. It is magnificent. There are free guided tours or we could meander around on our own. The state legislators were not in session, but the halls themselves made us feel welcome.  As did the lovely lady at the information table in the rotunda.2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 284

I am not going to do a guided tour – you, like me, have your own level of interest in history. I have just captioned a few of the pictures I took. You should visit your state capitol. I came away with a much greater appreciation of the cost of liberty and the processes of state government.2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 250

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2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 247“Brothers” statue depicted the poignancy of reuniting after fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War.

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2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 279The stairwells and marble floors had the look of a grand hotel.

2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 260President George Washington – the only statue he posed for, they say; life-sized rendering. [Let me know if that’s a myth or not. The statue was definitely life-sized. That I could tell.]

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 After exiting the Capitol building, we made our way around the grounds to the Governor’s Mansion (which was open to the public).2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 307 2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 306

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The old meets the new in the Governor’s Mansion. Period antiques throughout the main floor and lacrosse sticks belonging to the Governor’s children at the front door.

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So many fascinating persons from our history displayed in portraits, statues, and busts. Many were of Confederate generals, US political figures, and foreign dignitaries. Then there were others of great and different import – civil rights champion Oliver W. Hill, Jr., and Pocahontas in pearls.

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We covered the Capitol Building, Governor’s Mansion, and grounds in 1 1/2 hours. That was fast. So if you’re visiting your state capitol, you might want to take more time. On our way back to the car, we stopped inside St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (on the advisement of our new friend in the Capitol rotunda.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Richmond, Va

Photo Credit: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

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The sanctuary of the church was massive with stunning stained glass windows. The sun was pouring in and it was like a gallery of art pieces depicting the life of Christ. While we walked the perimeter of the church, the organist was at the keyboard of the pipe organ housed in the balcony of the church. Maybe he was practicing. For us it was like a private concert.2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 3152015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 323

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Our young newcomers who had stayed tuned in to our self-guided tour were done…as were their Mom and I. 2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 329

 Leaving downtown, we scooted around Virginia Commonwealth University to my favorite pizza joint there – Piccola Italy on Main.2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 3312015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 336

Now, you can take a morning to see Virginia’s State Capitol…or your own. I only visited the U.S. Capitol once, and never visited my home state’s Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia. Hopefully you can avoid getting lost and hit a homerun your first time out. It was a win for us, in the end, for sure.

Virginiacapitol.gov

Virginia Capitol Tourists’ Guide

A Self-Guided Tour of the Virginia State Capitol (pdf)

TripAdvisor – Virginia State Capitol Building

10 Buildings that Changed America

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia

Piccola Italy Pizza and Subs

2 thoughts on “Tourist in My Own Town – First Visit to the State Capitol & the Church Beside – Richmond, Virginia”

  1. That was wonderful Debbie! VA is my home state and I had numerous historical school field trips, but as a kid they always bored me. I was able to see a few things as an adult and appreciated it more. I’m heart broken to learn that the Monument Ave statue poses are a myth! 🙁 Glad you all had a good time.

    1. Thanks, Sharon, for commenting. There are so many beautiful, fascinating sights in Richmond. History has its darker side, and Richmond certainly has more than its share of that kind of history. I don’t believe we should get rid of Civil War monuments, but to keep them before us, remembering that grievous time and the great internal cost of that war…and what must still be fought for. Anyway…long lament on the statue pose myth. That was a bummer for me, too. Blessings!

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