The Museum District stands as another of Richmond’s truly unique neighborhoods, steeped in history, rich architecture, and a strong sense of community. This neighborhood is proudly listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is surrounded by several other popular neighborhoods, including the Fan, Carytown, and Scott’s Addition. You’ll find it just a few blocks away from a plethora of restaurants, breweries, shops, and other popular destinations. To give you a sense of its boundaries, Arthur Ashe Boulevard marks the district’s eastern border, Ellwood Avenue is to the south, I-195 to the west, and Broad Street to the north.
Much like many parts of Richmond, the Museum District had its origins as farmland, which later played a significant role during the Civil War. The Robinson House, now part of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) campus and currently undergoing restoration, originally served as the primary farmhouse on this land. In 1885, it became home to “Robert E. Lee Camp No. 1,” encompassing the surrounding 36 acres, now defined by Grove Avenue, Sheppard Street, Kensington Avenue, and the Boulevard. A few structures from that era still grace the district today, including the camp’s beautifully restored Gothic Revival chapel.
The district’s transformation into the vibrant residential community we know today has been marked by intriguing twists and turns. At one point, resident Oliver Schoolcraft even constructed a horse racetrack between what is now Grove Avenue and Cary Street. However, it was the introduction of horse-drawn, steam, and eventually electric streetcar lines that truly made the area appealing for suburban development. In 1889, several notable Richmond figures, such as Major James H. Dooley and Joseph Bryan, established the West End Land Development Company and laid out ambitious plans for a large-scale development. Residential construction took off in the mid-1890s and continued through the early 1940s. Tree-lined streets became home to an array of architectural styles, including Classical Revival, Tudor Revival, Mediterranean Revival, Craftsman, and Art Deco, featuring brick rowhouses, detached townhouses, churches, schools, and apartment buildings. The city extended its boundaries to include much of the neighborhood in 1904 as growth continued, and the neighborhood became more “urbanized.”
Today, the Museum District thrives as a community that embodies the very essence of what makes Richmond such a remarkable place. Many of the historic homes and larger structures have undergone renovation, revitalization, or adaptive reuse without sacrificing their architectural charm. The sidewalks are a bustling scene, with children at play, residents walking their pets, neighbors catching up with one another, and runners enjoying the lively streets.
Places to visit:
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts – A world-class museum with amazing permanent and visiting collections typically only found in much more well-known museums in much larger cities. The number of indoor visitors is limited right but the outdoor spaces are still some of the best in Richmond.
Virginia Museum of History & Culture – Upgrades are underway! Portions of the Museum are under construction AND visitor protocols have changed due to COVID. Check the website to plan a visit.
Black Hand Coffee Co – Enjoy a cup of coffee and a bagel on a lazy Sunday morning in this cozy little neighborhood coffee shop.
Belmont Butchery – Old school butchery goodness just down the street. Though only two customers allowed inside at a time, hours are back to normal and they’ve added curbside pickup.
North End Juice Co. – COVID or not, these guys are still serving up more than just juice! Smoothies, gelato, wraps, burritos, and coffee are there when you need it.
Akida Japanese – Dine-in is out but take-out is in.
Lemon Cuisine of India – If sushi’s not your thing, try Indian! This place is right on Broad Street, just at the edge of the Museum District, and is both authentic and delicious. They now have delivery and curbside pickup too.
Phone: +1 804.397.5078
Multiple-time Distinguished Achiever award winner, 2017 Richmond’s Finest Business Professional and a VIrginia Living Magazine Top 50 Realtor. Architecture lover, outdoor enthusiast and a true fan of all things RVA.