Church Hill – Where it all began for Richmond
Its boundaries are a matter of debate, but most consider the edges of Church Hill to be 21st Street to the West, 32nd Street to the East, T Street to the North and Franklin to the South. You’ll find smaller areas like Chimborazo, Union Hill, Fairmont and others within those borders too.
The story of Church Hill began when William Byrd II was granted the land by King James. Upon arriving in the area and seeing the view of the James River from atop the hill, he was reminded of his native Richmond-on-Thames. In 1737, he commissioned a survey and laid out a plan for what would become the City of Richmond.
St. John’s Church became an important part of the American Revolution in 1775 when Patrick Henry gave his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech in front of the likes of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Richard Henry Lee and several others. We all know what happened from there… as it was not long after that the Declaration of Independence was drafted and the United States of America was born.
In 1779, following the Revolution, Col. Richard Adams acquired a significant portion of the area (after Richmond was named the Capital of Virginia) and built his own home. Many other homes were built in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as the area found its identity. Local tobacco factories and other businesses – located just blocks away along Broad and Main Streets – attracted many workers to the neighborhood.
Church Hill again had a significant role in American history during the Civil War when it became host to the war’s largest hospital in what is now Chimborazo Park. Chimborazo Hill was initially a training ground for many large regiments. Those troops built many wood structures as barracks but didn’t hang around long before being called to the front lines. Shortly thereafter, the buildings were repurposed and became part of the Chimborazo Hospital. More than 75,000 patients received treatment at the facility during its time.
As many other Richmond neighborhoods experienced ups and downs over the years, so did Church Hill. The World Wars and Great Depression were particularly hard on the area. While it could still be called a neighborhood in transition, the neighborhood has matured dramatically over the last few years. The pace of renovation projects, new construction homes and neighborhood businesses has almost become frenetic. Church Hill is quickly becoming one of Richmond’s most desirable and visited neighborhoods by all types, but especially by those that appreciate the history within an almost small-town urban setting just outside downtown.
Church Hill has also become fertile ground for community innovators, developers and builders. New modern architecture has begun to find its place alongside the historic, while many builders are reviving the Art Deco, Colonial Revival, Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Queen Anne structures that were so long overlooked. Creative retail, unique restaurants – even an old school soda bar – and community-oriented spaces are contributing to the positive growth.
The Roosevelt – Award winning, southern-style restaurant and perhaps the best cocktail bar in Richmond. It’s worth a visit… maybe three.
Alamo BBQ – My semi-vegetarian wife loves this place. Does that tell you anything?
The Hill Cafe – This one was around before it was cool. It’s freshly renovated and ready to serve. Try the meatloaf.
Metzger Bar and Butchery – Metzger is German for butcher and it’s a really good restaurant.
Liberty Public House – Family style eatery located in a revived Art Deco theater.
Roaring Pines – An old school soda bar with an American-made home goods shop.
Proper Pie Co – Delicious pies of all kind… what more could you ask for?
Dutch & Company – 2016 Restaurant of the Year winner and a true foodie Mecca.
Sub Rosa – Stone-milled grains baked inside a wood fired oven = awesomeness.