Oregon Hill is a historic neighborhood surrounded by notable Richmond landmarks including the James River, VCU, Hollywood Cemetery and the Virginia War Memorial. Its borders are formed by Cary Street to the North, Belvidere Street to the East, the James River to the South and Cherry Street to the West. The common belief is the neighborhood got its name from canal laborers moving to the area in the mid-1800s who claimed the move was as much trouble as moving to Oregon.
Like most older neighborhoods, the area has seen several waves of transformation over the years. It began as a scenic country home known as “Belvidere” for William Byrd III in the mid 1700s before the City really began to take shape. After the home burned in the 1800’s and as commerce along the James River grew, the land was divided into parcels and was sold (mostly) to employees of The James River and Kanawha Canal Company, Tredegar Iron Works and Albemarle Paper Company. The City annexed the neighborhood in 1867 and acquired the land that now makes up Riverside Park in 1889.
Many more row houses and commercial structures were built following the Civil War and annexation by the City. Architectural styles included Italianate, Greek Revival and Carpenter Gothic. Commercial buildings with storefronts came along during the same period as businesses were opened to support the growing residential population. Many of the structures were built between 1870 and 1910 and are still in use today.
Though Oregon Hill is known for embracing historical preservation, there have been a few new construction projects in the area in recent years. One such example is The Overlook, a collection of townhomes at the southern end of the neighborhood just above the James River. This project, begun in the early 2000s, has drawn interest from home buyers looking to live in a historic area without the upkeep of an antique home, with great proximity to VCU, The Fan, Downtown and a variety of recreational activities offered by the James River Park System.
Despite many changes over the years, Oregon Hill has developed a personality all its own that’s very different than many of the neighborhoods around it. Here are just a few things to experience:
Mamma Zu – No frills, no fuss… just fantastic food. You are missing out if you don’t try it.
L’opossum – Winner of multiple awards and subject of many articles in highly reputable publications. Need I say more?
Hollywood Cemetery – I know. I know. It’s a cemetery. But this is not your ordinary cemetery. Perched high above the James River, you’ll find amazing views and beautifully crafted monuments and gravestones.
Virginia War Memorial – This is a place of honor, education and architectural beauty dedicated to Virginians killed during the World, Vietnam and Korea wars as well as more contemporary conflicts such as the war on terror.
Riverside Park / North Bank Trail – The James River Park System and interconnecting trails are a major part of what makes Richmond such a unique city. A hike along the North Bank Trail from Oregon Hill to Maymont is a great way to spend a sunny day.