Forest Hill is another one of Richmond’s federally recognized historic districts that has been undergoing a renaissance in recent years. The neighborhood’s boundaries (map below) are the James River to the North, Forest Hill Park to the East, Semmes and Forest Hill Avenues to the south, and Westover Hills Boulevard to the West. Located just across the river from Maymont, it is convenient to many parks and outdoor recreation activities as well as Carytown, the Fan and the Museum District.
As with many of the neighborhoods central to Richmond, Forest Hill was part of William Byrd III’s sprawling estate until his death in the mid-1700s. The land changed hands over the years and was broken up into smaller and smaller increments. Smaller plantations eventually gave way to the smaller parcels and parks that urbanization brought with it. The addition of street cars (and even an amusement park!) around the turn of the century fueled the interests of residents looking to take advantage of a more urban lifestyle.
The City annexed Forest Hill (along with a few other neighborhoods) in 1914. The Forest Hill Park, which had been permanently set aside as park land, was acquired by the City in 1934. By that time, the amusement park had become more of a problem than an attraction so it was promptly dismantled. The house built by Holden Rhodes, a prominent attorney and businessman, in the mid-1800s was identified as an important piece of the park’s history and was marked for restoration. The park’s lake and surroundings were rejuvenated most recently in 2009.
Many styles of late 19th and early 20th centuries residential architecture can be found in Forest Hill including Bungalow, Cape Cod, Craftsman, Colonial Revival, Federal, Queen Anne, and Victorian. The juxtaposition of historic buildings with several, more recent Modernist houses and the eclectic commercial spaces along Forest Hill Avenue has become part of the neighborhood’s charm.
Forest Hill has a little something for everyone. Outdoor recreation is a snap with Forest Hill Park, the James River and hiking trails just blocks away, and the park is also home to the South of the James Market, which has become a very popular Saturday morning destination for Richmonders across the city in recent years. The restaurants, coffee shops and retailers along Forest Hill Avenue are within walking distance for most of the neighborhood.
Forest Hill is a thriving neighborhood with personality and positive momentum. As it has in the past, I expect it will continue to grow and evolve in the years to come.
South of the James Market – Locally grown produce and handmade goods are great but let’s be honest… the donuts at Mrs. Yoder’s truck are responsible for 90% of my visits.
Forest Hill Park – Hiking trails, a rejuvenated lake, river access, picnic areas, tennis courts and more. The park also hosts outdoor concerts, movie nights and other events from time to time.
Reedy Creek Trailhead – The James River Park System is one of the best parts of Richmond. This trail is easy access and has convenient parking too.
Crossroads Coffee & Ice Cream – Don’t let the name fool you. There’s a lot more going on there than just ice cream and coffee.
Little Nickel– Self described as “vacation food”. They had me at “vacation”.
O’Toole’s – Every neighborhood needs a “go to” watering hole…