The Museum District is another uniquely Richmond neighborhood built upon history, architecture and community listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Surrounded by several popular neighborhoods (including the Fan, Carytown, and Scott’s Addition), it is within several blocks in just about any direction of restaurants, breweries, shopping and other popular spots. Arthur Ashe Boulevard marks the district’s eastern border, Ellwood Avenue to the South, I-195 in the West and Broad Street at the Northern edge.
Like many areas of Richmond, the Museum District was originally farmland, which later became a crucial asset during the Civil War. The Robinson House — now part of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) campus and under restoration — was originally the primary farmhouse on the land. In 1885, “Robert E. Lee Camp No. 1” was set up there and on the surrounding 36 acres now bound by Grove Avenue, Sheppard Street, Kensington Avenue, and the Boulevard. A few other structures from that era still stand today including the camp’s restored Gothic Revival chapel.
Many interesting twists and turns over the years lead up to the residential community we see now. One resident (Oliver Schoolcraft) even built a horse racetrack between what is now Grove Avenue and Cary Street. It was the addition of horse-drawn, steam and eventually electric streetcar lines that made the area attractive for suburban development. Several notable Richmond figures (including Major James H. Dooley and Joseph Bryan) formed the West End Land Development Company in 1889 and laid out plans for a large development. Residential construction began in earnest in the mid-1890s and carried on through the early 1940s. Brick rowhouses, detached townhouses, churches, schools and apartment buildings were built along tree-lined streets in a variety of architectural styles including Classical Revival, Tudor Revival, Mediterranean Revival, Craftsman, Art Deco. The City annexed much of the neighborhood in 1904 as growth continued and the neighborhood became more “urbanized”.
Today, the neighborhood is a thriving community that embodies much of what makes Richmond such a great place. Many of the historic homes and larger structures have been renovated, revitalized and/or adapted for modern use without compromising the architectural charm. Sidewalks are regularly filled with children playing, residents walking pets and catching up with each other, runners, and casual site seers.
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.