Byrd Park itself is a public park located at the southern terminus of the Boulevard, but the neighborhood on the eastern side goes by the same name. The park came to be in the late 1800s when the City decided to build the reservoir. In fact, the excavated area left behind as workers gathered dirt to construct the reservoir walls became what it is now known as Fountain Lake. Byrd Park’s boundaries are roughly 195 to the North, Meadow Street to the East, the Maymont Estate to the South and Boulevard / Park Drive to the West.
The park is a Richmond favorite during the warmer months for picnics, lazy days in the sun or just getting out for a little exercise. With over 200 acres of mostly open, rolling hills, it offers plenty of room to spread out and includes walking paths, a 1 mile parcourse, a playground, baseball fields, tennis courts and more. It is also directly adjacent to the Dogwood Dell Amphitheater that hosts the annual Festival of the Arts. Festival events include concerts, dance programs and theatrical productions — Arts in the Park and the annual 4th of July events are probably the two most attended events. The natural beauty of the park along with its draw as a public gathering place and venue for the arts is clearly a huge part of the neighborhood’s identity.
There are several varieties of both residential and public architecture in the area. One somewhat unique residential development is Byrd Park Court which is registered as a National Historic District all on its own. Completed in 1921, the architect constructed three residences and a large Beaux Arts style gate that framed a central court surrounded by another nine buildings built in the Colonial Revival, Mediterranean Revival, Craftsman, Tudor Revival and Beaux Arts Classical styles. Other blocks in the neighborhood include some larger multi-unit condominium buildings overlooking Fountain Lake, large detached single family residences and many row houses similar to those found in The Fan and Museum District and built in the early 1920s. One other structure notable for its beautiful Gothic Revival architecture is the pump house that sits on the South end of park just above the James River. Originally built for the very utilitarian purpose of pumping water to the reservoir, it is now being restored for use as a public event space.
While there aren’t really any restaurants or many businesses inside Byrd Park proper, there are plenty events and destinations to check out. Here are just a few:
Dogwood Dell – What’s better than an outdoor concert or play? Bring a blanket and a picnic.
Arts in the Park – A weekend long event with arts and crafts from all over the country. The food’s usually not bad either.
Swan Lake – Kick back and relax. Let the kids run and maybe feed a duck or two.
Fountain Lake – Rent a pedal boat for a couple of laps around the lake then reward yourself with a couple of scoops of ice cream or whatever floats your boat. Ha!
Park Yoga – Namaste. Do your mind and body good on Thursday mornings at 9:30am.
VITA Course – Pop in for a walk or run on an almost flat one-mile loop under the shade of century old trees in the park.